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August 28, 2009

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 28, 2009 PAGE 15A e over By Dina Kraft JERUSALEM (JTA)--Deep in a valley below Jerusalem's Old City, a narrow alleyway leads to the remains of three bulldozed Arab homes in an area slated to become an archeological park. The homes, now just slabs of collapsed con- crete, are in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. Despite interna- tional protests, including from the U.S. secretary of state, the remaining 85 or so houses there, which were built without permits, are to be demolished to make room for a park the city hopes will be a major draw for tourists. The dispute over the area, together with recent evic- tions in the Arab neighbor- hood of Sheikh Jarrah, are the most recent markers in the battle over Jerusalem. Israel seeks to cement its control over the city in part by altering the demographic character of its eastern, Arab neighborhoods. "Our sovereignty over it cannot be challenged," Is- raeli Prime Minister Ben- jamin Netanyahu told his Cabinet in July, in com- ments aimed at rebuffing U.S. criticism over plans for turning a hotel in Sheikh Jarrah into a Jewish hous- ing project. "This means, inter alia, that residents of Jerusalem may purchase apartments in all parts of the city." Critics claim the govern- ment is purposefully boost- ing the Jewish presence in traditionally Arab eastern Jerusalem, creating "facts on the ground" in order to make it difficult to ever divide Jerusalem as part of a two-state solution to re- solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians demand eastern Jerusalem as part of a future Palestin- ian state. But the Israeli govern- ment insists that a series of development plans for the city's eastern part are not driven by a political agenda. The plans, in an area in and around the Old City called the Holy Basin because it is dotted with holy sites, call for more green space, better parking and repaved roads. Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah are both in that area. "Government policy is governed by one overriding principle: that it is impor- tant to continue developing the city for benefit of all inhabitants of Jerusalem," Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev told JTA. "The posi- tion is that Jerusalem will remain a united capital and the government wants to see all its communities flourish." Maher Hanoun sees things differently. He was evicted from his home in early August after the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the land on which it was built belonged to Jews,.ac- cording to documentation dating back to the Otto- man era. Hanoun's family, refugees from the fighting in Israel's War of Independence in 1948, lived in a house built there by the United Nations in the 1950s, when the land was under Jordanian rule. Now homeless, Hanoun and his family have opted to stay on the sidewalk across from their old house, sleeping on mattresses and passing their days under the shade of a small olive tree. "They want to destroy our homes and build apartments for settlers," Hanoun said. The house's new residents are Jewish. An armed guard watches the front gate, which is locked. A small Israeli fl~g flaps in the wind from the rooftop. Across an adjacent valley, more Israeli flags are visible on other homes. Israel captured eastern Jerusalem, along with the entire area known as the West Bank, in 1967 dur- ing the Six-Day War. When Israel later annexed eastern Jerusalem, the state offered Israeli citizenship to Arabs living there. Most refused, instead becoming perma- nent residents of the city with some of the same rights as Israelis, including Social Security payments. The Jerusalem municipal- ity says all eviction orders in Jerusalem are lawful, and that the law is appl~'ed to both Arab and Jew. But critics say evictions and demolitions are pursued aggressively in Arab parts of the city and only rarely in Jewish parts of the city, and that Arab Jerusalemites are forced to build illegally because their requests for building permits are regu- larly rejected. "This is a proxy war carried out by the govern- ment of Israel by means of agents: the extreme right-wing groups active in east Jerusalem," said Daniel Seidemann, founder of Ir Amim, an Israeli or- ganization that advocates Dina Kraft An illegally built house that was demolished recently in Silwan, an Arab neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem, is one of 88 slated for destrucl~ion to make way for an archeological garden. the equitable sharing of Jerusalem between Jews and Arabs. "Virtually every government organ from the Prime Minister's Office on down is involved and the goal is, No. 1, territorial. This is a conscious effort to ring the historic basin with messianic settlements." The city rejects such charges. "The mayor and the mu- nicipality apply the law equally," Stephen Miller, a spokesman for Jerusalem Mayor Nit Barkat, said of demolition orders. "Anyone is free to build, expand and live as they desire as long as they follow the law." American Jews are among the main supporters of increasing the Jewish pres- ence in eastern Jerusalem, donating $25.4 million over the past five years to purchase and build homes there, according IRS fil- ings reported by Bloomberg News. The City of David