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What was the status of Jerusalem between the War of Independence, and the Six Day War?
When given "
as the general topic for this project, I felt a sense of connection because Jerusalem is the city in which I was
and raised; a city I was raised to love and never take for granted. When I think of the years between 1938-1967, I find it hard to imagine that Jerusalem was divided, and its holiest places were inaccessible to Jews. I chose my topic of
The Divided Jerusalem
to express my appreciation for the daily miracle of living in Jerusalem as a unified city.
How did Jerusalem Become a Divided City?
Jerusalem has been the heart of the Jewish nation for thousands of years. Many battles and wars have been fought over this holy place. Over the centuries, many nations ruled over Jerusalem but for nineteen years, two countries were forced to share the divided city.
On November 27th, 1947 the United Nations decided to partition Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. The Arabs disagreed with the new borders, and began rioting. The fighting continued and intensified after the declaration of the Jewish State on May 14th, 1948. The battles around Jerusalem were especially fierce. The well trained and well equipped Arab Legion fought against the disorganized, unprepared and poorly armed Jewish Soldiers.
The city of Jerusalem was besieged by the Arab forces. There was widespread hunger and thirst and minimal fuel. The city was under artillery bombardment twenty four hours a day. A feeling of desperation took over the city.
The leaders of the
made a decision to concentrate larger forces to defend the capital city. There were many battles within the city, especially in the Old city.
On May 17th, 1948, three Israeli forces worked together to break into Jewish Quarter and supply to the citizens of The Old City with ammunition, and medical supplies. The
an Israeli battle force, captured Mount Zion, and after few hours of struggle the Jordanians won it back, the Jewish Quarter fell, and Jerusalem remained divided.
On November 30th, 1948, Lt. Col Moshe Dayan, and Lt. Col Abdullah Tal decided upon the border in Jerusalem. Both sides thought this agreement would only be temporary. Israel hoped it would lead to a peace treaty and permanent borders, while Abdullah Tal was certain he would be conquering all of Jewish Jerusalem very shortly.
From this day until 1967, Jerusalem became a divided city. The temporary map, which had not been drawn with great care, became the basis of the armistice between Israel and Jordan for 19 years.
What was Life Like in The Divided City?
In 1949, after prolonged fighting, a cease-fire came into effect in the city of Jerusalem. However, it was an uneasy cease-fire, which left the city divided into two. From 1949 till 1967 the two sectors of Jerusalem were cut off from one another by barbed wire and minefields, with essentially no contact between them. Jerusalem, now the capital of the newly founded state of Israel, became a border town connected to the rest of the country by a long narrow road.
In December 1949, Jerusalem began to develop. Suburbs were built to house refugees, the
was completed, a new Hadassah Hospital was erected, and a new Hebrew University campus was built. Although Jerusalem did grow rapidly, it was surrounded on three sides by enemy territory, and therefore could only expand to the west. There was little space suitable for industry vital for a city this size.
The division of Jerusalem had its physical aspects as well. Along the dividing line an ugly concrete wall was built. In addition, there were extensive no-man’s land areas crisscrossed with barbed wire and landmines.
The arbitrary drawing of the borderline sometimes cut houses in half, and whole buildings were classified as no-man’s land. Many stories and incidents occurred as a result of this unnatural division of the city. No passage was allowed between both sides, only diplomatic and church personnel could cross the lines freely, and non-Jewish tourists were allowed to cross from east to west. All such traffic was funneled through the Mandelbaum Gate. Jews were denied access to the Western Wall, and the Israeli Moslems could not visit their holy shrines in the Old City.
The capital of Israel was like no other in the world. All its government institutions, the
, presidential residence and state offices were in range of enemy guns. Moreover, the cease-fire was not strictly observed, and sniper fire was not uncommon.
For nineteen years Jerusalem existed as a divided city with a wall cutting through its heart. Throughout these years the city suffered through hardships, both physical and spiritual. Despite the many obstacles, the city managed to grow and develop.
How did Jerusalem Become Unified Again?
One of the most significant results of the Six Day War in 1967 was the reunification of Jerusalem. For the Jews, access was restored to the Western Wall, and the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. Moslems and Christians were allowed free access to their shrines, and holy places.
Shortly after the war, the walls, fences and barbed wire were dismantled and the city became one again. For nineteen years, the border was maintained to protect the inhabitants of Jewish Jerusalem, and in a matter of days the engineers eagerly destroyed it. Traffic began to flow in both directions across the former borderline.
The reunification of Jerusalem restored the city to its natural position as the focal point of the country. There has been a rapid growth of the population as well as a tremendous expansion in the size of the city. Many new neighborhoods have been built, industry has expanded and cultural institutions have been developed.
The Jewish Quarter of the Old City, which had been virtually destroyed under Jordanian rule, was restored and repopulated. Mount Scopus was no longer an isolated enclave, and the Hebrew University campus, and the Hadassah Hospital were rebuilt and expanded.
For the Jews, this was a time like no other. The access to the Western Wall gave them not only religious faith and hope but it also strengthened their belief in their country. The State of Israel’s capital was finally liberated, and Jerusalem seemed to have finally inherited its Biblical legacy.
The Meaning of Living in The Jewish State
The meaning of The Jewish State is different for every Jew living here today. For some, it's about the nation of Israel, the People who live here and inhabit their beloved country. For others it's about the Land itself, the ground they walk on, the great importance of every single inch of it. Yet for many, it's about the Biblical Legacy that's been handed down from father to son and mother to daughter ever since the promise to our forefathers that the Jewish Nation will settle in Israel.
For me, I believe it's the combination of all three, my Bible, my People and my Land, but especially the ability to have them all. As a Jew I have a special place in my heart for Israel, and I feel lucky every single day to wake up in this Land, this Country that's mine. To know that thousands of people sacrificed all they had so that they could live here and be a part of this, this Land and this State.
If ever I forget the importance of this holy place, I think of all the people who died and gave up their lives so I could be here. It can be a lot of weight to carry with you everyday but it's tremendously important never to take The Jewish State of Israel for granted.
Because this land is so precious and special, living here is never easy. Through the ages there've been many empires that have tried and either failed or succeeded in conquering Jerusalem. But through it all, we're still here fighting for our Land. No matter what happens the Jewish nation will never forget that their roots began here in the Promised Land.
The Liberation of Jerusalem- The Battle of 1967 by General Uzi Narkiss. Published in 1983.
The Battle for Jerusalem- June 5-7, 1967 by Abraham Rabinovich. Published in 1972.
Cartas Historical Atlas of Jerusalem by Dan Bahat. Published in 1976.
Six Days of War- June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East. By Michael B. Oren. Published in 2002.
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