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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom

Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace



Op-ed: Reflection on a city divided

Rabbi Toba Spitzer

Jewish Advocate

May 18, 2007

This week, many in Israel and in the Jewish community celebrated Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day. The 28th of Iyyar (May 16 this year) commemorates that day in June 1967 when Israeli forces reunified the city of Jerusalem, winning the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, and ushering in the now 40-year-long occupation of those territories.

The word Yerushalayim comes from the Hebrew for city, ir, and the root slm from which both shalom (peace) and shalem (whole) derive thus, Jerusalem is conceived of as a city of peace and of wholeness.

It is therefore a painful irony that Jerusalems modern history has been marked by war and division. The first such division was created with the founding of Israel, when the city was cut in half between the new Jewish state and the nation of Jordan. With the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, to the joy of the many the city was reunified, making the holy site of the ancient Temple once again accessible to Jews.

Yet at that moment of reunification, a new division had been introduced to Jerusalem and to the Jewish nation, one which would only emerge in all its force over the next four decades: the division between Israelis and Palestinians, between occupier and occupied, between those who live as full citizens of Israel and those in the limbo of statelessness, under military rule.

How sad, then, that as we mark the reunification of Jerusalem, we also have to acknowledge yet another new division in the city: the separation wall, built in an attempt to contain the hatred, violence and despair that has festered and grown since June 1967.

Perhaps, as we mark 40 years of occupation, 40 years of unified and re-divided Jerusalem, we can reflect on what it might take to move beyond the physical symbol s of unification and division, to be able to celebrate Jerusalem as a city of wholeness once again. Let us make Yom Yerushalayim an opportunity to dedicate ourselves to the work of building a City of Peace: a city where all in habitants can live secure, full lives, where the walls of hatred and mistrust have been eradicated and where not only streets and buildings, but hears and minds, can be brought into wholeness once again.

Rabbi Toba Spitzer of Congregation Dorshet Tzedek in Newton is president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association and a member of Brit Tzedek vShaloms Rabbinic Cabinet.

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