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Monday, February 12, 2007

Washington Post worries about Jews buying homes in Jerusalem

In 1964, my parents sold a house in one of the cookie cutter suburban developments west of Boston. One night, shortly before we moved out, two neighbors approached our car and had an earnest conversation with my father. I was too young then to understand what the conversation was about. Years later, I was told that my father had turned down an offer for more money for the house - because he had already signed a contract to sell it... to a black family.... America, 1964.

If it were up to the Washington Post, Israel would live like the US did in 1964 - or at least its Jews would live the way America's blacks did. In a 4-page spread yesterday, the Post ranted and raved about the fact that Jews have the audacity to buy homes in Israel's holiest city. Several times, I wondered how the editors let this column go through:
The Israeli government is funding the first construction of a Jewish settlement in the Old City's Muslim Quarter since taking control of it nearly four decades ago. The Flowers Gate development plan calls for more than 20 apartments and a domed synagogue that would alter the skyline of the Old City.
You got that folks. You're all supposed to be outraged because twenty - count 'em - Jewish families might move into the 'Muslim Quarter.' But who says it's a 'Muslim Quarter'? What made it that way? How did it get that way and how long has it been that way? And why does that mean that Jews cannot live there?
The Flowers Gate development would expand a nearby enclave where two Jewish families now live in red-roofed bungalows just feet from Karain's home.
So there are already Jews living in the 'Muslim Quarter'.... (In fact, I spent a Sabbath in the Muslim Quarter in 1980).
A short walk along sloping alleys from the Flowers Gate compound, the Via Dolorosa joins al-Wad Street, forming the crossroads of three faiths.

On any Friday afternoon, families of ultra-Orthodox Jews stroll among Muslim men, each heading toward the plateau that Jews know as the Temple Mount and Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary. Christian pilgrims walk among them tracing Jesus's final steps, monitored by some of the 400 closed-circuit Israeli police cameras that continuously watch over the Old City [I'll bet you can all guess why those cameras are there... CiJ].

... Jews control 75 to 80 buildings, homes and single stories of apartment complexes in the Muslim and Christian quarters, according to Israeli and Palestinian officials. Most of the properties, a small fraction of the total in those areas, are along routes to the Western Wall, where Jews pray at the base of the Temple Mount.
Maybe it's not such a new thing that Jews are there after all.... And in fact, as the Post's Scott Wilson eventually admits, it's not so new....
The yeshiva [Ateret Cohanim CiJ] entrance runs through a low, damp tunnel, just down al-Wad Street from the several-story building that Ariel Sharon, then Israel's infrastructure minister, bought in the 1980s. He purchased the place to create a symbolic Jewish presence in the Muslim Quarter, where Waner said 3,000 Jews lived during the British mandate that preceded Israel's founding in 1948.

Drifting out from behind locked gates, student prayers echo from crowded rooms where antique chandeliers provide young men the light to study the Torah and Talmud. During the 1936 Arab riots, the yeshiva's 100 or so students collected the Torah scrolls and fled. Waner said an Arab watchman held the keys, handing them to yeshiva officials after the 1967 war.

"Before the war there was no Muslim Quarter and no Jewish Quarter," Waner said in a book-lined room overflowing with young men. "We tell our stories. Soon all of them here will learn."
So Jews in the 'Muslim Quarter' are nothing new. As we used to say in the 1980's, then where's the beef? By the way, the map above comes from Amos Elon's, Jerusalem: City of Mirrors published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1989. As I trust you can see even from that very not-detailed map, the lines of demarcation are not at all clear.

In real estate, the thing that matters most is "location, location, location." If Jews are willing to pay outlandish prices to buy houses in the 'Muslim Quarter' why should Scott Wilson and the Washington Post object? Would they have objected to the black family who bought my parents' house in suburban Boston in 1964 because the entire development we lived in was lilly white?


At 6:08 AM, Blogger Yaacov Ben Moshe said...

Excellent point - very well put.
Another instance of Jews being held to a different standard than the rest of humanity- clearly antisemitic!


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