Many unanswered questions remain surrounding the fire that broke out in the Jerusalem Forest on Sunday, burning 40 acres and sending four people to the hospital.
The Jerusalem Forest, 1.2 square kilometers of lush, green pine trees on the west side of the capital, is surrounded by several Jerusalem neighborhoods, including Har Nof, Beit HaKerem, and Givat Sha’ul, as well as Moshav Beit Zayit. It was planted during the 1950s by the Jewish National Fund.
The police originally reported that Sunday’s flames broke out simultaneously in three or four spots – generally a clear indication of arson. Despite this, a police spokesman said only, “This raises a lot of questions,” and that the fire was “perhaps an arson or something like that.”
Among the locations reported as having been first to burn were a fuel installation on a side road behind Har Nof, and an area just outside the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum. Some 150 dunams (37 acres) of the forest were burned – at first. But even after it was reported that the fire was under control, new, smaller fires continued to break out, keeping fire-fighters almost continually occupied. As of this writing, Tuesday afternoon, no word on an official end to the fire has been received.
Suspicion was therefore rife that the fire was the result of Arab nationalist arson – even after the police reported that a Jewish man from Beit Zayit had been detained for carelessly losing control of his backyard fire. For one thing, it was asked, what happened to the “3-4″ places in which the fire broke out simultaneously? The police did not release an explanation.
If, in the end, Arabs are indeed discovered to have started the fire, it will be far from the first time. In fact, Knesset Member Yaakov (Ketzaleh) Katz, head of the National Union party, noted on Sunday that “the vast majority of the arson cases throughout the country are perpetrated [by Arabs] with nationalist-terrorist motives.”
Katz added that during the giant Carmel Forest fire last Chanukah, which was started accidentally and which killed over 40 people, Galilee Arabs were caught starting additional small fires even as fire-fighting teams were combating the main conflagration.
One thing is certain: The Jerusalem Forest is not located in disputed territory. Not a square inch of it was liberated by Israel during the Six Day War, and it includes no former homes or fields of refugee Arabs. If Katz’s premonition is correct, it is simply additional confirmation of how our Arab enemies work to take all of Jerusalem, not just parts thereof.
Even if we grant that they realize their takeover of western Jerusalem is not a realistic goal, one of their objectives is definitely the thinning out of the city’s Jewish population. They have done it before: In 1949, an estimated 25 percent of Jerusalem’s Jews fled in the face of random Arab Legion sniper fire from Jordan.
As we face the ongoing, often below-the-radar threat to Jerusalem’s Jewish sovereignty, it is imperative that we remain alert to the fact that every Arab attack on Jerusalem is part of an all-encompassing strategy.
Consider the Temple Mount, for example. For the past several years, Arabs led by the Muslim Wakf, which still runs the entire Mount, have been systematically ridding its lower floors of all vestiges and evidence of historic Jewish presence and sovereignty in the area. Dirt concealing a wealth of artifact remnants from the Holy Temples has been trucked out by the ton to nearby garbage dumps – all so that official Palestinian Authority spokesmen can continue to say, “This area was never Jewish.”
Nearby, on the Mt. of Olives – another historic and religious location that keeps the Jewish People enduringly linked with the Holy City and Holy Land – Arab vandals continue their attempts to sabotage these ties. They throw rocks at Jewish visitors, desecrate Jewish graves, and generally act as if they know that weakening our ties with that ancient cemetery and Temple Mount lookout can only serve their own nationalist purposes.
For yet another example, consider the Ir David neighborhood, just below and to the southeast of the Old City. Though much of what is recounted in the Bible regarding King David, his family and his warriors took place right there, Arab families that squatted there illegally over the past several decades now claim it as their own.
They know full well the importance of our historic/national/religious bonds with the topographically-strange City of David – and this is why they periodically attempt lynchings of unsuspecting Jewish visitors to the area and threaten world crises whenever Israel attempts to enforce the law against them.
We must permanently keep in mind that Muslims’ ties to Jerusalem have always been based on nothing more than political expediency, disguised as religious fervor. We are currently experiencing the fourth wave in Muslims’ aggrandizement of Jerusalem – at our expense – for their own political purposes. In fact, the Muslims’ artificial ties with Jerusalem are to be the subject of a future article in this series.
For now, we ask that you continue to do what you can in this critical battle to keep Jerusalem Jewish. For more information on how to do so, via updates, bus tours of critical parts of Jerusalem, and more, send an e-mail to email@example.com 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 past senior editor at Israel National News/Arutz-7 and an author. Both have lived in Jerusalem and now reside in Beit El.