O Jerusalem

Yesterday’s announcement that the United States will officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is controversial to say the least. Indeed, of all the contentious claims in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the status of Jerusalem is the ultimate landmine. Having spent quite a bit of time studying the conflict, I am well aware of how complicated the final status of Jerusalem ultimately is. And having lived for several months with a Muslim Bedouin family in the Negev, I also know how sacred Jerusalem is for the Palestinians and I long for a peace that recognized their shared claim to the holy sites of Jerusalem.

With all of that being said, I felt prompted to share my personal reaction to the decision. I frankly didn’t expect it to resonate as deeply with me as it did. Though I was born in Israel, I have not lived there for more than several months at a time since childhood. But reading about the decision nevertheless brought tears to my eyes.

As I read about Trump’s decision, I thought about the generations of my ancestors who longed to return to their ancestral homeland. Their souls hungered for home. They prayed and sang of Jerusalem. They ended their worship with the eternal hope that next year they would be in Jerusalem once more. And with the Psalmist they declared “if I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand whither.” (Jewish Study Bible). Some of my ancestors were able to fulfill their dream and make Aliyah to Israel. Others were brutally murdered because of their Jewish heritage and faith.

For the Jewish people, the land of Israel is not merely a nicety. It is a matter of spiritual and temporal salvation. It is a refuge from the storm of anti-Semitism. It is a place where the connection to the past and to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is particularly strong. It is the land promised by God. And Jerusalem is at the center of that ancestral claim.

Yet despite that ancient connection, there is a concerted effort to deny Israel’s historic claim to Israel. UNESCO, an arm of the UN that recognizes sites of historic and cultural significance, recently attempted to whitewash the Jewish history of Jerusalem completely away. And so as I read about Trump’s announcement tears unexpectedly came to my eyes. The United States was declaring that it recognized the historic claim of the Jewish people. It was pushing back against a false narrative that would wide away Jewish history from the land.

There is room to debate and discuss the necessity of such a step, given that it merely acknowledges the reality on the ground for at least 50 years. Whether the decision was wise given the inevitable backlash remains an open question. And whether this will help or injure peace efforts is yet to be seen. But what seem undeniable to me is that the Trump administration has acted in solidarity with the eternal longing of the Jewish people. Although the “nations rage” and the “peoples plot in vain” (Psalms 2:1 NIV), the call of the Jewish soul to Jerusalem will remain forever. No peace deal, no settlement, and no negotiation can proceed that undermines that basic fact.

(Although it is somewhat secondary to the point of this post, as a Latter-day Saint I also see the return of the Jewish people to the Holy Land as a fulfillment of many great and marvelous prophecies from Isaiah to Joseph Smith).

Edit: I want to link to this post by Sahar Qumisiyeh who is a Palestinian Latter-day Saint to offer a counter perspective.

5 thoughts on “O Jerusalem

  1. Almost everything Trump does is either a psychological persuasion trick, a feint (head-fake) or a negotiating ploy.

    He is too crafty to move the embassy without advance planning/coordination with Israel’s government. So he would have known the outrage it would cause. The Israelis would have known this, and would have told him, just like the middle-east experts on his own team would have told him.

    So keep in mind, that this move might be a negotiating ploy. It is likely he will offer to reverse this decision in exchange for concessions on the part of Hamas, or Hezbollah, or the P.A. Or even Syria or Iran/IRGC. And I bet Netanyahu is in on the ploy.

    If you don’t understand that Trump is ALWAYS negotiating, then you have to read his book, “Art of the Deal.”

    I like Scot Adams’ take on Trump, that Trump is playing 3D chess in psychological persuasion. You not only have to think several steps ahead to figure out what he’s doing, you have to look at it from a gut/emotional level psych angle, almost as hypnosis.

    In politics, a master persuader doesn’t have to convince everybody, just keep “nudging” enough people in his direction.

    With Trump, everything is negotiable, and you have to assume he’s ALWAYS negotiating. He laid it all out in his book. He’s doing exactly what he said in that book.

  2. The Palestinians were emboldened – giddy, even – during the Obama years. Trump is a negotiator, but his criticism of past administrations and willnigness to take bold (reckless?) moves send a strong message that they won’t be getting a sweetheart deal with this administration, and they could see their wishlist dwindle if they delay or otherwise irritate him.

    Trump and Netanyahu are longtime friends. I’m very curious to see how this plays out.

    I say this as someone who (regretfully) voted for Evan McMullin, and who weakly hoped for Trump because he’d be easier to impeach if it came to that because he irritated both parties in DC. After the election, I was surprised at my relief; I dreaded a Hillary win. The last year has only confirmed my belief that as erratic as Trump can be, watching them both…we dodged a bullet.

  3. Jim W, I warned you about Evan McMullin. Multiple times. That’s OK — it was a tough choice in Nov. 2016. I also didn’t vote for Trump because I didn’t think he would actually follow through on any of his conservative promises. The fact that he has on a few issues has me pleasantly surprised, and of course Hillary looks worse and worse over time, doesn’t she?

    Anyway, Daniel O, I want to say I was really touched by your post. I don’t think the average (non-Jewish) person understands how important Jerusalem is to Jewish people, and your post is a good reminder of that, so thanks.

  4. I predict that nothing abnormal will come of this. There will not be any Palestinian uprisings that are so feared. The Middle East will not catch on fire with the Muslim World gathering to destroy the West. For those who have been familiar with and watching history for the last 50 years, the reasons these things won’t happen is because it already has and continues to happen every day. There is no such thing as Peace in the Middle East and there never will be until Islam becomes irrelevant (such as Christianity has in the West) or Christ returns; whatever comes first.

    This is a win for Israel. This is a win for Western Civilization. This is a win for Modernity. And Bookslinger, if you think all of what you said is exclusive to Trump then you have a very high trust in government that I haven’t had since Ronald Reagan, who did his own “feints” of political expedience. Negotiating, psychological persuasion (i.e. propaganda), and making promises that will never be met is basic politics. The difference with Trump is he doesn’t hide behind pretty words and smooth talk. He may not always mean what he says, but he says things the way a large number of Americans like it said; up front and without a PR mask.

  5. Jett-person, But Obama and Kerry didn’t even try negotiating with Iran, they just gave away the store. Makes one wonder who’s side they were on.

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