Yom Yerushalayim and the National Consensus


Today, Israel celebrates Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, marking 44 years since the reunification of Jerusalem by Israeli forces during the 1967 Six Day War. Public commemorations here take many forms including speeches, marches, concerts, educational programs, and cultural events. See a full program here in Hebrew and here in English.

Yom Yerushalayim is more religiously oriented than Yom Haatzmaut (Israel Independence Day) and is less enthusiastically celebrated by secular Israelis and those who live outside of the Jerusalem area. Still, over the past two days, Israelis of all backgrounds participated in the festivities and marches. Today, I witnessed large groups of secular Israelis on solidarity tours of the Old City and many a street corner filled with people draped in Israeli flags singing songs about Jerusalem.

Many of the events today center around the Old City and the Kotel (Western Wall), the ancient retaining wall of the mount on which the Temple once sat. The Kotel is the holiest site in Judaism second only to the Temple Mount itself on which Jewish worship is forbidden by the Waqf. The symbolism of this destination is deeply embedded in the Israeli national consciousness and is central to the celebration of Yom Yerushalayim. To understand the oft-quoted Israeli insistence on Jerusalem as the united and sovereign capital of the State of Israel and the Jewish people, you must understand this history, ancient and modern.

Continue reading “Yom Yerushalayim and the National Consensus”

Bombing in Jerusalem


For those who have not yet heard, there was a bombing this afternoon in Jerusalem. At present, the explosion was believed to have come from a device planted in a phone booth near a major bus stop. I am okay and as far as I know, everyone I know is okay. Unfortunately at least 25 innocent people are not. No one has yet died from their injuries, however at least one person is in critical condition.

The attack took place just outside the Binyanei Hauma, the Jerusalem International Convention Center, which is across the street from the Central Bus Station. Where the explosion occurred is a major bus stop which is crowded all day long with commuters. I imagine the site was particularly packed today as the convention center is now hosting a health and exercise expo for the Jerusalem Marathon. I was at the exact spot of the bombing yesterday at just about the same time picking up my race packet.

I am thankful to say that attacks such as these are no longer part of everyday life in Israel, in large part thanks to the diligent security efforts of the Israeli military, police, and intelligence services. Indeed, Jerusalemites have grown accustomed to the peace and quiet which has existed here since the end of the last intifada. No one wants to a return to the days when people were afraid to ride the buses and attacks were routine.

It is often said that the main goal of terrorism is not actually to cause mass casualties, but to cause mass panic; to make people think that nothing is safe even when very little has changed. I am sure that I speak for everyone here in saying that we all hope that quiet will quickly return and that the streets will still be safe. In the meantime, I intend to keep living my life here as I have before this tragic and cowardly act; doing my research and visiting my friends, while keeping a sharp eye open at all times. I can think of no better individual response to those who wanted to terrify Israel into submission today.

Temple Mount Tour with Women in Green


Yesterday morning, I joined a tour of the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem organized by the Women in Green. Called Har Habayit or Har Moriah in Hebrew and Haram As-sharif in Arabic, it is perhaps the most hotly contested religious site in the world. The ancient platform is revered by Jews as the site of the Binding of Isaac and the location of Beit HaMikdash and by Muslims as the last earthly stop of Muhammad’s Night Journey.

It now houses the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock as well as a more recently constructed subterranean mosque in Solomon’s Stables. A rather amazing map of the history of the site was published in 2008 by National Geographic which I have provided in miniature to the left. If you have never seen it or the issue in which it was released, it is definitely worth checking out.

Continue reading “Temple Mount Tour with Women in Green”

Weekly Focus Group: Do We Need Jews in Israel?

flag-sidewaysלמה צריכים יהודים בארץ ישראל?

דיון ציבורי נוקב בסוגיות הליבה:
למה אנחנו כאן בארץ? מה המשמעות של היוזמה הערבית? מה הקשר בין יהודים לארץ? האם ישראל צריכה להמשיך לבנות בהתנחלויות? מהו אותו "איום דמוגרפי ערבי" שמפחידים אותנו? האם צריך ליסד מדינה פלסטינית? למי שייכת ירושלים?

