Loving an Undivided Jerusalem, Maturely

Posted on May 21, 2009 In Blog

Yesterday, Orthodox Union President, Stephen Savitsky, wrote the following letter to the editor of the Forward, in response to the recent Opinion piece by Daniel Seidemann entitled “Loving Jerusalem, With Maturity”.

Daniel Seidemann incorrectly suggests that it is not “sober” or “rational” but rather “sloganeering” to be committed to maintaining an undivided Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty (“Loving Jerusalem, With Maturity,” May 22).

Jerusalem is the spiritual capital of Jewish people. That is a conclusion reached by the rational observation of the fact that our history, liturgy and ritual practices have placed Jerusalem as a central focus to bind together our people scattered over continents and centuries. Jews do not face Tel Aviv when we pray, nor do we proclaim “next year in Israel” when we conclude the Passover Seder and Yom Kippur. It is Jerusalem that has united and continues to unite the Jewish people. And today Jerusalem is again the political capital of the Jewish people, after first being established as our capital by King David (in a section of Jerusalem east of the 1967 Green Line).

Seidemann is correct that former prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert broke a taboo by placing Jerusalem on the negotiating table. But the re-division of Jerusalem as part of a peace settlement is neither desirable nor inevitable.

It is undesirable, because no one should want to see Jews excluded from our holiest sites any more than one would ask the pope to relinquish the Vatican to Italy or the Mormons to get out of Salt Lake City. Let’s not forget that we were excluded from our holy sites from 1948 to 1967, and that we are still excluded from those holy sites in Jerusalem that are controlled by Arab authorities.

Moreover, the re-division of Jerusalem is no more an inevitable part of a peace deal than another Arab demand, which has been rejected by most Israelis — that Palestinians have the right to “return” to anywhere in Israel and thereby dilute the character of the Jewish state.

Seidemann is also correct that Jews must relate to Jerusalem with an “adult love.” That means we must demonstrate — not only through words of prayer but also through actions to invest in and bolster Jerusalem’s infrastructure — our commitment to the holy city and thereby be worthy of her presence in our lives.

Stephen Savitsky
Orthodox Union
New York, N.Y.