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“Yerushalayim” by SAZF Chairman, Rowan Polovin

Posted Jun 18, 2020

We recently celebrated 53 years of a reunified Jerusalem: the eternal capital of the Jewish People, and the united capital of the Jewish State.

We recall the miraculous day of 7 June 1967, when Israeli paratroopers liberated the Jordanian-occupied Old City of Jerusalem, and reunited the Jewish capital with the holiest site in all Judaism, The Temple Mount. For almost 20 years prior to that moment, Jews were unable to live in the Old City or pray at the Western Wall.

For two thousand years prior, Jerusalem had become a spiritual beacon in the soul of an exiled people, the Jewish Diaspora, and had fueled their desire to return to Zion in freedom and self-determination. "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem", recounts the famous psalm, "let my right hand forget its skill". A Jew, praying anywhere in the Diaspora, turns to face Jerusalem. A Jew praying inside Jerusalem, turns to face the Temple Mount. Today Jews can physically be at the spot towards which they pray.

The importance and ongoing centrality of a unified Jerusalem to the Jews should never be underestimated or forgotten, nor should we ever allow enemies of the Jews to destroy that unbreakable connection. Jerusalem has never been the capital of any other nation besides the Jews. Jewish scripture has over 72 names for Jerusalem in Hebrew, including Ir Ha'Elohim,  Ir Ha'Emet,  Kiriyah Aliza and Kiryah Ne-e-ma-nah. The Tanakh references Jerusalem, or its alternative Hebrew name 'Zion' over 850 times. In comparison, while there are 16 Arabic names for Jerusalem, not one of these are mentioned in the Koran, even though some have said that a more recent 12th century passage refers to the city.  Almost daily, archeological findings of Jewish artifacts in or around Jerusalem prove over and over again the many thousand year connection between Jews and our Holy City. 

In spite of the overwhelming and incontrovertible evidence of this connection, UNESCO, the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture whose motto is "building peace in the minds of men and women" passed a Palestinian-drafted resolution of grotesque historical revisionism that through words eliminated the Jewish bond to Jerusalem, and eradicated the historical connection between Judaism and its holiest sites, the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.

South African Jews are loyal to South Africa, and see our Executive Capital as Pretoria, our judicial capital as Bloemfontein and our legislative capital right here in Cape Town. However, our spiritual capital is and always will be Yerushalayim. We may be physically separate from her right now, even more so during the time of Corona, but she exists in our heart of hearts as the whole and undivided city that connects us every day to the core of our faith. As Jews, we will continue to allow non-Jews the dignity that they have historically denied us: the ability to exist and to pray freely in our city and land. We recall the words of Defense Minister Moshe Dayan who said shortly after recapturing the city, [open quotes] "To our Arab neighbours, Israel extends the hand of peace and to all peoples of all faiths, we guarantee full freedom of worship. We've not come to conquer the holy places of others but to live with others in harmony" [close quotes]. 

May we return to Zion spiritually or physically, never to part from her again. And may she be a city of peace, love and joy for all who live there.

Rowan Polovin
Chairman, SAZF