It is hard to imagine how the divided Jerusalem of 52 years ago has changed from a city squeezed into a narrow corridor, closed in on all sides, to the large and vibrant city of today, said Women in Green co-chairwoman Yehudit Katsover.
Thousands took part in the annual Tisha b’Av eve march on Saturday night led by the Sovereignty Movement, founded by Women in Green and its co-chairwomen, Yehudit Katsover and Nadia Matar, winners of this year’s prestigious Moskowitz Prize for Zionism. This year marks the half-Jubilee of the renewal of the traditional walk.
Among the many participants, the Sovereignty Youth had a significant presence, arriving from all parts of the Land.
The walk began with the reading of the Scroll of Lamentations (Eicha) at Independence Park in the heart of the capital, and from there it continued to circle the Western Wall in the Old City. The walk around the Wall was accompanied by words of explanation and information by historian Arieh Klein on the city’s past, both distant and recent, while passing by notable points on the route around the city’s walls.
Before the walk started, a video was screened with a short speech by Tila Falic Levi, Land of Israel activist, representing the Falic family, who sponsored the Walk. Tila reminded all that the “Tisha b’Av fast reminds us of where we come from and what happened to us as a people. Now the Nation of Israel is back home in the Land of Israel.
“We learn from many Jewish leaders, from Abraham all the way to Yoni Netanyahu, to be Jews of action,” she said.
Near Damascus Gate in the Old City some Arab youths tried to disrupt the walk by crying “Allahu Akbar” and clapping their hands, which Nadia Matar “interpreted” in a different way, using the loudspeaker to say “Thanks to all who are applauding on the sidelines because they know that Israeli sovereignty is good for them. Being under Israeli sovereignty is the best thing for them, and if they don’t like it, they are invited to move to Syria…”
The security forces accompanying the walk distanced the Muslim youths, and the walk continued without any other mishaps or friction.
The concluding assembly was held near the Lions’ Gate. Yehudit Katsover began the assembly with words of “special thanks to the security forces and the regional commander, who did not hesitate to approve the walk despite it occurring on the eve of the Muslim Festival of the Sacrifice”.
“It is difficult to imagine how the divided Jerusalem of 52 years ago has become what we know today – how, from a city, squeezed into a narrow corridor, closed in on all sides, it has become the large and vibrant city of today,” Katsover told the crowd.
“Many opponents have arisen and are still arising against the unification of the city in the ideological sense and many more are against the actual unification of the city”, she said, noting how, despite the challenges, different sectors of the population live there together, including “Jews and Arabs, religious and secular, new immigrants and seasoned citizens….
‘Walk Strengthened and Fortified the Spirit’
“This year we are commemorating the half-Jubilee year of the Walk around the Walls of Jerusalem,” Katsover declared. “A tradition that was renewed 25 years ago by Ruth and Michael Matar, the founders of Women in Green. Twenty-five years in the eternal city are barely a speck of dust in the long and troubled history of Jerusalem. This walk has strengthened and fortified the spirit of the participants and strengthened to status of the city as a sovereignty city.”
Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Ze’ev Elkin stressed that despite the dramatic change for the good that has occurred over the last decades, “we see that there is still a long way to go. We have sovereignty in Jerusalem, and even the nations of the world recognize it when they understand that we are resolute, but there is still some distance to sovereignty in Judea and Samaria as well as full and true sovereignty in Jerusalem, so that this walk will not be only around the Old City, but will be able to continue to the Temple Mount. We have a long way to go in order to assure that those difficult passages in the Scroll of Lamentations will not return.”
Elkin mentioned the murder last week of yeshiva student Dvir Sorek, who lived north of Jerusalem and studied south of Jerusalem. “Our People has lost another wonderful son, a young sweet boy, Dvir Sorek, who gave his life so that someday there will be sovereignty and the Temple will be built and the fast day will become a day of joy,” he said.
Former mayor of Jerusalem, MK Nir Barkat, former mayor of Jerusalem, drew a connection between the unity that accompanied the fighters’ battle for the liberation of Jerusalem and the unity that he wishes for Jerusalem in the political sphere.
“As mayor, I made a great effort to establish a broad coalition, and we found a very broad common denominator in Jerusalem belonging to everyone. We must seek the broadest common denominator in Israel. After the elections we will have to see how we can integrate as many groups of the public as possible in the coalition and increase ahavat chinam – loving others without judgment.
Aryeh King, a member of the Jerusalem Council and one of the city’s builders, also spoke, beginning with a grim testimony of the present reality. He turned the attention of the massive audience to a stone in the wall near the road, with Arabic inscription. This is a street sign, he said, that the government of Turkey set up on the day after the Marmara incident. “The government of Israel knew about it and knows today as well. This is not sovereignty!”
‘Unity Must Not Compromise the Holiness of Jerusalem’
“We speak of unity but unity must be behind the holy and not compromise the holiness of Jerusalem”, said King, returning to the sad description of the situation today: “These days, there are areas where, if you are a Jew, you are not permitted to enter,” he said, mentioning the neighborhoods where only Arabs are allowed to build, such as Giv’at Hamatos and Shimon Hatzadik.
King mentioned the days of his childhood in Kibbutz Alumim where it was possible to hitchhike from Gaza and from Masajiyya without any problem at all, when the beach in Gaza was a recreation place for the Jewish children of the area, but within just 11 years the situation has changed, at first the IDF was removed from the centers of the cities, later checkpoints were set up and even later came the expulsion of the Jews.
Attorney Nili Naouri, director of Israel Forever, who expressed the hope that in the coming year it will no longer be necessary for the walkers to have a security escort.
“It has already been 52 years and we still need a security escort. This is because there are those to whom it is still not clear that we are the sole, legitimate owners of this Land and when we do not behave like the owners, the Arab invader behaves like the owner.”
“When the Romans destroyed the Temple, they changed the name of the Land of Israel to Palestina and the name of Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina to nullify the connection of the People of Israel to its Land”, Naouri continued, adding: “Today they speak of ‘territories’ and the ‘West Bank’ but this is Judea and Samaria, an area that is exclusively Jewish, the cradle of the People of Israel.
“For two thousand years of exile we have become accustomed to depending on the good will of the non-Jews and have repeated the sentence ‘Next year in rebuilt Jerusalem’. We have to take the exile out of the Jews, to become accustomed to behaving once again as the sovereign. Enough of the status quo. The time has come for sovereignty,” she declared.