Jerusalem Day response – ‘the only statement we make on Jerusalem Day is our thanks for the freedom to live and pray in our holiest city’

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Marissa Young, third from the left wearing an Israeli flag on her back, in front of the Jaffa Gate entrance to the Old City for Jerusalem Day, May, 8 2013. (Allison Deger/Mondoweiss)

Editor’s Note: Marissa Young sent us the following response to Allison Deger’s report Jerusalem Day’s unforgiving mix of nationalism and Judaism. Young was pictured in one of the photos that accompanied the article. 

Had I read your article as an outsider, my impression would have been that the Jerusalem Day celebrations were a facade for a racist vendetta against the Arabs in Jerusalem. Fortunately, I am not an outsider – I am one of the girls in the picture.

I am an American Jew currently living in the Old City for the year. But contrary to your point, the diversity of Jews from all over the world and country on that day only shows the enormity that this city has for the entire Jewish people. To me, this represents unity, the force that can bring us together at least this one time a year, to express the love for the city we all have in common.

In every group there are extremists and in no way do I condone them or any violence. But I speak for myself and for many others when I say that the only statement we make on Jerusalem Day is our thanks for the freedom to live and pray in our holiest city.

I am not disputing your facts. I am a Zionist who knows that every country has flaws. Discrimination exists, no doubt. In fact, the thousands of Jews you witnessed in the Kotel Plaza probably had thousands of different opinions about the contemporary conflict. Those opinions are essential to another discussion, but that is not what Jerusalem Day is about. At that moment when you took my picture, I wasn’t rejoicing in the division of the city or the “fall” of the Arabs. I was celebrating the incredible fact that I, as a proud Jew AND Zionist was able to stand exactly where I was.

Am Yisrael Chai means that after thousands of years of exile and persecution, the Jewish nation is still living, not that we are the only ones allowed to live.

I sing Am Yisrael Chai completely aware of a complicated history, but focused on the joys of the present and determined to create an even better future

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