by Eliezer Ben Yisrael—
I am not a creature from another planet, as you seem to believe.
I am a Jerusalemite like yourselves, a man of flesh and blood.
I am a citizen of my city, an integral part of my people.
I have a few things to get off my chest. Because I am not a
diplomat, I do not have to mince words. I do not have to please you,
or even persuade you. I owe you nothing. You did not build this
city; you did not live in it; you did not defend it when they came
to destroy it. And we will be damned if we will let you take it away.
There was a Jerusalem before there was a New York. When Berlin,
Moscow, London, and Paris were miasmal forest and swamp,
there was a thriving Jewish community here. It gave something
to the world which you nations have rejected ever since you
established yourselves – a humane moral code.
Here the prophets walked, their words flashing like forked lightning.
Here a people who wanted nothing more than to be left alone,
fought off waves of heathen wouldbe conquerors, bled and died
on the battlements, hurled themselves into the flames of their
burning Temple rather than surrender, and when finally overwhelmed
by sheer numbers and led away into captivity, swore that before
they forgot Jerusalem, they would see their tongues cleave to
their palates, their right arms wither.
For two painfilled millennia, while we were your unwelcome guests,
we prayed daily to return to this city. Three times a day we
petitioned the Almighty: “Gather us from the four corners of the
world, bring us upright to our land; return in mercy to Jerusalem,
Thy city, and dwell in it as Thou promised.” On every Yom Kippur
and Passover, we fervently voice the hope that next year would
find us in Jerusalem.
Your inquisitions, pogroms, expulsions, the ghettos into which
you jammed us, your forced baptisms, your quota systems,
your genteel antiSemitism, and the final unspeakable horror,
the holocaust (and worse, your terrifying disinterest in it) – all these
have not broken us. They may have sapped what little moral
strength you still possessed, but they forged us into steel.
Do you think that you can break us now after all we have been
through? Do you really believe that after Dachau and Auschwitz
we are frightened by your threats of blockades and sanctions?
We have been to Hell and back a Hell of your making. What more
could you possibly have in your arsenal that could scare us?
I have watched this city bombarded twice by nations calling
themselves civilized. In 1948, while you looked on apathetically,
I saw women and children blown to smithereens, after we agreed
to your request to internationalize the city. It was a deadly
combination that did the job. British officers, Arab gunners, and
American made cannons. And then the savage sacking of the
Old City; the willful slaughter, the wanton destruction of every
synagogue and religious school; the desecration of Jewish
cemeteries; the sale by a ghoulish government of tombstones
for building materials, for poultry runs, army camps – even latrines.
And you never said a word.
You never breathed the slightest protest when the Jordanians
shut off the holiest of our places, the Western Wall, in violation
of the pledges they had made after the war – a war they waged,
incidentally, against the decision of the UN. Not a murmur came
from you whenever the legionnaires in their spiked helmets
casually opened fire upon our citizens from behind the walls.
Your hearts bled when Berlin came under siege. You rushed
your airlift “to save the gallant Berliners”. But you did not send
one ounce of food when Jews starved in besieged Jerusalem.
You thundered against the wall which the East Germans ran
through the middle of the German capital – but not one peep out
of you about that other wall, the one that tore through the heart
And when that same thing happened 20 years later, and the
Arabs unleashed a savage, unprovoked bombardment of the
Holy City again, did any of you do anything?
The only time you came to life was when the city was at last
reunited. Then you wrung your hands and spoke loftily of
“justice” and need for the “Christian” quality of turning the other
The truth is – and you know it deep inside your gut – you would
prefer the city to be destroyed rather than have it governed by
Jews. No matter how diplomatically you phrase it, the age old
prejudices seep out of every word.
If our return to the city has tied your theology in knots, perhaps
you had better reexamine your catechisms. After what we have
been through, we are not passively going to accommodate
ourselves to the twisted idea that we are to suffer eternal
homelessness until we accept your savior.
For the first time since the year 70 there is now complete
religious freedom for all in Jerusalem. For the first time since
the Romans put a torch to the Temple, everyone has equal rights.
(You prefer to have some more equal than others.) We loathe
the sword – but it was you who forced us to take it up.
We crave peace – but we are not going back to the peace of
1948 as you would like us to.
We are home. It has a lovely sound for a nation you have willed
to wander over the face of the globe. We are not leaving. We are
redeeming the pledge made by our forefathers: Jerusalem is
being rebuilt. “Next year” and the year after, and after, and
after, until the end of time – “in Jerusalem!”
This “letter” (written by Eliezer Whartman) first appeared as an
editorial in the summer of ’69 in the Times of Israel (long defunct).
Some of the sentences do not fit today’s situation perfectly,
but the point of the letter, and its passion is as on the mark as
it was over 38 years ago.
Who should read this letter? People – nonJews or Jews – who think
that Jerusalem does not belong to the Jewish People, and only to
the Jewish People. And what about Jews who love Jerusalem
and want to see it and all of Israel in Jewish hands? This letter
is wonderful CHIZUK. Enjoy it.