Bookshelf of old copies of J. Previous names of this publication have included Emanu-El and Jewish Bulletin. (Photo/David A.M. Wilensky)
Previous names of this publication have included Emanu-El and The Jewish Bulletin. (Photo/David A.M. Wilensky)

It’s bumper-to-bumper in postwar traffic to Jerusalem (1967)

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July 21, 1967

It’s bumper-to-bumper in post-war traffic to Jerusalem

In the month following the lighting victory over the armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, Israel has made considerable progress in normalizing the new situation.

The administrative unification of Jerusalem has succeeded better than expected. The initial rush of Israelis to the Old City and of the Arabs to the new city is now subsiding somewhat, although, on weekends, it is still bumper-to-bumper traffic on the main highway leading to the city. About every Israeli feels obliged to visit the Old City and the shops there have already sold out all souvenirs and other “Typically Arab” merchandise.

Judge Milton Marks for State Senator
From July 7, 1967. Judge Milton Marks for State Senator

On weekdays, however, Jerusalemites act as if the unification of the city was an old story. Bus lines run across the line that was the border for 19 years.

Arab shopkeepers from the Old City are touring factories in Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan and Haifa to familiarize themselves with the Israeli goods — and to enjoy the attention of the manufacturers’ salesmen who are engaged in a healthy effort to beat the competition in the newly opened markets.

Officials of the Ministry of Justice are studying the complicated question of property rights in the unified city. According to Israel law, all property which belonged to Arabs who were not in Israel when the state came into being 20 years ago is vested with the Custodian of Abandoned Property. This was originally intended to take care of the lands and houses of Arabs who fled Israel. But now, thousands, if not tens of thousands of Arabs in the Old City who have properties in the New City have become citizens of unified Jerusalem and want their property back.

On the other hand, thousands of Israelis have property in the Old City and they want it back, too. However under international custom, legal actions carried out during the 19 years of Jordan rule under Jordan law are valid, In other words, if the Jordan government sold lands or houses to Arabs which originally had belonged to Jews, the transactions presumably are also valid under Israel law.

Israel, apparently, originally planned to treat the former Jordan-ruled territories (except the Old City of Jerusalem) and former Egyptian-ruled Gaza Strip as separate economic entities, at least for the time being. However, with the enormous traffic of people and goods across the former border, this is becoming increasingly difficult. This will create severe problems for the Israel authorities. For one thing, wages and prices in former Arab territories were much lower than in Israel. Now, with prices there slowly rising to Israel levels, the authorities will either have to spend millions on price subsidies on basic commodities until wage levels also adjust themselves there or face dislocations that may bitterly afflict the poor farmers and the wage earners in those regions.