A sampling of news headlines from our Holy City over the past few days:
“Tens of Arabs riot at Damascus Gate and the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Isawiya and Silwan; Bethlehem man arrested on suspicion of arson around Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh; Stocking-clad Arabs riot in Jerusalem; Molotov cocktail hurled at the light-rail in Jerusalem; Two residents of Sur Baher [near Talpiot] charged in nationalistically-motivated attack; Arab youths suspected of throwing rocks at police in eastern Jerusalem and attacking Jewish youth in the Muslim Quarter [old Jewish Quarter] of Jerusalem; No response to a day of shooting in the air in Arab neighborhoods…”
The above headlines, and many more like them over the past few weeks, paint a sorry picture of the security situation in our capital city of Yerushalayim. There is no dearth of flashpoints: Maaleh HaZeitim, adjacent to the ancient Mt. of Olives cemetery, where a barrage of hundreds of rocks interrupted Maariv prayer services one night, and where a Jewish man was attacked in his car; the Kalandia checkpoint, adjacent to the old Atarot airport, where Arabs frequently riot and throw rocks at IDF soldiers; Shuafat, near N’vei Yaakov, where several light-rail stations have been totally destroyed by Arab rioters; and more.
Even Har Gilo, a serene neighborhood in southern Jerusalem, has been the site of Arab violence. Following an imam’s sermon replete with incitement in the neighboring village of Walajeh, Arab youths proceeded to throw rocks at Jewish homes in Har Gilo, despite the partition wall between them. In the days preceding this incident, Walajeh youths set fire to the nearby forest more than once.
No doubt, Israel’s security forces have their hands full at the moment.
But sovereignty – and not just on paper – over a capital city is an absolutely critical need for any nation, even one that is at war. No one can claim that fully utilizing the Border Guard and regular police forces charged with maintaining law and order in and around Jerusalem will detract from the war effort in Gaza. There is no excuse for a lackadaisical approach towards Arab violence in the city.
Most unfortunately, there have been charges of precisely that in some instances. In the new Jewish neighborhood of Nof Tzion, for instance – adjacent to Abu Tor, south of the Old City – bullets were fired at Jewish homes, and Arab youths attacked with rocks and firecrackers. The Jewish civilian security officer fired in the air – and when police came to investigate, they arrested only him!
KeepJerusalem has been working for years, including in some 80 columns in this forum, to ensure that Jerusalem remains united under Israeli sovereignty. Efforts need be made on many fronts: public relations, education, demographic, political, and more. But possibly most important of all is the security front. Hopefully, Mayor Nir Barkat and Jerusalem Police Chief Yossi Priniti need not be reminded of this most fundamental truth.
The minority of Israelis who support the division of Jerusalem are motivated largely by the relative lack of control that Jewish police wield over Arab violence. “Let them stew in their own gravy,” we are told. “Draw a line between us and them, and let the Arabs have their neighborhoods; we don’t need them.”
But precisely this train of thought is that which encourages violence and the weakening of Israel’s control even over parts of Jerusalem that all agree are ours. For one thing, if we do not believe that Jerusalem is ours – all of it, even parts that are currently hard to access safely because of the threatening Arab presence there – this erodes the “inner and essential national strength” that is so highly praised at these critical times.