The Jewish Claim to Jerusalem Rests on History and Sanctity, Not Old-Fashioned Prejudice

Sunday was Yom Yerushalayim, or Jerusalem Day, which celebrates the liberation of the Old City and other parts of the Jewish capital from Jordanian occupation during the Six-Day War. Reflecting on the city’s significance to Judaism and the Jewish people, and recent controversies concerning the Jewish presence at the city’s holy places, Meir Soloveichik looks back to disputes that occurred during World War II:

In 1942, Menachem Begin arrived in British Mandate Palestine. At that time, only a narrow alley in front of the Western Wall was available for Jewish prayer, but even then certain rituals were banned. And at the conclusion of Yom Kippur, the British would arrest—and club—Jews who sought to sound the shofar or sing “Hatikvah.” To Begin this was intolerable.

Begin’s group, the Irgun, regularly smuggled shofars into the site, resulting in their arrest. There were those, however, who argued that the concession to British demands was necessary for interfaith amity. Thus Begin described how “among the Jews themselves there were unexpected allies who, in snobbish pretense of ‘progress,’ argued that a few pedigree cows were worth more than all these stones.” But that “progressive” political posture, he noted, only makes sense if the stones are devoid of holiness, a possibility belied by the stones themselves.

“But the ancient stones,” [Begin declared], “themselves refute the nonsense of these pathetic ‘progressives’ who try to impress foreigners with their ‘freedom from old fashioned prejudice.’ These stones are not silent. They do not cry out. They whisper.”

Begin’s point is at once simple and profound. . . . Are the stones silent or are they not? Is there still a profound Jewish connection to this site or not? If these stones are not silent, if they still whisper, “sending out their light across the generations,” how could a Jew possibly visit the sacred without being moved to prayer? And if the stones of the Temple Mount are indeed dead, silent, no longer linked to a living Judaism—if reverence for them is mere “old-fashioned prejudice”—then it makes sense to allow Jewish visitors as mere tourists, uttering nary a word, their silence paralleling those of the stones themselves. But then, why is the Western Wall itself a site of Jewish longing, and why should Jerusalem itself be of importance to Jews?

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Read more at Commentary

More about: Jerusalem, Menachem Begin, Temple Mount

 

The New Iran Deal Will Reward Terrorism, Help Russia, and Get Nothing in Return

After many months of negotiations, Washington and Tehran—thanks to Russian mediation—appear close to renewing the 2015 agreement concerning the Iranian nuclear program. Richard Goldberg comments:

Under a new deal, Iran would receive $275 billion of sanctions relief in the first year and $1 trillion by 2030. [Moreover], Tehran would face no changes in the old deal’s sunset clauses—that is, expiration dates on key restrictions—and would be allowed to keep its newly deployed arsenal of advanced uranium centrifuges in storage, guaranteeing the regime the ability to cross the nuclear threshold at any time of its choosing. . . . And worst of all, Iran would win all these concessions while actively plotting to assassinate former U.S. officials like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and [his] adviser Brian Hook, and trying to kidnap and kill the Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad on U.S. soil.

Moscow, meanwhile, would receive billions of dollars to construct additional nuclear power plants in Iran, and potentially more for storage of nuclear material. . . . Following a visit by the Russian president Vladimir Putin to Tehran last month, Iran reportedly started transferring armed drones for Russian use against Ukraine. On Tuesday, Putin launched an Iranian satellite into orbit reportedly on the condition that Moscow can task it to support Russian operations in Ukraine.

With American and European sanctions on Russia escalating, particularly with respect to Russian energy sales, Putin may finally see net value in the U.S. lifting of sanctions on Iran’s financial and commercial sectors. While the return of Iranian crude to the global market could lead to a modest reduction in oil prices, thereby reducing Putin’s revenue, Russia may be able to head off U.S. secondary sanctions by routing key transactions through Tehran. After all, what would the Biden administration do if Iran allowed Russia to use its major banks and companies to bypass Western sanctions?

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy