I am reminded by a major article in the May 10 issue of the New York Times, “Parks Fortify Israel’s Claim to Jerusalem,” of the recent visit to Meretz USA of an inspiring pair of activists. Yudith Oppenheimer and Sarah Kreimer are the executive director and associate director respectively of Ir Amim – “city of nations”– an Israeli NGO dedicated to peaceful coexistence among Jews and Arabs in the city of Jerusalem. This is the organization that sponsors the legal work and public relations efforts of Daniel Seidemann, an attorney dedicated to the vision of a peaceful and tolerant Jerusalem, who has met with Meretz USA’s Israel Symposium on more than one occasion.
Oppenheimer and Kreimer reported upon their activities of providing tours and otherwise informing people about the ‘facts on the ground’ in Jerusalem, and especially in East Jerusalem. They are dedicated to human rights and exemplars of progressive Zionism.
The challenges they discussed include: the inability of Arab residents of East Jerusalem to obtain permits to legally build housing for their expanding population, the demolition of “illegal” construction, the aggressive settlement of Arab neighborhoods by ultra-religious or right-wing nationalist Jews, and the municipality’s neglect of public services within East Jerusalem. There is also conflict and discord promoted by the construction of new Jewish neighborhoods and West Bank settlements that physically isolate Arab neighborhoods – including via the security/ separation barrier (which is mainly a wall rather than a fence in the Jerusalem area) – such as plans to build up the E-1 corridor to Maaleh Adumim. Further information can be obtained at their Web site: http://www.ir-amim.org.il/Eng/.