Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A Paen to Jerusalem

Nadav Shragai echoes something tht’s become a leitmotif of my postings, my writing and (to a not insignificant degree) my scholarly output. A key to our survival here is memory. Inter alia, he says:
Not many years ago, there was still a widespread understanding that it would be impossible to return the nation of Israel to history and maintain a national culture in this country without leaning on the historic and religious tradition that had nourished our national consciousness for generations. This tradition is, first and foremost, the tradition of Jerusalem.Jerusalem, whose heart is the Temple Mount and the Old City, is one of the main factors still preventing the national consciousness from being reduced to the obvious - the place where one was born. In every other country, this natural and primary connection is sufficient, but not in Israel, which was born out of the past and which, without the history and culture that stems from the Jewish religion, has no right to exist precisely here, in the Land of Israel. If a man's past goes no further back than his own lifetime, if there is no significance to his historical and religious background, but only to his place of birth, why should a Jew's right to the Land of Israel and Jerusalem takes precedence over that of an Arab?The secret of the connection, from which everything must begin, is memory. And what is Jewish memory if not the memory of Jerusalem? Anyone who thinks of distancing himself from Jerusalem, from the Old City and the Temple Mount, is also distancing himself from the memory of his past, which, as is well known, is in many respects also the history of his present and future. In 1966, S.Y. Agnon expressed this internal truth when he said, in his speech upon being awarded the Nobel Prize, that because of a historic catastrophe (the destruction of Jerusalem), he was born in one of the cities of the Diaspora, but he always saw himself as a man who was born in Jerusalem.In the Israel of 2006, Jews have forgotten the justice of their claim and have ceased to speak about it. Instead, Israelis talk so much about their sins and mistakes that it sometimes seems that the Satan about whom Natan Alterman wrote has indeed blunted their brains and caused them to forget that they are in the right. Even if the reality of recent decades in Jerusalem is complex, this alone must not be allowed to determine the shape of the future. When it comes to Jerusalem, the vision and the dream must be granted a vastly more important role. It is possible to overcome the demographic problem if we view it as temporary and take action to correct it instead of incessantly retreating before it.

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