Saturday, December 01, 2007

What's the Big Deal About Jerusalem? Stanley Goldfoot's Letter to the World Tells All

Nadene Goldfdoot                                                                  
So what if Israel has to give up parts of Jerusalem for peace? What's the big deal? Why is Jerusalem important to Jews, anyway?    Many people are probably saying this right now, even some Jews.

To us it's not like saying, let's give up Arizona, California, New Mexico and a few other states to Mexico. After all, lots of Mexicans are living in these states.

 There's an even deeper relationship of Jerusalem to Jews and to the state of Israel. It's connected to our very religion, which is quite complex. In our prayers we say, "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may I lose my right hand". .... Our history and connection with Jerusalem goes back farther than our King David. We've been a part of Jerusalem forever, and it is a part of us. The atmosphere there is special for us. Our deepest thoughts and deeds have come from there. It gives us our mental and emotional food. We've been deprived for 2,000 years and have yearned for it.

We've waited all this time to return. It didn't just happen out of the blue. A lot of planning preceded the move, years and years of planning.   We were immersed in the 1948 War minutes after the declaration that the UN created Israel.   2,000 years of wandering and suffering preceded it where no UNRA helped us out.

This connection is not the same for Arabs. They have one claim; that Mohammed of the 6th Century AD (born 570 CE) rose from Jerusalem and went to heaven on his horse. Their holy places are in Saudi Arabia. They lay claim to Jerusalem because it is our eternal city, and they want what we have in order to get rid of us. It's all a chess game.

My distant cousin, Stanley Goldfoot, a resident of Jerusalem, had this to say about his city. It is the most profound statement I've ever read.

A Letter to the World from Jerusalem
by Eliezer ben Yisrael (Stanley Goldfoot)

This was originally an editorial published in the Jerusalem Times in 1969. It is still highly relevant considering the current political situation and the upcoming celebration of Yom Yerushalayim. The letter was reprinted by the Israel Center of the Orthodox Union in Torah Tidbits #211)

I am not a creature from another planet, as you seem to believe. I am a Jerusalemite-like yourselves, a man of flesh and blood. I am a citizen of my city, an integral part of my people.

I have a few things to get off my chest. Because I am not a diplomat, I do not have to mince words. I do not have to please you or even persuade you. I owe you nothing. You did not build this city, you did not live in it, you did not defend it when they came to destroy it. And we will be damned if we will let you take it away.

There was a Jerusalem before there was a New York. When Berlin, Moscow, London, and Paris were miasmal forest and swamp, there was a thriving Jewish community here. It gave something to the world which you nations have rejected ever since you established yourselves- a humane moral code.

Here the prophets walked, their words flashing like forked lightning. Here a people who wanted nothing more than to be left alone, fought of waves of heathen would-be conquerors, bled and died on the battlements, hurled themselves into the flames of their burning Temple rather than surrender, and when finally overwhelmed by sheer numbers and led away into captivity, swore that before they forgot Jerusalem, they would see their tongues cleave to their palates, their right arms wither.

For two pain-filled millennia, while we were your unwelcome guests, we prayed daily to return to this city. Three times a day we petitioned the Almighty: "Gather us from the four corners of the world, bring us upright to our land, return in mercy to Jerusalem, Thy city, and swell in it as Thou promised." On every Yom Kippur and Passover, we fervently voiced the hope that Next Year would find us in Jerusalem.

Your inquisitions, pogroms, expulsions, the ghettos into which you jammed us, your forced baptisms, your quota systems, your genteel anti-Semitism, and the final unspeakable horror, the Holocaust (and worse, your terrifying disinterest in it)- all these have not broken us. They may have sapped what little moral strength you still possessed, but they forged us into steel. Do you think that you can break us now after all we have been through?   Do you really believe that after Dachau and Auschwitz we are frightened by your threats of blockades and sanctions? We have been to Hell and back- a Hell of your making. What more could you possibly have in your arsenal that could scare us?

I have watched this city bombarded twice by nations calling themselves civilized. In 1948, while you looked on apathetically, I saw women and children blown to smithereens, after we agreed to your request to internationalize the city. It was a deadly combination that did the job- British officers, Arab gunners, and American-made cannon. And then the savage sacking of the Old City-the willful slaughter, the wanton destruction of every synagogue and religious school, the desecration of Jewish cemeteries, the sale by a ghoulish government of tombstones for building materials, for poultry runs, army camps, even latrines.

And you never said a word.

You never breathed the slightest protest when the Jordanians shut off the holiest of our places, the Western Wall, in violation of the pledges they had made after the war- a war they waged, incidentally, against the decision of the UN. Not a murmur came from you whenever the legionnaires in their spiked helmets casually opened fire upon our citizens from behind the walls.

Your hearts bled when Berlin came under siege. You rushed your airlift "to save the gallant Berliners". But you did not send one ounce of food when Jews starved in besieged Jerusalem. You thundered against the wall which the East Germans ran through the middle of the German capital- but not one peep out of you about that other wall, the one that tore through the heart of Jerusalem.

And when that same thing happened 20 years later, and the Arabs unleashed a savage, unprovoked bombardment of the Holy City again, did any of you do anything?

The only time you came to life was when the city was at last reunited. Then you wrung your hands and spoke loftily of "justice" and need for the "Christian" quality of turning the other cheek.

The truth- and you know it deep inside your gut- you would prefer the city to be destroyed rather than have it governed by Jews. No matter how diplomatically you phrase it, the age old prejudices seep out of every word.

If our return to the city has tied your theology in knots, perhaps you had better reexamine your catechisms. After what we have been through, we are not passively going to accommodate ourselves to the twisted idea that we are to suffer eternal homelessness until we accept your savior.

For the first time since the year 70, there is now complete religious freedom for all in Jerusalem. For the first time since the Romans put a torch to the Temple, everyone has equal rights (You prefer to have some more equal than others.) We loathe the sword- but it was you who forced us to take it up. We crave peace, but we are not going back to the peace of 1948 as you would like us to.

We are home. It has a lovely sound for a nation you have willed to wander over the face of the globe. We are not leaving. We are redeeming the pledge made by our forefathers: Jerusalem is being rebuilt. "Next year" and the year after, and after, and after, until the end of time- "in Jerusalem"!

You know what Stanley would say to Olmert and Netanyahu now if he could. 

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