At AIPAC, Vice President Mike Pence Affirms U.S.-Israel Bond

Vice President Mike Pence addresses the 2018 AIPAC Policy Conference

At the 2018 AIPAC Policy Conference, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence opened his speech on Monday night by calling Trump the “most pro-Israel president in American history.” He began the statement, however, by calling Trump the “most pro-life president” but then corrected himself to say pro-Israel.

It was the one gaffe in an otherwise well received speech in Washington D.C., on the second night of the three-day AIPAC conference. Multiple times during his remarks Pence reiterated the U.S. commitment to supporting the State of Israel.

“American stands with Israel, today, tomorrow and always,” he said.

Frequently garnering applause during his approximately 20-minute remarks, Pence denounced the Iranian regime’s nuclear ambitions, saying the U.S. “would no longer certify the disastrous nuclear deal,” which was ratified under former U.S. President Barack Obama.

He indicated the possibility the U.S. would withdraw from the Iranian nuclear agreement.

He said the recent decision of U.S. President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel set him apart from his predecessors.

“While every president for the past two decades promised to recognize the capital of Israel, President Trump did more than promise—he delivered,” Pence said.

“By finally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the United States has chosen fact over fiction and fact is the only true foundation for a just and lasting peace,” he added.

The U.S. plans to open its embassy in Jerusalem this May, he said, which would move the American embassy in Israel from its current location in Tel Aviv.

While the Arab world denounced the president’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Pence spoke of the changing political landscape in the Middle East, saying that Israel is finding unlikely allies in the Muslim world.

“The winds of change are blowing across the Middle East. Longstanding enemies are becoming partners; old foes are finding new ground for cooperation and the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael are coming together in common cause to meet, as the president’s said, history’s great test, and conquer extremism and vanquish forces of terrorism, and we will meet that test together,” Pence said.

Looking for Hamantashen of His Youth in Jerusalem

I’m in Machane Yehuda Market — the big shuk — in Jerusalem — just as I am every week. The “oznei Haman” have arrived. In Israel, hamantashen are called “Haman’s ears” and with a bit of imagination, I can almost make sense of that. Every year, I wander from bakery to bakery during the weeks preceding Purim, and I end up carbohydratedly disappointed. The hamantashen of my youth are nowhere to be found.

The bakeries in Jerusalem, and especially in the shuk, make amazing hamantashen. You want hamantashen filled with halvah? We have that. Chocolate dough hamantashen filled with chocolate? Yeah, we have that, too. How about date filling? Poppy seed? Yup, they’re all here. But like Proust taking a bite of a madeleine, I want that hamantashen that takes me back. Way back. I want to travel back about 50 years.

When I was a child growing up on the South Shore of Long Island, all the way out in Suffolk County (yenevelt — a faraway place, as my grandfather called it) our community was a tightknit enclave of Jewish immigrants from Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx, all seeking a suburban life far from the city.

My parents were deeply involved in the synagogue. My mother was Sisterhood president. My dad taught the confirmation class and was the youth group director of Temple Sinai of Bay Shore.

As youth group director, organizing the annual Purim carnival was his and the teenagers’ responsibility. Games were devised, booths were constructed, prizes were purchased, food was ordered.

To play games or obtain food, guests had to purchase tickets. “Five dollars’ worth is all you get,” my mother would tell us. But I was not going to waste my precious tickets on mundane activities like “Shave the Balloon” or a terrifying Senior Youth Group “Fun House” that would culminate in me putting my hand in a bucket of pitted olives and being told they were eyeballs. I spent my money on the hamantashen.

Without warning or advance notice, the yeast-dough hamantashen fell out of fashion.

Fresh from Stanley’s Bakery (which is still on Main Street) were platters of hamantashen that were the real deal. No halvah. No chocolate. And they were huge. The filling — cherry, prune or apricot —  oozed from the seams. And the dough? The dough was a golden yeast dough and not this crumbly cookie stuff that tries to pass for hamantashen. Like the Danish my father always brought home on Sunday morning —  only better.

Without warning or advance notice, the yeast-dough hamantashen fell out of fashion. They disappeared, never to be found again. Like those Long Island Purim carnivals, they became a distant memory.

Nonetheless, I persevere in my search. Like a relentless explorer, I wander through Jerusalem’s alleys and byways in search of a cherry-filled, yeast-dough hamantashen.

Recently, at one of my favorite bakeries in the shuk, I asked the owner (in Hebrew): “You ever make hamantashen with a yeast dough?”

With a wave of his hand, he responded, “You want a yeast dough? Buy a challah.”

This year, the search is over. I’m making them at home.

Happy Purim!

Before making aliyah, Cantor Evan Kent served Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles for 25 years. In Jerusalem, he is on the faculty of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Jerusalem Filtered Through a German Museum

A German and an American watched the same clip shown toward the end of the “Welcome to Jerusalem” exhibition that opened at the Jewish Museum Berlin in December, coincidentally the same week U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

At the museum, videos screening on monitors mounted back-to-back told stories of Jerusalem residents via footage from a German documentary titled “24h Jerusalem.” One pair told the story of Zeruya Shalev and her survival of the Jerusalem No. 19 bus suicide bombing, and of Mahmoud from Shuafat, who hasn’t gone to school for several years.

In the video, Mahmoud complains about the “wall” that cuts into the land where he used to fly kites. He and a friend taunt the Israeli guard by flying a kite across the security barrier.

“The pigs and dogs would chase us,” he says in the film, referring to Israelis and suggesting they should throw rocks.

He slammed the museum for alleged anti-Israel bias as reflected in city ads featuring the Islamic crescent as the only religious ornament.

After watching it, the German woman, in her 70s, shook her head in dismay.

When asked why she disapproved, she said, “I don’t like what Israel is doing to the Palestinians,” and pointed to another vignette in which an elderly Arab longs for the home he lost in 1948, still holding the house key.

