Where shall a Jew live?
Jews are pretty good developers and builders. Look at Lennar Homes, Toll Brothers, KB Homes and others. The basics are easy. The builder-businessman selects a market that looks promising, buys the land, gets his permits. Up go the homes and the owners movie in.
Simple? It would seem so. In 1950 we moved to Shaker Heights, Ohio. A lovely suburb at that time on the outskirts of Cleveland. I found out, shortly after we bought a home there, that if we had moved 10 years earlier, we could not have bought a home in Shaker Heights. They had what was known as a “restrictive covenant,” which (legal at the time) prevented Jews and blacks from owning a home in Shaker Heights.
Yes, we have come a long way from restrictive covenants.” Today, any Jew can live anywhere he can afford anywhere in the United States. It would appear that this is true in Europe, South America and just about anywhere else in the world. Except that is … in Israel?
A small group of developers in the Jewish State have begun constructing some medium sized, medium income apartment complexes in Jerusalem. They have spectacular views of the Old City, are bright and airy and reasonably priced. They present a terrific opportunity for some families to move from more dangerous neighborhoods in, let’s say, The West Bank Settlements.
Great! So, what’s the problem? It would seem that the U.S. government, the United Nations and of course the Palestinian Authority feel this “complicates the Jerusalem situation.” Maybe. I’m sure the first Jews moving into Shaker Heights “complicated the situation.” Jews have a way of doing that: “complicating the situation.”
Is the State of Israel the Jewish homeland? Does that not mean that Jews from all over the world come to live in the sanctity and traditions of that land? Can I, a citizen of the U.S., live anywhere else I choose as long as I can pay the freight? But not Israel? Get outa here!
Will there some day be a Palestinian State? Probably. And the state will have borders, of course. At that time people will have to choose. They did in India in 1947 (let’s hope this goes a bit better than that did). If Jews care to live in that designated Palestinian State, they should have every right to do so. Likewise the Palestinians who wake up and find they are now in a modern, Western-style democracy should look forward to a better life!
What then is the problem? Segregation does not work. America found that out after a long struggle. So did South Africa. Israel grumbled, but the European oriented, basically Socialist Israeli population of the 1940s and ’50s absorbed close to a million Jews from Africa with a totally different culture.
Today, Israel is a mosaic. Jews from Brooklyn live and work with Jews from Poland, Argentina, Ethiopia, Syria and Iraq. It does not always go smoothly. It never does. But, if an Ethiopian veteran of the IDF invents a doohickey that saves heart attack victims and makes a boatload of shekels from his venture, can he live in Netanya or Savion outside Tel Aviv? I would sure think so. But—simply because he’s a Jew—he can’t live in Jerusalem?
Look, there will always be differences. Differences in color, in heritage, in customs. But in this ever more connected world, we learn. Right now our family lives in a totally integrated neighborhood. We have Yankees, Southerners, Hispanics, African Americans and even Asians. Somehow the kids all mount the same bus in the morning, we wave to each other and hold packages for one another.
Could that ever be possible in the Middle East? Arabs have always been a culture where family, tribe and clan come before even religion or country. But, if the Palestinian urge is for nationhood, they should put aside this nonsense that the Jews have no right to the land, that the land is “theirs.”
In 1948, when Israel declared independence, it brought the first indigenous government to that land in over two thousand years. Gone were the Caliphs and the Crusaders and the Ottoman Turks and the British.
In their place were a people to whom the land was sacred and from which their people had emigrated so many years ago. They were Jews in a Jewish land. Deeper than religion, this was national heritage. I know many ex-Catholics, but I do not know any ex-Italians.
So, let us not argue about Jews buying apartments in a Jewish nation. They have every right. The day will come—I have no doubt—when neighborhoods, not all, but most in Israel, will be even more integrated.
Peace must be between people before it can ever work under government decree. We in the U.S. are still learning that. We know that the road is bumpy and uneven. But it is worth traveling. As Jews we are used to “complicating the situation.”