כל יום רביעי בערב בחודש מרץ ב19:00 ב"הולצר ספרים."

יפו 91 (פינת משיח), ירושלים
שעות פעילות: 9:00 – 23:00


Why do we need Jews in Israel?
(in Hebrew)

Poignant public debate on the core issues:
Why are we here in Israel? What is the meaning of the Arab initiative? What is the connection between Jews and Israel? Should Israel continue to build settlements? What is the "Arab demographic threat"? Is it necessary to establish a Palestinian state? Who owns Jerusalem?

Every Wednesday evening in March from 19:00 – 20:30 at Holzer Books.

91st Yafo st. @ Mashia’h. Jerusalem, Israel
Opening hours: 9:00 – 23:00

Palestine Papers?


The biggest news out of the Middle East this morning is courtesy of the Guardian and Al Jazeera: The Palestine Papers. They have just published parts of some 16,076 documents which the news services claim are leaked confidential records from Palestinian Authority sources of meetings, emails, and other communications between Israeli, Palestinian, and American negotiators between 2000 and 2010. The documents apparently reveal that in negotiations the Palestinian Authority had proposed to recognize Israeli annexation of most Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem, turn supervision of the Temple Mount over to an international committee, and to limit Palestinian refugee returns to Israel to 10,000 over ten years.

Palestinian Authority representatives rushed to deny the leaks with chief negotiator Saeb Erekat calling them “a pack of lies” and Mahmoud Abbas wondering aloud where Al Jazeera could have even obtained such documents. These two, of course, figure prominently in the reports with Erekat himself quoted as saying the PA was offering Israel “the biggest Yerushalayim in Jewish history.” Former Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei also makes numerous appearances. Meanwhile, voices in Hamas have seized the opportunity to accuse the PA of “cooperation with the occupation” while at least one Palestinian political analyst has accused Saeb Erekat of treason.

Continue reading “Palestine Papers?”

Polls: Division of Jerusalem and Israelis

jerusalem-neighborhoods-mapIn my previous post, I examined data drawn from a recent survey of Jerusalem Arabs polling their attitudes toward partition of the city. It was found that Arab residents of East Jerusalem are more in favor of acquiring Israeli citizenship and having their neighborhoods remain in sovereign Israeli territory than they are of becoming Palestinian citizens or having their neighborhoods transferred to Palestinian control. In this post, I will be examining Israeli attitudes toward division of the city.

Since the capture of Jordanian-occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 and reunification of the city, Israelis have been staunchly opposed to division. Jerusalem is frequently and popularly referred to as the eternal, united, and indivisible capital of the Jewish people. This attitude is reflected in the municipality and state’s considerable investment in the Old City, particularly the Jewish quarter, its development of archaeological projects and parks in the most historical portions of the city, and its 40 years of neighborhood construction particularly in its expanded eastern “envelope.”

Continue reading “Polls: Division of Jerusalem and Israelis”

Poll: Division of Jerusalem and Jerusalem Arabs

jerusalem-map-neighborhoodsEasily one of the most contentious issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Israeli-Arab conflict at large is the status of Jerusalem. The city is holy to three religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and is claimed by at least two national movements to be its capital, Israel and the Palestinians. Designated as an international territory by the 1947 UN Partition plan, divided in 1948-1949 between Israeli and Jordanian control, and reunified and expanded after Israeli capture of the Jordanian-occupied east in 1967, Jerusalem has remained a strategic and political football. Today the whole of the city is officially claimed by Israel to be its united, eternal capital.

This position has been overwhelmingly popular with the Israeli public since 1967, contrary to a real reticence to formally annex most other captured territories like Sinai, Gaza, or the West Bank. Unlike the Arab residents of these territories, the Arab population of East Jerusalem were also offered Israeli citizenship soon after annexation, although this was almost universally rejected. This is generally taken to be indicative of both the high costs Israelis are willing to pay to preserve a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty and the fervent design of Jerusalem Arabs to be a part of a sovereign Palestinian state. A recent poll of Jerusalem Arabs has thrown this consensus into question.