It didn’t bother her that Mahmoud referred to Israeli soldiers as “pigs and dogs” or that he threatened to throw rocks.

“They’re frustrated and have no weapons.” Like the German government, she’s displeased with Trump’s Jerusalem decision.

Then came Jake from Montana, a 20-something on a vacation break in Berlin.

“I’m not sure what to think,” he said, asking for more context. Was Mahmoud a high school dropout? Was he cut off from his school or home?

“What about his threat to throw rocks?” this reporter asked.

“I didn’t like it,” he replied. “That only brings more violence.”

Jake preferred not to comment on Trump, who was the subject of ridicule during his European travels. But he said he loves America.

Although the exhibition portrays itself as examining Jerusalem from the perspective of three monotheistic religions, the story it tells is really one of two sides: a showdown between Judaism and Islam, Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs, and these days, inadvertently, Trump and Germany.

In an interview with the Journal before my visit, museum director Peter Schäfer said the exhibition seeks to impose no political position and instead hopes to offer visitors enough information to reach their own conclusions.

“Having said that, of course, we have our opinions about this, and I have my own opinions about this, and my personal decision is that it’s not a wise decision by Mr. Trump, and that the status of Jerusalem can only be decided at the end of the negotiations in which all parties involved take part and come to discussion and compromise,” he said.

The Jewish Museum Berlin is a public museum with a largely non-Jewish staff. Schäfer is Catholic, having studied at Hebrew University in the 1960s. The exhibition was curated by Margret Kampmeyer, a German of Christian faith and an art historian, and Cilly Kugelmann, a German-born Jew and former museum executive who served in an advisory role. Kampmeyer first visited Jerusalem two years ago for research.

“Welcome to Jerusalem” serves as the main attraction while the museum remodels its permanent exhibition on German-Jewish history, and it features replicas, maps, photographs and artwork of prominent Jerusalem iconography. The topic was chosen because the museum often seeks to address themes of interfaith importance.

“One of our goals with the exhibition, if at all possible, is to address not just Judaism but also, if possible, Islam and Christianity,” Schäfer said, citing recent exhibitions on religious head coverings and on the binding of Isaac as examples.

Jerusalem fits this goal perfectly, but Eldad Beck, the Berlin correspondent for the Israel daily newspaper Israel Hayom, has publicly taken the museum to task for its extensive focus on interreligious themes at the expense of Jewish narratives. He slammed the museum for alleged anti-Israel bias as reflected in city ads featuring the Islamic crescent as the only religious ornament. Schäfer, in defense, told the Journal that the ad was the first of a series.

“If you ask me why did we start with the Islamic crescent, I cannot tell, but of course, the idea you could see easily,” he said. “The idea, of course, is to allude to the Dome of the Rock.” As the religious symbol topping this contentious landmark, he believes it is among the more recognizable Jerusalem icons.

But the same image also appears as the brochure cover, and Beck’s criticism goes further. In his book “Germany at Odds,” Beck dedicates a chapter to the museum, outlining Kugelmann’s affiliation with the “Israelkritik” movement in Germany, which largely blames Israel for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

“It’s very typical of the German position, and they’re just using this museum to promote their distorted view of Judaism,” Beck said. “A country with such a history of the Jews should not be allowed to do it.”

He was particularly incensed by the exhibition climax: a short film titled “Conflict.”

“This is amazing because they took out almost everything that has to do with Arab-Muslim violence and put only the Jewish and Zionist violence,” Beck said. “Later on, during the Second Intifada, you have some mentioning of the bombings, but it’s so minor that the overall impression that you get from this film is that the Jews came, took the land, took the city, and the poor Arabs are there to suffer.”

Sympathizers with Israel’s claim to Jerusalem may be bothered by more than just the exhibition’s apparent bias. The portrayal of the Holy City lacks soul, coming across as a chore, a lecture, a collection of clichés — or worse, propaganda.

In my opinion, rather than exacerbate tensions by focusing on conflict, why not dramatize the beauty, depth and liveliness of a modern city that people of all faiths call home? Let’s see Jews and Arabs peacefully coexist. Let us enter the colorful Arab shuk or the happening Machane Yehuda Market. Let us sit at the cafes, bars or walk the rose-lined golden streets. And most of all, let us pray, hope and dream. Because what’s worse than leaving with the impression that Israel is the aggressor is leaving with: “What are they even fighting for?”

Orit Arfa is an author and journalist based in Berlin. For more on the exhibition, go to her blog on

U.S. Jerusalem Embassy to Open in May

Photo from Twitter.

The new United States embassy in Jerusalem will open its doors in May, when Israel celebrates its 70th year of independence.

The State Department announced the timing of the move to Congress on Feb. 23, and told the Times of Israel, “The Embassy will initially be located in Arnona [in south Jerusalem], on a compound that currently houses the consular operations of Consulate General Jerusalem. At least initially, it will consist of the ambassador and a small team.”

The new embassy is scheduled to open on May 14, the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence. The timing is not coincidental.

“This decision will turn Israel’s 70th Independence Day into an even bigger celebration,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. “Thank you President Trump for your leadership and friendship.”

In response to the announcement, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary-General Saeb Ekrat called it a “flagrant violation of international law and agreements” and “provocative to the feelings of all Arabs and Muslims.” Hamas spokesman Abd al-Latif al-Kanou claimed that the move will be “a trigger for an explosion of the entire region in the face of Israel.”

President Trump first announced the move in December, when he declared that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. The move has been met condemnation worldwide and “days of rage” protests, but the Trump administration has held firm on the move.

“The United States knows the Palestinian leadership was very unhappy with the decision to move our embassy to Jerusalem,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the U.N. on Feb. 20. “You don’t have to like that decision. You don’t have to praise it. You don’t even have to accept it. But know this: that decision will not change.”

Abbas Criticizes US and Israel in UN speech; Haley Fires Back

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the UN Security Council at UN headquarters in New York, U.S., February 20, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas gave a speech at the United Nations on Feb. 20 criticizing the United States and Israel on hampering peace negotiations.

