CHARLOTTE, N.C, April 30, 2015 – When Daniel Seidemann speaks, everybody listens – intently. What the world needs now, other than “love sweet love” is more commentary from Mr. Seidemann and much larger audiences.
Daniel Seidemann just may be the most knowledgeable person in the world on the subject of Jerusalem and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict whom you never heard of. Though he was born in the United States, Seidemann is Israeli by choice and an unabashed Zionist who makes no apologies for his beliefs.
As director of Terrestrial Jerusalem, a non-governmental organization he founded in 2010, Seidemann understands better than anyone that his home city of Jerusalem is a key piece to a solution “acceptable to all sides” of the Israeli/Palestinian issue.
As a reserve major in the Israeli army and an attorney, Seidemann may seem like a walking contradiction when he talks of a two-state solution and the need to slow the surge of Israeli settlements in and around Jerusalem.
Speaking to the New Jersey Jewish News, the 61-year-old Jewish patriot minced no words (he never does) when he said, “I am a reserve major in the Israeli army so it is really hard for me take a condescending attitude from an armchair Zionist who lives in the U.S. The least you owe me is a civil and respectful conversation; if not, you are one of those creeps willing to fight to our last drop of blood.”
Seidemann has spent the better part of the last two decades studying the nuances of Jerusalem, a Rubik’s Cube city of history, antiquity, culture and religion. It, like the rest of the Middle East, is frequently afire in a burning sea of controversy, but unlike most who speak of the conflicts in the region, Daniel Seidemann understands it far better than most.
Seidemann explains the situation with a metaphor. “The quip in Hebrew,” he says, “is ‘everyone pisses in the swimming pool. Not everyone does it from the diving board.’ What we’ve been watching in the last year is an unprecedented surge in settlement activities. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been pissing from the high board, and what we hear from D.C. is, ‘hey, there is a light rain.’”
Those words not only sum up the role Jerusalem plays in the process to resolve the schism between Israel and Palestine, but are also quintessential Seidemann.
Seidemann is not a flag-burning, soap-box spouting talking head who can be seen on a regular basis on Sunday morning news programs. His work is far more productive, which is done primarily in the behind-the-scenes anonymity of speaking with officials who have enough clout to make something happen.
Todd Deatherage, a member of the State Department during the tenure of Condoleeza Rice, says, “If you work in the United States government on Jerusalem, you will encounter Danny.” In other words, Seidemann just may be the most influential person you probably never heard of.
Some say he has more access than any non-government official in Washington.
The key is Seidemann’s blunt honesty. What Daniel Seidemann says he means, and when he says it, it is the truth. A rare commodity in the nation’s capital these days. “What makes him so interesting is that he’s a deeply committed patriot with and understanding that the Israel – the Jerusalem – he wants is predicated on two national groups and three faith communities coming to accommodation who all have legitimate claims. And he does that (with an eye) to current contemporary geopolitical Jerusalem and a sense of history,” adds Deatherage.
Seidemann describes Jerusalem as slogging along within the layers of history that have made it a melting pot of three major religions. If you witness it on a daily basis, despite differences and centuries of conflict, when not influenced by the ignorance of outside forces, it somehow manages to find a way to work.
One of the primary areas of conflict is called E1, the land connecting Jerusalem and the Israeli settlement of Maaleh Adunim.
Seidemann explained its significance to the New Jersey Jewish News this way: “A two-state solution is going to take place inside of Jerusalem or not take place at all. We will head for a politically divided city: parts of Jerusalem will be Palestinian, parts of Jerusalem will be Israeli. That is the sine qua non of any agreement.… For that to happen, I have to be able to draw a line on a map which will carve out a viable Palestinian city and leave an equally or more viable Israeli city in its wake. I have to be able to draw a line that will allow every Israeli to go home at night, including in what are now settler neighborhoods that will be incorporated, without crossing an international boundary, and allow every Palestinian to go home or visit a mosque without seeing an Israeli policeman.”
Seidemann sums it up saying, “Treat the de facto borders as political ones and you have achieved 95 percent of the solution in Jerusalem.”
Daniel Seidemann is as complex as the city and the region in which he lives, but most of all he is honest, blunt and realistic. We can only hope somebody, anybody, eventually chooses his wisdom over politics.
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of the Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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