A letter to the World from Jerusalem
A Letter to the World
by Eliezer Ben Yisrael
I am not a creature from another planet,
as you seem to believe. I am a
Jerusalemite - like yourselves, a man of
flesh and blood. I am a citizen of my
city, an integral part of my people.
I have a few things to get off my chest.
Because I am not a diplomat, I do not
have to mince words. I do not have to
please you, or even persuade you. I owe
you nothing. You did not build this city;
you did not live in it; you did not defend
it when they came to destroy it. And we
will be damned if we will let you take it
There was a Jerusalem before there was
a New York. When Berlin, Moscow,
London, and Paris were miasmal forest
and swamp, there was a thriving Jewish
community here. It gave something to
the world which you nations have
rejected ever since you established
yourselves – a humane moral code.
Here the prophets walked, their words
flashing like forked lightning. Here a
people who wanted nothing more than to
be left alone, fought off waves of
heathen would-be conquerors, bled and
died on the battlements, hurled
themselves into the flames of their
burning Temple rather than surrender,
and when finally overwhelmed by sheer
numbers and led away into captivity,
swore that before they forgot Jerusalem,
they would see their tongues cleave to
their palates, their right arms wither.
For two pain-filled millennia, while we
were your unwelcome guests, we prayed
daily to return to this city. Three times a
day we petitioned the Almighty: “Gather
us from the four corners of the world,
bring us upright to our land; return in
mercy to Jerusalem, Thy city, and dwell
in it as Thou promised.” On every Yom
Kippur and Passover, we fervently voice
the hope that next year would find us in
Your inquisitions, pogroms, expulsions,
the ghettos into which you jammed us,
your forced baptisms, your quota
systems, your genteel anti-Semitism, and
the final unspeakable horror, the
holocaust (and worse, your terrifying
disinterest in it) - all these have not
broken us. They may have sapped what
little moral strength you still possessed,
but they forged us into steel. Do you
think that you can break us now after all
we have been through? Do you really
believe that after Dachau and Auschwitz
we are frightened by your threats of
blockades and sanctions? We have been
to Hell and back - a Hell of your making.
What more could you possibly have in
your arsenal that could scare us?
I have watched this city bombarded
twice by nations calling themselves
civilized. In 1948, while you looked on
apathetically, I saw women and children
blown to smithereens, after we agreed to
your request to internationalize the city.
It was a deadly combination that did the
job. British officers, Arab gunners, and
American-made cannons. And then the
savage sacking of the Old City; the
willful slaughter, the wanton destruction
of every synagogue and religious school;
the desecration of Jewish cemeteries; the
sale by a ghoulish government of
tombstones for building materials, for
poultry runs, army camps - even latrines.
And you never said a word.You never breathed the slightest protest
when the Jordanians shut off the holiest
of our places, the Western Wall, in
violation of the pledges they had made
after the war - a war they waged,
incidentally, against the decision of the
UN. Not a murmur came from you
whenever the legionnaires in their spiked
helmets casually opened fire upon our
citizens from behind the walls.
Your hearts bled when Berlin came
under siege. You rushed your airlift "to
save the gallant Berliners". But you did
not send one ounce of food when Jews
starved in besieged Jerusalem. You
thundered against the wall which the
East Germans ran through the middle of
the German capital - but not one peep
out of you about that other wall, the one
that tore through the heart of Jerusalem.
And when that same thing happened 20
years later, and the Arabs unleashed a
savage, unprovoked bombardment of the
Holy City again, did any of you do
The only time you came to life was when
the city was at last reunited. Then you
wrung your hands and spoke loftily of
"justice" and need for the "Christian"
quality of turning the other cheek.
The truth is - and you know it deep
inside your gut - you would prefer the
city to be destroyed rather than have it
governed by Jews. No matter how
diplomatically you phrase it, the age old
prejudices seep out of every word.
If our return to the city has tied your
theology in knots, perhaps you had better
reexamine your catechisms. After what
we have been through, we are not
passively going to accommodate
ourselves to the twisted idea that we are
to suffer eternal homelessness until we
accept your savior.
For the first time since the year 70 there
is now complete religious freedom for all
in Jerusalem. For the first time since the
Romans put a torch to the Temple,
everyone has equal rights. (You prefer to
have some more equal than others.) We
loathe the sword - but it was you who
forced us to take it up. We crave peace -
but we are not going back to the peace of
1948 as you would like us to.
We are home. It has a lovely sound for a
nation you have willed to wander over
the face of the globe. We are not leaving.
We are redeeming the pledge made by
our forefathers: Jerusalem is being
rebuilt. "Next year" and the year after,
and after, and after, until the end of
time – "in Jerusalem!"
Ed. notes: This Letter - written by Eliezer Whartman
- originally appeared in the summer of 1969 as an
editorial in the long-defunct Times of Israel.
It is amazing how its words resonate so well 44 years
later. And it is so sad that these words still need to be
said after all this time.
As of today, no country in the world has its embassy
in the capital of Israel.
As of today, people and governments around the
world are still talking about dividing Jerusalem,
about sharing Jerusalem.
Although the US Congress has been gung-ho in its
support for moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, it
is not happening. We appreciate the enthusiasm and
support of many US congressmen for Jerusalem
remaining the undivided capital of Israel...
But the fact remains that the United States of
America does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over
any part of Jerusalem, let alone considering it our
capital. Therefore, read this letter again and again
and share it with others.