There is no mezuza on the Old City of Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate (Shaar Sh’chem). And it is important that every Jew understand why other major entrances to the Old City, such as Jaffa Gate, DO have mezuzot while this one does not; why there once WAS a mezuza at Shaar Sh’chem (it was taken down by Arabs and never replaced by Mayor Teddy Kollek),and why Meir Kahane demanded that he be allowed to put up the mezuza, was refused permission, and as a result a number of his supporters were arrested.
The Old City of Jerusalem is surrounded by the famous wall that is such an attraction for all tourists. Entrance to the Old City is through a number of gates, of which Jaffa and Damascus are the two most famous and heavily travelled. After the 1967 War, mezuzot were placed on all the gates, including Damascus (or Sh’chem); Arabs PROMPTLY ripped off the latter one. The Israeli government preferred not to notice and allowed the desecration to remain unanswered. Why? The answer to this is also the answer to Kahane’s making such an issue out of a gate which may very well – due to the majority of Arabs living within the Old City – be free from the religious obligation of a mezuza, in the first place. The Israeli government has followed a careful policy since the 1967 War of not “aggravating” the Arabs. This has involved Israeli refusal and failure to assert Jewish rights as well as a willingness to, de facto, accept Arab demands that run counter to those Jewish rights. Part of that policy includes the refusal to allow Jews unlimited settlement anywhere in that part of Eretz Israel liberated after 1967; refusal to allow Jews to live anywhere except in certain parts of the Old City of Jerusalem; and, of course, refusal to declare that the liberated areas of 1967 are formally part of the Jewish State. It has also manifested itself in such things as kid-gloves policy and collaboration with notorious Jew-haters such as Hebron’s Mayor Ja’abari (whose part in the Gush Etzion and Hebron massacres ranges from ugly to murky), as well as government financing and support of an Arab university on the West Bank that will produce the Arab terrorist and nationalist leaders in the next decade.
The policy has been hailed as a success, with Dayan declaring that the peace in the liberated areas over the last five years and relative lack of terrorism have proven the wisdom of this policy. In short-range terms he is correct; in the long-run, this policy will prove disasterous. Not only does it take away basic Jewish rights, but it tells the world and, worse – the Israeli Jewish youngsters – that these rights in truth do not exist. Should we, in the future, decide to demand them, we will find our own credibility attacked and opposition intense from our own people who will, justly, ask: “But if we really are entitled to these things, why did we not demand them earlier and why did you stop those who DID demand them?” For five years we have allowed Arab majority rights in the Hebron Cave – and what does this tell the Israeli student? That it really is Moslem and that only the “fanatics” want “more” than the proper Jewish share.
For five years we have refused Jewish settlement in the West Bank cities of Hebron, Sh’chem, Bethlehem, Jenin, etc. What does this tell the Israeli youth? That these cities are Arab cities, not Jewish ones. For five years we have had different rules and laws for pre-war Israel and for the liberated lands. What does this tell any logical person? That they are not really Jewish but that Israel is using the lands as cards for bargaining. What will happen when Israel decides to demand certain of these rights or comes up with a “compromise” scheme by which it agrees to return a large part of the lands but keep some of the others for “security” reasons? The answer is simple. All the sensitive and liberal Jewish youth of Israel, its intellectuals, its writers, its professors, will rise up and say: But we have no right to keep that land because it is not ours and the greatest proof is your own refusal to declare them ours from the very first day. This shows that you, yourself, do not believe it is Jewish and your desire to hold on to even some of that land is still robbery and annexation.
And there is more. The refusal to place the stamp of Jewishness on the public sectors of the country is an effort not to rouse the Arabs too much and to have them feel that they are equal citizens of the State of Israel. This, too, is a short-range success but a long-range disaster – not to mention its obvious dishonesty. No matter what the clever propogandists say, the Arab is NOT equal in Israel so long as Israel remains true to the Zionist dream that created it as a JEWISH state. So long as the original rationale for the return to Israel holds true (and if it does not, then we have no right at all to Israel); so long as Israel is ours because it is the home of the Jewish people where they can live free from physical holocaust and spiritual- cultural assimilation; so long as Israel has a Law of Return which applies only to Jews and not to Arabs, then Israel is a JEWISH state (and not one that disregards nationality and religion) and the Arab is NOT equal. The Arab knows this and his placid acceptance of Jewish rule is not an indication that he is happy and has made peace with the situation. It simply means that five years is a very, very short time in the Middle East; that the Arabs are making a little money now; that a generation of young Arab intellectuals who place nationalism and ideals over money has not yet fully ripened; and that we face a terrible Northern Ireland- type confrontation in the years to come. And on the Arab side will be ranged thousands of Jews who will back the Arabs because Moshe Dayan – in his short-sighted cleverness – chose not to assert Jewish rights immediately. What a difference it would have made had Israel – immediately after the 1967 War – when the whole world stood solidly behind her, knowing that she had almost gone under and miraculously survived, declared: All this land is ours, historically; it is Jewish from the times of the Bible; it is officially ours and it will never be abandoned. How much greater the moral and legal hold than the present sly, diplomatic game! But we did not do it.
We did not and we still do not say to the world: Israel is a Jewish State, the home of the Jewish people where Jewish sovereignty reigns and where Arabs can live as individuals, as a demographic and cultural minority. And that is why Kahane wants a mezuza on Shaar Sh’chem. Not because there are no other things that are as important or more so. But because the reason for the lack of a mezuza is the underlying mistake of Israeli policy: We do not want to alienate the Arabs, we do not want to declare blatant Jewish sovereignty over a Gate that is in a totally Arab part of the city. We do not want to affix a mezuza and Jewish sovereignty – both! And that is at the heart of Kahane’s intention. Not only the affixing and the stamping of a mezuza, but the fixing and stamping of the word “Jewish” on the city of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is not an Arab-Jewish city. It is a city where Arabs and Jews live, but the city is Jewish, the sovereignty is Jewish, and the Arabs live there by individual rights as opposed to the Jewish right of peoplehood there. For this, and in order to save Israel from the short-sightedness of its leaders, it is worthwhile fighting for the mezuza on Shaar Sh’chem and even going to jail. At least when the Israeli youth, in years to come, will march for Arab “rights” and say to Israel’s leaders: But you yourself never asserted Jewish rights and thereby recognized the Arab ones – Kahane and his supporters can say: True, but we fought this from the beginning; we wanted to tell you then, that this city and this country are JEWISH and not shared and we even went to jail for the mezuza on Shaar Sh’chem – and for settlement in the CITY of Sh’chem.