As we mark 44 years of a reunited Jerusalem this week, we should appreciate the centrality of Jerusalem to Jewish identity.In other news, the State Department announced that America will not be associated with the upcoming Durban conference in September.
This is why most Israelis and American Jews consistently reject the idea that Israel surrender swaths of the holy city as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians.
Jerusalem has been a touchstone of our identity throughout our history, and our contemporary experience gives Jerusalem a central place in our faith today.
From the religious perspective, when Jews pray, we face toward Jerusalem -- and the Temple Mount in particular -- no matter where we are in the world. We pray each day for the welfare of Jerusalem, and we conclude our most sacred services, the Passover seder and Neilah on Yom Kippur, with the pledge and prayer, “Next year in Jerusalem.”
Historically, we regularly read biblical accounts of our forefathers and mothers that take place in and around Jerusalem. King David made the city his capital 3,000 years ago, and it has been the national capital of the Jewish people -- and no other nation -- ever since.
Only brute force has kept us out. Such was the case, we must still recall, from 1948 to 1967, when Jews were barred entry to the Old City and denied worship at the Western Wall during the time that the West Bank was controlled by Jordan.
Since Jerusalem’s reunification in 1967, the city has been open to all. As noted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his recent address to Congress, “Only a democratic Israel has protected freedom of worship for all faiths."
Moreover, reunification has enabled Jerusalem to flourish economically and culturally. While it is a poorer city than Tel Aviv, Jerusalem has a vibrant tourist trade, entrepreneurial businesses and first-rate theater and museums.
In a letter to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Joseph Macmanus, acting assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, confirmed that the United States would not attend the conference, which in its previous iterations has been a forum for anti-Semitism and anti-Israel rhetoric. JTA obtained a copy of the letter.David Shasha looks at both Paul Simon and Bob Dylan in The Forward as both legendary musicians turn 70 this year. I'm a fan of both. That goes without saying, of course.
In November, the United States voted against a U.N. resolution to establish the conference. The following month, Gillibrand led a coalition of 18 senators in signing a letter to the American ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, urging the U.S. not to participate in the conference, scheduled for Sept. 21 in New York.
The Durban III conference is meant to mark the 10-year anniversary of the U.N.'s World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, during which the delegations from the United States and Israel walked out in protest as the tenor turned increasingly anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.
In a recent interview in Rolling Stone magazine Paul Simon remarked that he was miffed by comparisons between him and Bob Dylan:
“He’s telling you the truth and making fun of you at the same time. I sound sincere every time. Rock and roll has a lot to do with image. If that’s not your strength, people find fault with the work.”
This short quotation gets to the crux of a perennial battle between two titans of American music. Dylan remains the central figure among serious rock intellectuals. His sometimes impenetrable and always cryptic work is seen as having a heft and cultural cachet often denied to Simon, whose songs communicate directly to the listener. But, while Dylan seems to scoff at confession and musicology, Simon has worn his heart on his sleeve and taken seriously his musical craft.
In the issue of Rolling Stone dedicated to Dylan’s 70th birthday, a list of his 70 greatest songs is presented, with his signature song, “Like a Rolling Stone,” leading the parade. The difference between Dylan’s most praised songs and those of Simon rests in the profoundly divergent approaches each deploys in dealing with the human condition. Dylan mythologizes, goes meta-critical, while Simon — even in his new CD, “So Beautiful or So What” — makes everything personal and anecdotal. For Simon, “I” refers to Paul Simon the songwriter or similar personae; for Dylan “I,” where it appears, refers to the spirit of the time.[...]
Simon is a quintessential New York Jew whose compassionate humanity is the very core of his being. While Simon’s simplicity and pathos are often dismissed, his liberal humanism has aged extremely well by comparison with the values of other artists. Dylan, for example, has continued into self-mythology or, with his recent Christmas album, self-parody.
Dylan and Simon are both transcendent cultural figures, but earnest Simon has not allowed himself to lose his empathy. Both are compelling writers who entertain as they teach. They are the last two of this generation of songwriters and we should not take them for granted. Bob Dylan is a man on a never-ending mission. Paul Simon is a man bent on achieving redemption and on sharing with audiences his personal struggles to illuminate profound questions of life and living.