Jerusalem: Demographics and Division

For the second day, the Jerusalem Conference held a discussion on Jerusalem’s future; specifically it dealt with demographics and the Temple Mount.

Ezra HaLevi,

Nadav Shragai at the Jerusalem Conference
Nadav Shragai at the Jerusalem Conference
(Photo: Ezra HaLevi)

For the second day, the Jerusalem Conference held a discussion on Jerusalem’s future. Wednesday’s discussion dealt with demographics and the Temple Mount.

“Jerusalem should not be up for negotiation,” Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar declared, joining a similar statement a day earlier made by his Ashkenazi counterpart Rabbi Yonah Metzger. “The Temple Mount is the heart and soul of the Land of Israel and there is no Jewish unity without the unity of the Land of Israel.”

Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar
(Photo: Ezra HaLevi)

Haaretz Journalist: Jerusalem Suburbs to Become Sderots
Nadav Shragai, who covers the Land of Israel beat for Haaretz, spoke about the practical ramifications of the planned division of Jerusalem currently being negotiated.

Haaretz journalist Nadav Shragai
(Photo: Ezra HaLevi)

“The neighborhoods surrounding this hotel [the Regency, between the Jewish French Hill and Arab Sheikh Jarrah neighborhoods in Jerusalem –ed.] are but a few of those that are to be relinquished in an agreement reached by this government,” Shragai said. “The routes leading to Mt. Scopus and neighborhoods like Pisgat Ze’ev, Neve Ya’akov and Har Homa are being negotiated – whether they will have to be accessed via tunnels or covered roads.”

The 25-year-veteran journalist stressed that Jerusalem’s Jewish neighborhoods are but a few hundred meters from the Arab ones that would become part of a sovereign Arab state. “The proximity of all these [Jewish] neighborhoods to the newly Palestinian ones leave them vulnerable to attack, even by light weaponry - which is possessed by every Palestinian faction.”

Session Chairman Yechiel Leiter pointed out that the distance from the rocket-launching pads of the northern Gaza region to the western Negev is greater than the distance between most Arab and Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem.

Shragai, whose newspaper has been the strongest backer of the Oslo Accords and subsequent initiative, estimated that “It is reasonable to assume that attacks will continue even after a final agreement. The Palestinians will not give up on the "Right to Return" – including in Jerusalem. They have documented all the pre-’48 properties and plan on standing by these demands.”

The Demographic Paper Tiger
“Everybody talks about demographics as a reason to relinquish Arab neighborhoods,” Shragai said. “The real issue is not the Arab residents, but Jewish emigration from the city. Will making the hundred thousands of Jews living in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods into border towns like Sderot solve anything? It will make the situation much worse.”

Shragai, who has refrained in the past from voicing political pronouncements, had harsh words for his colleagues. “The press – of which I am a part – is neglecting to ask the tough questions about the division of Jerusalem,” he concluded.

Demographer Yoram Ettinger went even further than Shragai. Presenting his findings that the birth rate of Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem has in fact already reached parity – with an upward trend for Jews and downward for Arabs.

“Anyone who believes that relinquishing the Arab neighborhoods will have any demographic benefit is detached from reality,” he said.

Yoram Ettinger
(Photo: Ezra HaLevi)

Jerusalem’s Handling by Government Unethical to the Core
“The way Jerusalem is being negotiated personifies the unethical nature of this government,” said Danny Dayan, the new head of the Yesha Council of Judea and Samaria communities (formerly Gaza as well). “Even before Annapolis, the Olmert government obviously put Jerusalem on the table, conceding at least the Clinton parameters to the PA [which entail Israel relinquishing many of Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods –ed.].”

Dayan said the fact that the Olmert government is completely willing to lie to the faces of the populace – knowing that the citizenry knows full well they are being lied to – personifies the unethical nature of the current government. But he pointed the finger at the populace for failing to topple the government. “Everyone knows what is going on and everyone is hiding their heads in the sand,” Dayan said. “The press is being complicit and allowing it,” he added, echoing Shragai.

Jerusalem Without the Holy Temple is Not Jerusalem
Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, the founder of the Temple Institute in Jerusalem spoke about his experience being part of Motta Gur’s Paratrooper unit that liberated the Temple Mount. “Once we liberated the area, I saw the Prime Minister, the president and all sorts of dignitaries entering the Temple Mount. But where did they head? To the Kotel [the Western Wall of the Temple Mount –ed.]. We arrive at the Temple Mount after 2,000 years – and where did we go? And the Torah world was fully complicit in this – it was not just Moshe Dayan and the government. Humiliation. Complete humiliation.

Temple Institute founder Rabbi Yisrael Ariel
(Photo: Ezra HaLevi)

“There is no Jerusalem without the Holy Temple,” he proclaimed. “I have been sitting here for two hours and heave heard about housing and demographics and even the Jewish Quarter – but nothing about the Holy Temple, which is inextricably the whole essence of Jerusalem. It is impossible to speak about Jerusalem without mentioning even once the Holy Temple.

“Every generation at least implemented to the best of their ability what they prayed for. Our generation simply runs away from it. We talk about the Temple Mount, but not building the Holy Temple.”