November 1, 2007
O, Jerusalem! Oy, Jerusalem!
The Journal received over 100 letters in response to Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky's Oct. 26 Op-Ed, "An Orthodox Rabbi's Plea: Consider a Divided Jerusalem." The letters were largely supportive of the rabbi's position. For an Op-Ed on the subject by Rabbi Dov Fischer, click here.
Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky argues that Jerusalem should be re-divided if it would further the cause of peace between Israel and her neighbors. We admire the rabbi as a spiritual leader and a colleague, but on this point, his argument is not only wrong but dangerously na?ve.
First, when Jerusalem was last divided, from 1948 to 1967, the city was a living hell for its Jewish residents. Jews were forced from Jewish neighborhoods in the Old City and were banned from Jewish holy sites, which were vandalized and destroyed. Access to Christian sites was also restricted.
The rest of the city was subject to routine sniper fire, mortar fire and other attacks. Jerusalem was hardly at peace; it was, in fact, on the front lines of a war of attrition.
There may be competing Jewish and Arab historical claims to Jerusalem, but on one point, there is no disagreement: Jerusalem has never been more prosperous, more welcoming to pilgrims of all religions and more free than it is today as a unified city under Israeli control. That is why so many Israeli Arabs choose to live there, rather than in Palestinian-controlled areas elsewhere.
Second, all available evidence suggests that Palestinian control over even a handful of Arab neighborhoods will result in those neighborhoods falling into economic and social anarchy, as was the case in Gaza after Israel's voluntary pullout, and will become a staging ground for terror attacks on the rest of the city. In the aftermath of Gaza, in which Israel faces continued terror and newly violent rocket attacks, anyone supporting shared sovereignty of any kind in Jerusalem is ignoring the facts.
Third, this is not a matter solely for the Israeli government to decide. Jerusalem is the physical heart of Judaism, we pray in its direction every day, we send our children there to study and we return there throughout our lives for spiritual sustenance.
Even if the Israeli government were to consider a re-division of the city, we would oppose such a move. And we would hardly be alone: Jews and Christians of every religious denomination and political stripe oppose such a re-division. So does the U.S. Congress.
Fourth, on the issue of "honesty" on Jerusalem's history: No one denies that Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem has been legally questioned from day one. There have always been two distinct ways, the Arab way and the Israeli way, to interpret a whole litany of historical events and documents.
To date, Israel and much of the international community have deemed the annexation legal. To suggest that Israel should sacrifice its security and real lives because of dubious questions of "honesty" is at best false piety.
Finally, Rabbi Kanefsky believes that "there will be peace the day after there is truth." We disagree. There will be peace the day after everyone wants peace.
Only when both sides are truly committed to living peacefully, instead of destroying the "enemy," will there be peace. We look forward to such a day and are eager to be a part of that peace.
Rabbi Daniel Korobkin
Director, Community & Synagogue Services
Orthodox Union West Coast Region
As a congregant, friend and member of the community, I would like to publicly support Rabbi Kanefsky's opinion in last week's Jewish Journal. Ever since the last Palestinian election, both the U.S. and Israeli governments have focused their attention and resources on trying to stop what is essentially a Palestinian nationalist movement from becoming a Hamas-led religious movement.
If the issue of a Palestinian state indeed becomes a religious one, then the possibility of compromise must become impossible, as each side's religious claims must be, by definition, superior to the other and therefore right. In taking Rabbi Kanefsky's point further, Israel's supporters must be careful not to make the issue of a Palestinian state a religious one, either, but rather be able to balance what issues are imperative and what room there is for negotiation in order to achieve peace.
It seems to me incongruous that whilst the current Israeli prime minister, who was also mayor of Jerusalem, has acknowledged that there are Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem that Israel could yield, we in New York and Los Angeles are arguing to the contrary. In the end, as Rabbi Kanefsky rightly states, it is not for us in the Diaspora to try to tie the hands of the Israeli government, but rather provide the support to let it try to negotiate in good faith and see what can be achieved.
Finally, I, too, have been bombarded with e-mail traffic on this issue and want to thank Rabbi Kanefsky for his leadership and courage in turning up the heat on this issue and forcing our community to look inward and be able to publicly debate what is a most important subject.
As Jews, we also believe that we must act and speak with candor and truth. Your headline distorts what Rabbi Kanefsky submitted to you, and that is unfortunate. Rabbi Kanefsky pleads for honesty and candor in looking at Israeli history. The Jewish Journal did not extend that same honesty to him in distorting his meaning when writing your headline.
One does not have to be a journalist or a legal scholar to distinguish between the following:
Yosef Kanefsky's submission: "An Orthodox Rabbi's Plea: Let's Be Honest Here."
Jewish Journal screaming double-page headline: "An Orthodox Rabbi's Plea: Consider a Divided Jerusalem."