From Psalm 137:5 “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.”
It has been a rather difficult beginning to the New Year for the Israelis and Palestinians. The recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital triggered both praise from some quarters and outrage from others. From the Israeli perspective, recognition was long overdue and opposition to it has been both absurdly offensive and based in blatant institutionalized antisemitism for decades. David Ben Gurion declared Jerusalem to be the “Eternal Capital” in 1949, the Israeli Knesset has been meeting in Jerusalem since 1950, at its new site since 1966, and Jerusalem is where Israel’s Prime Minister resides. Jerusalem is obviously Israel’s capital.
And in connection with the Jewish people? Our tradition has been connected to Jerusalem for over 3,000 years and centered on Jerusalem for the last 2,740 years, dating back to the destruction of the Northern Kingdom by Assyria in 722 BCE. To deny Jewish historical connection to the land as a whole and to Jerusalem specifically is utterly delusional. Yet, in an antisemitic rant to the leadership of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas did that and much more, delivering a speech so filled with antisemitic revisionist history that it led America’s former Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, a Reform Jew and Obama Appointee, to declare that Israel could not possibly expect a peace agreement to be achieved with the current Palestinian leadership.
On the streets of Israel, protests were called for by the Palestinian leadership against the US Jerusalem recognition by Arab citizens of Israel. None were forthcoming. At one protest location in northern Jerusalem, those Arabs who gathered, most to observe, were outnumbered by members of the media. Israeli Arabs are becoming increasingly integrated in Israeli life. Over the past six years, Arab Israeli enrollment in Israeli universities is up 78% and while still underrepresented in related to their overall percentage of the population (21% of the population vs. 16% of the students), the percentage is rising quickly.
Many Israelis look at what is going on in Israel and see peace in process. It isn’t through negotiations between national leaders. It’s between students and teachers, neighbors, people doing business, and doctors and nurses caring for patients. It’s part of life.
There will undoubtedly be official talks at some point again, but even within a charged political environment globally and with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders who often make decisions that seem to make negotiations more difficult, there is growing hope that things just might turn out allright.
In the meantime, some members of our congregation and Temple Judah in Cedar Rapids along with friends are planning to go on an “Iowa Goes to Israel” tour in June for a basic tour of Israel including all of the major Jewish and several of the major Christian sites. You’re welcome to join us. For more information about our June 9-18 trip, please reach out to the Temple office. It’s a great time to go to Israel.
Rabbi David Kaufman