Thanks to alert and vigorous activity on the part of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, future generations of Czech students in the heart of the European Union will grow up knowing that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people.
The latest chapter in the millennia-old story of the world’s attempts to detach Jerusalem from the Jews – and vice-versa – began last month. The Ministry of Education of the Czech Republic decided one day that its school atlases should no longer mark Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
This decision came as a result of one thing – Palestinian Authority pressure and threats – and flew in the face of many others, such as truth, traditional Czech loyalties, and history.
The Czech Foreign Ministry announced that the publishers of atlases used in schools would lose their license to publish such works if they did not stop marking Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Old copies of the books must be permanently shelved, the new directive ordered. Why? What changed?
It seems the Palestinian Authority mission in Prague issued a protest. A Czech Foreign Ministry spokesperson quickly announced that the Republic does not consider eastern Jerusalem part of the State of Israel, and the order was given to strip Israel of its capital.
Israel immediately went into action. The Foreign Ministry, working the diplomatic channels, issued this sharp but incisive statement: “There is no limit to the Palestinian incitement. It does not suffice with poisoning with the souls of young Palestinians, but wishes to plant falsehood among the youth of the Czech Republic as well. We hope that the Czech authorities change their minds and do not lend a hand to this attempt to negate Israel’s bonds to its capital.”
And in fact, after a week, the Czechs announced that its schools’ atlases would remain as they are, denoting Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
It is stunning to see the power exerted by the hate-filled propaganda of the Palestinian Authority – and how it so easily overcomes not only simple historic truths, but also traditional ties of friendship between Israel and other countries.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, in a letter to the prime minister of Czech Republic, outlined the bonds of friendship Israel and the Czechs have enjoyed over the past decades and centuries.
“Dear Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka,” Barkat wrote. “The friendship between our peoples has deep historical roots. After Jerusalem’s destruction, Jews made Prague the Jerusalem of Europe – a center of Jewish thought, history, and culture. Prague shaped Jewish life, and Jewish thinkers, writers, and artists shaped Prague.”
Barkat then jumped to the 20th century: “When we returned to our homeland, the Czech government supported our fight for independence and Israel’s rebirth.”
Between January 1948 and October 1949, the Jewish Agency purchased huge shipments of weapons from Czechoslovakia, including former German army weapons that had been captured by the Czech army. The deliveries from Czechoslovakia, in which Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk played a very significant role, proved critically important for Israel’s establishment.
Israel knew how to reciprocate, as well: “When the Czech people won back their freedom,” Barkat wrote, “Israel was among the first countries [your] President Václav Havel visited. Our capitals represent our countries’ strong and steadfast alliance. Just as Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic, so too is Jerusalem the eternal capital of Israel.”
Mayor Barkat expressed his deep disappointment “that the Czech Ministry of Education has yielded to those seeking to use lies and hatred to deny Jerusalem’s status as the capital of the state of Israel…. Future generations of Czech students deserve nothing less than the truth: Jerusalem’s rightful place as the capital of Israel, and the heart and soul of the Jewish people, cannot and should not be denied.”
The ultimate reversal of the decision is gratifying, of course – but the bad taste still remains of the unfathomable statement that eastern Jerusalem is not considered part of the state of Israel.
After all, what is eastern Jerusalem? It begins in what we know today as the City of David, prominently featuring the hill on which sits the Holy Temple built by King Solomon, the Shiloach Spring below from where water was drawn for the residents’ drinking needs and for the festive joy of the Sukkot Beit HaShoevah festival, and the steep mountainsides in between. Though today most of its residents are Arab, to deny its Jewish origins and nature is beyond absurd.
Incidentally, let us try to imagine the excitement felt by diggers and researchers in 2008 just below what is now Dung Gate, in what started out as the City of David, when they found the following: A 2,600-year-old clay seal impression bearing the name Gedaliah ben Pashur. The name appears in the Book of Jeremiah (38:1) together with that of Yehuchal ben Shelemyahu, whose name was found on an identical clay seal in the same area in 2005! The two men were ministers in the court of King Zedekiah, the last king to rule in Jerusalem before the destruction of the First Temple. Archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar said at the time that this was first incident in the annals of Israeli archeology that two clay seals with two biblical names that appear in the same biblical verse were unearthed in the same location.
And who are the Arabs who live there today and claim to be “natives” in what they call “Silwan”? Let’s put it this way: They’re not as ancient as they claim. In fact, just several decades ago, the Arab population was sparse, to put it mildly. Photos from the mid-19th century show the City of David ridge planted with olive trees and devoid of housing. Modern settlement began in the 1870s when the Meyuchas family – a rabbinical and merchant family that had lived in Jerusalem since being expelled from Spain nearly 400 years earlier – moved into the area. The Turks and British recognized the area as a Jewish neighborhood. When the area fell under Jordanian occupation in 1949, Arab families began building apace.
On the other hand, as of now, the Jewish population there is growing nicely, renewing its presence by moving into plots that were either owned by Jews before the pogroms of 1929, or those they have recently purchased.
The short-lived Czech refusal to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is yet another opportunity to disseminate these simple, eternal truths:
Jerusalem has been central to Judaism and the Jewish nation for four millennia, beginning when Abraham nearly sacrificed his son Isaac on Mt. Moriah. A thousand years later, King David made it Israel’s capital, and it has ever since been the center of our national and spiritual existence. It is mentioned in the Bible some 650 times – zero times in the Koran. Non-Jewish Canadian lawyer Jacques Gauthier spent 20 years researching the issue of Jerusalem in international law, and concluded that once the League of Nations and the United Nations assigned the city to the Jewish people, “Jerusalem belongs to the Jews, by international law.”
Neither the Czechs nor the Palestinian Arabs nor anyone else can take the Jewish people from Jerusalem – nor Jerusalem from the Jewish people.
For more information on how to participate in keeping Jerusalem Jewish, via updates, bus tours of critical parts of Jerusalem, and more, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech’s website, www.keepjerusalem.orgHillel Fendel and Chaim Silberstein / KeepJerusalem.org