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Friday, 12 June 2015

Faith Rewarded – Are We Taking Advantage?

One theme must never be forgotten: The ultimate privilege and good fortune bestowed upon our generation to actually return to, live in, and help build Jerusalem.
As most of us know, barely a day goes by without Jerusalem in one headline or another: It could be the discovery of a new section of the ancient aqueduct…the ban on the drinking of water by religious Jews on the Temple Mount for fear they will recite a blessing beforehand…the opening of the Mount to 190 Muslims from Gaza for prayers – followed days later by Gaza-fired rockets at Israel (about which the international community was strangely silent)…ongoing Jewish construction throughout the city…the occasional vehicular or stabbing terror attack.
It’s certainly not for nothing that the Midrash calls Yerushalayim the umbilical center of the world.
And it’s precisely through the center that the Jewish people’s enemies seek to destroy it. Not for a moment does the campaign cease to detach Jerusalem from the Jews. Just two weeks ago, Hamas declared yet again, “Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the entire Islamic nation.” This is the very basis of the current extremist-Islamic war against the West and others.
Incidentally, Hamas cannot be dismissed as just another extremist Islamic group that need not be taken seriously. Last week, Egypt, which occasionally actually appears to be headed away from extremist Islam, removed Hamas from its list of terrorist organizations, granting it a measure of international legitimacy.
Just so we see what we’re up against: “There is no doubt that the Israeli occupation will take its last breath sometime soon,” Hamas did not hesitate to announce, “but Jerusalem shall forever remain the property of Arabs and Muslims, and the eternal capital of the Palestinian independent state and the Islamic nation as a whole.”
We might be tempted to snicker at the same-sentence juxtaposition of the words “eternal capital” and “Palestinian independent state.” After all, the supposed “Palestinian Arab people” had never in history been heard of prior to some decades ago, after the Jews had begun returning home and bringing to life the desolate land.
But snickering is something we can ill afford: though you can’t fool all of the people (i.e., the entire international community) all of the time, our enemies are coming close to doing just that. We must not downplay the threat presented by their outlandish claims to a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty and, indeed, to Israel as a whole.
Time, of course, is on our side – both eternally and practically. Israel continues to settle and build and strengthen Yerushalayim, and its actions on the ground have long-lasting effects. Just a few weeks ago, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced several decisions “to strengthen the city of Jerusalem and prepare for the 50th anniversary of its unification.” These include a new five-year program to fuel growth engines for the city’s economy, another five-year plan for the expansion of educational activity in the city for students and soldiers, ministerial committee preparations for the 50th anniversary of the unification of the city in 2017, and more. (Unfortunately, left out were extensive housing plans for Jewish eastern Jerusalem, an omission that is liable to weaken Jewish demographics in these all-important areas.)
Amid the exciting growth and dynamic activity in Jerusalem (what the Arabs call its Judaization) and despite the ongoing threats, one theme must never be forgotten: The ultimate privilege and good fortune bestowed upon our generation to actually return to, live in, and help build Jerusalem – not just a destination, but our destiny.
It has been said before, but never enough: Generation after generation of our forebears bravely suffered the persecution and hardships of Exile with the unyielding faith that one day, no matter how many centuries in the future, their descendants would return home. They knew in their hearts that the sounds of brides and grooms, and the laughter of their children and their children’s children, would most definitely fill the streets of Jerusalem and cities of Judea, just as the Prophet Jeremiah promised – and as is happening every day before our eyes in modern-day Yerushalayim.
Unfortunately, only some of our great-great-grandparents’ heirs are here to take part in the festivities, while others are forced, or have chosen, to watch from the sidelines of “the rivers of Babylon” and elsewhere.
A prayer: May the headlines that so frequently feature Jerusalem, for better or worse, goad us all into more active participation in the modern-day miracle of the fulfillment of our national destiny. May the news of joyous vitality here at home spur us all to jump on the bandwagon, and may even the threats and dangers encourage us all to remember that although threats and danger lurk everywhere, only in Israel and Yerushalayim can the family of the Jewish nation face them together with faith and courage.
About the Author: Chaim Silberstein is president of Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech and the Jerusalem Capital Development Fund. He was formerly a senior adviser to Israel's minister of tourism. Hillel Fendel, past senior editor at Israel National News/Arutz-7, is a veteran writer on Jerusalem affairs. Both have lived in Jerusalem and now reside in Beit El.

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