Letter from Jerusalem

The Obama Administration is threatening Jerusalem.

Oh yes, I know that they have phrased their demands as a ‘request’, but that’s US State Department double-speak for ‘ultimatum’. And, when they couched their ultimatum in terms of a “return to pre-1967 borders with agreed swaps”, please remember that the Palestinians are on record as vowing to never ‘swap’ ANYTHING for Jerusalem. Not one inch.

So, let’s dispense with the ‘double-speak’ and say it like it is: The Obama Administration has issued a 30 day ultimatum to Israel, demanding that she agree to give up Jerusalem, or else. My friends, that means…

It really is all about Jerusalem.

And, since it is all about Jerusalem, I find it appropriate to offer a copy of a letter that was published in 1969 in the now-defunct Times of Israel. A friend of mine dropped this in my inbox, and it impressed me enough to republish it here.

But, I can’t do that until I shed some light on a little controversy about who wrote the letter, and it centers around two people: Stanley and Eliezer.

Stanley’s last name was Goldfoot and was the South African founder of the aforementioned Times of Israel. And, it appears that Eliezer ben Yisrael was his pen name. Here’s an introduction to the letter I found on the ICJS website:

On November 24, 2006, at the age of 92, a man named Stanley Goldfoot passed away.  He is remembered by family and friends for his love for and devotion to Israel and the Jewish people.

Stanley Goldfoot was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. Subsequent to his hearing a speech about the Zionist vision by Ze’ev Jabotinsky, he headed for Palestine where, at the age of 18, he joined a HaShomer HaTzair kibbutz.

After the rebirth of the Jewish State of Israel his main goal, which he eventually realized, was to establish a Zionist English newspaper, “The Times of Israel.”

In the first issue of “The Times of Israel”, Stanley Goldfoot wrote his famous controversial “Letter to the World from Jerusalem”, which caused quite a stir. The article is still relevant and, in his  memory, I am sharing it with you.

from the introduction to “Letter to the World”

However, the syntax of the letter isn’t South African. It’s American, which leads me to believe that the author really is Eliezer Whartman, who might also have published the letter under the pen name Eliezer ben Yisrael. Here’s a bit of a description of the guy:

Eliezer Whartman is a veteran Jerusalem-based journalist. His son Moshe was killed in 1975 while leading a patrol in south Lebanon to interdict terrorists seeking to enter Israel. His  “Letter To The World  From Jerusalem” originally appeared in the August 1969 edition of The Times of Israel.

You can hear an interview with him, on www.israelseen.com. Here’s some text from the interview page:

“My first glimpse of Jerusalem was in October 1947. I was a young student from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York coming to what I thought would be a one year period of study at the Hebrew University. Since then I have never looked back. After Jerusalem there is no where else to go.” Then I joined the Hagana.

Listen to the podcast where IsraelSeen interviews him. What a great snapshot of Israeli history. When I heard him recount Motti Gur’s “HaHar haBayt b’Yadeinu” (The Temple Mount is in our hands), I felt a thrill go up my spine. If you can’t find the podcast, it should also be here:

IsraelSeen.com Interview with Eliezer Whartman

In a feeble attempt to unravel the controversy, here’s my theory. In 1969, Stanley Goldfoot starts a publication called The Times of Israel which directly competes with The Jerusalem Post. Eliezer Whartman was a volunteer writer for The Jerusalem Post and in something of a difficult position. Eliezer couldn’t get the Jerusalem Post to publish his “Letter to the World”, so he asked Stanley Goldfoot to do it. (Or, maybe Stanley asked Eliezer?) Anyway, Stanley agrees to publish the letter in the inaugural issue of The Times of Israel, under the pen name Eliezer ben Yisrael. To cover for the real author, Stanley says that he did it, when maybe he didn’t. (Or, maybe he really did write it?)

Or, maybe they collaborated on it.

Whoever wrote the piece, it’s an interesting story, eh?

Oh, and special note: This ‘open letter’ was written to anti-zionist Christians – of which, there are still far too many.

Okay, without further ado…

A Letter to the World from Jerusalem

I am not a creature from another planet, as you seem to believe. I am a Jerusalemite – like yourselves, a man of flesh and blood. I am a citizen of my city, an integral part of my people. I have a few things to get off my chest. Because I am not a diplomat, I do not have to mince words. I do not have to please you, or even persuade you. I owe you nothing. You did not build this city; you did not live in it; you did not defend it when they came to destroy it. And we will be damned if we will let you take it away.

There was a Jerusalem before there was a New York. When Berlin, Moscow, London, and Paris were miasmal forest and swamp, there was a thriving Jewish community here. It gave something to the world which you nations have rejected ever since you established yourselves – a humane moral code.

