Latest update: May 24th, 2013
The fight for Jerusalem continues, on a number of quiet fronts. And if “want of a nail” can lose an entire war, as per Benjamin Franklin’s poem, Yerushalayim can certainly be won via our close attention to issues that may not appear decisive or crucial.
For one thing, we have erred in the past in not listening closely to what our enemies were saying. For instance, shortly after signing the original Oslo agreement and promising to live in peace with Israel, Yasir Arafat said, basically, that he really didn’t mean it. His exact words were: “This agreement, I am not considering it more than the agreement which had been signed between our prophet Muhammad and Koraish” – a reference to the truce that Muhammad violated the moment he was strong enough to do so by slaughtering the Koraish. With the help of Jewish and Israeli proponents of Oslo, Arafat’s candor was all but forgotten; we simply ignored what he was saying.
Just recently, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas elaborated upon what he has often told the world: “We will have Jerusalem, or there will be no peace with Israel.” Is anyone listening this time?
In May of last year, Abbas said straight out, “But we will never accept a Palestinian state without Jerusalem as its capital.” Earlier this month, he accused Israel of fabricating history, creating “artificial” Jewish links with the Holy City, and carrying out excavations that physically threaten the integrity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque (the Dome of the Rock). And he called on Arabs from all “Arab and Islamic countries, as well as our fellow Arabs and Muslims and Christians in Europe and America, to go to Jerusalem,” and said that Arabs and Christians must work together to “preserve the churches [in Jerusalem] as places of worship.”
Yes, we can ignore him, but he continues to drum out his message. In July 2010, he said, “The oppressor will not last in Jerusalem; the oppression will not endure. Victory will come.”
Earlier that year, Abbas told the Arab League in Libya, “I say to the leaders of our Arab nation and to its peoples: Jerusalem and its environs are a trust that Allah entrusted to us. Saving it [Jerusalem] from the settlement monster and the danger of Judaization and [land-] confiscation, is a personal [Islamic] commandment incumbent on all of us. Therefore, I call all of you to serious and urgent action to save [Jerusalem] and to make available all options in order to strengthen our resolve and to maintain its historical, cultural and religious character.”
Some of us are listening. Jerusalem expert Nadav Shragai and others, including KeepJerusalem in this very article and others, are raising our voices against our enemies’ intentions. But, as always, it’s not enough. We need more letters to the editor, more community gatherings and speeches, and more phone calls to Congressmen. No letting up!
On another front, we have gained some points in the fight against illegal Arab construction in eastern Jerusalem. In response to a request submitted by the Land of Israel Legal Forum, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has established a special enforcement committee to address this issue. He explained that an examination of the existing policies is required because of the drop in carrying out destruction warrants in eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods.
Last year the Jerusalem Municipality issued over 1,000 demolition warrants for illegal buildings – yet in all of eastern Jerusalem, with its thousands of unlawful structures, only eight warrants were enforced. Possibly most notable among the illegal buildings is the new mosque-extension on the Mount of Olives, adjacent to Jewish gravesites and the Jewish neighborhood of Maaleh HaZeitim.
Although a similar committee was established by the Justice Ministry six years ago with few positive results, it is hoped that this time a real change will be effected. The Legal Forum announced, “We are satisfied that the Attorney General has realized that the current situation requires the establishment of a special team…as a result of the lack of enforcement in the Arab neighborhoods in northern and eastern Jerusalem.” In another positive development, the Prime Minister’s Office announced, as expected, that funding has been found to continue to run the well-known historic Ammunition Hill site in Ramat Eshkol. Approximately one million shekels ($265,000) will be allocated for the purpose, and in addition, a renovation and upgrade of the site is planned in the framework of the national heritage plan.
The site memorializes the heroism of IDF soldiers during the Six-Day War, particularly in one of the war’s critical battles that helped secure Jerusalem for the Jewish people. A very large Jordanian position, chock-full of enemy troops, ammunition, fortified bunkers and winding trenches, had stood on the hill in question, blocking the IDF’s way to the Old City, Mount Scopus, and the Jerusalem-Ramallah road. Some of the officers were felled early on, and the battle was won thanks to the bravery of inexperienced soldiers.
About the Author: Chaim Silberstein is president of Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech and the Jerusalem Capital Development Fund. He was formerly a senior adviser to Israel's minister of tourism. Hillel Fendel, past senior editor at Israel National News/Arutz-7, is a veteran writer on Jerusalem affairs. Both have lived in Jerusalem and now live in Beit El.
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