Jeffrey Goldberg Gets Jerusalem, But…

Posted on July 27, 2009 In Blog

With regard to the ongoing diplo-debate over Jewish construction in Jerusalem, The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg posts: “My Judaism will survive my inability to live in the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem (which, last time I checked, have no particular holy significance for Jews). What matters in Jerusalem is the Temple Mount. Everything else is commentary…”

This is a remarkable comment from someone as knowledgeable on these matters as Jeffrey Goldberg.

First, there are many sites in the “Arab neighborhoods” of Jerusalem (and in this context, that means east of the 1967 border) which have great significance – either holy, historic, or both – for Jews. The Mount of Olives cemetery and the historic City of David are just the most famous of many.

Second, let’s take Jeffrey’s suggestion that it’s all about the Temple Mount and, implicitly, that Jewish sovereignty over the Temple Mount is critical to his Judaism – not to mention the Judaism of Jews around the globe for whom the Holy City is a central focus of Jewish religious or cultural practice.

What have the Palestinians said of their goals with regard to Jerusalem?
Well, they say: “There was never a Jewish temple on al-Aqsa, and there is no proof that there was ever a temple.” They then either demand Arab sovereignty over the Mount or, Islamic sovereignty.

So, if it is the case that “what matters in Jerusalem is the Temple Mount” – where does this leave those who would strive (with the best of intentions) to bridge all the gaps with regard to settlements, borders, refugees and all else but still believe that, as Israel’s new Ambassador to the U.S. (and a Goldberg interviewee) has compellingly written, that the loss of Jerusalem as “as the political and spiritual capital of the Jewish state” is an existential threat to Israel?

This worry is only compounded by the approach the Obama Administration has taken – particularly when the passages touching on Jerusalem in President Obama’s speech to the Muslim World delivered in Cairo are carefully considered.