The nation’s prophets watched sadly as their people sinned and were sent into exile. They foresaw, however, that they would ultimately return and rebuild – exactly as is happening in our own times. The eternal Jewish people and its ever-patient land have finally been reunited.
But building in Jerusalem cannot yet be taken for granted. Every brick placed atop another arouses our enemies to battle against us. Just the other week, an IDF officer was critically wounded in a firebomb-car ramming Palestinian terrorist attack. It happened more than 20 kilometers northwest of Jerusalem, and yet was promptly linked to the city’s growth, Hamas declared:
“The attack proves that the Palestinian nation [sic] does not sit idly by in the face of the Judaization of Jerusalem, and will continue its struggle until its land is freed…. The martyrs’ activities are a message to [our] youth not to allow the plans to Judaize Jerusalem to materialize…”
What Judaization is it referring to? It could be our return to Zion. It could also be the recent municipal approval of 23,000 new housing units in Jewish neighborhoods, including 8,000 in religious areas. The most likely explanation, however, is the end of something called the “Mukhtar Procedure.” Arab neighborhood leaders – known as mukhtars – can no longer arbitrarily assign “ownership” of Jerusalem land to whomever they choose. This development became official when the City Council voted last week, for the first time, not to approve dozens of Arab neighborhood housing projects based on the Mukhtar Procedure.
Until now, many unregistered parcels of land in the eastern parts of Jerusalem – those that Israel liberated from Jordan during the Six-Day War – could be assigned owners based on the mukhtars’ personal whims, which led to chaos, forgeries, and costly, shady deals. No longer.
Regavim Director Meir Deutsch said: “The State of Israel, in a move led by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, has decided to begin the process of registering all lands in eastern Jerusalem. This will end the theft of private lands belonging to both Jews and Arabs and the takeover of state-owned lands, and will strengthen Israeli sovereignty throughout Jerusalem.”
The question of who owns which land in Jerusalem, and where Arabs or Jews will build and expand, has significance well beyond the borders of the city or even the country, as indicated by some of the reactions to another recent development in the capital.
In a move that has been widely reported but not well understood, the U.S. is closing its famous consulate on Agron St., which has provided consular services to Arabs in Israel and PA-controlled areas. The consulate will be merged into the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. The bottom line is that an institution long considered a symbol of American recognition of the PA has been replaced by the more Israel-focused Embassy. Appropriately, PA diplomat Saeb Erekat bemoaned the move, calling it “the final nail in the coffin of America’s sponsorship of the peace process.”
Strangely, Israel’s left-wing Walla news site chose to give the move an opposite interpretation. Its headline, “Trump is Dividing Jerusalem: A Slap in the Face to Netanyahu on Election Eve,” can only be understood as a pre-election drive to denigrate Prime Minister Netanyahu. The article states, without explaining, that by merging the consulate into the embassy, Trump is hinting his opposition to Israel’s annexation of the eastern parts of the city, as well as his desire to renew ties with Ramallah.
We need not be surprised at the importance attributed to everything that happens in the holy city of Jerusalem, and the range of reactions and attempts to spin each new development. This is our own home-grown butterfly effect: Every house built in Jerusalem affects Washington, Moscow, Gaza, and many other important political centers. Most verily, Jerusalem is the center of the world.
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