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In the wake of the bulldozer terror attacks

Not to build a fence and expose ourselves to evil and cowardly acts buries our dreams; yet we cannot live without our dreams. That is one of the most beautiful aspects of Israeli society


The recent repeated   bulldozer terror attacks in Jerusalem heightened the quandary in which Israelis find themselves regarding future relations with the Palestinians. Since the Oslo Accords in 1995, a majority of Israelis have accepted the principle of land for peace. The only debate has been how much land and how much peace do we expect in return for our territorial compromises.
At the foundation of this consensus lies a broad understanding that the Palestinian people are in fact a people deserving of their own national home. However, it is clear that Palestinian national aspirations cannot come at the expense of Israel’s security or of our fundamental principles and ideals.
Israel’s legitimate need for security has led to the almost universally accepted and sanctioned construction of a barrier (less than 5% of which is a wall). Behind the concept of the partition fence lies the belief that Palestinians have a right to their own home, but that we must do everything in our power to keep these enemies outside our cities until they prove their willingness to actively combat enemies of Israel in their midst.
When it comes to Jerusalem, we Israelis encounter a deeper confusion. Our legitimate security concerns necessitate a barrier, but our history and our memory of Jerusalem as the focus of our dreams of returning to our home ("Next Year in Jerusalem") make the existence of a fence within our city deeply problematic.
A security fence in Jerusalem would not only keep certain people out, but would also keep us out of areas we see as integral to our city. The existence of a fence in Jerusalem is seen by most Israelis as an affront to our national identity and sense of returning home. The fence can be our border, but a border within our capital city is esthetically and emotionally incongruent, even if its location were easy to identify. As a result, Israelis have resisted erecting a fence and still speak about a united Jerusalem.
Something else, however, is a barrier to erection of the fence in Jerusalem. Israelis are increasingly suspicious of the possibility of real peace with the Palestinian people in our lifetime, but the hope for and obvious value and benefit of peace here for all humankind has prevented Israelis from becoming completely callous to the idea. We harbor the hope – increasingly secretly in our hearts but present nonetheless – that peace can ring forth in the land of Israel.
Our hope that peace and not armistice will define our relationship gets expressed in our belief that Jerusalem, the one city holy to all monotheistic faiths, and sacred to Israelis and Palestinians alike, should be able to be shared without a wall. In fact, the whole world views Jerusalem this way.
Jerusalem symbolized a dream for the Jews for 2,000 years. In many ways it continues to do so. Now it is not the dream of our return, but it is the dream that we can live at peace here in Israel. The sacredness of the city calls out to us and demands that we transcend our political agendas.
When terror comes from people who share with us membership in this undivided city it is an affront to the city and to the best that ought to define all of us. We look at the Palestinians with a sense of bewilderment. Isn’t peace in their interest, too? Don’t they realize that Israelis would respond with gestures and policies that would enable the Palestinian state to flourish alongside Israel if they would relinquish the path of terrorism? Most Israelis feel they do not understand the choices the Palestinians seem to be making.
The simple answer would be that it is time for us to put aside our dreams. Dreams are fulfilled in a messianic era, and we don’t have the luxury of living in that era. Realpolitik requires a fence in Jerusalem, as well as in the rest of Israel.
However, along with adopting a belief in the need for a divider, each terror attack in Jerusalem buries further the possibility of peace with our Palestinian neighbors. Therein lies the tragedy. To build a fence and to protect our citizens will be tantamount to burying our dreams that the Middle East can be home to a beautiful future. Not to build a fence and expose ourselves to evil and cowardly acts buries our dreams, as well; yet we cannot live without our dreams. That is one of the most beautiful aspects of Israeli society. So, we continue to leave ourselves exposed, carry guns, and hope that the price of these dreams will not be too high.

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