Haredim protest Intel Jerusalem
Photo: Gil Yohanan

Fighting for Jerusalem

As haredi riots persist, Israelis must decide if they want Third World capital

Jerusalem’s future is facing a crucial test these days. It has nothing to do with negotiations with the Palestinians (which are not being held at this time, although the end results have been determined a while ago.) Rather, the issue at hand is the fight for operating some of Intel’s production lines on Saturdays.


In respect to the unification of east and west Jerusalem, reality has spoken already. The merger has failed. Perhaps it had no chance to begin with, yet maybe it happened because of mistakes made in the 42 years that have passed since the capital was united.


One way or another, it’s clear to everyone that in a final-status agreement with the Palestinians, if and when one is finalized, control of east Jerusalem will be handed over to the Palestinians. To Ehud Barak’s credit, he was the first prime minister who openly recognized this. His successors likely realize as well that east Jerusalem will not remain a part of Israel, even if their public statements do not reflect this.


However, the western part of the city will remain in our hands, and the fight for Intel, just like the fight for opening municipal parking lots on Shabbat, will determine Jerusalem’s character for generations to come.


Intel can survive without a Jerusalem plant. This giant multinational company can one day take a decision to close the plant and move it to a new location – in the best-case scenario it would be in Israel; at worst, it would be in China, India, Singapore, or any other global site.


Jerusalem too can survive without Intel, yet it will be a meager and miserable survival. No foreign investor will risk their money in Israel’s capital should Intel decide this isn’t a worthy proposition. And anyone who puts his faith in Jewish investors should rethink this approach.


Jews are willing to visit Jerusalem, some of them hold a bar mitzvah ceremony for their sons at the Western Wall, and some are even willing to donate to various institutions. However, investment is a whole other matter. This is true for Israeli investors as well. Jerusalem is not the only town in Israel characterized as a high-priority area for development purposes.


Zealous religious beliefs

The threat of investments drying up makes no difference to the ultra-Orthodox. For them, all is well as long as the child allowances and government payments to yeshivas keep coming in.


The Jerusalem which the haredim see in their minds is the “City of God,” a town that ignores the reality around it. They have the right to think so and also to act in order to realize this ideal, as long as their actions are non-violent.


The question is whether the Israeli government and the overwhelming majority of Israel’s citizens are willing to allow the haredim to turn Jerusalem into a Third World capital. Thus far, regrettably, the answer appears to be positive.


The ultra-Orthodox are embarking on this battle while equipped with a lethal weapon – zealous religious beliefs. On the other end we see an indifferent and weak camp. Thus far at least it appears that both national and municipal authorities are seeking a compromise, which means capitulation.


There is no doubt that an Israeli citizen must not be forced to work on Shabbat. Yet as far as we know, Intel did no such thing. However, such company has development and manufacturing processes that must be managed seven days a week, 24 hours a day – around the clock, every day of the week. Moreover, there are always employees who are willing to work on Shabbat, either because its convenient for them or because they get paid more.


The same is true for opening parking lots on Shabbat. Nobody forces the haredim to drive on Shabbat. In fact, their neighborhoods are closed off on Saturdays. Yet Jerusalem’s haredim do not make do with that. They wish to turn the capital into another Bnei Brak, one of the poorest and least developed towns in Israel. Should they not encounter a firm government, they will succeed in their mission.


פרסום ראשון: 11.18.09, 00:25
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