One city, so many headlines!
Yerushalayim, the city of unity, royalty, and sanctity, is perhaps the most talked-about city in the world these days!
Yes, there was an Allahu Akbar terrorist knifing attack in Paris this week, and Washington, Tehran, and Moscow are always in the news for one thing or another – but look at the abundance of what happened in and about Jerusalem just this very week:
A large U.S. delegation, including Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, senators and congressmen, cabinet officials and more, arrived in Israel for the inauguration of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, which was held with full fanfare for the world to see…
Jerusalemites celebrated the 51st anniversary of the city’s liberation and reunification…
The international Eurovision contest is to be held in Jerusalem next year, following Israel’s first-place finish this year…
Thousands of Jews visited the site of the two Holy Temples, singing and dancing to celebrate Jerusalem Day; Muslim riots in response were nipped in the bud…
The government of Israel decided to invest two billion shekels in Arab infrastructures in Jerusalem…
Where, then, to start? The joy of Jerusalem Day is certainly a great choice. This holiday always brings out the best in Israeli society, as the city’s Chief Rabbi Aryeh Stern said at one of this week’s many celebrations of the miraculous Six-Day War victory: “The verse says that Jerusalem is a city united together – it is a day in which everyone in the city becomes friends.” Tens of thousands of people, mostly students from around the county, descended upon the city to mark the occasion – singing, dancing, marching, and even learning Torah non-stop.
It is still hard to believe that over 2,500 years ago, our prophets foresaw that the city would one day be filled again with joyous Jews returning from exile around the world – and here it is, happening in front of our very eyes!
It’s not only Jerusalem Day that Israelis are celebrating this week, but also their victory in the Eurovision contest – and that has its Jerusalem side as well. According to Eurovision custom, the international contest is always held in the capital city of the country that won the previous year’s competition – meaning that Jerusalem is next in line. “Next year in Jerusalem,” tweeted Prime Minister Netanyahu, echoing the exuberant words of the victorious performer herself, Neta Barzilai, immediately after her win: “There’s nothing like an Israeli party. You’ll find out next year – Next year in Jerusalem!”
At the same time, this past Monday saw the dramatic dedication of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, the day after Jerusalem Day. The dramatic event marks a momentous shift in how the world views Jerusalem: no longer as a “problem” and “hot spot” which must be “solved” in the course of negotiations, but as the proud historic capital of an eternal Jewish nation.
And it’s not only the U.S. recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but Guatemala and Paraguay as well; other countries are seriously considering it too. Hungary, for instance, wants to relocate its embassy, but is afraid of being the first country in the EU to do so. Czech, Austrian, and Romanian representatives meanwhile said they would take part in the U.S. embassy-move ceremony, despite the EU’s official stance against the move.
Also in honor of Jerusalem Day, Israel’s Cabinet made a number of notable decisions: It allocated two billion shekels ($560 million) in Arab infrastructures in eastern Jerusalem and another 200 million ($56 million) for the construction of a cable car in the capital.
The allocations for the Arab sector are a genuine sign of applying Israeli sovereignty over the city in its entirety. More study of Hebrew and the Israeli curriculum will be encouraged and incentivized because the “near-absolute dominance of Palestinian Authority study programs prevents the Arab students from integrating into Israeli academia and, consequently, the Israeli work force.” Transportation between eastern and western Jerusalem will be improved, incentives will be granted to those who officially employ Arab residents, employment training tools for the sector will be enhanced, and industrial zones will be built.
Land ownership in eastern Jerusalem is currently a tremendously entangled maze, preventing land from being sold, purchased, and developed in an organized and safe manner – and 50 million shekels will be allocated to register 50 percent of the lands by the end of 2021, and the remainder by 2025.
At the same time, 47 million NIS will be set aside for “uncovering Jerusalem’s past” – archaeological digs at the City of David compound for the purpose of finding further evidence linking King David’s Jerusalem with that of today.
“Today we are taking a series of decisions to build Jerusalem, develop it, uncover its past, and build its future,” Prime Minister Netanyahu said at the Cabinet meeting. “I know there are difficulties along the way; this has been the case for 70 years, and we will meet the challenges.”
A modern-day record for the number of Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount was set this week on Jerusalem Day – 2,046 Jews! Among them were many who sang and danced, “May G-d rebuild His House soon!” Some Muslims on the Mount protested, leading some to term the entire episode a “Jewish provocation.” Others, however, hailed it as a healthy expression of the Jewish People singing its joy at returning to its land and city.
In short, many great things are happening in the Eternal City – opportunities, celebrations, and challenges. Let us all – world Jewry in its entirety – be worthy of them!