Abbas railed against the Trump administration’s actions on recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and cutting funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA).

“In a dangerous, unprecedented manner, this administration undertook an unlawful decision which was rejected by the international community to remove the issue of Jerusalem off the table without any reason,” Abbas said.

The PA president added, “This administration has not clarified its position. Is it a two-state solution, or the one-state solution?”

Abbas then claimed that the Palestinians have a historical connection to Israeli land.

“We are descendants of the Canaanites that lived in Palestine 5,000 years ago, and have continuously remained there to this day,” Abbas said.

Abbas also went after Israel for being a “permanent settlement colonization.”

“We are working for the occupation, we are employees for the occupation, and we say that Israel must be held to its obligations as an occupying power,” Abbas said.

Abbas advocated for Palestine to have full member status at the U.N. and for a two-state solution mediated by a “multilateral international mechanism.”

Abbas walked out of the room when he was finished speaking, prompting Haley to remark to the PA president, “Our negotiators are sitting right behind me, ready to talk. But we will not chase after you. The choice, Mr. President, is yours.”

“The United States knows the Palestinian leadership was very unhappy with the decision to move our embassy to Jerusalem,” Haley added. “You don’t have to like that decision. You don’t have to praise it. You don’t even have to accept it. But know this: that decision will not change.”

Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon criticized Abbas for inspiring “a culture of hate in Palestinian society.”

“When we extend a hand, Abbas extends a fist,” Danon said.

The First Construction Project – A Poem for Haftarah Terumah by Rick Lupert

It took four hundred and eighty years
after leaving Egypt until God gave us
the measurements we needed to
build the Holy Temple.

King Solomon got the Job.
He was only the third Jewish King.
We followed the charismatic until
the situation on the ground caused us

to formalize the situation with his
grandfather, Saul. Jerusalem was
barely the capital, and we’re still
having trouble setting that in stone.

His dad, David, was too busy
writing poetry under waterfalls near
the Dead Sea to take on a major
construction project and, I guess

the previous few hundred years
we were still glancing nervously
back across the Jordan River for
signs of chariots.

I wonder what happened with
the desert’s Tabernacle before
Solomon’s stones and planks
took to the mountain?

I wonder if they imagined that
thousands of years later, this
holiest of structures, and its sequel
number two, would only be

remembered by the words we
read on Saturday mornings?
Occasionally a shovel reveals
a clue. I walked up a staircase

made of stone once. I sang a song
of ascent
. I crawled through tunnels
and looked in every dark crevice.
One cedar plank was all I needed.

Even just a splinter.

God Wrestler: a poem for every Torah Portion by Rick LupertLos Angeles poet Rick Lupert created the Poetry Super Highway (an online publication and resource for poets), and hosted the Cobalt Cafe weekly poetry reading for almost 21 years. He’s authored 21 collections of poetry, including “God Wrestler: A Poem for Every Torah Portion“, “I’m a Jew, Are You” (Jewish themed poems) and “Feeding Holy Cats” (Poetry written while a staff member on the first Birthright Israel trip), and most recently “Donut Famine” (Rothco Press, December 2016) and edited the anthologies “A Poet’s Siddur: Shabbat Evening“,  “Ekphrastia Gone Wild”, “A Poet’s Haggadah”, and “The Night Goes on All Night.” He writes the daily web comic “Cat and Banana” with fellow Los Angeles poet Brendan Constantine. He’s widely published and reads his poetry wherever they let him.

Letters to the Editor: Racism, Trump, Jerusalem and Suissa

Label a Person Racist When It’s Deserved

We must agree to disagree about the premise of Shmuel Rosner’s questions (“The Rush to Racism,” Jan. 19). There are more than two criteria to label someone a racist.

President Donald Trump has a history of denying leases to African-Americans 40-plus years ago. He accepted, after denying he knew former KKK member David Duke, Duke’s endorsement during the campaign. His words have emboldened haters like no president before. His policy to deny people who are not white entry to United States and most recently his “shithole” comment all point to the same conclusion.

If you act/feel like a racist, you quack like a hater/racist and you call neo-Nazis “good people,” you are a racist.

Warren J. Potash, Moorpark

Trump’s Comment About ‘Developing’ Countries

I (and I suspect many other Journal readers) take umbrage at Karen Lehrman Bloch’s assertion that we are all shitholers (“We are All Shitholers,” Jan. 19).

That and similar terms aren’t ones I use. I was born in the United States. Yes, my grandparents came from Russia and Poland, as did the ancestors of many people.

And I disagree strongly with her assertion that the leftist media get hysterical over everything President Donald Trump says and does.

I’m not sure which media outlets she is referring to as leftist — does she mean legitimate news outfits like The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, CNN and MSNBC? Reporting on presidential outrages in word or deed is not hysterical, it’s legitimate reporting.

At least Bloch appears to understand that Trump’s bigotry is un-American. She should also point out that it violates biblical injunctions, too.

Daniel Fink, Beverly Hills

In the past few decades, I have traveled to nearly 50 countries, mostly as a negotiator on deals to sell American products in places such as China, South America and Europe but also (more recently) as a tourist.

Most of these trips were to “developing” countries that President Trump called “shitholes.”

Yes, I have been to some rough places in the world: I went to Syria to help a Texas mom whose 12-year-old daughter was kidnapped by an ex-husband and was being held near Damascus. I discovered an international criminal group in Europe on a case I was working on (that had bilked U.S. investors out of $1.5 million) and had to go “undercover” for a while.

But the only place out of 50 countries I have been to, where my life was really in jeopardy, was in the United States — in East Texas — when I was kidnapped by a white guy. Not Nigeria. Not South Africa. Not Asia. True story. All of these events are documented in my book “Better Times Ahead April Fool.”

So don’t call nations “shitholes,” Mr. Trump, because I found great people in the worst of places, and some terrible people in the “best” of places.