Continue reading “Poll: Division of Jerusalem and Jerusalem Arabs”

History in the Neighborhood: Jason’s Tomb


Of late, I have been hard at work securing more crucial interviews and developing an experimental portion of my research here in Israel. All the while, I have also been engrossed in collecting and analyzing Israeli public opinion data, small portions of which I have posted on this blog and doing more secondary and primary source reading. In short, I have not been bored.

It is easy to get so busy that you begin to ignore the interesting things which surround you in the day-to-day. One of the most fascinating things about living in Jerusalem is that history is truly everywhere. Less than two blocks from my apartment, if you turn to the left through an obscure arch, you will find yourself in front of a surprisingly well-preserved ancient tomb. I have my suspicions that at least some restoration work has gone into it over the years.

The inscription on the wall outside the tomb is not terrible informative, reading only: “Hasmonean Era Rock Cut Tomb.” A bit of research (thank you internet) reveals that the “rock-cut tomb” belongs to Jason, or Yason, of the Oniad family, who was a high priest in the Temple in Jerusalem during the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes. This was the very same Antiochus against whom the Maccabees rebelled, commemorated by the recent holiday of Hannukah.

The tomb is nestled between several blocs of apartment buildings in the heart of Rechavia and is surrounded by a small, two-tiered green space, perhaps a bit too small to be called a proper park which connects Alfasi and Sderot Ben Maimon. Since discovering it a few months ago, I have used it as a quick cut-through between the two streets. There are very few straight lines in Jerusalem. If you are ever in the neighborhood, take time to check it out. It is definitely one of the city’s hidden historical treasures.

Don’t Take Shortcuts in Israel


Today was another busy day in Jerusalem pressing forward on my dissertation research. I spent a good portion of the day making phone calls and continuing to gather data from the aforementioned Peace Index. I also dropped in on the offices of the Israel Democracy Institute, located only about a kilometer away from my apartment.

Wrapping up the day in my usual seat at Coffee Shop on Azza, I made a phone call to a contact I recently made with Shas. As luck would have it, he had time available to meet me at Knesset today, but it really had to be right away. I dropped everything, ran home, grabbed my notebook, and headed over to Knesset. Given that time was short, I thought it would be a good idea to make my way directly up the wooded hillside next to Gan Sacher rather than take the winding path around. I knew this would take me up to the fence which surrounds Knesset, which I could then follow around to the main entrance.

Bad decision. I quickly discovered that the road which runs alongside the fence is closed to civilian traffic and the Knesset security does not take kindly to people wandering up and down it. Emerging from the woods, I was stopped by guards on patrol who, politely enough, asked me what I was doing there and took my passport. Unfortunately, as I had made this meeting spur of the moment, I was not yet listed as a guest. As such, my story that I was going to meet someone at Knesset could not be confirmed by anyone at the security office.

Fortunately, I got on the phone with my contact, and after a bit of explaining to him the pickle I was in, I handed the phone to the security guard, and they talked it out. End result, they let me go, I felt stupid, and I was late. Lesson learned: don’t take shortcuts, especially around sensitive government buildings. Stay tuned for my report on this evening’s meeting. With any luck, I’ll have it up sometime tomorrow.

Review: The Seventh Day

the-seventh-dayOver the past few days, I have been working on scheduling meetings with members of Knesset in an effort to wrap up the interview portion of my research here in Israel. Of course, one can only spend so much time on the phone. In my downtime, I have been catching up on my reading.

Today’s book was The Seventh Day: Soldiers’ Talk about the Six-Day War. Compiled soon after the end of the 1967 Six Day War, The Seventh Day is a collection of interviews, letters, and personal reflections by kibbutzniks who either served in the army during the war or otherwise lived close to the battlefront. It was the intent of the project’s initiators, among them Avraham Shapira and Amos Oz, to counter the widespread public enthusiasm and general euphoria which followed the Israeli victory.

Continue reading “Review: The Seventh Day”