Tension in Divided Jerusalem, 1954
This article is from the B’nai B’rith Messenger in 1954 printed in Los Angeles. The article reports rising tensions in Jerusalem, at the time a divided city. The prime minister of the time, Moshe Sharett, is quoted as saying: “we are faced with a new and deliberate violation and repudiation by the Jordanian Government of its obligations under the armistice agreement.” Sharett claimed that, “the absence of any international reaction to the flouting by Jordan of the armistice agreement in the past has served as encouragement to that government to commit this outrage.”
Much of the fighting in the 1948 War of Independence was in and around Jerusalem. The outcome of the war was the division of Jerusalem: West Jerusalem was part of the new State of Israel; East Jerusalem, including the Old City, was controlled by Jordan.
From 1949, when the Armistice Line was fixed, tensions simmered across the East-West divide. This article from 1954 shows that the issue had caught the attention of the Jewish press outside of Israel and that there was concern for the perilous situation facing the residents of Jerusalem. Parts of the city were a no man’s-land, and there was barbed wire and concrete barriers all over. Military clashes threatened the fragile ceasefire and endangered those living close to the border who were often targeted by snipers. To this day, it is possible to tour the former Armistice Line and see bullet holes in buildings dating back to this time. This situation came to an end in 1967 with the unification of Jerusalem after the Six-Day War.
The B’nai B’rith Messenger, named for Los Angeles’ foremost nineteenth-century congregation, chronicled Jewish life in Los Angeles for almost one hundred years (1897-1995).
Jewish History teachers can use this article to discuss the outcome of the War of Independence and the Armistice Line in Jerusalem from 1949 to 1967.
Geography teachers can use this article to begin mapping the exact routes of the Armistice Line in Jerusalem.
Which newspaper published this article?
When was this article written?
What event does it describe?
Who or what did Moshe Sharett blame for the violence?
Reading Between the Lines
What was the political situation in Jerusalem in 1954 at the time that this article was published?
What was Moshe Sharett’s role at the time?
Why was Moshe Sharett keen to assign blame for the violence?
When was the border between East and West Jerusalem dismantled?
What is the situation in Jerusalem today?
Does Jordan still rule part of the city?
Since 1967, the city has no longer been politically divided. However, there are still many who claim that the city is not unified.
Explain this view.
What is your opinion?
What could be done to change this situation?
Search the internet for information about life in the divided Jerusalem.
Write an imaginary diary entry of someone your age living near the Armistice Line in 1954.
Write a second entry from the period following the Six-Day War.
Israel Blames Jordan For Wanton Attack On Border
Jerusalem (WNS) – With tension mounting over the continued firing over the border line of this divided city, Prime Minister Moshe Sharett issued a statement that Israeli forces “will continue to refrain from any act of provocation and will resort to no action which is liable to aggravate the situation, but it will maintain vigilance and stand ready to repel any attack and strike back at the aggressor.”
Declaring that Jerusalem “will withstand this test just as it withstood similar and greater trials in the past,” Mr. Sharett said “we are faced with a new and deliberate violation and repudiation by the Jordanian Government of its obligations under the armistice agreement,” adding that “it would appear that in the absence of any international reaction to the flouting by Jordan of the armistice agreement in the past has served as encouragement to that government to commit this outrage.”