Michael Fjetland, via email

Zioness Organization’s Time Is Now

Thank you for your wonderful story about the Zioness organization (“Zioness Movement Joins Women’s March,” Jan. 19). This is an organization whose time is long overdue. There is a strong need on the left for this type of organization. We Jews on the left have been slammed with anti-Semitic and anti-Israel hate speech and actions. Occasionally, it comes from other Jews and Jewish organizations.

I’m writing because of an Israel-bashing Muslim woman who spoke at the Women’s March. This marred an otherwise inspirational event, and was so unnecessary. I would say that almost all people at the march had multi-ethnic and multiracial sentiments.

This Israel bashing is nothing new. It seems always to be lurking in the mass movements on the left. My first exposure to it was in the women’s movement in the 1970s. Then it was in the LGBT movement. Then it was in the anti-Iraq War movement. Now, here it is at the Women’s March. I will always be a progressive because I put people’s lives first. There’s nowhere else for me to go.

Let’s hope the Zionesses become powerful and strong!

Sue Roth via email

Jerusalem as Capital of Israel

Last month, President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem the capital of Israel, yet I did not see any positive comment that I know of from rabbis with the exception of Rabbi Kalman Topp of Beth Jacob, who asked the members to send letters or email to thank Trump. Even though Jerusalem belonged to Israel for 2,000 years, Trump was the first president who promised and delivered. Thank you, Mr. Trump.

Benny Halfon via email

Suissa’s Hits and Misses

Thank you, David Suissa, for an outstanding column (“Abbas Fails His People —  Again,” Jan. 19)!

Mahmoud Abbas and his friends appear to be the “fundamental obstacle” to peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. He retains power by focusing on the presumed “victimhood” and the misery under which his people live, claiming Israel is the oppressor. Abbas’ argument: Israel is to blame for all the hardships Palestinians are suffering.

Prediction: Just as is happening in Iran, one day the Palestinian people will wake up and realize the truth, and get leaders who truly want to help their people to enjoy a better life. Then they will welcome Israel as a partner rather than the enemy.

Meanwhile, Abbas enjoys his share of the billions of dollars donated from around the world — just as Yasser Arafat did before him. Furthermore, he uses much of those funds to reward and encourage terrorism. And the U.N. condones it all, blaming Israel for the plight of the Palestinians. In this regard, let’s wish for lots of luck for U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and President Donald Trump.

George Epstein via email

The publisher and editor-in-chief of the Jewish Journal is on a trip to the land of Oz! Suissa is dreamy and nostalgic for the smells of the land that decreed Jews’ station in this land to be dhimmi: to face humiliation from birth to death (“A Hunger for Memory,” Jan. 12).

Perhaps if Suissa wasn’t daydreaming about the good old days in a country that held its Jews in humiliation and bondage, he might have remembered to speak up for the Jew Robert Levinson, who is believed to be rotting in the mullahs’ gulag. But then, how could Suissa be expected to remember Levinson when he’s dreaming about the good old days living the dhimmi. All the space in this not-for-profit Jewish weekly showing concern for the protesters in Iran and not a bloody word for the Levinson. Perhaps Levinson is in a cozy gulag in his Muslim cell.

Jerry Daniels, Marina del Rey

Why Israelis Like Trump More Than Americans Do

Shmuel Rosner clearly explained why Israeli Jews like President Donald Trump more than American Jews do (“The Trump Gap,” Jan. 19). I would like to add one more element to his explanation: What is good for America is good for Israel. The Israeli euphoria should be dampened by the fact that his erratic attempts of diplomacy have alienated him from our (and Israel’s) natural allies and greatly diminished American leadership in the Middle East. Thus, despite his rhetoric, he has lost America’s ability to act as an honest broker in future peace negotiations and give political cover in international relations.

At home, his attack on American institutions already is causing greater division and rivalry among our population. If not reversed, this can cause a weakening that will reflect in our ability to influence world affairs, and particularly support for Israel.

Michael Telerant, Los Angeles

13 Arab-Israeli Lawmakers Thrown Out of Knesset for Protesting Pence Speech

Members of the Joint Arab List hold signs in protest ahead of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s address to the Knesset, Israeli Parliament, in Jerusalem January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Ariel Schalit/Pool

Thirteen Arab-Israeli Knesset Members were tossed from the Knesset on Monday for protesting Vice President Mike Pence’s speech.

The lawmakers were a part of the Arab Joint List faction; they stood up holding signs that stated, “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine” to protest President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and heckled the vice president. The 13 MKs were then removed from the Knesset to applause.

Joint List chairman Ayman Ordeh, who lead the protest, tweeted:

NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell seemed to sympathize with the thrown out lawmakers when she tweeted, “Can you imagine Capitol Police dragging members of the congressional black caucus off the House floor?”

However, Jerusalem Post reporter Lahav Harkov pointed out that Mitchell had numerous factual errors in her tweet, most notably that it’s against Knesset rules to hold signs during a speech:

Harkov also noted that there have been plenty of other instances in which lawmakers have been thrown out of the Knesset for holding up signs:

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman lambasted the thrown out lawmakers on Twitter as being “representatives of terrorist organizations in the Knesset.”

“Their shameful behavior exposed to everyone their disloyalty to the state and its symbols,” Lieberman tweeted. “Only when Israeli Arabs allow other voices to represent them will be a chance for true peace.”

During his speech, Pence reaffirmed America’s commitment as a staunch ally to Israel and praised the Jewish people.

The importance of Pence’s Visit, and other comments

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of his address to the Knesset, Israeli Parliament, in Jerusalem January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Ariel Schalit/Pool

Pence is Sending an Important Message

In the news: Shortly after arriving in Israel, Vice President Mike Pence announced that the U.S. Embassy would open in Jerusalem before the close of 2019, adding to the general fanfare of his visit.

A comment: Is this an important visit? Many Israelis say no – because they do not expect any diplomatic breakthrough to follow it, and because Pence is in Israel without even having the benefit of meeting with the leaders of the Palestinians.

