Wednesday, May 19, 2004

37 years ago today, Jerusalem was reunited. Paratroopers stormed the Old City, the flag was raised at the Kottel and the famous call of "Har HaBayit BeYadenu" ("The Temple Mount is in our hands) was uttered. Today we celebrate Yom Yerushalayim with a parade through the city, parties in town and thousands of policemen on the streets.

I have spent all but one of my 8 years in Israel living in Jerusalem. When I first arrived, I took the time to get to know the city by wandering its different routes, leaving myself with plenty of time to get to wherever I needed to be. I continue to walk around a lot and when I decided to buy a property, spent a lot of time checking out different parts of the town before plumping for Bak'a. This is a city that I love and intend to stay in for the foreseeable future.

Jerusalem is a tourist trap. It has one of, if not the, highest concentration of holy sites for all religions, anywhere. For large numbers of Jewish youth around the world, a trip to Israel is almost a rite of passage with Jerusalem the highlight of such a trip. Wealthy Jews from around the world have second homes here, the focus of centuries of hopes and prayers.

But Jerusalem is dirty. Its downtown area has become a ghost town; a victim of the downturn in tourism, fear of terrorist attacks and high property costs. Industry has stayed away and young couples tend to turn their backs on high property prices, choosing cheaper alternatives instead. Year after year, Jerusalem shares the shame of being one of the two poorer cities in the country - and that's without the Arab population being taken into account.

With the Arab population lies my biggest gripe. For all the talk of a unified city, Jerusalem is anything but. There are two parts of the city, one of which I will wander round to my heart's content, the other of which I will not go near if I can possibly help it. I am a frequent visitor to the University on Mount Scopus which until 1967 was an enclave but that's about as far as it goes.

Jerusalem should be a special city to live in. I love the fact that I drive past the Old City on a daily basis, that I can wander down to the Kottel whenever I want to, that I don't have to feel false when singing "next year in Jerusalem" at the Seder. This city is full of disappointments however. It needs to be taken into hand, given a clean up, have the corruption removed and be made into a great place to live. As things stand right now - it has not lived up to its promise. Mayor Lupolianski has not delivered the goods just as Olmert didn't before him. Concerned citizens stand up and make your voices heard!


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