For Jerusalem, a Response to Elie Wiesel

The fact is and always will be that this city is holy to everyone - such is its blessing and its curse.

For Jerusalem's sake I, like you, will not rest.

With great interest I read the beautiful open letter you penned to the U.S. president that appeared in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and International Herald Tribune on Friday, and which will appear in the New York Times today. From it I learned that you know much about heavenly Jerusalem, but less so about its counterpart here on earth.

An outsider reading your letter would probably have concluded that peace has already taken root in the City of Peace. He would learn that in Jerusalem, Jews, Christians and Muslims worship their gods unimpeded, that "all are allowed to build their homes anywhere in the city."

Someone has deceived you, my dear friend. Not only may an Arab not build "anywhere," but he may thank his god if he is not evicted from his home and thrown out onto the street with his family and property. Perhaps you've heard about Arab residents in Sheikh Jarrah, having lived there since 1948, who are again being uprooted and made refugees because certain Jews are chafing from Jerusalem's space constraints.

Those same zealous Jews insist on inserting themselves like so many bones in the throats of Arab neighborhoods, purifying and Judaizing them with the help of rich American benefactors, several of whom you may know personally. Behind the scenes our prime minister and Jerusalem's mayor are pulling the strings of this puppet show while in public deflecting responsibility for this lawlessness and greed. That is the real reason for the "new and old tensions surfacing at a disturbing pace" of which your warn in your letter.

For some reason your historical survey missed an event of the utmost importance, namely the destruction of the Temple. If we are already citing events that happened here 2,000 years ago, let us recall the Sicarii, who blinded by religious zeal murdered opponents within the Jewish community and brought on us the disaster of our 2,000-year exile. We have no choice, you and I, but to ask whether history is now repeating itself.

You, my dear friend, evoke the Jews' biblical deed to Jerusalem, thereby imbuing our current conflict with messianic hues. As if our diplomatic quarrels weren't enough, the worst of our enemies would be glad to dress this epic conflict in the garb of a holy war. We had better not join ranks with them, even if unintentionally.

The fact is and always will be that this city is holy to everyone - such is its blessing and its curse. That's why the solution to the Jerusalem problem can't wait for the end of the Middle East conflict as you suggest, because it will have no end if its resolution is postponed until "the Israeli and Palestinian communities find ways to live together in an atmosphere of security."

"Jerusalem is above politics," you write. It is unfortunate that a man of your standing must confuse fundamental issues and confound the reader. Is it not politics that deals with mankind's weightiest issues, with matters of war and peace, life and death? And is life itself not holier than historical rights, than national and personal memory - holier even than Jerusalem? The living always take precedence over the dead, as must the present and future over the past.

There is nothing in our world "above politics." Yes, politics creates problems, but only through it can those same problems be resolved.

Barack Obama appears well aware of his obligations to try to resolve the world's ills, particularly ours here. Why then undercut him and tie his hands? On the contrary, let's allow him to use his clout to save us from ourselves, to help both bruised and battered nations and free them from their prison. Then he can push both sides to divide the city into two capitals - to give Jewish areas to the Jews and Arab areas to the Arabs - and assign the Holy Basin to an agreed-on international authority.

Only then can Jerusalem be maintained as "the world's Jewish spiritual capital," as you write. The Jewish spirit does not need Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan, Abu Dis and Shoafat to fulfill God's command to Abraham to "Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it."