A zoning plan that would have enabled the creation of critical Arab facts-on-the-ground in a strategically vital area of Jerusalem has been shelved thanks to efforts by several Zionist organizations.
The rejected plan involves a tract of land outside Anatot, north of the Old City and south of Pisgat Ze’ev, and also east of French Hill and northwest of the in-the-news E-1 area outside Maaleh Adumim. As reported here several months ago, a proposal was raised to build a landfill there, at the western edge of the Og River bed, for surplus construction waste. The goal was to reserve the area for use as a public park 20 years from now – thus supposedly insuring that the land would not be populated by hostile elements, and preventing Maaleh Adumim from turning into an Arab-surrounded enclave.
However, many Jewish groups feared that the idea was bound to boomerang: The only ones who would be prevented from building there would be those who follow the law – namely, Jews. But Arab elements would certainly follow their general modus operandi and build houses without legal sanction. The bottom line, it was feared, would be a greatly strengthened Arab presence in an area critical to national Jewish demographics.
In addition, the Israel Land Fund, the Legal Forum and Green Now filed environmental and property-rights objections to the plan. “The property is owned by Jews, and they should be allowed to build there,” said a source close to the case. “We don’t need a park there in 20 years; we need Jewish construction there now.”
This past week, the Jerusalem Municipality informed the three groups that a scheduled discussion of the plan had been canceled, and that the plan is being withdrawn.
The very fact that such a plan was submitted and considered, however, shows us once again that we must continue to fight in every venue to ensure Jewish national rights to every part of the Land of Israel – even 65 years after the establishment of Israel.
This lesson is all the more poignant as we celebrate Yom Yerushalayim – the anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War 46 years ago.
The Jewish people’s bonds with the Holy City are unshakable, to be sure – but they may have weakened ever so slightly over recent decades. Consider the following commitment expressed in 1949 by Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, in an urgent letter to foreign minister Moshe Sharett. Sharett was then in New York, and the United Nations was considering a proposal to grant control of Jerusalem to an international body.
Ben-Gurion wrote as follows: “I will propose in tomorrow’s government meeting the following government declaration in the Knesset: Israel will not accept any form of foreign rule in Jewish Jerusalem and its elimination from the state. If we face a choice of leaving Jerusalem or leaving the United Nations – we will chose to leave the United Nations.”
The 28th day of Iyar, 5727 – June 7, 1967 – was the day the Jewish people regained control over their holy capital, Yerushalayim. It marked the end of a 1,833 year period during which we were foreigners in our own capital city.
Despite Jordan’s lack of official status, Israel had no plans to oust the Jordanians from the Old City, even after war broke out. Though Jordan shelled Tel Aviv on the first day of the war, Israel assumed this was just a gesture of solidarity with Egypt, and sent a message promising not to attack Jordan if it stayed out of the war. In probably the one act of his life he most regretted, King Hussein refused; within two days his forces had retreated across the Jordan River, and all the area west of it, including the Old City of Jerusalem, was Israel’s.
Seven months later, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel set the date of 28 Iyar as a “day of thanksgiving to God for the miracles that occurred on that day, and for the liberation of Jerusalem.” The Government of Israel followed suit in May 1968, setting the date as Jerusalem Day.
For 30 years, the holiday was a “local” one, until May 1998, when the Knesset granted it the status of a national holiday.
As with all of our holidays, the question we must ask ourselves afterward is not “How did it go?” but rather, “What did it do for you – what effect did it leave upon you?” We must make sure to commemorate Jerusalem Day with sincere thanks to God for the miracles He wrought in our generation, and we must redouble our genuine appreciation for the historic national process in which God has placed us: He promised the Land to our Patriarchs, brought us there amidst great wonders, exiled us when we strayed from the path, and promised to return us at the right time – and here we are! The process is still just in its beginning; it is up to us, on many fronts, to advance it along.