Foun- dation, which in recent years built an elaborate visitor's center in Silwan where King David is be- lieved to have laid the foundations for Jerusa- lem, is one of the Jewish groups involved in buying Arab homes in eastern Jerusalem. Known by its acronym, Elad, the group has helped settle 500 Jew- ish Israelis in those homes beginning in the 1990s. "The City of David is not only a museum, in the sense that one feels the past; it is also the expression that the Jewish people have returned to their land," Doron Spiel- man, director of the foun- dation's overseas division. wrote in an e-mail to JTA. "One of our goals is to enable a thriving Jewish community to exist in the ancient City of David along- side our Arab neighbors," he said. "The desire of Jews to buy land and live in the area is so high, and their Arab neighbors are at times willing to take advantage of the opportunity and purchase homes in another area of Jerusalem or outside the city." The following is taken from a press release issued by the Orthodox group Agudath Israel: WASHINGTON, D.C.-- Lauding the idea of universal health coverage but warning about the challenges that health care reform may pose in the realm of religious rights, Agudath Israel of America's Washington Office director andcounsel, Rabbi Abba Cohen, laid out his or- ganization's perspective in a letter addressed to President Beginning in September, the Orthodox Union's Depart- ment of Community Services will offer "Online Classes in Basic Living Judaism," a free, comprehensive course in the fundamentals of Judaism and contemporary issues. Those who wish~to register for the course should do so at www., currently under construction and ex- pected to be functional soon. Each interactive class will be taught by an individual rabbi from an OU-member synagogue; the list of rabbis is currently being assembled and will be available before the classes begin. The online classes will supplement other Barack Obama, and copied to Congressional leaders and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The letter calls "universal coverage" a"worthy goal" and the fact that tens of millions of Americans reportedly have no health coverage "unac- ceptable." At the same time, it expresses concern that the cost-cutting measures designed to achieve univer- sal coverage could result in diminished medical options for patients, and might un- dermine the centrality of the popular programs offered by the department, such as "Posi- tive Jewish Marriages"; "Posi- tive Jewish Parenting"; "When Serious Illness Strikes"; and "Take Five for Torah." Frank Buchweitz, national director of the Department of Community Services and Special Projects, said, "The new 'Online Classes in Basic Living Judaism' come at the request of many individuals in communities across the United States who are seeking more information on basic Jewish values and traditions."" The course will be con- ducted like a semester in col- lege, beginfiing in September and concluding in December, patient-doctor relationship. Those concerns, accord- ing to Agudath Israel, must be considered in light of the fact that, for Orthodox Jews and millions of Americans of all faiths, "the preservation of life and the promotion of good health and well-being are religious imperatives." This insight, writes Rabbi Co- hen, "adds an important new dimension to the debate over health care policy" a debate that has taken center stage in the public arenaas legislation seeking to overhaul health though there will be none of the usual finals and term papers found in most college courses. However, partici- pants will receive a certificate of completion upon finishing the program. Each month outstand- ing presenters will address specific topics within the monthly theme. September's subject will. be "The High Holidays: What Does It All Mean...Is tt More Than Apples and Honey?" To register, visit oucom- or contact Frank Buchweitz at 212- 613-8188or care in the United States is being considered by Congress. The issue of religious rights, Rabbi Cohen writes, certainly bears on patient treatment.' Agudath Israel is concerned that appropriate health care may not be provided in circum- stances where "cost-benefit" analyses or judgments about "quality of life" may cause treatment to be denied; and asserts that treatment of the infirm must take into account patients' religious convictions. Furthermore, the religious rights of health-care providers and private sector employers mustalso be respected, writes Rabbi Cohen. When medical personnel, for instance, are "called upon to perform medi- cal procedures they consider religiously or morally objec- tionable" or "employers are told to provide coverage for such procedures," Agudath Israel asserts, their rights should be safeguarded. Rabbi David Zwiebel, Agu- dath Israel's executive vice president, noted the "unique" contribution the organiza- tion's letter makes to the ongoing national debate. "Discussion of the religious dimension of health care has been largely absent from the national dialogue," he says. "In reality, matters of life and death cannot be measured solely in dollars and cents; they no less need to be. con- sidered through the prism of religion and morality." There's a difference in our service You'll see it in your yard II :, Maurice Lawn Care Maintenance. Landscaping. Irrigation i1 407.462.3027 1 :7 4 1 7 "t