Next year in divided Jerusalem
Another seder is past. The long night that is meant to conjure up a past of slavery and a miraculous and terrifying exodus, reaches its formal conclusion with the words "Next year in Jerusalem."
Commonly, the words pass without a second thought, the cliche to end all cliches, the coda as cop-out, little more than the light at the end of a wine-soaked, food-drugged tunnel of text.
There are, of course, many people abroad for whom the meaning is clear and intensely personal, and linked, year after year, to long-deferred plans to visit or move to Israel. Traditionalists commonly view its full-out form, "Next year in a [re-]built Jerusalem," as a reference to the construction of a new Holy Temple and/or the coming of the Messiah.
But as the Rorschach test of Jewish aspiration, the plea of "Next year in Jerusalem" deserves at least that second thought. The following are a few options, admittedly personal as well.
Next year in Jerusalem I:
Jerusalem belongs to me. It belongs to me because I loved the city before I ever set foot in it. It belonged to me when I was born 15,000 kilometers away. It belongs to me because for 30 centuries it was the center of the world for people whose blood is in my blood, no matter where on the earth history and circumstance cast them.
Jerusalem belongs to me. Next year I want to see it divided.
Next year in Jerusalem II:
Jerusalem belongs to me. Ten centuries before the birth of Jesus, his ancestor David chose it as his capital city. Fifteen centuries before the birth of Mohammed, Solomon - whom Mohammed revered as the prophet Suleiman, son of the prophet David, who is Daoud - built a temple on the high place in Jerusalem called Moriah and ruled as the last true monarch of a united kingdom of Israel.
Jerusalem belongs to me. Next year I want to see it divided.
Next year in Jerusalem III:
Jerusalem belongs to me, no less and no more than it belongs to the Christians who hold it sacred as the site of the Passover seder known as the Last Supper, and of the crucifixion and resurrection.
Jerusalem belongs to me, no less and no more than it belongs to the Muslims who hold it sacred as the site of Al-Aqsa, the Noble Sanctuary, from which Mohammed ascended to heaven.
Jerusalem belongs to me as a Jew. And as a Jew, next year I want to see it divided.
Next year in Jerusalem IV:
I believe with perfect faith, that most Israeli politicians are lying when they say that Jerusalem will remain united as the capital of the State of Israel. I believe with perfect faith that they know the real truth: that Jerusalem is already divided.
We have all seen it divided in spirit. We have seen its heart broken over and over by people who love the city and hate the fact that it must be shared.
We have all seen it divided in fact. This year, when we will be holding celebrations for what we have come to call the "reunification," we will in fact be marking the 40th anniversary of its redivision.
It remains divided not only because Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem have remained Palestinian even as they grew, and Jewish neighborhoods in West Jerusalem have remained Jewish even as they grew. It is divided anew every time that Jews from Tel Aviv and Rishon Letzion and Kfar Shmaryahu and Ramat Gan decide not to visit Jerusalem - even West Jerusalem - as a consequence of free-floating fear, or merely because, while they love Jerusalem, they don't really like it much.
It is divided every time Jews from West Jerusalem decide against making a left turn into a Palestinian neighborhood, and every time a Palestinian fantasizes about buying a home in the west of the city, but drops the fantasy at once.
We, the Jews who love Jerusalem, have voted with our feet against an eternally united capital. The votes are in. It is time we acknowledged the results.
So far, by walling off parts of the city with concrete barriers that are absurdly tall, absurdly situated, and absurdly easy to circumvent, we have both admitted to and complicated the future, and the redivisions to come.
Someday, the world will force its Jews and its Palestinians to accept the one salient formula they cannot accept at present: The world will only recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel when Israel recognizes the city's Arab neighborhoods as the sovereign capital of Palestine, and the world will wait to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, until the Palestinians recognize the city's Jewish neighborhoods as the sovereign capital of Israel.
We can wait to be forced, or we can begin the process ourselves, at the negotiating table. And, if we succeed, at some point we will likely need to force the world to share responsibility for the sanctity of the holy sites of three religions, the true doomsday threat of the Middle East.
I therefore raise my glass to "Next year in redivided Jerusalem" - to a city partitioned along lines which acknowledge the reality of the Earthly City, the terrible genius of Yerushalayim shel mata, the Jerusalem of those who love her and cannot bring themselves, on their own, to share.
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