During the centuries between the destruction of the Jewish temple and the regaining of the Holy City was largely symbolic of Jerusalem's role for the Jewish nation. One could imagine that Zionism and the return of the Jews to their ancestral lands, which began in the late 19th century, would have changed that. But the early Zionists were ambivalent about the small, neglected, run-down Jerusalem they found at the beginning of the twentieth century. Jerusalem was abused by its Turkish Ottoman rulers and became poor and boring. For the early Zionists, Jerusalem symbolized the past they wanted to break away from: it was too religious, archaic and backward. They preferred the new imagery of agricultural settlements or the fresh idea contained in the construction of a new city, Tel Aviv.
1967 changed everything. After the spectacular military victory of the Six-Day War, Israel became the sole ruler of the entire region. The Israeli government quickly defined new borders for Jerusalem and proclaimed a new urban creature: the United Jerusalem under the sovereignty of Israel (a definition rejected by the entire international community). This announcement paved the way for a wide range of political and practical policies that changed the face of Jerusalem.
But it has not always been that way. After the British conquest of Palestine and the founding of Jerusalem as the center of the British Mandate, Jerusalem became a growing, modern and vibrant metropolis. But it was not the Biblical Jerusalem: modern Jerusalem during the British era was clearly in the west of the ancient city; geographically close, but culturally oriented to the west. The Zionist leadership decided to invest in this new Jerusalem and make it the political center of the Zionist project. They built modern Jerusalem and coined it with Zionist symbols prominently present in the new parts of the city.
After 1948, the term "West Jerusalem" became even more concrete when the city was divided between Israel and Jordan. Well, West Jerusalem (the city I grew up in) was a young and modern urban center, a place for the capital of newly formed Israel. There were hardly any sacred places in West Jerusalem. The holy places were all on the "other side". One could say that West Jerusalem was fully identified as the earthly Jerusalem, while the heavenly mythical Jerusalem was in captivity, in the hands of the Jordanians.
Since 1967, Jerusalem's fate seems to be determined by a multitude of external forces that have made claims to the reality and future of Jerusalem. The Israeli central government, the Palestinian Authority, the United Nations, the United States of America, the European Union, the Vatican and other Christian denominations, the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf and several NGOs operating in Jerusalem all have something to say about the city is managed and what the city should look like in the future: United, divided, integrated, separate, religious, less religious, exclusively Israeli or divided
But all these groups overlook the fabric of Jerusalem itself: the inhabitants. There are nearly 900,000 inhabitants in the united Jerusalem defined by Israel; 62% are Jews and 38% Palestinians and many live below the poverty line. Jerusalem's residents are suffering from multiple urban plagues, such as lack of housing, unattractive job opportunities, congestion, poor public education, ethnic and religious tensions, environmental hazards, and more. The Jerusalimim (Jerusalem) must endure all this. The inhabitants of Jerusalem live in the worst situation. The whole world seems to know what is good for Jerusalem, but seldom are the inhabitants asked what they think . In many ways, the residents must bear the brunt of the megalomaniac, irresponsible, and callous attitude that all external forces collectively inflict on their city. But it is only possible for the residents, with their intuitive collective wisdom, to keep the city from being destroyed by outsiders. I am proud to say that the current Jerusalem people are taking the opportunity to run and maintain a strong civil society in a variety of areas – community organizations, environmental projects, Jewish-Arab coexistence programs, artistic initiatives, gender equality and lesbian and gay rights; Events of the Jewish Renaissance, empowering vulnerable populations and more
Let's listen to the residents of Jerusalem at the upcoming (Israeli) celebration of Yom Yerushalayim, the true hero of the unfolding drama.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the forward.