Not the Mother of All Cities: a Feminist Perspective of Jerusalem
It has been called mother, sister, daughter. Beloved of youth, divorcee, and widow. Bereaved mother and violated virgin. Even prostitute. It has been wrapped in male fantasy, as high as the hills around it. A woman for all seasons, every possible emotional need: for softness, security and calm; the need to adorn, to conquer, to overpower. And most of all the need to be her master.
Thus the relationship to Jerusalem was built in the image of patriarchal marriage. Its lovers wanted to be her "husbands," and according to the sociological pattern they knew, her only husbands, each and every one in his own turn. The bond with the city adopted many of the emotions which are part of the institution of patriarchal wedlock, especially in this part of the world: anxiety with regard to feminine modesty and honor, which is also the honor of the male masters; and most of all, sole recourse to "her" beauty and charms.
It is only natural that each one in his turn was filled with passion to fon¬dle the roundness of the bulging hills and to adorn them with pearls of stone and brick, to seal his one and only covenant with the bride; or to enter the cleavage of winding wadis, to leave there the signs of their vital¬ity and virility.
Today the blood relationship between mother and daughters is employed in the discourse to justify the annexation of areas which have never before been included in Jerusalem's municipal boundaries, to make them part of kinship intimacy. Soon all the country will literally be "Eretz-Zion-vi¬-Yerushalaim" (the land of Zion and Jerusalem), as it is written in the Israeli national anthem. These words preserve an association from the Diaspora, where Jews associated the whole country with the Holy City.
Women of flesh and blood also deserve to be loved with less posses¬siveness and more equality. However, Jerusalem is not a woman. It is a city with a long, long history, in which many peoples have lived and many cultures have teemed. So developed the special character of the city. Whoever is in charge of it should see her/himself as small enough in the perspective of the continuum of the city's history, instead of projecting his (or rarely, her) megalomanic dreams striving for eternity.
Jerusalem is my home. I love it and ache for its dead and its living inhabitants. Neither the love nor the pain excludes the similar feelings of anybody else. Nothing in me wishes my kind of relationship to the city to be the only possible emotional option. There is room here for many loves. There is no room here for coveting, dispossessing and hatred.
Maybe most important is recognition that the population of Jerusalem has real, concrete needs to be taken care of: schools, parking lots, respect¬ful neighbors, freedom to live with all one's family members, the right to express one's cultural, religious, ethnic or national identity.
I don't expect poets to stop dreaming of Jerusalem as mother, sister and beloved. May they never again mourn for "her" as widow or bereaved mother. But we have today the ability and the obligation to see through the imaginary veils of male fantasies in which Jerusalem has been wrapped for ages, to grant to this unique and beloved city sensibilities of a higher order of open-mindedness, less blinded by frustrated emotional needs, which can perhaps be better filled in the company of real men and women: mothers, sisters, lovers and daughters.
Myself, I pray for the peace of Jerusalem, undivided city, two capitals for two states of two nations.