The famous Jewish author and moral authority, Elie Wiesel, published recently an outrageous letter about Jerusalem. He joined the Netanyahu coalition aiming to threaten and deter president Obama, putting to work his notable weight as a moral "voice". In his open letter he writes: "For me, the Jew that I am, Jerusalem is above politics. It is mentioned more than six hundred times in Scripture -- and not a single time in the Koran".
Well, ignorance is a very persuasive tool. Doesn't Mr. Wiesel know that Jerusalem is not mentioned even once in the Pentateuch, the Holy five books of Moses, also known as the Tora? But that's beside the point.
Jerusalem is holy not because we win the competition of versions between the Koran and the Bible. Rather, Jerusalem is holy because we, humans, love it, respect it and sanctify it. And so do they, the Muslim and Christian humans. Every week, on Friday, my family and myself join hundreds of Israelis in a vigil for hours in East Jerusalem. The police act brutally, the Settlers are aggressive, the media in not always nice, and Mr, Wiesel's friend - PM Netanyahu lost his tongue when it is most needed.
We protest against the Messianic Settlers and their political slaves, the Israeli government. We Take the Jewish moral point of view Mr. Wiesel should have taken. But for him "Jerusalem is above politics". He does not care about the poor Palestinian families who became refugees for the second time, both as a result of Israeli actions. Because he is a prophet, a clean one, he is beyond politics and above it, a real angel. Well, my former mentor: If this is your position you are a simple and simplistic reality denier. Therefore many of us send you this open letter. If you change your mind and you want to sing this letter as well, please let me know.
From Jerusalem, an open letter to Elie Wiesel
Dear Mr. Wiesel,
We write to you from Jerusalem to convey our frustration, even outrage, at your recently published letter on Jerusalem. We are Jewish Jerusalemites - residents by choice of a battered city, a city used and abused, ransacked time and again first by foreign conquerors and now by its own politicians. We cannot recognize our city in the sentimental abstraction you call by its name.
Our Jerusalem is concrete, its hills covered with limestone houses and pine trees; its streets lined with synagogues, mosques and churches. Your Jerusalem is an ideal, an object of prayers and a bearer of the collective memory of a people whose members actually bear many individual memories. Our Jerusalem is populated with people, young and old, women and men, who wish their city to be a symbol of dignity - not of hubris, inequality and discrimination. You speak of the celestial Jerusalem; we live in the earthly one.
For more than a generation now the earthly city we call home has been crumbling under the weight of its own idealization. Your letter troubles us, not simply because it is replete with factual errors and false representations, but because it upholds an attachment to some other-worldly city which purports to supersede the interests of those who live in the this-worldly one. For every Jew, you say, a visit to Jerusalem is a homecoming, yet it is our commitment that makes your homecoming possible. We prefer the hardship of realizing citizenship in this city to the convenience of merely yearning for it.
Indeed, your claim that Jerusalem is above politics is doubly outrageous. First, because contemporary Jerusalem was created by a political decision and politics alone keeps it formally unified. The tortuous municipal boundaries of today's Jerusalem were drawn by Israeli generals and politicians shortly after the 1967 war. Feigning to unify an ancient city, they created an unwieldy behemoth, encircling dozens of Palestinian villages which were never part of Jerusalem. Stretching from the outskirts of Ramallah in the north to the edge of Bethlehem in the south, the Jerusalem the Israeli government foolishly concocted is larger than Paris. Its historical core, the nexus of memories and religious significance often called "the Holy Basin", comprises a mere one percent of its area. Now they call this artificial fabrication 'Jerusalem' in order to obviate any approaching chance for peace.
Second, your attempt to keep Jerusalem above politics means divesting us of a future. For being above politics is being devoid of the power to shape the reality of one's life. As true Jerusalemites, we cannot stand by and watch our beloved city, parts of which are utterly neglected, being used as a springboard for crafty politicians and sentimental populists who claim Jerusalem is above politics and negotiation. All the while, they franticly "Judaize" Eastern Jerusalem in order to transform its geopolitics beyond recognition.
We invite you to our city to view with your own eyes the catastrophic effects of the frenzy of construction. You will witness that, contrary to some media reports, Arabs are not allowed to build their homes anywhere in Jerusalem. You discover see the gross inequality in allocation of municipal resources and services between east and west. We will take you to Sheikh Jarrah, where Palestinian families are being evicted from their homes to make room for a new Jewish neighborhood, and to Silwan, where dozens of houses face demolition because of the Jerusalem Municipality's refusal to issue building permits to Palestinians.
We, the people of Jerusalem, can no longer be sacrificed for the fantasies of those who love our city from afar. This-worldly Jerusalem must be shared by the people of the two nations residing in it. Only a shared city will live up to the prophet's vision: "Zion shall be redeemed with justice". As we chant weekly in our vigils in Sheikh Jarrah: "Nothing can be holy in an occupied city!"
Just Jerusalem (Sheikh Jarrah) Activists