April 25, 2010 by Tamar Sternthal
Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi of Jerusalem, an academic affiliated with the Hebrew University, penned a lengthy letter, published in the April 21 edition of the International Herald Tribune, indignantly condemning author and Nobel Prize Peace winner Elie Wiesel for his full-page ad “For Jerusalem” which appeared in that newspaper and elsewhere. In her letter, she poses a challenge to the celebrated author, and in doing so exposes herself as entirely ignorant of what she possessively calls “Jerusalem, my city,” and its inhabitants.
Professing to speak for “real people who want to live together in peace,” DeKoven Ezrahi disparages “Mr. Wiesel’s sentimental claim over all of Jerusalem on behalf of some misty-eyed notion of three thousand years of Jewish ‘belonging.'” Pointing out that Mr. Wiesel does not live in Jerusalem (and is thus presumably unqualified to comment on the capital), she rebukes him:
After representing to eloquently the victims of history’s injustices in Nazi and then Soviet Europe, Mr. Wiesel would surely, we assumed, turn to the injustices perpetrated by his own people, and cry out against the tragic occupation and dispossession of the Palestinian people.
And then comes DeKoven Ezrahi’s defiant challenge (which was proudly reproduced by her husband Bernard Avishai on his blog):
Instead, Mr. Wiesel tells us, with no evidence on the ground, that “Jews, Christians and Muslims are allowed to build their homes anywhere in the city.” I defy Mr. Wiesel to find three Muslim families in all of West Jerusalem.
In fact, it doesn’t take a Jerusalem scholar, or even a Jerusalem resident, to track down Muslims living in Jewish neighborhoods of western Jerusalem. It took this CAMERA researcher, who, unlike DeKoven Ezrahi, neither lives nor works in Jerusalem but lives some 30 kilometers away, only minutes to track down the names of multiple Muslim families living in neighborhoods like Talbieh, Arnona, Ein Kerem, Kiryat Yovel, Kiryat Moshe, Ramat Denia and Katamon. These names were passed along to Serge Schmemann, the editor of the editorial page of the International Herald Tribune, but will not be published here out of respect for the residents’ privacy.
According to the Jerusalem Yearbook published by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Affairs, 3,576 Muslims were living in western Jerusalem as of 2007 (Table III/11). Among them is Sayed Kashua, a prominent Israeli Arab journalist who writes for Ha’aretz, which is printed alongside the International Herald Tribune in Israel. Kashua has not hidden his move to an apartment in a Jewish neighborhood in western Jerusalem, and has even written about it in a number of his columns (for example here and here.) (CAMERA knows which neighborhood he lives in and has passed along this information to Schmemann; but since Mr. Kashua has not published that detail, neither shall we.)
A randomly selected page of the Jerusalem phone book turns up names of Muslim residents residing in Jewish neighborhoods of western Jerusalem. The page reproduced here, for example, contains three rows of listings with the Muslim name of Elian, 14 of which describe residents on streets in Jewish neighborhoods of western Jerusalem. Their first names, addresses and phone numbers have been blacked out in the image below to protect their privacy.
One of the Elians on this page lives a mere 10-minute walk away from one Sidra Ezrahi listed as living in the same neighborhood. Ms. DeKoven Ezrahi professes to speak on behalf of “the real people who want to live together in peace,” but in doing so she completely erases the existence of thousands of Muslims, including her very own neighbors, who are genuinely doing just that â€” peacefully coexisting with their Jewish neighbors in western Jerusalem. While she refers to a fictional fruit and vegetable shopper described in a poem by Yehuda Amichai, she fails to see the real flesh and blood Muslims living in her neighborhood and those nearby. Yet it is she who accuses Mr. Wiesel of preferring “mythical references to history and eschatology to the real people who want to live together in peace.”
Ms. DeKoven Ezrahi owes Mr. Wiesel, her Muslim neighbors, and all of the thousands of Muslim residents of western Jerusalem â€” real people who want to live together in peace â€” an apology, and the International Herald Tribune owes its readers a clarification.