It is no accident that I chose to begin this essay at 11PM on the eleventh day of November. It is, after all, Armistice Day. A day in which the “war to end all wars” ceased by mutual agreement between the combatants. Most people are not cognizant of the fact that World War I has led to much of the bloodshed in our little corner of the world today. From 1917 until 1921, borders were drawn by the European victors which did not take into consideration the presence of indigenous peoples already in those lands. Historically speaking, land was divided up as the spoils of war with absolutely no consideration for the future. Whereas the Ottoman Empire became a shell of its former self and its empire went the way of so many other lost empires, for some incomprehensible reason, they were allowed to take lands that had belonged to the Kurds in antiquity. And then they relinquished their hold over Jerusalem.
Here is the kernel of trauma that the City of Gold has suffered ever since. It is the thing that has disturbed me the most about the current round of riots, property damage, injuries, and deaths in Jerusalem: If people think Jerusalem is “holy” to them, then why are they shedding blood on her ground? Holy places are supposed to be kept reverently, with as few modern footprints as possible. This also means no one should be playing soccer or having family picnics on her grounds. To engage in such behavior diminishes the soccer player and the picnicker for it shows that nothing is holy to them˗ not history, not laws, not justice and certainly not the feelings of another human being. It is precisely when that holy place means nothing to them, that they should respect it more, not less, as being someone else’s holy ground. This should be above all other considerations.
Holy places are not just historical buildings or places or burial crypts of sages, prophets, founders of the religion or scholars. They are supposed to serve as reminders of the greatness of a people, even if those people are later scattered to the four winds. The greatness of being born a Jew is that we collected ourselves again in a modern state. Our enemies today have no grasp of such a simple fact because they have no similar points of reference because the city, the burial site, the wall, the hill, is not actually holy to them.
The fact remains that being Jewish carries a lifelong responsibility to protect the memory of the millions that came before us. It is why we are here today. No one other than Jews built Jerusalem, but even if not a single Jew had died defending her walls against Roman or Greek or Assyrian or Persian invaders, Jerusalem would still be the eternal undivided city of the Jews. Even if there is no God, the Jewish king directed the building of the citadel. The underground cisterns full of spring waters that flowed under her were intended for use during sieges by the Jewish inhabitants of the city. Throughout history, there has been enough bloodshed in Jerusalem for the most false and base of reasons. To insult the memory of our own people by allowing anyone to defile it by burying the enemies of Jerusalem within her walls would be a war which no one, including myself, wants; but the memory of millions of my own people impels me to insist that no further insult be committed upon her hallowed earth.