Sadness and Tension in Jerusalem

The horrendous terrorist attacks which have taken place in Jerusalem in recent days have caused such concern and sadness for all of us. My prayers and thoughts go out to the families of those who have been killed and to those who have been wounded. These horrendous acts deserve condemnation and it is once again shocking to read of those organizations and individuals, including Hamas officials, who praise and give honor to these acts of violence.

While these acts of violence and general tension would be sad in any situation, it is particularly sad that, at least to an extent, their source comes from religious disputes.

The compromises  regarding the Temple Mount and the Western Wall areas which have been worked out over the decades may be unsatisfying in many ways but they have helped to establish and retain a relatively quiet atmosphere. There have of course been flare-ups of violence and unrest but for the most part the area remained calm. But, now we are seeing a revival of the type of religious controversy which exacerbates an already tense situation.

Arab claims that there was never a Jewish Temple on the mount are horrendous and an insult to Jews and any student of history. But I also firmly believe that those Jews who dream of a third temple need to be stopped and prevented from doing anything  in small or big ways to lay the groundwork for such an idea to become reality or even give the appearance of a move in that direction.  The status quo, while it may not be ultimately satisfying for all needs to be embraced and endorsed and respect given to the holy places of all faiths. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statement that he will continue to uphold the status quo is a hopeful sign that he recognizes the importance of this carefully crafted compromise regarding the holy sites and it is critical that Israel allow free access to the Temple Mount to Moslems for prayer.

The entire issue of the status of Jerusalem in any potential peace agreement is of course so difficult. I strongly believe that an agreement must honor the integrity of Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem and that is why  the eviction of Arab famlies from areas which are clearly Arab neighborhoods and the settling of Jews in those homes for the purpose of establishing a Jewish presence is a provocative and oppressive act and is wrong. Jews and Arabs should, of course, be able to live wherever they want to live and I understand the desire of Jews to see the city reflect the long tradition and love our people have shown for Jerusalem over the centuries. But, a love for Jerusalem should be reflected in bringing peace to the holy city and peace will not come unless residents are respected equally and both sides work, God willing, towards a fair and equitable long term solution.

In one sense,  building of new homes in Jewish neighborhoods over the “green line” should not be controversial  if it is evident that those neighborhoods would remain in Israel if a two state solution were ever reached. But, the timing of such building and the statements by Israeli government officials that such building is intended as retaliation for Palestinian political or terrorist actions is , I believe, very bad strategy and is offensive. This is not to deny or understate the evil of acts of  terrorism or threats of violence. These are intolerable and certainly are a tremendous obstacle towards peace. But, it does not help the situation in any short term or long term way for Israel to build right there and right now when every act becomes a further detriment to peace.

As I have written in this blog many times, I fell in love with the city of Jerusalem during my first days in Israel in 1979. As Jews, we should not apologize for the love affair we have had with Jerusalem for millennia. But, I believe our love should be expressed by helping Jerusalem to be the city it can be and by rejecting and condemning violence and any actions which stand in the way of a settlement of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

May we see the peace of Jerusalem and all who love her.

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