Each time Israel does something the Arabs do not like, there are two responses they issue. Sometimes, I feel like they reach into a hat and select one. It is always the same – either they are going to end the peace process…to which I desperately want to ask…WHAT peace process…or, they are threatening yet another Intifada.
For those unfamiliar with the term – an Intifada is a fancy word for mindless rioting and terrorism. Intifada is a code name for firebombs and stone attacks…but worse – suicide bombers in our malls, our buses, our restaurants. Intifada means – open season on murder…the more innocent, the younger, the better.
This week, the threat cards are being played for two reasons. The first is that Israel is daring to approve new apartments for families in our capital, Jerusalem. The new apartments would be in the north of Jerusalem (not the eastern areas as some inaccurate news outlets are reporting). The apartments would be built on unoccupied lands – open fields, directly adjacent to and within the area of Ramat Shlomo – a neighborhood I can see from my office window.
No, I’m not saying the Israeli government was particularly adept in how it handled the announcement, but there was more politics than reality in the US response and condemnation and a fair amount of stupidity in the US failure to understand the facts on the ground.
More curious, however, than the Ramat Shlomo fiasco…is the second reason why the Arabs are threatening yet another Intifada. In 1948, the beautiful Hurva synagogue was destroyed during our War of Independence. That was in May, 1948 after the United Nations voted to divide Palestine into two states – a Jewish one and an Arab one.
The day we declared the re-establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine and named that country Israel – five Arab nations invaded, promising they would push the Jews into the sea. They called out to the Arab residents and told them to leave their homes, to get out of the way of the incoming Arab countries and by and large, they did. They left…but the rest of their plan didn’t work. Israel not only held onto the land promised to us…or most of it, we even captured much of the land that would have been an Arab state. This is the price of violence and war…when you choose war, sometimes you lose. They lost.
The synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem was lost…as was the entire Old City. Where for thousands of years Jews have prayed…suddenly, we were denied access to our holiest of sites, the last remaining wall of the Holy Temple, last destroyed in 70 CE (the Western Wall is actually a retaining wall and not part of the Holy Temple structure itself).
There were no cries of religious intolerance from 1948 to 1967, no international demands that Jews have access to the Temple Mount. US presidents and Popes didn’t decry our inability to worship…nor did they care that hundreds of graves, centuries old…were destroyed, their tombstones broken, scattered, and used to build latrines by the Jordanian army.
The Hurva synagogue lay in ruins…when Israel recaptured the Old City of Jerusalem in 1967, our leading general, Moshe Dayan, did a very stupid thing…stupid because the world took our generosity for granted, our sacrifice was for nothing. The Temple Mount is the site where our two Temples were built, the site where Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac. Christian belief says it is the site of the ascension and Muslim tradition credits Mohammed with ascending to heaven from there as well. On that fateful day in 1967, Moshe Dayan gave the Temple Mount to the Arabs because on the ruins of our Temple, they had built a mosque (a common practice that they repeat on top of many synagogues and churches to stake their claim).
In any case, after Jerusalem was again in our hands…we opened the city to all religions. For 19 years, we could not pray or touch the Western Wall and yet not even 19 days have passed where we have blocked Arabs from tending to the place. Sometimes, like today, when the Arabs are pulling their latest Intifada card and promising violence, there are restrictions -but still, thousands of Arabs are allowed where Jews are not.
So for the last 60+ years, the Hurva synagogue ruins have filled the place…but slowly a few years ago, Israel began rebuilding it – as fine and beautiful as it ever was. It is located in the middle of the Jewish quarter – a good 5 minute walk from the Western Wall and the Temple Mount…that is fact – I have walked the path many times.
From the site of the Hurva synagogue, you walk between numerous stores, down about 100 steps…perhaps even more. You walk across a large, open plaza…and only then do you approach the Temple Mount…and yet, the Arabs are threatening another Intifada because we dared to rebuild the synagogue.
They say we are trying to “Juda-ize” Jerusalem and I am torn between anger and amusement. There is no reason to make something that is inherently Jewish…Jewish again. Jerusalem – was founded…by the Jews, sustained and nurtured…by the Jews. It is our city, our capital, our promise, our destiny.
We have been prepared to share it and live in peace but where we were driven from it once, we never will be again. Tonight in Jerusalem, we celebrate the rebuilt and reopened Hurva synagogue.
For this, the Arabs threaten. Hamas even says it is grounds for war. End of peace process…Intifada…war – I wish someone would tell the Arabs that their ongoing threats are useless and prove their lack of credibility.
But more, I wish the world would tell the Arabs that it is violence that got them where they are today – trying desperately through hatred and terrorism to get what they could have gotten 60 years ago with a simple positive answer to the United Nations.
That boat sailed long ago – or rather, that boat was torpedoed by the Arab nations and lies in ruin below the sea. If there is a peace process, it will not be served by threats and if they do not learn to live with the Hurva synagogue rebuilt on the very spot where it stood 60 years ago…there is no hope.
There will be another war, another Intifada, another wave of terrorism. I am as convinced of that as I am that the US administration will continue to grovel whenever and wherever it can. I have seen one son go to war. It is more than any mother should have to see and yet I come to realize that it is very likely war will come to my family again.
I don’t know when or why, but judging from the past, it is likely the reason will be as senseless as today’s threats. We rebuilt a synagogue the Arabs destroyed 60 years ago…on land that is ours, always has been and always will be. The Arabs can learn to deal with it, or they can threaten us.
Just as there are always two responses from the Arabs to pretty much any occurrence in the Middle East, there are two realities they must learn. The first is simply that we will rebuild and, if we have to, we will fight. the second is that time runs in only one direction – forward. You cannot rewind the clock – not a day, not a month, and certainly not 60 years.