Do We Divide The Holiest Holy City?

By | May 08, 2012

Nobody has proposed divided governance at the moment; no Israeli party has ever come out with such a program, let alone a government ministry. They all stick to the old notion that Jerusalem is forever Israel’s national capital. But I’ve heard quite a few people in Jerusalem who will tell you that it should happen.

The Temple Mount is sacred for Jews but only in terms of memory, not practice. At the moment, it is a Muslim holy place. It cannot be considered as the Wailing Wall is, because you cannot practice its sacredness as a Jew—there hasn’t been a Jewish temple there for 2,000 years. The Waqf should continue to govern it, and every religious community in Jerusalem should administer its own holy places.

Sayed Kashua
was born in 1975 and writes a satirical column in Ha’aretz. He is the author of two Hebrew-language novels translated into English, Dancing Arabs and Let It Be Morning and created the situation comedy Avoda Aravit (“Arab Labor”) that centers on an upper-middle class Israeli Arab journalist and his family. Kashua grew up in the Arab village of Tira in northern Israel and began at 15 to attend boarding school in Jerusalem where instruction was in Hebrew. He lives in Beit Safafa in East Jerusalem.

I started out at a Hebrew newspaper in West Jerusalem and wrote my novels in Hebrew; I’ve never done anything in Arabic. My show is on Israeli TV and some Arabs call me a Zionist for writing it. They don’t understand my work—I’m just confusing them. When Jews think you’re acting out of place, they call it m’shtaknel, meaning “trying to be like the Ashkenazim.” Arabs just call it “collaborator.”

Jerusalem is always the wonderful city, but there are two different lives here and two different economic levels between east and west. It’s different from the situation of immigrants in other parts of the world, because we didn’t move here from any place. It’s not just about “minorities”: There’s a national war and a religious war between two nations.

Most Arabs in Jerusalem carry a sort of temporary citizenship, something between being Israeli citizens and Palestinians. Being from the north with full citizenship, I play the part of the missing link between the Palestinians and Israeli institutions.

What do I think will happen in Jerusalem? There are things I hope will happen—just to forget about who belongs to which religion and nation and, of course, to stop living in “Arab” neighborhoods and “Jewish” neighborhoods. And to share economically. To be just a normal country where you have the right to believe whatever you want. I don’t know why the rest of us can’t be like me and my—well, my “Jewish” and “Arab” friends. Or like my daughter’s school, where everything and everyone is bilingual, Arabic and Hebrew.

Etgar Keret
is a filmmaker, short story writer and author of nine books including The Nimrod Flipout: Stories. He and his wife co-directed Jellyfish, which won the 2007 Camera d’Or for Best First Feature at Cannes. Keret was born in 1967 in Tel Aviv where he lives today.

There’s a psychiatric condition called Jerusalem Syndrome—people come to Jerusalem and suddenly believe they are Jesus. There is something about Jerusalem that gives people a feeling of righteousness, that puts 2,000 years of history on their shoulders. You almost feel obliged to build the Third Temple when you’re there. Many writers live in Jerusalem, but I’m not one of them. I’m very Tel Avivian. I grew up in Ramat Gan, outside Tel Aviv, but I have good memories from childhood of spending time in the Old City. Now I go to Jerusalem about once a month mostly to see my sister, who is ultra-Orthodox and lives in Mea Shearim.

The difference between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem is that Tel Aviv doesn’t have a lot of history. Tel Aviv is a new city that re-invented the Israeli identity. When I lived in Jerusalem, what was typical was that you had separate neighborhoods and each of them had a very concrete profile: Mea Shearim is ultra-orthodox; you have Arab neighborhoods, right-wing neighborhoods, left-wing intellectual neighborhoods. Everything is separate. When people meet across these lines, they do it with some suspicion. In Tel Aviv, you can live in an apartment building, and in one apartment there will be a right-wing religious family and next door will be a gay couple. Integration is a given in Tel Aviv—it’s something you have to live with and people do live with it.

One thought on “Do We Divide The Holiest Holy City?

  1. Religious sites should be declared as separate nations by the united nations organisation,permitting that nations to have their own parliament. Otherwise, law, to declare all religious sites to be brought under the control of the United nations organisations,is the need of the hour,to maintain peace and harmony,all over the world.Opinion poll should be conducted in this regard. By doing so, we can make the politicians to stay away from the site and the site will be sanctified at the first instance.

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