New York Post


If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem

A Letter From One of the Defenders of Jerusalem


I have been severely reprimanded in a letter I received from Israel. The letter was from a young lady in her early twenties, who did post-graduate work at Columbia University and who went to Palestine two years ago. She has worked in bio-physical research at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. After the phase of civil disorder came the phase of war of neighboring states against Israel. Then came the siege of Jerusalem, when the city was cut off from the outside world and shells from the outside world and shells from mortars and siege artillery burst every minute of the day and night. The University was closed. The boys and girls of Jerusalem performed miracles, fighting with dwindling food supply and with only a painful of water, and occupied the entire new city of Jerusalem. They tried to keep a foothold inside the old Jerusalem too, scaling its gigantic ancient walls, but in vain. This foothold inside the walls was necessary, not as a strategic position, but only as a symbol—a symbol of perseverance in the shadow of the ancient synagogues and, the most ancient of all of them, the Walling Wall, polished by time and by human hands and tears.

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When the siege of Jerusalem was lifted, the young lady happened to read in the June 4 issue of their paper an article of mine entitled “Message to Lady Astor.” I quote from the letter of my correspondent, the real Lady:

“One thing was painful to read in your article, in the passage: ‘When British fliers in Egyptian bombers or Egyptian fliers in British bombers bomb the Israeli capital, children bask in the sun on the capital’s beach, paying little attention to the bombing!’ “

“In no way can I agree,” she goes on, “with your calling Tel-Aviv our capital city. Is it so simple and self-understood in your eyes? Well, this policy of international Jerusalem has lost its content, I think. If we assented to Jerusalem becoming an international city, then the United Nations, even without being required to do so, had to send and international force to rule there and to preserve peace there.

“Boys, so good and so dear, gave their lives to defend Jerusalem from being conquered by Arabs who did not heed the decision on Jerusalem as an international city. From the beginning it was wrong to make this concession, but now that we have fought for each house, there is no justification in requiring from us the cession of Jerusalem.

“Jerusalem ought indeed to realize the version of Isaiah ‘Concerning Judah and Jerusalem’: ‘And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go the Mount of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us of his ways.’

“But with this difference, that the nations of the world should flock there to learn from the Jewish people their way of life and hear their message; the nations should not come as motley police guards whose only care it will be to see that the Jews should not have a life without care. . . And may be the time did not yet come, and we are not the generation to have Jerusalem as our own. When, then, will the generation come that will redeem Jerusalem? Only a generation that will know how to defend Jerusalem will be worthy of possessing it; if we cede it—shame upon us—we shall not be worthy of it.

“All this policy of acquiescing and yielding is very, very painful. Therefore it hurts me to read in your article about ‘Tel-Aviv, our capital.’ So simple! Where is the heart, where is the reason? Just because, in the partition plan of the U. N., Jerusalem is not included in Israel, shall we take it out of our hearts? Did they also implement the partition—and not our youth? Do they not try to carve a piece here and a piece there and scheme to decrease our area—after we fought for it—and shall we accede to all decisions against us with such simplicity and such ease? So Observer already agrees to Jerusalem outside Israel! Even what they ‘gave’ us—and we fought for every foot of it and bled to defend it—they may give tomorrow to the Arabs.

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“Are we the international force that must carry into effect the decision of the United Nations against members of this organization—the Arab countries and Britain? And as soon as those countries that flouted the Charter can sway others their way and obtain a majority, then will the U. N. command us, their ‘international force’ with these words: ‘We have changed our mind. Please clear the place’? What kind of monkey business is this? The peace offer of Bernadotte at the end of the first truce was a mighty joke—he offered us conditions of surrender, as though we had lost the war.”

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I know the girl who wrote the letter. She is a most considerate and sincere person. I make a deep bow to her and salute her with this promise: “For Zion’s sake I will not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest. . . If I forget thee, Jerusalem, let my right hand—this hand that writes—forget her cunning.”