Leftists to Elie Wiesel: Occupied Jerusalem can't be holy
By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent
Jerusalem must be shared by both Israelis and Palestinians, a leftist activist group said Thursday, in response to Nobel Prize laureate Elie Wiesel's ad in the Washington Post last week.
"For me, the Jew that I am, Jerusalem is above politics," Wiesel wrote in the ad, titled "For Jerusalem." To this, the group responded by saying that as long as the city remains occupied it cannot be holy.
"It is mentioned more than six hundred times in Scripture - and not a single time in the Koran...the first song I heard was my mother's lullaby about and for Jerusalem," Wiesel had written.
Wiesel also wrote that Jews, Christians and Muslims were able to build their homes anywhere in Jerusalem and that only under Israeli sovereignty had freedom of worship for all religions been assured in the city.
"The anguish over Jerusalem is not about real estate but about memory," he wrote.
In the open letter made public Thursday, activists in the Just Jerusalem group, which includes Israel Prize laureates Avishai Margalit, Zeev Sternhell as well as former Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg, said they wanted to express their "frustration, even outrage" at Wiesel's letter, saying that "Jerusalem must be shared by the people of the two nations residing in it."
"Only a shared city will live up to the prophet's vision: Zion shall be redeemed with justice," the letter said.
The letter's signatories said that their "Jerusalem is concrete, its hills covered with limestone houses and pine trees; its streets lined with synagogues, mosques and churches." They added that that Wiesel's Jerusalem, on the other hand, was "an ideal, an object of prayers and a bearer of the collective memory of a people whose members actually bear many individual memories."
"Our Jerusalem is populated with people, young and old, women and men, who wish their city to be a symbol of dignity - not of hubris, inequality and discrimination. You speak of the celestial Jerusalem; we live in the earthly one," the letter said.
The letter's signatories also said that the reason they found Wiesel's ad so troubling wasn't only "because it is replete with factual errors and false representations, but because it upholds an attachment to some other-worldly city which purports to supersede the interests of those who live in the this-worldly one."
"For every Jew, you say, a visit to Jerusalem is a homecoming, yet it is our commitment that makes your homecoming possible. We prefer the hardship of realizing citizenship in this city to the convenience of merely yearning for it," the letter said.
Jerusalem, the letter continued, was not, as Wiesel claimed in his ad, above politics since "contemporary Jerusalem was created by a political decision and politics alone keeps it formally unified."
"Second, your attempt to keep Jerusalem above politics means divesting us of a future. For being above politics is being devoid of the power to shape the reality of one's life," letter writers continued.
The signatories culminated their response by appealing Wiesel to visit Jerusalem for himself, thus seeing "with your own eyes the catastrophic effects of the frenzy of construction."
"You will witness that, contrary to some media reports, Arabs are not allowed to build their homes anywhere in Jerusalem. You discover see the gross inequality in allocation of municipal resources and services between east and west," the writers said.
"We will take you to Sheikh Jarrah, where Palestinian families are being evicted from their homes to make room for a new Jewish neighborhood, and to Silwan, where dozens of houses face demolition because of the Jerusalem Municipality?s refusal to issue building permits to Palestinians."
The letter culminated by reiterating the chant used by Sheikh Jarrah activists in their weekly rallies: "Nothing can be holy in an occupied city!"