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Thursday, April 24, 2008

A day in Jerusalem's Old City

On the Jewish holidays of Pesach (Passover) and Sukkot (Tabernacle), nearly everyone in Israel - or at least in Jerusalem - is off from work, and during Chol HaMoed, the Intermediate Days of the holiday, we are often hard-pressed to keep the children entertained. Because we are a large family by most people's standards, we look for things that are either free (a rarity in Jerusalem) or that have a family rate. In recent years, we are spending more and more time in Jerusalem's Old City. In fact, we were there yesterday and today.

We had three activities in the Old City today. We saw archaeological excavations from six houses in the Jewish Quarter that date back to the First Temple Period. Then we went to a museum which shows how the Jews in the Old City were defeated in 1948, and were expelled from the Old City. And then we saw a sound and light show on the walls of the Old City, outside Jaffa Gate. I want to make a couple of brief comments about the last two activities.

Most of the history that you read about the 1948 War gives the impression that the Haganah - which is what eventually became the IDF - fought to retain the Old City. The movie presentation we saw in the museum today indicates that wasn't exactly the case. The Old City's defenders - mostly a ragtag group of kids - at one point captured the highest British lookout point in the Old City from which they could dominate it. The Haganah ordered them to give it up, because it was a church. Once it was given up, the situation of the Jews in the Old City deteriorated until their eventual defeat. That attitude continued in the 1967 War. In Michael Oren's seminal work Six Days of War, he describes how Defense Minister Moshe Dayan opposed capturing the Old City. Dayan wasn't the only one. Much of the country's leadership did not want to have to 'deal with' the Holy City. But until today I did not know that the Haganah had actually ordered the City's defenders to worsen their position in 1948.

The sound and light show is a special presentation that is only for this week (as of now). It is NOT the one many of you might have seen at David's Citadel. It was done quite professionally. But here's the catch. When they discuss the Old City's liberation in 1967, they talk about how they returned to the Kotel (Western Wall - that link is to a live webcam by the way) and how they were all thrilled to see the Kotel and they draped the flag over the Kotel and how we dreamed about the Kotel for 3000 years.

I love the Kotel and it's the holiest place I go to pray (my Rabbis rule that I cannot go on the Temple Mount due to ritual impurity). I was there yesterday and God willing I plan to be there tomorrow. But it's fairly certain today that the Kotel is the outer wall of the Temple Mount and not of the Temple itself. The presentation is a lie. As the narrator described the soldiers screaming "Hakotel b'yadeinu" (the Wall is in our hands) on June 7, 1967, you could hear the truth on a radio broadcast in the background if you knew what to listen for: "Har HaBayit b'Yadeinu" (the Temple Mount is in our hands). That flag was put up on the Temple Mount in 1967 until Moshe Dayan made them take it down. But no one will say that today, except me and my right wing friends.

The good news is that the sound and light show concentrates mostly on the Old City and on Israel's connection to it. I'm sure that was done as a message to those who would divide our Holy City. I doubt they heard the message.


At 12:52 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

If it had emerged back then Israel's leadership purposely abandoned the Old City when it could have been kept in Israel, there's only one thing that deserves to be said about it: treason. But then Israel's elites have gotten away with betraying their country ever since and have never paid the price for their treasonous activities.

Like it or not, treason is respectable in Israel.


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