Who says the age of miracles is over?
Seventy years to the day after President Harry Truman ignored the warnings of the State Department and some of America’s European allies and recognized the creation of the first Jewish nation in 2,000 years, we are witness to another miracle. Again over the objections of some in the State Department and of our allies in Europe, a United States president has become the first world leader to move a nation’s embassy to Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish state.
The May 14th gathering was more than a building dedication; for Jews it was an incredibly emotional experience. Just as a compass always points to the north, the heart of a Jew always looks to Jerusalem. As it is said, Israel is the heart of the Jewish people, Jerusalem is the heart of Israel, and Mount Moriah is the heart of Jerusalem.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Long Islander David Friedman, MC’d the 90-minute event that featured speeches by presidential adviser Jared Kushner and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and two songs by Israeli singer Hagit Yaso including Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
“On this exact day 70 years ago, at almost this exact time, David Ben Gurion declared Israel’s independence,” Freedman began.
President Trump addressed the crowd of about a 1,000 via video. He said that he saw the embassy move as a first step toward peace.
“Our greatest hope is for peace,” Trump said. “The United States remains fully committed to facilitating a lasting peace agreement, and we continue to support the status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites, including at the Temple Mount, also known as Haram al-Sharif.”
“This city and its entire nation is a testament to the unbreakable spirit of the Jewish people,” Trump continued. “The United States will always be a great friend of Israel and a partner in the cause of freedom and peace.”
Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, special assistant and designated Middle East peace negotiator, said that “we believe it is possible for both sides to gain more than they give — so that all people can live in peace, safe from danger, free from fear, and able to pursue their dreams.”
“Jerusalem must remain a city that brings people of all faiths together,” Kushner said.
“Israel proves every day the boundless power of freedom,” he continued. “This land is the only land in the Middle East in which Jews, Muslims and Christians, and people of all faiths, participate and worship freely according to their beliefs. Israel protects women’s rights, freedom of speech, and the right of every individual to reach their G-d-given potential.”
Kushner got a standing ovation when he mentione Trump’s withdrawal one week earlier from the Iran nuclear deal, calling that agreement “flawed” and “one-sided.”
Sadly, while the celebration was going on, a long-promised violent Hamas protest at the Gaza border was also underway. Israeli warnings for the protesters not to rush the border fence were ignored, and IDF soldiers were forced to protect their country. Reportedly, more than four dozen people were killed, and over 2,000 were injured.
A common narrative in U.S. mainstream media blamed the violence on the embassy move even though, long before the opening was scheduled, Hamas was planning weeks of violent protests leading up “Nabka Day” on May 15. On that day, Palestinians commemorate the “catastrophe” of the creation of the modern state of Israel on that day on the secular calendar in 1948.
“Those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the solution,” Kushner said.
Netanyahu began with praise for the U.S. States. “We have no better friends in the world,” he said. “You stand for Israel, and you stand for Jerusalem. Thank you. Your presence here today is a testament to the importance of this occasion, not only for the Trump administration but in a very personal way for you. For you, each of you, for the pursuit of peace, and for President Trump himself. Thank you.”
He told the story of growing up near where the new embassy is located, but then it was empty land. His mother would warn not to go near that area. “This was near the border. It was exposed to sniper fire. That was then. This is now, today. Today, the embassy of the most powerful nation on earth, our greatest ally, the United States of America, today its embassy opened here.”
Netanyahu spoke of the history of Jerusalem leading up to that historic day during the Six-Day-War when an Israeli soldier spoke those three beautiful Hebrew words, “Har ha’bayit be’yadeinu,” (“The Temple Mount is in our hands”), words that lifted the spirit of the entire nation and Jews around the world.
As he wrapped up he quoted the Prophet Zachariah, “So said the Lord, ‘I will return to Zion, and I will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. And Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth.’ May the opening of this embassy in this city spread the truth far and wide, and may the truth advance a lasting peace between Israel and all our neighbors. He finished by asking for heavenly blessings for Israel, and the U.S., and with the Shehecheyanu prayer.
Of the 86 national diplomatic corps who received an invitation to the embassy opening, 40 attended, including the ambassadors from Hungary, Czech Republic, Austria, and Romania. Among the countries that said no were Russia, Germany, Ireland, Malta, Mexico, Portugal, Australia, Poland, and Sweden.
Only four U.S. senators (Ted Cruz, Dean Heller, Lindsey Graham and Mike Lee) and ten congressmen attended (they were all Republicans). Per Senator Graham no one, Republican or Democrat, had been specifically invited to the ceremony, they simply chose to come or they did not.
Monday’s ceremony was not an end, it was the beginning of a new period in eretz Yisroel. Whether or not it brings peace as the president contends won’t be known for a very long time. But with enough prayer, the words of the song “Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu, Od Yavo Saalam Aleinu,” performed by Hagit Yaso during the ceremony, will indeed come true:
Peace will soon be upon us. Peace will soon be upon us. Peace will soon be upon us.