It is now 43 years since Muriel Spark wrote The Mandelbaum Gate, a novel of love and intrigue suffused with politics. I wonder how many people can now locate the gate in situ. Actually, it is today a little museum commemorating the the squalid place where designated people crossed from one side of divided Jerusalem to the other, between Israel and Jordanian-occupied Palestine. Some people are reminded of the Mandelbaum gate whenever anyone speaks of dividing the city. But Mandelbaum is finished, and anything like Mandelbaum.
I thought of all this reading about yesterday's second terrorist attack by bulldozer and the third terrorist incident in Jerusalem in about four months. A report by Avi Issacharoff in Ha'aretz this morning LINK points out that that three perpetrators -- two by bulldozer and the other being the massacre of eight students at Yeshivat Mercaz Harav -- lived within a stone's throw of each other: one from Umm Touba, another from Sur Baher, and the yeshiva killer from Jabal Mukkaber. They are all villages, sections of Jerusalem and adjacent to the post-1967 Jewish neighborhood of Talpiot Mizrach, itself abutting the headquarters of the United Nations at the aptly named Hill of Evil Counsel.
Yesterday's terror happened in an area I know very well: just down the street from the King David Hotel and the YMCA and right close to the Liberty Bell Garden where Jewish and Arab youngsters mix routinely at play. The attack occurred just before the arrival of Barack Obama...yes, at the King David.
The first response came from the benighted but not quite ultra-orthodox mayor of Jerusalem, Uri Lupolianski. Arriving at the scene moments after the bloody incident, he commented to Israel's Channel 10 that, "We should consider the employment of these people." This is a toxic threat that might focus the minds of Jerusalem's Arabs. But even this soulblinded city administrator must realize that he can't exclude one designated group in the population from work -- unless, that is, he wanted to prove Jimmy Carter right.
The fact is that a "solution" to the problem of Jerusalem is far off, very far off, indeed. And the reason is that a solution to the problem of Palestine is also far off, not least because the Palestinians themselves have not come to the realization that their country -- when and if it ever becomes a real polity -- will be small and poor and disarmed. It is their intrinsic circumstance because they were deluged and deluded for many decades by the mirage of conquest over Israel. Once they understand and accept this they might be able to put their minds and bodies to the task of making a state. Otherwise, they will live far into the future in intoxicating and self-defeating prologue. Being the most contentious symbolic issue for both Israelis and Palestinians, Jerusalem will have to wait till the end of a long process that has barely begun.
But let's look into the future, tentatively and also by force of political pressure. Among many Israelis and also among Zionists -- which I count myself -- there are many who believe that Jerusalem will need some sorting out. Umm Touba, Sur Baher, Jabal Mukkaber and Abu Dis besides: let them and dozens of other jurisdictions belong to Palestine, when there is a Palestine. They are not of the Jewish nation but think themselves of the Palestinian nation. So be it. But they can't be Israelis and Palestinians at once.
The demographic argument for two independent states -- Israel and Palestine -- extends to the Jerusalem region, as well. That is why I favor the ultimate "restoration" to future Palestine of Umm al Fahm and other Arab towns abutting the West Bank. The rub is that their proto-Palestinian population might just want to remain Israelis.
The same situation obtains in Jerusalem. Yes, the Arabs of Jerusalem are mostly Palestinian nationalists -- some are actually Jordanian nationalists -- but they want the rights and the benefits that go with citizenship in Israel, without the citizenship and the responsibilities.
So, yes, Jerusalem is the united and eternal capital of Israel, whatever that means. But parts of Jerusalem will -- I hope, before the end of days -- be in Palestine. Inshallah. Baruch Ha'shem.