An opposite view can be proposed: the importance of Pence’s visit stems from the fact that he does not meet with Palestinians. Pence is sending an important message by having this visit: US-Israel relations will no longer be held hostage to a peace process or lack thereof.

Eliminate Slowly, Eliminate with Care

In the news: President Trump followed through with plans to cut funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA). The decision has enraged Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who denounced Israel and the United States in a speech to the PLO Central Council, and some analysts fear that cutting aid to UNRWA will destabilize the region.

A comment: The choice with UNRWA, as with many Middle East problems, is not one between ideal (elimination) and terrible (keeping the status quo). It is between a known bad situation and the fear of what might happen in case we attempt to change it. UNRWA should be eliminated, but the process must be well managed, to avoid humanitarian crisis, or radicalization of the population.

Thus, Trump is doing the right thing by cutting half the budget. On the one hand, this means that he is serious about the need for radical reform of the current situation. On the other hand, it gives UNRWA and all those concerned with the fate of Palestinian refugees a time to prepare for the ultimate elimination of the unnecessary, harmful, organization.

A Mutually Beneficial Shabbat Fight

In the news: Knesset infighting has reached a boiling point in the wake of Avigdor Lieberman’s show of support for protests in Ashdod against the Shabbat Bill.  Leaders of Ultra-Orthodox Knesset parties, Shas and UTJ, are fed up with Lieberman, and Lieberman is equally fed up with Shas and UTJ in return.

A comment: Who needs another Shabbat war? That’s easy: count the politicians who wage the fight. These are the people who need it. Especially so the two new rivals in chief, formerly best buddies, Shas leader Aryeh Deri and Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman.

Both look at the polls and worry about their futures. Both need to convince a dwindling constituency that they still have something to offer. Of course, one has to be a cynic to suspect that the newly found rivalry was prearranged for mutual benefit. Then again, these are two of the most cynical politicians we have.

Jerusalem: What Comes Next?

There were many things that President Donald Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem was not. It was not the start of the apocalypse. It was not the start of a successful political peace strategy. Nor was it earth-shattering in terms of its actual practical effects.

So, what was it? It was an international humiliation for a Palestinian community that believed in negotiations. It was an abdication of the role of sole arbitration by the United States. And it was a reality check for everyone concerned.

The United States, at least for the next three years, will not be able to singlehandedly bring the parties back to the table. Of course, even before this, the reality was that even if negotiations had — by some miracle — restarted, few were confident that the societies or their respective leaders were ready for a credible process.

If the Jerusalem announcement has stopped the fake horizon of talks, what replaces it? What credibly fills the vacuum?

There are many who would like to use this moment to push a pressured or coercive approach — the idea that with more force the decision-making calculation will change and a different outcome will result. Given the extreme violence of the Second Intifada and the structural violence that the occupation brings daily, the evidence does not indicate that what we need is more force. If there were a coercive solution to this problem, it would have happened already.

Coercion is seductive, as it puts all the pressure on the party on the other side of the equation. Supporters of both Israel and Palestine can point to the pressure points they feel are most effective and motivate others to apply pressure there while ignoring the significant challenges within their own communities.

Ignoring the power of coercion within decision-making is a mistake, but so is fetishizing it. If this isn’t the moment for pressure, what is it the time for?

To confront the generational challenge, we need a long-term strategy.

Israeli and Palestinian young people truly mistrust one another. With limited or no interaction with one another, they rely on their media and leadership to inform them about their counterparts. The result has been anything but positive. Annual polls of Israelis and Palestinians show that large majorities believe that the opposing community harbors extreme exclusionist or genocidal views.

To confront the generational challenge that the conflict presents, we need a generational long-term strategy to re-engage the communities — something broader than traditional people-to-people programs. We need an agenda that considers how to create community resilience against violence and develop leaders to create constituencies for peace when a credible political process eventually occurs.

As the executive director of the Alliance for Middle East Peace, I have been pushing for the creation of a multilateral international fund for Israeli-Palestinian peace that can help answer the question, “What are we doing to make sure that the next generation does not hate one another?” The need has never been higher.

Beyond the fund, however, we need to move beyond the politics of demographics. For the past few years, more and more voices in the center and left of both Israel and the Jewish Diaspora have been pushing the politics of separation to make their case for peace now. The American-Jewish community funds shared-society programing in Israel while also paying for billboards that bemoan the demographic threat posed by the Arab community. That needs to stop.

This is not a moment for coercion but for laying a solid foundation.

One could make the spurious argument that you can use racism to motivate voters if you believe that peace is just a vote away. It is not. If we are in a generational struggle, then we need to tackle the educational challenges created through ethnic conflict, not exacerbate the worst fears of the populations.

The uncertainty of the moment should lead all of us to return to the basic values and principles that motivate and guide us. There are hundreds of opportunities to invest in values we can all stand behind, whether by investing in the bilingual communities of the Hand in Hand school network, working with youth across Jerusalem’s faith communities with Kids4Peace or supporting agricultural cooperatives with the Near East Foundation.

This is not a moment for coercion but for laying a solid foundation. We should support young people as they build communities that demonstrate that a different future is possible, one of collective humanity and mutual dependence. This is a generational struggle, but one that depends on people themselves rather than the geopolitical currents that are buffeting our global society.

Joel Braunold is executive director of the Alliance for Middle East Peace.

Letters to the Editor: Mensch List, Jerusalem, Settler for Peace, Nonviolent Protests, and Lorde

Author Was Indeed a Mensch

While your annual “Mensch List” issue (cover story, Jan. 5) highlighted people who embody the Jewish community’s future, we would like to honor someone who touched a future she knew she wouldn’t live to see.

Last year, author Amy Krouse Rosenthal died. Days before succumbing to ovarian cancer at age 51, she received acclaim for her New York Times essay “You May Want to Marry My Husband.” It was a beautiful and touching love letter to her about-to-be-widowed husband, Jason, creatively penned as a dating profile for him so that “another love story begins.”

