Monday, May 14, 2018

A Brief but Joyous Moment in Time

President Rivlin celebrating the US moving its embassy to Jerusalem
I didn’t think it would affect me this way. But it did. I have just finished watching a live feed from Jerusalem where my country, the United States of America, moved its embassy officially to my country, the State of Israel. Yes. I said my country in both cases. I am extremely proud to call them both my home. And I was deeply moved by the ceremony.

I realize this event was more about symbolism than it was about substance. And even as a symbol, moving an embassy from one city to another might not seem like much of a symbol. But for me it was. 

Watching all the dignitaries speak about the historic significance of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – established by Dovid HaMelech and the reality of being rededicated as Israel’s capital 70 years ago after over 2000 years of exile was indeed a moving experience for me. That reality was finally recognized by the most powerful nation on earth by a President who - unlike his predecessors - kept his promise. A point made numerous times by many of the speakers. The references to God's hand in all of this was mentioned many times too. Proof that Israel is not the ‘Godless’ state its religious critics from the right accuse it of being. 

The dignitaries present included many religious leaders, both Chritian and Jewish. They included current and former Chief Rabbis, many religious members of the Knesset, and even Charedi Knesset leaders. I noticed for example that Charedi MK (and Gerrer Chasid) Yisroel Eichler was there too. 

A variety of Hashkafos were represented by the many different styles of Kipot. Together with secular leadership and opposition members of the ruling coalitions - this was a moment of real unity that in Israel is rare. 

I was also happy to see them all the religious members sit quietly while a female singer, the daughter of 2 refugees from Ethiopia  sang two inspiring songs. This was obviously the right thing to do despite the fact that they were forced to listen to Kol Isha by doing so.

Perhaps the most inspiring moment was when an Evangelical Pastor, John Hagee, made the closing prayer. It was a beautiful prayer that could have been recited by any Rav. Even a Charedi one. He talked about God’s hand in all of this. His protection of the Jeiwsh people, the absolute right of the Jewish people to the land promised to them by God, he spoke of the religious significance of the the temple mount where Avaraham and Yitzchok were involved in the Akedia... and when he finished, he got a standing ovation. Which if I am not mistaken included some of the Charedi Keneset members among those standing! If anyone would have ever told me that Charedi rabbis would stand up after a Christian minister said any prayer, I would have accused them of being absolutely insane. But that's what I saw.

Everyone that spoke was inspiring, including Jared Kushner, whom US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman noted was the single biggest force behind the embassy move.

President Rivlin’s voice cracked when he spoke about the siginifcnace of this day. You could see the emotion written on his face. He made a Shechiyanu (without Shem U’malchus) after putting a Kipa on his head for the moment. Prime Mister Netanyahu made one with Shem U’Malchus without a Kipa.

I was also happy to see in attendance many American senators and congressman. As well as dignitaries representing  many foreign countries.

Everyone thanked the President for this day. He deserved it. Mention was also made of the contributions Nikky Haley has made in the UN with respect to Israel. I was glad to hear her thanked.

I was one of those that originally questioned the wisdom of making such a move. Much as I thought it was the right thing to do, I feared the consequences of possible violence would outweigh any real benefit. I even wondered what  tangible benefit there would be.  I’m not even sure there is one.

But I now see why it was important to do. It has made clear to the world how close Israel and America are - closer than ever! Besides, doing the right thing is always important. Maintaining a lie is never the right thing. The reality is that Jerusalem is, was, and always will be Israel’s capital. The capital of all the Jewish people. It is the city that we have never forgotten. It is the city we have prayed for and continue to pray for everyday. 

Jerusalem was established by Israel as its capital the moment Israel declared its independence. Like every single country in the  world, Israel has the right to choose where its capital would lie. They chose the obvious… the city that was established by Dovid Hamelach as Israel’s capital. It has been considered such by us even after we were exiled. That never changed. Once we regained our land 70 years ago we reclaimed it as our capital. 

It was renewed again when the rest of Jerusalem was recaptured in 1967 by Lt. General Mordechai 'Mota' Gur as he entered the old city with the cry of Har HaBayit B’Yadenu -  the Temple Mount is in our hands. That moment touched every Jew in Israel. This cannot be understated. To wit: 

Last week former Prime Minister, Ehud Barak was interviewed on PBS. He mentioned how moved he was when he heard those words. He made clear how far removed he was from any Jewish practises or beliefs. Raised in a secular Leftist Kibbutz he did not believe in anything except the socialism that was preached there. By his own word, he does not keep Shabbos; he does not keep Kosher; he never celebrated his Bar Mitzvah; and never put on Teffilin. Not even once. 

But when he heard those words it effected him deeply. This was his ‘pintile yid’ talking to him. I believe that there is a part of every Jew that identifies with the essence of Judaism - no matter how deeply buried those feeling are , no matter how remote they are form its practises and beliefs. That feeling was awakened by him that day.  But I digress.

The peace process was not forgotten at this event. Nor was the fact that under Israeli rule all religions are free to worship according to their own traditions, a situation that did not exist prior to the recapture of Jerusalem. In fact the minute they had the opportunity after Jerusalem was recaptured in 67 they passed legislation to that effect and pledged to restore all religious institutions damaged or neglected before and during the 67 war.

Juxtaposing this magnificent event is what is happening on the border between Gaza and Israel. Palestinians are trying to break through that border with violence. Leave it to the mainstream media to neglect the fact that this has nothing to do with the celebration in Jerusalem today. These protests have been going on for weeks. They are suffering greatly there. They blame Israel for that. And the mainstream media dutifully reports it that way.

But as one of the speakers (I think it was Jared) noted, these protesters are not the solution. They are the problem. That comment received a lot of applause.  

If they realized that it is their Islamic fundamentalist leaders that are really to blame, they would be protesting them. Their intransigent 'Israel must be destroyed' attitude and terrorist approach trying to achieve that - is why Israel blockades them. Israels first obligation is too protect its people.

Israel is no more to blame for their misery than the United States is to blame for Iran’s misery. I suspect that they might even know that deep down. And that their goal is the same as their fundamentalist leaders to destroy the Jewish State and replace it with an Islamic one. If they were really focused on the blockade, they would be protesting Egypt. They are blockading Gaza too. To the best of my knowledge there is not a single Gaza resident doing that. 

Contrast this with the Iranians. They know the truth. That has recently been made clear by the mainstream media through one of their reporters situated in Iran. They do not blame America as much for their problems as they do their own fundamentalist leadership . It would be nice if the Palestinians had the same epiphany. And realized who is really to blame for their misery. Unfortunately I don’t have much hope for that kind of change.

It’s really a shame that Israel, which has given so much to the world is not shared as well by its neighbors. Their hatred of Israel prevents them for that. Just as it does from making peace – even as they cry about how much Israel is to blame for that.

Today’s celebration does not change any of this. Israel would like nothing better than to make peace with its Palestinian neighbors. Thankfully its is doing so from a position of strength. All Palestinians need to do is want it badly enough. But as has been abundantly clear since Oslo, peace is not their ultimate objective. Palestinian rule over all of Palestine is.

The only thing Israel can do is remain strong and hope that somehow the Arab fundamentalism will someday be replaced by Arab pragmatism.  Alas, I don’t see that happening in my lifetime. But today, for one brief moment in time, I could not be happier about what I saw happening in our holy land.