Photo Credit: Jewish Press
With attention focused on the intensifying unrest in the traditionally undemocratic Arab countries across the Middle East and North Africa, let us not think for a moment that Israel is no longer under pressure. The short-term view is misleading; the long term – the one that counts – indicates that the rise of Islamic forces is likely to mean a more concentrated focus against Israel in general, and against a Jewish Jerusalem in particular.
And so we must ask ourselves once again: What’s so terrible about dividing Jerusalem? If that’s what’s really holding up a once-and-for-all peace agreement with the PA and the Arab world, then why not? And what about all those Arab neighborhoods in the north, east and south – why not just get rid of them, thereby increasing the Jewish population percentage in our holy city?
The answers to these questions are critical to the future of Jerusalem, the state of Israel and the Jewish people. Fortunately, they have been well researched, and it behooves us to study them, internalize them, and teach them to others whenever the chance arises.
In truth, the approach calling for separation and division in Jerusalem is mere camouflage for a long series of grave dangers and pitfalls. These include concrete security dangers; the likelihood that the rate of Jews leaving the city will increase even more than its current alarming level; the probability that more and more Arabs will flood Jewish neighborhoods; and of course, damage to the Jewish people’s historic and religious bonds with the Holy City.
In addition, the day-to-day difficulties of governing and living in a city divided by a zigzagging wall – concrete, barbed-wire, or even just on paper – separating one side of a street from another and one street of a neighborhood from its brother are more than mind-boggling.
To simply redraw the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem so that Arab-populated neighborhoods such as Isawiya (adjacent to French Hill), Jabel Mukabber (next to East Talpiot), and Sur Bahir (near Har Homa) are on the “other side” appears simple and effective – in theory. But on the ground, the Jewish residents of these and other neighborhoods will abruptly find themselves guarding the border – and will be exposed to close-range shooting attacks, Kassam rockets, and mortar shell fire.
The lives of close to a quarter of a million Jews living in eastern Jerusalem would be in daily peril.
Perhaps this sounds incredible: Could Jewish neighborhoods in modern-day Jerusalem actually turn into war-torn border zones, under fire of rocket-launching and light weapons-toting terrorists like those who silenced Sderot and Kiryat Shmona for weeks at a time? The short answer is: Yes, it can – and it has happened very recently. Remember Gilo? Within a two-year period during the Oslo War, four hundred-plus shooting and other attacks were unleashed on this quiet neighborhood by our enemies in the Bethlehem suburb of Beit Jala. Only after the wounding of dozens, the beginnings of a voluntary evacuation, the provision of concrete barriers and bulletproof glass, and the abating of the Oslo War did the danger pass.
Additional neighborhoods have already come under fire: Pisgat Ze’ev was fired on twice during the Oslo War from Arab-populated hills nearby, and Jews in N’vei Yaakov were shot at from Dahyat El Barid, only 200 yards away. In the south, Armon HaNetziv was targeted twice, and a Har Homa apartment was damaged in a shooting attack from nearby Um Tuba.
According to Jerusalem expert (and Keep Jerusalem Advisory Board member) Nadav Shragai, “security dangers” are not simply a nuisance that can be brushed off with better military procedures and readiness; they are a downright national “strategic danger.” Making characteristically sure not to overstate the case, Shragai writes, “Internal terrorism and the Intifada brought Israel to sign the Oslo Accords; to change its traditional unambiguous positions; to lose territorial assets; to end its military presence in southern Lebanon with no arrangement; and to Disengage from Gaza. We can therefore no longer relate to terrorism as just an ‘ongoing security risk’ alone.”
In 2007, it was estimated that the Palestinian Authority areas held 15,000-20,000 weapons – most of them rifles, but an alarming number of submachine guns as well. “In the event of division and the transfer to the PA of Judea/Samaria all the way up to the new municipal borders of Jerusalem,” Shragai writes, “the PA would have no problem bringing these weapons towards Jerusalem, and from there to the villages and neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem.”
It will be recalled that a lone pair of snipers managed to paralyze Washington, D.C. and the surrounding area for three weeks in 2002 while randomly murdering 10 innocent citizens. What would happen if thousands of Arab snipers could position themselves in their own Hamas/Hizbullah state just yards away from major Jewish population centers?
Arab attempts to manufacture homemade mortar shells and Kassam rockets with which to target Jerusalem are ongoing; it is common knowledge that only the presence of the IDF and the Shabak (General Security Service) contains them.
In short: Dividing Jerusalem means turning many Jewish neighborhoods into vulnerable border towns, leading to what then-Mayor Ehud Olmert said in 2000 would be “a daily security danger” for our capital. This would inevitably have a seismic effect on the rest of Israel and the welfare of the Jewish People as a whole.
For more information on how to participate in keeping Jerusalem Jewish, via updates, bus tours of critical parts of Jerusalem, and more, send an e-mail to tours@keepjerusalemorg or visit the Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech website at www.keepjerusalem.org.
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 is the senior editor at Israel National News/Arutz-7 and an author. Both have lived in Jerusalem and now reside in Beit El.
Their column appears every other week.