What makes a Jewish person an extremist? To me, an extremist is someone who engages in violence or destruction of property. It’s someone who sets out to provoke.
I don’t know any Jewish extremists. But I do know Jewish people who live in the Muslim and Christian Quarters of the Old City of Jerusalem or on the Mount of Olives in “East” Jerusalem. They do so not to provoke Arabs but out of the conviction that Jews should settle in and build in every part of Jerusalem, our holiest city.
I believe this distinction is important: that Jews who insist upon living among the Arab people in Jerusalem do not do so to incite or provoke, but out of the conviction that Jews have a right to build homes and live in peace in any part of Jerusalem, and indeed, in any part of the Holy Land.
That is why I want to share this video clip of Daniel Lourie speaking about the mission of Ateret Kohanim, an organization that works to legally purchase properties in largely Muslim parts of Jerusalem. Daniel is calm, reasonable, logical, as he explains why he does what he does. He tells an Arab woman that he wants to live peacefully, side by side with Arabs, as she complains that building homes in her neighborhood makes Arabs angry.
Daniel makes the point that the Jewish Quarter of the Old City was called that because, under the Ottoman Empire, there were 19,500 Jews living in this part of Jerusalem out of a total population of 28,000, a clear Jewish majority. Further, Daniel tells us, the so-called “Muslim” Quarter was home to 21 synagogues and 6 yeshivot (Jewish seminaries). Last but not least, Lourie says quite reasonably, in my opinion, that it isn’t right that there is no synagogue on the Mount of Olives, a location with a special Jewish significance from long before Christ and Mohammed were born, and where there is a large Jewish cemetery.
I believe it is important to say that no part of Jerusalem should be segregated. No part of Jerusalem should be Judenrein. And the same goes for the entire country. We should not be confronted by signs that say Do Not Enter, but live in peace together.
That is why it isn’t right to call building homes and living in this place or that, “provocative.” It isn’t right to say that settlements work against peace, when actually, they are the very definition of peace. Peace is living and working side by side in all parts of the land.
I was touched to see a plaque at 1:17 into this clip, commemorating Beit Sara as having been built in memory of Sara Blaustein, who lived in my town, Efrat, and who was gunned down as she was driving to Jerusalem to attend the funeral of a terror victim, during the Second Intifada, in 2001. It is said that the hills of Judea, where I live, serve to protect the holy city of Jerusalem. As such, we live on the front line, our lives dedicated to the this most cherished of all cities.
I thank Daniel Lourie for his work, and stand in admiration and awe of the brave Jews who live in largely Arab neighborhoods, in order to establish a Jewish presence throughout Jerusalem. I hope and pray that someday, they too, will be able to live in peace and freedom without fear of attack.