Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Building in Jerusalem

Recently, the planned enlargement of a north-eastern neighborhood of Jerusalem, Ramat Shlomo, has been the subject of some debate. Home to nearly half of Jerusalem's Jewish population. It doesn't abut Arab neighborhoods, and is just a couple of miles from downtown Jerusalem (where I've lived). The accusations that this is "settlement expansion" is utterly false, misleading, and incorrect. 

A word about the West Bank. The West Bank is also known as Judea and Samaria. Jordan "renamed" that area as such in 1950, one year after their united Arab attack of 5 countries, on Israel, began in 1948 with Israel's declaration of existence. Jordan annexed that land, although not officially incorporating it within Jordanian borders. Non-Jordanian Arabs who lived in that area, now referred to as Palestinians, were, in fact, never welcomed into Jordan's borders or society. It was in 1967, again defending herself against invading Arab armies, that Israel not only succeeded in self-preservation, but captured land previously occupied, such as eastern Jerusalem and what had become known as the West Bank. It is overwhelming Arab, and almost certainly the future Palestinian state. One ought to remember that, again, the land was retaken by Israel in it's own defense. Nation-building and its wars often lead to territorial enlargement. Just look at Texas or California.

A word about "Palestine." The Roman Emperor, Hadrian, renamed what was known as Israel (or Judea) as "Palestina," following Rome's successful suppression of the Jewish revolt led by Bar Kochba in the 3rd century C.E. Rome often renamed defeated territory to, in effect, add insult to injury. "Palestine" is probably based on the name of the Philistines, an equally ancient, non-Jewish and Arab (although certainly not Muslim, until Islam's existence in the 7th century C.E.)  population of the area.

Back to Ramat Shlomo and it's planned expansion. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Jerusalem was unified following the six-day war of 1967, only after Israel pushed back attacking and invading Arab armies. Today, anyone can live anywhere in Jerusalem. (Although the Ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods are, without question, an entity unto their own and do not welcome residents who are unlike them.) An Arab Muslim, or an Arab Christian, can live where he or she likes, and can afford (Jerusalem real estate and rent is, in fact, not cheap). The same is true for an Israeli, Jewish or not, as well as those with appropriate visas. (I lived in Jerusalem as a student, twice, renting apartments.)

Construction in Jerusalem, whether east or west, is therefore not only justified, but also necessary. Why? In part, because of the construction freeze in the West Bank.
"The housing shortage in Jerusalem has become more acute in recent years, especially in ultra-Orthodox areas, pushing thousands of ultra-Orthodox families a year to the Haredi cities Betar Ilit and Modi'in Ilit, in the West Bank. The West Bank construction freeze has increased the pressure to create more housing in Jerusalem."
Neither Jerusalem, nor any part of it, is a settlement on occupied land.

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