September 19, 2019

Time to Unify Jerusalem for Real

“For 52 years we have been blessed with a reunified Jerusalem. On paper.

We tell ourselves Jerusalem has been reunited for over half a century, but a short walk through the streets paints a different picture. While the city’s west side appears cared for and prosperous, the east seems neglected in comparison. From road quality and trash collection to safety and security, those in the east side– predominantly Arab Israelis but also many Jews who returned to these parts of Jerusalem after 1967 – live in a completely different Jerusalem from neighborhoods on the west side. This is not what sovereignty looks like.

If we are concerned about this disparity in services received, we ought to be even more alert to the sociological impact of this chasm. It has, in many ways, given rise to a divided society: Children in east Jerusalem often learn to direct animosity toward the Jews living just a few minutes away, who are meanwhile afraid to walk through whole neighborhoods of this so-called “unified” city and bring their own prejudices. Evidently, as long as Jerusalem remains a tale of two cities, we cannot justify calling her “reunified.”

So what do we do?

A unified Jerusalem cannot be built on de jure status alone. We need to take it a step further. We need to take responsibility. Only then will the united Jerusalem truly be under Israeli sovereignty.

Let’s not fool ourselves; east Jerusalemites may have permanent residency status here in Israel, but they are far from eager to live under Israeli authority. Some not only vocalize their opposition to this State, but demonstrate it: Throughout the Intifada, east Jerusalem civilians carried out countless acts of terrorism, large and small. And lest we convince ourselves such behavior is firmly in the rear-view mirror, we need only recall the onslaught of violence in summer 2014. Triggered by Operation My Brother’s Keeper in the aftermath of the kidnapping and murder of Eyal Yifrah, Gil-Ad Shaer and Naftali Fraenkel, east Jerusalemites rioted. They threw Molotov cocktails, pipes and stones at police. They smashed windows and cameras, and set fire to trashcans and train stations.”

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