Amid an intense Israeli election campaign in which “keeping Jerusalem united” figured prominent as a key issue, the question continues to crop up: Is Jerusalem already being divided?
Signs of such are becoming increasingly hard to ignore. Almost within rock-throwing distance of Ramat Eshkol/Maalot Dafna, for instance, a recently built Arab-owned building – a handsome, six-story structure – was duly approved by the District Planning Committee and now houses several Arab families. Literally next door to it stands a shack whose Jewish owners, with KeepJerusalem’s help, seek a permit to raze it and build a new building similar to the adjacent one. However, due to what observers say can only be the result of government orders, the Committee has refused to even consider the request.
Longtime Jerusalem lands activist Aryeh King – founding director of the Israel Land Fund and currently running for Knesset on the Otzmah L’Yisrael ticket – says this is a prominent piece of a large puzzle showing that the current government is actively working to divide Jerusalem. The above example is situated just off Jerusalem’s main artery known as Highway 1, the de-facto divider between Arab- and Jewish-populated parts of northern Yerushalayim. “If Prime Minister Netanyahu does not allow Jews to build here,” King says, “some 150 meters from the light-rail route and the Jewish apartment buildings just beyond it, then he is clearly working to divide Jerusalem.”
Within walking distance of this particular example, an incident occurred during the rare Yerushalayim snowstorm earlier this month that further accentuated the dangers of encouraging thoughts of dividing Israel’s capital. As seen in a widely distributed Internet video, two haredi youths underwent a humiliating snowball attack from some ten Arab youths. The assault and battery included including yells of Allahu Akbar and anti-Semitic slurs, as well as the removal of the hat of one of the hapless youths. It happened as the two were on their way home from the Western Wall, having walked through Damascus Gate and passing the former Mandelbaum Gate area. “We felt total humiliation and great fear,” one of them said afterward.
Another indication that those who want to see Jerusalem united and Jewish cannot rest is found in Pisgat Ze’ev, Jerusalem’s largest neighborhood (population: over 50,000). Located in the northern part of the capital, one of its most prominent landmarks is the half-built palace of the late King Hussein, which he was serenely in the midst of building for his summer palace when his workers were abruptly interrupted by the Arab-instigated Six-Day War. Israel liberated the area right in mid-construction. (It is a popular station on KeepJerusalem tours; see below.)
The Jewish people’s deep-seated connections to this location go back millennia. It is the ancient biblical spot known as Givah or Givat Sha’ul, from where King David’s predecessor King Saul ruled the tribes and soon-to-be nation of Israel; ruins of a castle assumed to be his have been found on the spot. In addition, the infamous biblical event known as pilegesh b’givah (Judges 19-21) occurred here over 3,200 years ago.
In the decades since the Six-Day War, Israel has renewed its ties with the area, building up Pisgat Ze’ev and nearby N’vei Yaakov into several distinct neighborhoods for Jews from all over the city, country and world. The Jewish National Fund chipped in by planting a beautiful forest on its slopes. Today, however, that forest has turned into a small grove – while illegal Arab construction continually slices out more and more of the area. Individual fir trees saved by the illegal builders can be sighted in between some of the structures.
Other signs of apparent intentions to divide the capital include the paving of roads and the stationing of uniformed policemen by the Palestinian Authority in several Arab neighborhoods, and the Israeli government’s looking the other way at an illegal mosque built on the Mt. of Olives, just dozens of meters from the graves of Menachem and Aliza Begin.
For more information on how to help keep Jerusalem Jewish, via updates, bus tours of critical parts of Jerusalem, and more, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech’s websiteat www.keepjerusalem.org.