The Road to Jerusalem

January 7, 2010

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n Jewish tradition the journey to Jerusalem has always been a mythic struggle. Now the struggle is also moral.

Transport to and from the Holy City has alway been problematic. The train from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem takes twice as long as it ought. The nearest domestic airport closed down a decade ago. And the roads. Oh, the roads. The main route into Jerusalem is always jammed, there are other winding routes that are variable, and then there is Route 443.

This highway, that opened in 1992 after the Supreme Court ruled against Palestinian protests over appropriated land, suddenly made the Tel Aviv route to Jerusalem bearable, and also allowed Palestinians to travel smoothly to and from Ramallah and other villages.

Yet in 2002, after six Israelis had been shot dead by Palestinian gunmen on Route 443, the army ruled to close the highway to Palestinians. For the last 7 years, this road, that crosses the Green Line, has been open for use only by Israelis. On the whole, while Israelis feel pricks of conscience (see these two blogs by Alex Sinclair and Shaanan Street), this exclusion of Palestinians has not led to a mass boycott of the road.

The Supreme Court has now ruled that the route must now be opened to all. It has ruled that security must not trump human rights, or at least that our security forces must think of better ways to maintain our security than a collective punishment of others.

The debate is now rumbling. On the one hand, since when should freedom of movement be valued above the freedom to live? Why on earth should a gunman be given more rights than an innocent driver of a car? On the other hand, since when has our country and its army decided to ignore morality in its search for security?

Pikuach Nefesh, the commandment that places the saving of human life above all other commandments, takes on a more complex hue when driving down Route 443.

Should Route 443 be open to all?

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