Date: Sun, 28 Jan 2001 10:49:41 -0500
Title: A Riposte to Elie Wiesel on Jerusalem

TEXT:

Rape of Dulcinea

by Israel Shamir

The touching words of Elie Wiesel (Jerusalem in My Heart, NYT 1/25/2001)
painted a beautiful portrait of the Jewish people, yearning for Jerusalem,
loving and praying for it over the centuries and cherishing its name from
generation to generation.

This potent image reminded me, an Israeli writer from Jaffa, of something
familiar yet elusive. I finally made the connection by revisiting my
well-thumbed volume of Don Quixote.  Wiesel's evocative article is so
wonderfully reminiscent of the immortal love of the Knight of Sad Visage
to his belle Dulcinea de Toboso. Don Quixote traveled all over Spain
proclaiming her name. He performed formidable feats, defeated giants, who
turned out to be windmills, brought justice to the oppressed, and so much
more for the sake of his beloved. When he decided that his achievements
made him worthy, he sent his arms bearer, Sancho Pansa, to his Dame with a
message of adoration.

Now I find myself in the somewhat embarrassing position of Sancho Pansa. I
have to inform my master, Don Wiesel Quixote, that his Dulcinea is well.
She is happily married, has a bunch of kids, and she is quite busy with
laundry and other domestic chores. While he fought brigands and restored
governors, somebody else took care of his beloved, fed her, provided her
with food, made love to her, made her a mother and grandmother. Do not
rush, dear knight, to Toboso, or it would break your heart Elie, the
Jerusalem that you write of so movingly is not now and never has been
desolate. She has lived happily across the centuries in the embrace of
another people, the Palestinians of Jerusalem, who have taken good care of
her. They made her the beautiful city she is, adorned her with a
magnificent piece of jewelry, the Golden Dome of Haram al Sharif, built
their houses with pointed arches and wide porches and planted cypresses
and palm trees.

They do not mind if the knight-errant visits their beloved city on his way
from New York to Saragosa.  But be reasonable, old man. Stay within the
frame of the story and within the bounds of common decency.  Don Quixote
did not drive on his jeep into Toboso to rape his old flame. OK, you loved
her, and thought about her, but it does not give you the right to kill her
children, bulldoze her rose garden and put your boots on her dining room
table. All your words just prove that you confuse your desires with
reality. If you must continue to ask why the Palestinians want Jerusalem?
Because she belongs to them, because they live there and it is their
hometown. Granted, you dreamed about her in your remote Polish hamlet. So
did many people around the world. She is so wonderful and certainly worth
dreaming about.

Elie, many people have adored this city across the ages.  Swedish
craftsmen left their villages and moved there to build the lovely American
Colony together with the Vesters, a devout Christian family from Chicago.
You can read about it in the works of Selma Lagerlof, another Nobel Prize
winner.  On the slopes of the Mount of Olives, the Russians built the
dainty church of Mary Magdalene. Ethiopians erected their Resurrection
monastery amid the ruins left by the Crusaders.

The British died for her and left as their architectural legacy the St
George Cathedral and St Andrew's. The Germans built the lovely German
Colony and nursed the city's sick in the Schneller Hospital. My devout
great-grandfather moved into the protection of her thick walls in 1870-s
from a Lithuanian Jewish village and threw his lot with the hospitable
Jerusalemites. He found his eternal rest until the day of Resurrection on
the slopes of Mount of Olives. None of them thought to rape their
Dulcinea.  They just left bouquets of architectural flowers as testament
of their adoration.

Those who love Jerusalem are legion.  It is disingenuous of Elie Wiesel to
reduce the struggle for this city as a tug of war between Muslims and
Jews.  It is a question of coveting property versus having the deed of
ownership.  The resolution of this case should be based on the 10th
commandment, observed by our fathers. They knew that veneration does not
amount to the right of ownership. Millions of Protestants venerate the
Catholic-owned Gethsemane Garden, but it does not transfer the garden into
their hands. Millions of Catholics visit the Tomb of Mary, but it still
belongs to the Eastern Church. For generations, the Moslems have come to
kneel at the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem, but the church remains
Christian forever.

