I recently sent out a petition over some of the rabbinic list-serves that I’m on to ask rabbis to sign their names calling for President Obama to recognize Jerusalem as the indivisible capital of the Jewish State, of Israel. Even though it sounds pretty centrist, I think that even people on the left should be interested in avoiding the division that has occurred between Jews and Palestinians in the rest of Israel – making it illegal for Israelis to meet Palestinians in Bethlehem , Ramallah or Hebron, and making it difficult for Palestinians to get to Israel. Those restrictions are based firmly on the security needs of the State of Israel and its civilians, but Jerusalem, thank God, has been able to flourish as a unified city, with Arabs and Jews walking freely in all areas, with only rare instances of violence. It is a safer city than most American cities, and I personally enjoy walking around the entire, undivided, Old City, when I am there, and occasionally walking around East Jerusalem, meandering onto Salah Addin street and near the American Colony Hotel. It is encouraging to modern see Arab men and women shopping in the Jerusalem Mall along with Hasidim and more secular Israelis. Wouldn’t it be tragic to divide these two peoples even more? So beyond preserving Jewish rights to live and walk anywhere in the long-standing religious and political capital of the Jewish people, let’s think about Palestinian rights in Jerusalem as well ; in both cases, a unified city is at the core.
I was surprised by the lack of interest in the petition. Don’t tell the Obama administration, but so far, about 10 into the petition drive, I have only I have collected only about 19 signatures from list-serves that include over 700 American and international rabbis, some who are on the extreme right, and others on the extreme left. Those 19 signatures includes me!! That’s less than a 3% return rate. I am going to post the petition here, and I’m sure there might be some language that someone wants to fine tune, but only two people wrote me with suggestions or issues.
Yet, why should I be surprised? When we don’t want gays to march in Jerusalem, and we don’t want Conservative and Reform and Feminists to daven at the Wall, and we don’t want non-observant Jews to park in a civilized manner anywhere in the city, and we don’t want the city government getting involved in any personal family abuse issues – clearly we are sending a message that Jerusalem is not even for all Jews! It’s only for my type of Jew, and it’s too holy for your type of Jew. If we don’t even think that Jerusalem is the world capital of all Jews, and that all Jews have a right to daven in her sacred places, in the ways that they choose, and to walk around and march peacefully to express their concerns, then how can we get the President to understand that Jerusalem is connected to the heart of every Jew, and is owned by every Jew in this world. If we really think that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people, then let’s start by making sure that all Jews feel comfortable being in Jerusalem in the first place. I have had friends attacked, who have even had to seek shelter, in unwelcoming Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, and made to feel far more uncomfortable than when I walk around the Damascus gate and go to the shuk.
Friends, before we can ask the world to recognize Jerusalem as a the capital of the Jewish people and the Jewish state, let’s make sure we really mean it! Maybe we don’t, and that’s why only 19 have signed on to my petition. Maybe our work begins at home – in the Holy City – rather than in Washington, DC.
Whereas Jerusalem has been known as the capital of the Jewish People for over 3,000 years since the time of King David,
Whereas Jerusalem was again unified in 1967 and thereafter reconfirmed by every Israeli government since as the eternal undivided capital of the Jewish State of Israel,
Therefore, we the undersigned express our solidarity with the Jewish people of Israel and throughout the world that Jerusalem must forever remain the undivided capital of the Jewish State,
We are American rabbis representing the spectrum of Jewish life in the United States and are against any attempt to alter the reconfirmation of Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the Jewish State as well as any attempt to discriminate against Jews and restrict where Jews are allowed to live in any part of Jerusalem. Discrimination against any people must not be condoned, and discrimination against Jews in any form must not be tolerated – whether in Jerusalem, in the United States, or in any other part of the world.