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 symbola 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.
* * *
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 capitals 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 itshame upon uswe 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 partitionand not our youth? Do they not try to carve a piece
here and a piece there and scheme to decrease our areaafter we fought
for itand 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 usand we fought for every
foot of it and bled to defend itthey may give tomorrow to the Arabs.
* * *
Are we the international force that must carry into
effect the decision of the United Nations against members of this organizationthe
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 jokehe offered us conditions
of surrender, as though we had lost the war.
* * *
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 Zions sake I will not hold my peace, and for
Jerusalems sake I will not rest. . . If I forget thee, Jerusalem,
let my right handthis hand that writesforget her cunning.