What water did to Gremlins in Spielberg's movies, Zionism has inflicted on
the jolly Jewish folk of Eastern Europe.  It caused them to carry out the
ethnic clearing of Gentiles in West Jerusalem, to convert Schneller
hospital and church into a military base and to build a Holiday Inn on top
of the venerated shrine of Sheik Bader. The Israeli State forbids the
Christians of Bethlehem to pray in the Holy Sepulcher and bans Moslems
below the age of 40 from attending Friday prayers at al Aqsa mosque.
These changes of the city by the Israeli government amount to her rape.

In order to justify this rape, you invoke the names of King Solomon and
Jeremiah, quote the Koran and the Bible. Let me tell you a Jewish Hassidic
tale, one you might have heard in your Polish schtetl. A Jewish midrash, a
legend, mentions that Abraham had a daughter. A simple-minded Hassid asked
his Rabbi, why Abraham did not wed his daughter and his son Isaac. The
Rabbi responded that Abraham did not want to marry a real son to a
legendary daughter.

The legends are the stuff the dreams are made of.  Some are charming, some
are horrible, and none is valid as a deed to the land or as a political
platform.  Elie, you certainly would not like to lose your private home in
New York because of a few verses written in the Book of Mormon. This game
of spreading the Zionist gospel is becoming irrelevant, but I will play
one more round with you for the entertainment of the crowd. As every
archaeologist will tell you, King Solomon and his temple belong to the
fantasy realm of Abraham's daughter. Moreover, and not that it matters,
but the name of Jerusalem is not mentioned even once in the Jewish Holy
Book, the Torah.

Elie, you want to play some more games?  I'll tell you more. The Jews are
not even mentioned in the Jewish Bible. Get that thick book off of your
shelf and check it. None of the great and legendary men you named, from
King David to the prophets, were called 'the Jews'. This ethnonym appears
the first and only time in the Bible in the Persian story of the very late
Book of Esther. The self-identification of the Jews with the tribes of
Israel and with the heroes of the Bible is as valid as the story of Rome
being founded by the Trojan prince Aeneus. If the modern Turks, who call
themselves 'the descendants of Troy' would conquer Rome, dynamite
Borromini's baroque masterpieces and expel her inhabitants in order to
re-establish the legacy of Aeneus, they would just be repeating the folly
of the Zionists.

Our ancestors, the humble East European folk of Yids, whose language was
Yiddish, had a tradition of adorning themselves with the impressive
heraldic lions of Biblical heroes. Their claim of descent from these
legends was as valid as the claims of Thomas Hardy's ambitious farmer girl
Tess.  But event the fictional Tess did not conspire to evict the lords
from their castle and claim the manor for herself.

Once, walking with the Christian pilgrims to the great Church of the Holy
Sepulcher, I was stopped by a Hassidic Jew. He inquired whether my
companions were Jews, and, receiving a negative reply, exclaimed in
amazement: "What are these Goyyim Gentiles looking for in the holy city?"
He had never heard of the Passion of Jesus Christ, whose name he used as a
swear word. I am equally amazed that a Jewish professor from Boston
University is as ignorant as the simple-minded Hassidic Jew.  Jerusalem is
holy to billions of believers:  Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern
Christians, Sunni and Shia Moslems, to thousands of Hassidic and Sephardic
Jews. Still, as a city, Jerusalem is not different from any place in the
world; she belongs to her citizens.

Twenty more years of Zionist control of this ancient city would turn her
into just another Milwaukee and forever ruins her charm. Jerusalem needs
to be restored to its inhabitants. The seized properties in Talbieh and
Lifta, Katamon and Malcha should be returned to their owners. Professor
Wiesel, respect the Gentile property rights as you would like Gentiles to
respect your right to your lovely house.  The holy sites of Jerusalem are
regulated by the 150 years old international statute (Status Quo) that
should not be tampered with. Last attempt to touch it caused the siege of
Sevastopol and the charge of the light brigade at Balaclava. Next attempt
could cause the nuclear war.

__

Israel Shamir, is one of best-known and most respected Russian Israeli
writers and journalists.  He wrote for Haaretz, BBC, Pravda and translated
Agnon, Joyce and Homer into Russian. He lives in Tel Aviv and writes a
weekly column in the Vesti, the biggest Russian-language paper in Israel.
He can be reached at shamiri_@netvision.net.il