Gideon Levy : A Day of Mourning Called Jerusalem Day
One day Jerusalem Day will become a national day of mourning. The flags will be lowered to half-mast. The sirens will wail and Israelis will stand at attention in memory of their vanished dream. The 28th of Iyar will enter Israel’s mourning-day calendar, sandwiched between the Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Tisha B’Av – a day to commemorate the destruction of the dream that falls before the day commemorating the destruction of the Temple.
On Jerusalem Day Israelis will mark the end of their 19 short years of innocence and the beginning of their state’s institutional, systematic malevolence. They won’t understand how for years they dared to celebrate the occupation day as a national holiday set by law and how they could see Jerusalem, the city symbolizing more than anything else their state’s tyranny and racism, as the object of their desire. When that happens, if it happens, we’ll know – society has recovered. It has recovered from its fatal disease.
Only a small portion of Israelis mark Jerusalem Day today. To most of them it means nothing, whether they’re secular, ultra-Orthodox or Arab. The belle of the ball also doesn’t really interest most Israelis. When was the last time you visited it for pleasure? When were you at the Western Wall? And why should you be?
This holiday was and remains the religious chauvinists’ holiday, celebrated by a bullying, screeching minority, who mark it in their characteristic manner. They celebrate Jerusalem’s only joy – gloating at others’ misfortunes – with a march of flags based wholly on the satisfaction of stomping on the remnants of dignity of the other nation to whom Jerusalem also belongs.
A poor city, filthy and neglected, which secular Jews leave as fast as they can, which the Palestinians cling to with all their meager strength and which religious, chauvinistic, extremist Jews have long taken over. It’s a city that sends its settler metastases into every Palestinian neighborhood, merely to bring misery, to dispossess, to oppress and to evict. And all this is done under the auspices of the authorities, including the judiciary, Israel’s most enlightened authority.
This is a blatantly binational city, which could have been a paradigm of coexistence in one democratic state, a sort of pilot for establishing relative justice. Instead it has been turned, due to Israeli greed for real estate and messianism, into the essence of Israeli dispossession, aggression, abuse and arrogance.
The day of “liberation” of this unbearable city, which is the day of its occupation, is the day that turned it into what it now is, a concrete monster and an occupation Moloch. Today we are supposed to celebrate this day by law. No person of conscience can do this.
I loved Jerusalem when I was young. Even in the short hangover period after the ‘67 orgy, which infected almost all of us, we were still captivated by its astounding beauty. At the time we still believed what they sold us – that the city was “liberated” and “united” forever and that the Viennese liberal, Teddy Kollek, was an enlightened conqueror.
But soon its beauty was mutilated beyond recognition, nothing remained, and the inevitable sobering began. Only the blind and ignorant can still enjoy it today. Who can take pleasure in visiting a city where the occupation screams from every stone?
With the most racist soccer team in the league and the most chauvinistic mayor in local government – neither by chance – Jerusalem has become the symbol of the occupation, the most convincing evidence of its apartheid. More than a third of Jerusalem’s residents — 37 percent — are Palestinians, who should have had equal rights, but are being subjugated in every possible way. It is no accident that here, of all places, is where the desperate uprising of loners was born, the third intifada.
It could have been different. Had Israel recognized the Palestinians as equals to the Jews and the Palestinian people as having equal rights in the city, today we’d have a different Jerusalem and a different Israel. But Israel never overcame the temptation. Forty-nine years ago today it conquered part of the city and since then has done everything to turn it into a moral ruins.
And this is what we’ll be mourning one day, on Jerusalem Day.