As we get ready of Jerusalem Day, and “A Different Day in Jerusalem,” we’ve been very active in promoting the great variety of events that are going to take place.
Now our Director, Dr. Hagai Agmon-Snir, weighs in in an Op-Ed piece that was published on the NRG web site on Thursday, June 2. Click below for the full article in Hebrew:
And here’s an English translation:
We Can Change the Culture of Hate on Jerusalem Day
The fight for tolerance must be waged throughout the year. But we must not desist from fighting for tolerance on Jerusalem Day. When the hatemongers try to turn the national pride into an opportunity for incitement, we must re-claim the message of tolerance in the city.
One, two, three or four Jerusalems; Israeli, Palestinian, French or international sovereignty. In any future scenario, the metropolis called Jerusalem will need to function, both in the short and long term. But without tolerance and without a consistent fight against hate and racism in Jerusalem, the city will decline and collapse. It will be bad for the Palestinians, it will be bad for the Jews, it will be bad for those who are more religious and even for those who are less so. It will be bad for the citizens, it will be bad for the permanent residents, for asylum seekers and for tourists. Even if we disagree on the “correct” future for the city, we must come together and raise a voice for tolerance and calm in the city – today.
After 49 years, Jerusalem is a city torn apart. Arabs, Jews, Ultra-Orthodox, Reform, immigrants from Ethiopia, France, Russia and USA, asylum seekers from Eritrea, millions of Christian pilgrims. In other cities in the western world, this diversity is seen, alongside the challenge, as an asset. As an opportunity to create a lively, interesting, attractive city, rich in human, social and cultural resources, a place for the development of the arts, a place for the development of thought.
In Jerusalem, on the other hand, a culture of hate, incitement, racism and violence causes us, residents of the city, to look around us in fear and ask, what will our next trip on the light rail look like? What political maneuvering will be done tomorrow in the Municipality by the groups that hate me? Who will be my scary neighbor next year?
There are those for whom hate is good. Most of them don’t live here. Politicians who sacrifice Jerusalem for their fight for a seat and along the way create divisions among us. World leaders who get involved in Jerusalem matters that they don’t understand. Official armies and terrorists whose job it is that we hate one another.
We, who live in Jerusalem day by day, pay the price. The fire of hate is lit within us all too easily. We become committed to incitement easily, too. We don’t feel how racism and violence hurt us and eat away at us – from the inside.
And then comes Jerusalem Day – a day that is oh so tense, socially and politically. This year it comes on June 5, a day on which the Palestinians, one third of the city’s residents, commemorate, Yom Hanaksa (Day of the Defeat). Defeat creates hate – one doesn’t need to be a brain researcher to know this. Simultaneously, the Jews celebrate the liberation of the city, often in a way that rejoices in the others’ defeat. And their joy is mixed with anger, since despite the perfect victory, we still watch our backs when we’re walking in the street, in case someone comes at us with a knife.
And there are many on the Jewish side who are ashamed of the atmosphere of gloating, and lower their heads in hopes that the day will be over. And I know a significant number of Palestinians who are ashamed that the atmosphere of defeat causes a caustic hate on their side.
Of course, the fight for tolerance must be waged throughout the year. But we must not desist from fighting for tolerance on Jerusalem Day. When the hatemongers try to turn the national pride into an opportunity for incitement, we must insist, even on Jerusalem Day, to re-claim the tolerant message of the city.
Yes, we will continue to argue over liberation or occupation, if an open button is considered too immodest for a woman, and on shops closed on Shabbat. We will debate in sign language and in Braille, in Arabic, in Tigriniya, and in Hebrew. But on Jerusalem Day we, lovers of Jerusalem, will demonstrate that in our special city, one like no other in the world, there is a strong and stable core of tolerance that stubbornly declares: “Jerusalem will be all that we dream for it, for us all!”