The recently commemorated Jerusalem Day was the perfect opportunity for polling the public on its attitudes towards Israel’s capital – and the results were mixed.
One recently-published poll, for instance, shows that 92 percent of Israeli Jews agree that Jerusalem is the Jewish nation’s eternal capital, and the Central Statistics Bureau says that 88 percent of adult Jerusalem residents reported that they are pleased with their lives, compared with 85 percent nationwide.
The Herzog Academic College found that 48 percent of respondents want both Jerusalem and the story of the 1967 Six-Day War to receive more hours in the national annual school curriculum. Another quarter feel that hours should be added only just before Jerusalem Day, while the remainder believe the subject is currently taught to a sufficient extent.
However, a survey by KeepJerusalem shows some worrisome results regarding Jerusalem: 28 percent of the Israeli public does not know why Jerusalem Day is celebrated, and even 25 percent of the religious-Zionist public would be willing to cede parts of Jerusalem in exchange for a peace treaty.
Asked what Jerusalem Day commemorates, some answered, “the day of the destruction of Jerusalem” or a “day of prayer and fasting.” Even 15 percent of the Religious-Zionist community, and 18 percent of the haredi-religious public, did not know that it marks the day Jerusalem was liberated and reunified during the Six-Day War 48 years ago.
Chaim Silberstein, founder and president of Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech, and co-author of this biweekly column, is disturbed by the survey results: “The findings should set off alarms within the nationalist camp. If the government enters into an aggressive political process, we may be surprised when even the right-wing parties vote in favor of handing over parts of Jerusalem.”
Commissioned by the Binyan Kesher LeYerushalayim organization and its Im Eshkachech-Keep Jerusalem initiative, the poll was conducted by the Teleclal Institute among 573 respondents.
In exchange for a peace treaty with the Palestinian Authority, half the Israeli public would agree to divide the Holy City, giving the Arab neighborhoods to the PA. Nearly a quarter would even hand over the Muslim and Christian quarters, as well as the Temple Mount. Among religious-Zionist and haredi Jews, only 4 percent would cede the Old City, compared with nearly a third of those describing themselves as secular.
KeepJerusalem has long warned of the dangers of dividing the city. Withdrawing Israeli sovereignty from the Arab neighborhoods would create an Arab-controlled corridor all the way from Ramallah to Bethlehem, going through the center of Jerusalem. This would create a Gaza-like situation, drawing all the terrorist organizations to the area with the goal of liberating the rest of Jerusalem.
KeepJerusalem conducts informational tours in and around Jerusalem for groups and public opinion shapers from Israel and abroad throughout the year. Silberstein says that the vast majority of Jews “simply don’t know the facts. For instance, the number of Jews in the ‘new’ neighborhoods (since 1967) such as Har Homa, Pisgat Ze’ev, Ramot, Ramat Eshkol, the Jewish quarter, and more, are populated by more than 250,000 Jews – approximately the same as the number of Arabs in eastern Jerusalem. Fewer than 4 percent of respondents knew this fact, Silberstein laments.
“If a referendum is carried out regarding dividing Jerusalem,” he warns, “the lack of knowledge among the public and its preconceived but ill-informed notions will have a significant effect. This is alarming, especially when there is a well-oiled and financed machine working relentlessly to persuade Israelis and the world as to the necessity of dividing up Jerusalem. Keep Jerusalem sees its task as impacting public opinion about the importance of keeping Jerusalem united under Israeli sovereignty.”