The World’s Most Pressing Problem Seems to be Hill E1
A lowly mountain connecting Jerusalem with its eastern suburb is all the world has time for. Sorry, Syrians, step back and wait your turn. The world is up in arms, as it so loves to be. What is it about now?
No, no – not Syria and the violence there. Not Afghanistan; certainly not Iran. They aren’t condemning Turkish television fining the Simpsons for mocking God; or a social club at Harvard University saying Jews need not apply. No, it isn’t about Hungary cataloguing Jews as they would cattle and certainly nothing about Iranian warships sailing towards Sudan.
It’s all about a mountain that sits between Maale Adumim and Jerusalem. Even left-wing papers in Israel mistakenly write that Israel is threatening to “bisect” the West Bank and the news is filled with country after country condemning Israel for damaging chances for peace.
Chances for peace? We were at war two weeks ago and nothing has changed since then. There are currently NO chances for peace on the table. In fact, there is no table.
No, no, no – what we have is a mountain – not a very tall one, lower than the ones next to three of its sides.
It is barren, but for a road that snakes its way up to a midpoint where a large police station has been built – barren, but for that building. No one lives there – no one has.
The land was once part of the Ottoman Empire – no village, no homes, no dwellings on it. Sheep and goats might sometimes have grazed on the lower areas of the hills, but that’s about it. When the Ottoman’s made way for the British, it was under their rule, and still nothing there but the camels and the sheep and the goats and, perhaps, an occasional ground hog.
In the 1920s, England cut off 2/3 of the land that was called Palestine and gave it to the Hashemites – and thus Jordan was born. The remaining 1/3 was ruled by the British until 1947, including that land that today we call E1.
In 1948, the Arabs chose war over peace, death over life. They attacked and lost – but they got some land that the Jews could not defend, and that included E1 – the barren land between Jerusalem’s eastern border and the west bank of the Jordan River.
And then, in 1967, it was clear that Egypt and Syria were preparing for war – Israel launched a pre-emptive strike and sent a message to the Jordanians. We have no quarrel with you; stay out of the fighting. We will not attack you. The Jordanians sent back their message in two ways – in words and action, the message was the same – we fight with our brothers…and so they did. They attacked – as they had in 1948 and the result was the same – they lost.
This time, E1 came into our hands. State-owned under the Turks; state-owned under the Jordanians, and now state-owned under Israel. Never the home of Palestinian Arabs; no villages there, no buildings but for the one we built a few years ago…and the ones we will now build.