Berman Jewish Policy Archive @ NYU Wagner
Berman Jewish Policy Archive @ NYU Wagner
May 2013
From Prof. Steven M. Cohen   


Dear Friends,

The Israel Defense Forces took control of all of Jerusalem on June 7, 1967, or the 28th of Iyar on the Hebrew calendar, a date which corresponds this year to May 8 2013. Many Israelis and Jews around the world celebrate the reunification of Israel's eternal capital under Israel's control. Others who mark the day may do so with a measure of qualification. Indeed, Leibel Fein, in one of the pieces included in this BJPA Reader's Guide: Jerusalem, writes of the contested meaning of Jerusalem:


In the Jewish tradition, there are actually two Jerusalems, not one. There's yerushalayim shel mala, the heavenly Jerusalem, Jerusalem-the-idea: There, when it rains, flowers bloom; when mouths open, choirs of angels sing. ... And then there's yerushalayim shel mata,the earthly Jerusalem: There, when it rains, streets turn muddy; when mouths open, it is as often for curses as it is for blessings...


For a long while, the challenge of Jerusalem was how to bring its two visions into closer touch with each other. ... These days, however, the two Jerusalems grow more distant from each other. The earthly Jerusalem is a place where the Israeli government insists on building more and more housing meant for Jews, often in areas of the city traditionally home to Palestinians. It is a place where demonstrators, sometimes the fervently Orthodox, other times angry social democrats, find themselves confronting the police. There, impossibly divergent definitions of just what the idea of Jerusalem is, compete against each other. There, a government of perplexing mediocrity tries to deal with threats real and concocted. There the question of whether Jerusalem is the "eternal and undivided capital of Israel" is utterly quotidian. It points not to a utopian eternity but to whether it is wise (or just) for Israel to exercise dominion over an array of East Jerusalem (i.e., Palestinian) neighborhoods, thereby denying the Palestinians their own slice of Jerusalem.


And then, in same BJPA Readers Guide: Jerusalem, we read quite a different voice, this one of Dore Gold, also an old and dear and respected friend. Dore takes issue with previous Israeli leaders' negotiating stances, and writes:


A careful reading of the historical record of the Jewish presence in Jerusalem and an understanding of the international legal rights of the Jewish people to their historical capital might have led negotiators to take a stronger stand on behalf of Israel's rights in the city.  


This study was conceived with the purpose of providing both a more realistic understanding of

the actual positions of the principal parties to the Jerusalem question and a deeper appreciation of the rights Israel possesses in Jerusalem for any future negotiations...


Given its fundamental rights in Jerusalem, as well as its recent experiences with the Al-Aqsa Intifada, Israel must continue to preserve Jerusalem as its unified capital under Israel's exclusive sovereignty. This will not only best protect the interests of the Jewish people in Jerusalem, but also the interests and access of all faiths, as well.


The two passages reflect deep differences in values, tone, substance, and policy. Yet they both emanate from a love of Jerusalem and the Jewish People's deep connection thereto. And they both represent the rich and complex discourse around Jerusalem, especially relevant in the days leading up to Jerusalem Day this year.


Click here* to view the entire BJPA Reader's Guide: Jerusalem.   


Best wishes,Steven M. Cohen



Prof. Steven M. Cohen

Director, Berman Jewish Policy Archive @ NYU Wagner 



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 The latest edition of the Peoplehood Papers focuses on "Peoplehood in the Age of Pluralism." In this edition of J-Vault, we'll see that elements of this current conversation are, of course, anything but new.

From the J-Vault: The Lesson It Teaches Us: Campaign to Raise Four Million Dollars in a Fortnight by the Young Men's and Young Women's Christian Association (1913)

...above all things, we must learn to understand that questions of detail regarding religious forms and ceremonies are matters concerning which we may honestly differ...If our mission as a priest people is to mean something more than an empty boast... let us emphasize the many things we have in common that demand our hearty co-operation rather than those minor matters in reference to which we may hold different views. We may have diversity of opinion and at the same time have perfect union when it comes to the solution of important problems...


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