Jerusalem Day: A National Day of Mourning

Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher
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The Star of David and an Israeli flag in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, east Jerusalem, May 2021.
The Star of David and an Israeli flag in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, east Jerusalem, May 2021.Credit: EMMANUEL DUNAND - AFP
Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher

Jerusalem Day is a national day of mourning. It’s the day when Israeli society marks the conquest of East Jerusalem. Not its liberation. Not its unification with the western part of the city. Not its freedom. 

The Palestinians living in Silwan, Sheikh Jarrah and Shoafat did not go from slavery to freedom at the end of the Six-Day War. They, along with all of East Jerusalem, were conquered. Yes, that’s the truth: East Jerusalem was conquered in the 1967 war, and since then its residents have been living under a violent occupation that deprives, excludes and humiliates them.

Jerusalem, united in violence, marks bloody anniversary today. LISTEN

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A day of celebration? What exactly is there to celebrate here? Jewish fascists from so-called “religious Zionism” – an extremist ultranationalist movement that is racist and anti-democratic – are continuing these days to settle in East Jerusalem neighborhoods, while ousting the original Palestinian inhabitants.

That’s called “Judaization.” Judaization is ethnic cleansing by means of real estate. And thus, of all the politicians, it was Itamar Ben-Gvir who has reported to Sheikh Jarrah in recent days in order to support the demographic transfer of Palestinians. Ben-Gvir, the avowed Kahanist, the enthusiastic admirer of Jewish mass murderer and racist Baruch Goldstein.

Jerusalem Day marks the occasion when Israel conquered the Temple Mount. Not liberated, conquered. If you read opinion pieces in the right-wing Makor Rishon, Israel Hayom or Arutz 7, you’ll learn that the Temple Mount is the most sacred place in the world to Jews.

That’s a lie. It’s a fact that I’m a Jew, and the Temple Mount is not sacred to me. The truth – and sometimes it’s worth declaring a simple truth, it’s the best cure for false propaganda – is that the Temple Mount is not sacred to millions of Israelis.

They don’t yearn for it. They don’t have a great desire to ascend to it. They don’t dream or think about it. They simply don’t care about it. As far as they’re concerned it’s a Muslim holy site, and that’s fine. They have no problem with that. The Temple Mount is not their greatest joy, and therefore they have nothing to celebrate on Jerusalem Day.

But when they watch the fascist Flag March, whose participants dance with sickening condescension in the Muslim neighborhoods of the Old City – they feel shame. The Flag March does not represent them. It represents everything they detest.
Jerusalem Day marks the conquest of the Western Wall, the Kotel.

The Kotel is stones. Strange people tend to place their forehead and their hand on it, and pray to God there. That’s foolish. There is no God. And one can pray in many other places. These people also shove folded slips of paper into the cracks. Nobody reads them. God doesn’t either. They simple rot there slowly, crumble, fade and disappear. It’s folklore and nothing more. Not our greatest joy, not the rock of our existence, not a direct channel to God.

But the Kotel is also the site where the state, by means of the ultra-Orthodox establishment, enforces benighted and primitive chauvinism, and the erasure of every liberal Jewish denomination. A disgusting place. What does a liberal Israeli have to seek there? Nothing. The Kotel could have been an interesting and valuable historical site, like the Colosseum in Rome.

But it’s not a site that is run by historians; it’s run by extremist and unenlightened religious people, who use it in order to disseminate their world view and force it upon everyone. Just like the City of David, another regrettable symbol of extremist Jewish ultranationalism. I haven’t stepped foot near the Kotel for about 40 years. I probably won’t go there again until the day I die. On Jerusalem Day we will mourn for secular, rational and liberal Israel.

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