Opinion |

The Biggest Attack in Jerusalem

It began in 1967 with the expulsion of hundreds of Arab Jerusalemites from the area of the Western Wall, and continues with a series of Jewish triumphalist projects seeking to blot out the presence of Arabs

Ilana Hammerman
Ilana Hammerman
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File photo: Israeli border police officers stand guard at the Lion's Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, Monday, July 17, 2017.
File photo: Israeli border police officers stand guard at the Lion's Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, Monday, July 17, 2017.Credit: Mahmoud Illean/AP
Ilana Hammerman
Ilana Hammerman

The biggest attack in Jerusalem was perpetrated by Jews and it’s an ongoing one.

It began in 1967 with the expulsion of hundreds of Arab Jerusalemites – men, women and children – from the area of the Western Wall, the destruction of their homes and the construction of a quarter solely for Jews. It continued with the insane act of entrusting a megalomaniacal plan to erect the City of David and a Jewish national park in the heart of the Arab village of Silwan to a nonprofit association of fanatic nationalist settlers, Elad. And it may well end with a national-religious war between Muslims and Jews.

That war will not be fought with stones and knives, and not even with guns. In the Middle East there are other weapons, a million times more deadly, and their time will come if things continue to be handled as they are.

Nowadays this attack – a ticking bomb unheard by deaf ears – looks like this: Between Damascus Gate and the Shiloah Pool, as well as north and south of them, live around 80,000 Arabs – some 30,000 within the Old City and 50,000 in Silwan – and around 3,000 Jews, most of them in the Jewish Quarter and a few dozen in the City of David and Kfar Shiloah – known in Arabic as Wadi Hilweh and Silwan. But someone touring the Jewish Quarter who makes his way to the City of David will probably not see any Arabs here.

If he looks upward, his eye might be caught by the domes of the two structures so holy to Muslims, the Dome of the Rock and the dome of Al-Aqsa mosque. How insignificant they look from here, and how far from the visitor’s mind is the thought that for this spot, millions of Muslims are prepared to kill or be killed. Because from down here, the Temple Mount, which Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary (Haram a-Sharif in Arabic), looks more or less like a mournful mound, not especially large, and most importantly isolated and detached and helpless in its isolation and detachment. It is surrounded by the emptiness of excavations, which here and there appear to swallow up groups of innocent tourists. It’s pure history, which the present only exists to serve.

In the Jewish Quarter, however, our visitor will see vibrant contemporary life; throngs of tourists come to its clean, renovated streets, its spacious central square and the new, elegant synagogue standing there, arrogant and sure of itself, and the splendid, enormous visitors center – all celebrating the Jewishness of Jerusalem, they and the Israeli flags and the signs on the walls of the buildings and at their entrances. Even on the gate of a Byzantine Church at the edge of the plaza, with only its reconstructed walls standing, a mezuzah has been affixed. Indeed, Aish HaTorah – “Fire of the Torah,” the name of a yeshiva built near the Western Wall – burns here, and at every step it’s clear that its kindlers and fanners are beside themselves with pride in the great nationalist-religious enterprises they’ve erected.

The work is still in progress: It won’t be too long before the tourists who come and who are brought here (estimated at hundreds of thousands) will be able to continue through the arrogant Jewish city – there’s no one like me, that’s the message, there is no other – through a tunnel that will lead them outside the wall to the City of David. There they will first visit the Kedem Center – another mighty and lofty Jewish visitors center to be built on an enclave of excavations where mainly remnants from the Muslim, Byzantine and Roman periods of Jerusalem were found – dedicated to the capital of the Judean kingdom, which, though it hasn’t existed for eons, will be resurrected by audiovisual visions. The huge projects are already installed and the wooden benches for the guests are already in place.

Once the work is done, none of the visitors will know of the dozens of homes that have been demolished there or those slated for demolition so they can be replaced by tourist facilities and parking lots.

Yes, this is the biggest attack in the city and also the most dangerous. Because even though the Zionist enterprise in the Land of Israel succeeded in erasing the memory of hundreds of Palestinian villages and in shrinking Palestinian cities from north to south, it will never remove the Palestinian inhabitants from this place. Not just because there are tens of thousands of them and they have nowhere to go, but for another, much more important reason: the luck of those tens of thousands is that they are settled in an area that is holy to millions of Muslims. It could be that they themselves and their lives here, which are getting more bitter and difficult by the day, don’t really interest those millions of Muslims, but the Temple Mount/Haram a-Sharif interests them, and how. They will never allow this area to be completely Judaized.

So if for now we have a Palestinian wielding a gun or knife popping up from time to time to wound, kill and be killed, and the entire country is talking about terrorists and attackers and human animals, it won’t be long (because what’s a decade, 20 years or even 100 years in an ancient place like this) before we have missiles falling here, and who knows what kind of warheads they’ll be carrying and then all the walls and the gates and the security cameras and metal detectors and Israeli soldiers and policemen won’t help.

How do you not see this, people? What blindness has afflicted you?

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