Israel marked Yom Yerushaliyim earlier this week, commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem, even as its future remains a point of contention in negotiations with the Palestinians.
Jerusalem has been holy to Jews for almost 3,000 years. Jews have been singing the city’s praises and praying for its restoration for just as long. Finally, 43 years ago this week, Israeli soldiers broke through the Jordanian forces that had most recently been keeping us from our holiest city, and reclaimed it.
Despite the past four decades, Israel is still fighting for the liberation of Jerusalem. Today not one country has its embassy in the city. The Arabs in East Jerusalem carry Jerusalem resident IDs because they do not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the city. The Palestinians demand a building freeze in East Jerusalem because they believe the Americans can deliver it. They have worked to delegitimize Israel’s claims to the city and are bent on convincing the world that Israel is in fact occupying Jerusalem.
As Americans, it is not our place to tell the Israeli government how to proceed with negotiations or define its borders. As Jews, however, we share in the birthright of Jerusalem.
We understand the pragmatic reasoning behind trading Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem in a future peace deal. But we have also seen the conviction of the Palestinians and their patience in implementing their strategy: If Israel is willing to give an inch here and an inch there, eventually those inches will become miles.
The late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin spoke at the U.S. Capitol 15 years ago on the significance of Jerusalem. We would all do well to heed his words and conviction.
“Jerusalem is the heart of the Jewish people,” he said, “and a deep sense of our pride. On this festive occasion, thousands of miles from home, here and now, we once again are raising Jerusalem above our highest joy, just like our fathers and our fathers’ fathers.”
Heart surgery, while maybe necessary, is never easy. We pray for the peace and unity of Jerusalem and the wisdom of the surgeons.