She touched many more lives as a children’s book author — an underappreciated art for which she had a special talent. Her book “Uni the Unicorn,” an imaginative story about a unicorn who believes that little girls are real, is one of our 5-year-old daughter’s favorite bedtime books, alongside “Goodnight Moon,” “Chicken Soup With Rice,” “Sylvie,” “If Kisses Were Colors” and “A Giraffe and a Half.” Rosenthal’s books “Spoon” and “Little Pea” are adorable, too. She was an exceptionally gifted writer and storyteller, and through her books, she will continue to touch the future.

Shoshana and Stephen A. Silver, San Francisco

Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel

Here is a proposal I’ve not yet seen. I’m sure someone will tell me why.

Israel swaps the West Bank for the Gaza Strip, minus a narrow passage to the sea. Each state shares Jerusalem as its capital. What becomes of the settlements and the property of Gaza is a problem with many solutions, none beyond the capacity of negotiation. Each party will object, no doubt, but the status quo benefits neither. The proposal gives the Palestinians more territory than they are likely to obtain any other way and freedom at last. Israel expands its territory, less in quantity than by annexing the West Bank, but more in quality. Currently Israel has one friend. With its occupation over, it can devote its energies to being a good neighbor and a positive participant in the United Nations.

Start talking. There is nothing to lose.

Robert Ragaini, Santa Monica and New York

Moses and Nonviolent Protest

While enjoying all of the discussions of this weekly parsha, Rabbi Denise L. Eger’s comments resonated with my own longstanding understanding of the developmental story of the life of Moses and especially of his significant emotional conflict: his unbridled rage! (“Table for Five,” Jan. 5). It ultimately kept him out of the Promised Land. Lost was the first opportunity for the exposition of the power of a nonviolent protest.

True leadership calls for thoughtful reflection and not impulsive, incendiary behaviors. We are living in a time when national leadership demonstrates provocative words and threatens dangerous actions. These, too, are demonstrations not of strength but of disqualifying Mosaic immaturity. The Talmud offers a guide to keep in mind when selecting leaders: “Who is mighty? One who conquers one’s passions, as it is said: One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and one who rules over one’s spirit is better than one who conquers a city.” (Pirkei Avot 4:1)

Sheldon H. Kardener via email

A Settler for Peace

Caroline Schuhl Schattner’s efforts to bring Palestinians and Israelis together are indeed courageous and inspiring (“Settler Opens Her Home to Peace,” Jan. 5) but the Journal’s story portrayed her as a lone actor while, in fact, she represents Roots-Shorashim-Judur — the joint Israeli-Palestinian grass-roots initiative for peaceful coexistence and transformation based in Gush Etzion.

Readers who are inspired by Schattner’s work should visit to see how the work of this small, dedicated group, mostly volunteers, is slowly changing life on the ground in the West Bank.

Dave Paller via email


‘Settler Opens Her Home to Peace,’ Jan. 5:

Does (Caroline Schuhl Schattner) know she is living in a land that a Palestinian family was kicked out of, their home demolished and a new home built for people like her? In other words, she is living in a stolen land. It will be much appreciated if she gives her home back to a Palestinian family and does this from France.

Hassan Basma

The problem is that so many (especially Jews) still believe that this attitude is uncommon among Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria. It isn’t. The vast majority live, work, play, desire peace from and coexist with their Arab neighbors every day.

Yad Yamin

The real peace is possible only when Palestinians really want it. If they deny terrorism, stop hatred, put down their arms, Israel will be the first to stretch her hand to them. Palestinians will have everything: education, prosperity, economy, jobs, you name it. But the problem is they don’t want peace.

Alex Lapidus

This is a wonderful article and I hope she will be truly blessed in her quest. It’s just so disheartening that this well-intended article has to be met with so many negative comments. It surely is the root of the problem. God bless her.

Nechama Shana Kulszan

‘Pixar and the Zohar,’ Jan. 5:

Loved this movie (“Coco”) and so did my husband and 7-year-old (boy/girl) twins.My granddaughter totally got it. She said, “This is a movie of family love.”

Grace Borenstein

“Coco” is a beautiful movie. Día de los Muertos is a beautiful tradition. Mexican, Mexican indigenous, Spanish and Jewish teachings (part of the Talmud and part of the Zohar) speak about communicating with the departed and their continued presence or visits among us (especially on ritual occasions at certain ceremonies). People who look at the world through only one cultural lens tend to view everything that way, even though it may be in fact about another people. Since at an energy/spirit level, all dynamics/laws are basically the same, this is not wrong, only confusing for those who see only a switching or scrambling of categories.

Yma Marton

‘Meet the Fosters,’ Jan. 5:

This reminded me of our foster parenting days — filled with joy and sadness, love and pain. So often when asked how we could return them to their parents, our response was that they are like library books; love them, treat them as if they are your own, but always remember they really do belong to someone else.

Judith Apfelbaum

‘“For We Are Glorious,” ’ Jan. 5:

Karen Lehrman Bloch is an emerging and important voice in expounding on the values of classic liberalism while exposing conflicted progressive ideologies and faux liberals.

Sasha Juno

‘Where’s #MeToo for Persian Victims,’ Jan. 5:

You’d think Western feminist groups would be standing up and speaking out for the brave Iranian women who are rejecting masculine imposed limitations, but for some reason, they are not. I can’t imagine why.

Alex Bensky

‘Oh, Lorde,’ Jan. 5:

There are three possible responses to the weak-minded people who succumb to BDS pressure: denial, derision or engagement.
Denial is obviously the wrong choice.

Engaging these artists on its face appears the most responsible and high-minded. However, when the Israeli ambassador to New Zealand tried to do that by inviting Lorde to meet and discuss, he was roundly condemned for pressuring and bullying the poor girl.

So, in this anti-intellectual age of tweets and sloganeering, derision turns out to be the better response. Disgusting but true.

