Let us assume, for the sake of the argument, that UNESCO’s recent decision regarding the linkage between the Jewish people and the Western Wall in Jerusalem was wrong. Suppose for a moment, for the sake of the argument, that the response of the Israeli government is not just a spin to lick its constituents boots, to avoid answering the charges regarding the obligations of Israel as the occupying government and the non-compliance with these obligations, but rather a practical response to correct UNESCO’s mistake. It still does not justify the sanctification of stones over human beings. The sanctification of a mountain over human rights. Martyrdom over the sanctity of life.
The Western Wall is a symbol. The Western Wall is the western retaining wall, one of the four retaining walls built by Herod on the top of the mountain, to support and maintain the plaza on which the Temple once stood, and now the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque. The only entrance to the temple was an opening in the east, and then through the hall to the temple and from there to the Holy of Holies, in the west. Therefore the west wall of the Holy of Holies is the closest to the Divine Presence. And therefore the western retaining wall, which is closest to the western wall, is the closest remaining to the place of the Divine Presence. This may explain why religious Jews sanctify the western retaining wall, and make it the prime object of their prayers, but does not seem to make sense when it comes to those who do not believe. Those who do not believe in the existence of Godhead, can not believe in the sanctity of the wall, because they deny the existence of the Divine Presence.
Hence there supposed to be another reason for the sanctification of the Western Wall by so many, even those who are not religious. Even those who are secular. The reason is that the Zionist movement has always marched arm in arm with religion. The Zionist movement relied on religious symbols to explain the relationship between the people and the territory to which it led them. And there is no better symbol than the remains of a retaining wall of the mountain on which once stood the magnificent temple, to describe the relationship between Jews and the new country, to emphasize the historical continuity allegedly taking place with the return of the Jews from exile to the Land of Israel, to prove the property rights of the Jews over Jerusalem.
But symbols of state sovereignty can not just be flags or stones, as sacred as they may be. In the eyes of the Israeli Jewish the Wailing Wall stands alone on an empty mountain, on the edge of wilderness. That is why the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa were eliminated from Givatayim Municipality poster in January last, or why a group of police officers were practicing throwing stun grenades in the streets of Issawiya just two weeks ago. In the eyes of the Israeli-Jewish people, this is a case of real estate ownership rights blessed by the Divine Presence who never left the Western Wall. But the western retaining wall stands on the outskirts of the ancient city of Jerusalem, which is in the outskirts the East City of Jerusalem, which is an occupied territory inhabited by about 400 thousand Palestinians with residency rights on paper, but without a budget, without services, with every day abuse by the military, police and settlers and without any rights in practice. Israeli Jews do not see such things. They do not see the Palestinians because the Palestinians are not human. They see the Divine Presence. They see Godhead. They see a wall. They see a Mountain. They see stones.
… “Once I sat on the steps by agate at David’s Tower,
I placed my two heavy baskets at my side. A group of tourists
was standing around their guide and I became their target marker. “You see
that man with the baskets? Just right of his head there’s an arch
from the Roman period. Just right of his head.” “But he’s moving, he’s moving!”
I said to myself: redemption will come only if their guide tells them,
“You see that arch from the Roman period? It’s not important: but next to it,
left and down a bit, there sits a man who’s bought fruit and vegetables for his family.”…
(Tourists / Yehuda Amichai)
Yehuda Amichai presumably did not aim at the Palestinians necessarily, but rather to a person as a human being who lives in Jerusalem, and not in a symbol. But Israeli Jews see the man with the baskets, if at all, only if he is Jewish. The Israeli governments have done and are doing everything they can so they would not notice the occupation and the Palestinians who are groaning under the yoke. They ignore the existence and basic rights of the Palestinians and prefers to claim ownership of the property through symbols, stones, and the Divine Presence. So why do they complain if those symbols and sacred stones and the Divine Presence that they use as arguments stand trial now, and being questioned and tested. Why do they complain when UNESCO reiterates their duties as an occupier.