Mr. Trump, we want to Exchange the Gift
Jerusalem is a lot more than just a city for Israelis, Palestinians and millions of believers from around the world. It is a border crossing between the material and the spiritual, between vibrant daily lives to ancient roots. It is a national symbol for both Israelis and Palestinians, and it is also a potential for catastrophe or compromise, shared living and reconciliation.
To declare that Jerusalem belongs to Israel without declaring that it also belongs to the Palestinians is tantamount to saying to the Palestinians that they may as well shelve their national aspirations, and that important ancient and holy places in Christianity and Islam belong to Israelis. When the most powerful country in the world “gives Jerusalem to Israel as a gift”, it acts in an irresponsible manner that could lead to hatred, rage, frustration and violence.
“He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts shall live,” (Proverbs 15:27). In December of 2017, this ancient verse assumes an ominous twist. Donald Trump has given us the thing we least need in Jerusalem: extra fuel for the nationalists and religious zealots.
The international community recognizes the strong bonds between Israelis and Jerusalem and it has the ability to act as a force for moderation in the face of Israel’s unilateral actions in Jerusalem. In a place where the Holy Sites are sacred to so many faith communities, one-sided support for the strongest party is a dangerous tactic. Bolstering Israel’s political power in Jerusalem is equivalent to withdrawing recognition of the Palestinians’ deep national attachment to the city. And when this challenge to the balance of power is dealt by the party who until now was perceived as a central mediator who aspires to fairness, there is no telling how dangerous the consequences may be.
Emek Shaveh has been active in Jerusalem for almost a decade and acts against Israel’s attempt to appropriate and control Jerusalem’s ancient remains. Underlining our approach is an understanding that using historic or holy sites of great importance for a variety of national and religious communities for political gain can be very destructive. In East Jerusalem attempts to push aside the Palestinians from the public and historic space take place on an almost daily basis. In these attempts, led by settler groups and government bodies, ancient sites play a central role. What we really want is a gift from the Americans that would restrain such actions.
As Israelis who love Jerusalem we want to exchange the gift to one that will encourage and nourish a shared life based on mutual recognition and respect.