Here the prophets walked, their words flashing like forked lightning. Here a people who wanted nothing more than to be left alone, fought off waves of heathen would-be conquerors, bled and died on the battlements, hurled themselves into the flames of their burning Temple rather than surrender, and when finally over-whelmed by sheer numbers and led away into captivity, swore that before they forgot Jerusalem, they would see their tongues cleave to their palates, their right arms wither.

For two pain-filled millennia, while we were your unwelcome guests, we prayed daily to return to this city. Three times a day we petitioned the Almighty: “Gather us from the four comers of the world, bring us upright to our land; return in mercy to Jerusalem, Thy city, and dwell in it as Thou promised.” on every Yom Kippur and Passover, we fervently voice the hope that next year would find us in Jerusalem.

Your inquisitions, pogroms, expulsions, the ghettos into which you jammed us, your forced baptisms, your quota systems, your genteel anti-Semitism, and the final unspeakable horror, the Holocaust (and worse, your terrifying disinterest in it) – all these have not broken us. They may have sapped what little moral strength you still possessed, but they forged us into steel. Do you think that you can break us now after all we have been through? Do you really believe that after Dachau and Auschwitz, we are frightened by your threats of blockades and sanctions? We have been to Hell and back – a Hell of your making. What more could you possibly have in your arsenal that could scare us?

I have watched this city bombarded twice by nations calling themselves civilized. In 1948, while you looked on apathetically, I saw women and children blown to smithereens, after we agreed to your request to intenationalize the city. It was a deadly combination that did the job. British officers, Arab gunners, and American-made cannons. And then the savage sacking of the Old City; the willful slaughter, the wanton destruction of every synagogue and religious school; the desecration of Jewish cemeteries; the sale by a ghoulish government of tombstones for building materials, for poultry runs, army camps – even latrines.

And you never said a word.

You never breathed the slightest protest when the Jordanians shut off the holiest of our places, the Western Wall, in violation of the pledges they had made after the war – a war they waged, incidentally, against the decision of the UN. Not a murmur came from you whenever the legionnaires in their spiked helmets casually opened fire upon our citizens from behind the walls.

Your hearts bled when Berlin came under siege. You rushed your airlift “to save the gallant Berliners”. But you did not send one ounce of food when Jews starved in besieged Jerusalem. You thundered against the wall which the East Germans ran through the middle of the German capital – but not one peep out of you about that other wall, the one that tore through the heart of Jerusalem.

And when that same thing happened 20 years later, and the Arabs unleashed a savage, unprovoked bombardment of the Holy city again, did any of you do anything?

The only time you came to life was when the city was at last reunited. Then you wrung your hands and spoke loftily of “Justice” and need for the “Christian” quality of turning the other cheek. The truth is – and you know it deep inside your gut – you would prefer the city to be destroyed rather than have it governed by Jews. No matter how diplomatically you phrase it, the age old prejudices seep out of every word. If our return to the city has tied your theology in knots, perhaps you had better reexamine your catechisms. After what we have been through, we are not passively going to accommodate ourselves to the twisted idea that we are to suffer eternal homelessness until we accept your savior.

For the first time since the year 70 there is now complete religious freedom for all in Jerusalem. For the first time since the Romans put a torch to the Temple, everyone has equal rights. (You prefer to have some more equal than others.) We loathe the sword but it was you who forced us to take it up. We crave peace – but we are not going back to the peace of 1948 as you would like us to.

We are home. It has a lovely sound for a nation you have willed to wander over the face of the globe. we are not leaving. We are redeeming the pledge made by our forefathers: Jerusalem is being rebuilt. “Next year” and the year after, and after, and after, until the end of time – “in Jerusalem!”

Whew! What a piece. Well, there’s another version in the shape of a YouTube video with appropriate visuals here:



(Thanks Daniel!)

2 thoughts on “Letter from Jerusalem”

  1. Dear John,

    Thank you so very much for wonderful posting and for including the video. I will be sharing this with others.


    Upon learning of the death of Stanley Goldfoot/Eliezer ben Yisrael on Thursday November 30 2006, I sent an e-mail out to members of the organization I work for and somehow the exact wording of my introduction to A Letter to the World from Jerusalem was picked up by ICJS. The introduction I wrote was fashioned from the e-mail I received from Ruth Matar, who had known Mr. Goldfoot very well and, from what I gathered, recognized him as the author of the letter. Her e-mail is posted at: http://www.ourjerusalem.com/opinion/story/a-jewish-hero-in-our-time.html

    In 1975 a group of people, angry with Pres. Carter, reprinted A Letter to the World from Jerusalem and my father (z”l) cut it out and put in his office for everyone to see and read. Needless to say the words left a deep impression on me and now, through your blog, I hope it will be shared with countless others.

    My best wishes and thanks to you.

  2. Ellyn,
    Thank you for that. It’s nice to have one more connection to the story.
    For all who know God, may they always hold Jerusalem in their hearts and defend the right of the Jews to hold it undivided, forever.
    – John Little

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