This coming Shabbat is Yom Yerushalayim, “Jerusalem Day.” It should be a day to celebrate with joy the reunification of Jerusalem. But it should also be a day when Jews show sensitivity to Jerusalem’s Arab population.
From 1948 to 1967 Jews could not pray at our holiest site, the Western Wall of our ancient Temple. Since 1967 Jerusalem has been a place where the holy sites of all religious faiths are open to worshippers of those faiths.
Yom Yerushalayim should be an occasion to show the world that Jerusalem is a city where different nationalities live and all are welcome. It should be a city that respects and affirms diverse religious expressions. It should be a city that is in the words of the prophet “a light to the nations (Isaiah 49:6)!”
In recent years, to my sadness, Yom Yerushalayim has been marred by racist Jews. (Even to say those two words together makes my heart blanch.) Yes, a small minority of Jews actually march en masse through Arab neighborhoods shouting “Death to the Arabs,” and “the Mosque will burn!”
Israel should have zero tolerance for such racist activity.
The government should issue strong warnings against them, and those who engage in this kind of incitement should face severe punishment. Israel—and Jerusalem in particular—must hold itself to the highest standard of human behavior.
In the hope of preventing these horrible actions this year I have written to Mr. Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem. Now Mr. Barkat certainly reads English, but I wanted to express myself as a lover of Israel in Hebrew. My letter in translation follows.
To Mayor Barkat, Shalom!
This coming Shabbat we shall celebrate Yom Yerushalyim. Jerusalem is our capitol. But it is also the city where many Palestinians and other Arabs also live. I request of you to do all in your power to prevent racist demonstrations against Arabs. Such demonstrations bring disgrace upon Israel in the eyes of the world.
With great respect,
Rabbi Stephen Fuchs
Even though I am a firm believer in “free speech” I believe Israel should prevent these demonstrations. Why? They are a form of overt “hate speech.” These demonstrations are a direct incitement to violence. They should have no place in Israel.
I hope you will join me as I, “Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem” and that you will add your voice in appealing to the city’s mayor to insure that the “City of Peace” lives up to its name.
I urge all of you who love and care about Israel to write as well. Mayor Barkat’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org.