"Save Jerusalem" Emergency Coalition Forms

An unprecedented coalition of American Jewish groups has formed on short notice to ensure that Jerusalem remains Jewish.

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Hillel Fendel ,

Remembering Jerusalem - not just in stamps
Remembering Jerusalem - not just in stamps

An unprecedented coalition of American Jewish groups has formed on short notice to ensure that united Jerusalem remains Jewish.

Among the member organizations are the National Council of Young Israel, the Orthodox Union, the Rabbinical Council of America, Emunah Women of America, AFSI, Hineni, AJOP (Outreach), NCSY, Poalei Agudath Israel of America, ZOA, and more.  More organizations are set to join in the coming days.

The formation of the coalition marks the first time since the establishment of the State of Israel that a significant group of American Jewish organizations has united in opposition to Israeli government policy; many of the member organizations are among Israel’s most loyal and active supporters.

The new coalition's founder, Rabbi Pesach Lerner, the Executive Vice President of the National Council of Young Israel, is concluding a six-day whirlwind trip to Israel during which he coordinated the group's activities with pro-Jerusalem forces here.

"I met with several Knesset Members," Rabbi Lerner told Arutz-7, "as well as Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, Rabbi Yosef Efrati - a top confidante of Rav Elyashiv, Rabbi Simcha Kook, Natan Sharansky, and Mayor Uri Lupoliansky. I also met with Tzafrir Ronen, Elyakim HaEtzni, the Rabbi of the Western Wall- Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, Mina Fenton, Nir Barkat, and more.  There is much to get done, and aside from the little time in which to do it, we are also facing a wall of refusal to believe on the part of many American Jews.  They either don't know about it [gov't plans to divide Jerusalem], or think it won't happen."

Olmert Hints that United Jerusalem is Expendable
The official impetus for the coalition's founding were statements by Israeli government leaders, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, that Jerusalem could be negotiable in the upcoming Middle East summit in Annapolis. "The message has still not been received by many Jews," Rabbi Lerner said, "that the door has been opened to giving away parts of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest and most revered site...  Our coalition means that Jewish leaders around the world are coalescing around a simple bottom-line position: World Jewry opposes Israeli negotiations which would include any discussion of ceding sovereignty over part or all of Jerusalem."

Some of Jerusalem's holy sites and/or surrounding neighborhoods are in danger of being transferred to Arab sovereignty.

The Coalition will increase awareness of both the sanctity of Jerusalem and the political machinations currently at play regarding it, and promote political and public action to keep Jerusalem off the negotiating table. The official name of the group is The Coordinating Council for Jerusalem’s Future.

"This is not the time to discuss the dangers of a terrorist Palestinian State as a neighbor to Israel," a Coalition letter to 2,000 American rabbis states. "Today, we must raise our voices at the thought of losing our united capital of Jerusalem. We call upon each and every one of you to:  1.  Continue to educate yourself and your congregations.  Peruse often Arutz Sheva, Jerusalem Post on-line, etc.; talk to your colleagues in Israel for a first-hand report of what is happening.  2. Designate your next [Sabbath] sermon to the topic of the undivided city of Jerusalem...   3. Take it upon yourself to write a letter or send an e-mail and/or fax to the Israeli Ambassador in Washington and the Consul-General in New York. Ask each of your members to do the same..."

US public relations strategist Jeffrey Ballabon has taken on the job of recommending and executing a broad-based international strategy, including the very formation of the Coordinating Council. 

Ronen's Alliance
Tzafrir Ronen of northern Israel, one of those with whom Rabbi Lerner met, is one of the founders of a similar group in Israel.  "A small group of us convened a few weeks ago," Ronen said, "just when Olmert's friend Deputy Prime Minister Chaim Ramon started this whole insanity about giving up Jerusalem. We realized that we had to do something immediately.  Our group consists of many organizations here in Israel - the Nahalal Forum, Nir Barkat's group, the Land of Israel Loyalists, all eight groups of Homesh First, and more.  We have been working together with Rabbi Lerner, and we will continue to do so. There is a lot that we have to do."

"It must be made clear," Ronen says, "that while Olmert is being investigated for all sorts of financial crimes - his real crime, and the one for which he must be toppled, is that of wanting to give away the Land of Israel and Jerusalem.  Throughout our 2,000 years of exile, if any rabbi had ever hinted at giving up a part of the Land of Israel, he would have been out on the street in a minute."

Lerner's Meetings
Asked to summarize his many meetings with Israeli leaders and public figures over the past few days, Rabbi Lerner said, "My goals were to collect information and find out what's going on; to hear what they really think about what the government's intentions are and how we can stop any plans to give up Jerusalem; to share with them what we're doing, and receive their direction and advice; and encourage them, via our actions, to increase their own efforts... We now have two-way communication, the process has begun, they know that US Jewry is waking up and beginning to move."

"We plan to encourage citizens all over the US to visit with or speak to their Congressmen and tell them that the division of Jerusalem is something that they just cannot accept.  Leading rabbis will make trips to the White House and get this message across as well.  We will present our position both as Jews and as Americans."

"Could it be imagined that Israel would tell Jordan, 'Give up Amman and then we'll give you peace'?  It is untenable for a supposed peace partner to threaten that if we don't give up our capital, they will renew their war upon us; we are already hearing that if the summit fails, terrorism and violence will be renewed against Israel with a vengeance. How can this be called peace talks?... We believe that if lots of people start showing up at their Congressman's office, things will begin to take off."

Shas and Jerusalem
"In my meeting with the Rishon LeTzion Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, the spiritual leader of the Shas party, he was very encouraging, and told us that we should pressure the White House in every we can," Rabbi Lerner said.  Currently a member of the coalition, the Shas party itself is being pressured within Israel's nationalist camp - and perhaps soon, if the new coalition is successful, also among its supporters in New York - to quit the government immediately and prevent Jerusalem from even being placed on the negotiating table.



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