Yoni Shiran 

Israel doesn’t need Lorde and would do well to withdraw any future invitations to perform there.

Gary Coren

No, her young fans are not socially conscious because they did not ask her to boycott Russia. It’s time for Jews to stop being polite and nice when people call you baby killers.

George Naftali Muenz


In the Jan. 5 edition of Movers and Shakers, the Shalom Institute in Malibu was mistakenly referred to as the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles’ Shalom Institute in Malibu. The programs are unaffiliated.

Alana Yakovlev’s name was misspelled in an article about her pro bono work (“Law Isn’t Just a Profession — It’s a Calling,” Jan. 5).

Letters to the Editor: Survivor Story, Taxes, Jerusalem and Linda Sarsour

Inspired to Share Her Own Survivor Story

I was quite moved by Jane Ulman’s story on Mina Wilner (“Mina Wilner: Saved by a ‘Remarkable Woman,’ ” Nov. 3).  I was first attracted to the photo — it looked vaguely familiar, a bit of my own face. I was born in Warsaw and lived in Poland for 18 years. I am a bit younger. I was actually born in the Warsaw ghetto.

After my mother perished there, my father was trying to think how to save me. At about 15 months old, I was tiny, severely undernourished. He wrapped me in an old blanket and packing paper and threw me over the ghetto wall.  Yes, he did have some contacts on the outside and there were a number of people who promised to deliver me to Brwinow, not too far from Warsaw, where the Ursuline nuns were running an orphanage — but not for Jewish children, as far as I know. For a very long time, my father didn’t know if people did come to pick me up, get me on several trains, though the distance was small. My guardian angel must have been close on that night. I did survive (and my father took part in the Warsaw Insurrection with other surviving Ghetto Fighters.) The Ursuline nuns have a tree in Vad Yashem now.

Anne P. Warman via email

Don’t Forget What Paying Taxes Gets You

Even assuming that everyone receives some temporary benefit from the GOP tax bill, we see little attention given to the reason we pay taxes in the first place. The pursuit of happiness our Founding Fathers promised us means that we have access to health care, education, public safety and the myriad benefits of living in a democracy. Despite President Donald Trump’s claim that we are the most highly taxed nation, in fact we rank 33rd out of 35 developed nations in the percentage of taxes we pay.

Americans need to connect the amount of taxes we pay to the public services we have learned to expect.

Oliver Wendell Holmes famously said, “Taxes are the price of civilization.” The Republican bill will further eliminate funding for the institutions and programs that provide what Americans most treasure. I’ll continue to hate paying my taxes but I want to continue to enjoy what they support.

Barbara H. Bergen, Los Angeles

‘Judaism and Jedi-ism’

In his column (“Judaism and Jedi-ism,” Dec. 22), Eli Fink equates the burning of the Jedi temple with the burning of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. However, Yoda, in saying the books [of Jedi wisdom] were unimportant, was more like the Christians who eliminated the need to follow all the Jewish laws. Rey is more like Yohanan ben Zakkai, who started a school in Yavneh. He saved the books.

After all, we are the people of the book.

Carol Levine via email


I absolutely agree with your take. Judaism is moving to a decentralized model. What that will look like, who knows? But I suspect Mussar and personal ethics may be part of the answer. Thanks for writing.

Greg Marcus

I loved this! I’ve seen the movie [“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”] five times and found so many incredible themes.

Christy Marshall

‘A Diaspora Is Born in Nebraska,’ Dec. 22:

I am happy that [the Yazidis] are safe and sound, and sad that in order to achieve this, they had to leave the land of their birth. Welcome!

Rosalie Paul

‘Why a Jewish Hospital Has a Christmas Concert,’ Dec. 22:

“I have a little problem with a Jewish hospital, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, serving its patients and employees with a Christmas concert, but this story’s writer, Rabbi Jason Weiner, speaking as a rabbi, is just wrong about what Judaism asks of us.

Saying, “Honoring other faith traditions is an integral part of what it means to be a Jewish hospital” is ridiculous. Allowing them the right to worship as they please is one thing, but “honoring”? His statement is a brilliant political move, but that is what it is: politics. Celebrating (or should I say, “honoring”) others’ religions is specifically forbidden repeatedly by the Torah.

Gideon Jones

Music brings joy to one’s heart and I see nothing wrong with that. Perhaps if we shared more music with our fellow man, it would be a better world.

Joan Feldmann

Great story! Rabbi Weiner, whom I have had the pleasure to meet, has both warmth and an unassuming manner (humility), which comes across when you speak with him. Both the hospital and the community are lucky to have him. This article reflects that.

Tzvi Binn

‘My Reform Colleagues Were Wrong on Jerusalem,’ Dec. 22:

I can’t help but wonder what the response would have been if former President Barack Obama had declared the embassy will be moved to Jerusalem.

Dotty Weisberg

Actually, and with all due respect, I believe the original response of the North American Reform organizations to President Donald Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem was the correct response to make. In the absence of any final status peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, openly supporting Trump’s politically and manipulatively motivated statement (which he made primarily to appease and shore up his support among many right-wing, Christian evangelical supporters) would have been the wrong approach for these Reform organizations to take.

Craig Mankin

‘Jerusalem Move Blows Up Mideast Myths,’ Dec. 22:

Why do we always seem to forget the 1956 Suez campaign? Is it because part of the reason was that the British and French were trying to restore colonial control of the Suez Canal? Israel, on the other hand, was threatened and attacked by the same kind of fedayeen raids that were part of the cause for the 1967 war as well as conventional Egyptian forces on her borders.

John Fishel

This mantra is useless. Rational people don’t buy this nonsense. For a peaceful future, there is one solution: a shared capital, east for Palestine, west for Israel.

Wahid Awad

‘On Goddesses, Doormats and Linda Sarsour,’ Dec. 22:

It’s kind of amazing how ideologically polarized we’ve become. When people are questioning an incident that calls out some of the horrible management practices — covering up sexual assault in the workplace — of one of the most vocal anti-Semites in America today, in a Jewish magazine nonetheless, and people don’t believe it because it was first reported by a conservative news site, we really have lost our common consensus on the basis of reality and politics has trumped Judaism.

Pamela Fleischmann

CNN Anchor Hammers U.N. for Anti-Israel Bias

Photo from Flickr/nrkbeta.

CNN anchor Jake Tapper criticized the United Nations for being biased against Israel in a segment on Thursday, as he blasted various countries for criticizing Israel despite having “questionable records.”

Tapper began his segment by summarizing the U.N.’s vote to condemn the Trump administration’s Jerusalem move by a margin of 128 votes in favor of the condemnation, nine against and 35 abstentions. The anchor proceeded to review the records of some of the countries who voted to condemn the move, starting with Venezuela.

“The U.S. imperils global peace, says the representative of Venezuela, a country in a humanitarian disaster,” said Tapper, “with violence in the streets, an economy in complete collapse, citizens malnourished, dying children being turned away from hospitals, starving families joining street gangs to scrounge for food.”

“On what moral platform does the government of Venezuela stand today?” asked Tapper.

Tapper also noted the irony of Syria and Yemen condemning the U.S. despite the fact that their citizens have been ravished by the civil wars plaguing each country, as well as other countries like Myanmar, North Korea and China condemning the move despite their heinous human rights abuses.

The anchor proceeded to highlight some statistics from U.N. Watch reflecting the U.N.’s bias against Israel.

“The United Nations General Assembly from 2012-2015 has adopted 97 resolutions specifically criticizing an individual country, and of those 97, 83 of them have focused on Israel,” said Tapper. “That is 86%.”

Tapper added, “Certainly Israel is not above criticism, but considering the genocide of the Rohingya people in Myanmar, the lack of basic human rights in North Korea, the children starving in the streets of Venezuela, the citizens of Syria targeted for murder by their own leader using the most grotesque and painful weapons, you have to ask, is Israel is deserving of 86% of the world’s condemnation?”

“Or possibly is something else afoot at the United Nations? Something that allows the representative of the Assad government lecture the United States for moving its embassy.”

The full segment can be seen below:

U.N. Denounces Trump’s Jerusalem Move in Vote

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during the United Nations Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including Palestine, at U.N. Headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., December 18, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The United Nations voted on a resolution to condemn President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The resolution passed by a margin of 128 in favor and 9 against, with 35 abstentions and 21 countries that didn’t vote at all. The nine countries who voted against the resolution were the United States, Israel, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Tongo, Honduras, Guatemala ans Palau. Among those voted in favor of the resolution included Britain, France, Germany and Turkey, and Canada and Mexico were among those that abstained.

Here is the full record of how each country voted:

Nikki Haley, the United States ambassador to the U.N., had some sharp words for the U.N.

“The United States will remember this day, in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation,” said Haley. “We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations. And we will remember it when so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.”

Haley also pointed out that the U.S. “is by far the single largest contributor to the U.N.” and suggested that their funding to the U.N. could be reduced or withdrawn altogether in light of the vote.

“When we make generous contributions to the UN, we also have a legitimate expectation that our goodwill is recognize and respected,” said Haley. “When a nation is singled out for attack in this organization, that nation is disrespected. What’s more, that nation is asked to pay for the privilege of being disrespected. In the case of the US, we are asked to pay more than anyone else for that dubious privilege.”

Haley also criticized the U.N. as being “a hostile place for the state of Israel.”

“It’s a wrong that undermines the credibility of this institution and that, in turn, is harmful for the entire world,” said Haley.

Haley made it clear in her speech that the vote will not deter the U.S. from moving its embassy to Jerusalem.

On Wednesday, Trump suggested that the U.S. could reduce funding to countries that voted in favor of the resolution.

“They take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars and then they vote against us,” said Trump. “Well, we’re watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We’ll save a lot. We don’t care.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also criticized the vote, blasting the U.N. as “the house of lies.” Netanyahu also thanked Trump, Haley and the countries that voted with Israel.

Journal columnist Ben Shapiro pointed out on Twitter that Thursday’s vote is in line with the U.N.’s record of anti-Israel bias:


Letters to the Editor: Jerusalem, Hanukkah, Gun Control and ‘Wonder’


Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital

This article attributes wisdom to a president who does not deserve it. Donald Trump’s statements are not about what is good for Israel, or what is good for the peace process, or even what is good for the U.S. In some way, these statements serve only one purpose — Trump. It’s a shame so many Jews miss this critical point. And while we may clamor for the recognition of an empire, in the end, it doesn’t really matter.

Brian Lichtman

Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. We Israelis never doubted it. Even if someone argues that it was meant to be an international city, we know that Israel is the only country in the Middle East that can keep it as free and international while it’s also its capital.

Ora Cooper

The truth needs to be repeated that President Donald Trump’s speech contained much wisdom. He acknowledged the reality of Israel’s capital city being Jerusalem while stating that the final borders would be left up to negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. That the Palestinians’ response was to declare multiple “days of rage” and their refusal of further meetings with U.S. representatives speaks volumes about their true desire for peace.

Bill Bender

How Jerusalem Decision May Impact Jews

David Suissa’s column “Can Jerusalem Be Good for All Religions?” (Dec. 15) was great! However, I believe this event creates an urgent need to ask a second (and more important) question: Can Judaism be good for most Jews? Obviously, to answer this question we must first define “Judaism” — so that most Jews (and especially, most young Jews and old rabbis) actually can agree about Judaism in 2018.

Aaron H. Shovers, Long Beach 

David Suissa’s Editor’s Note about Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel is outstanding. I was so impressed that I took it with me today to read to my daughter while she drove me to the Veterans Affairs/West Los Angeles Medical Center. He is an excellent writer and a brilliant man. And I have noticed a distinct improvement in the type and quality of the articles now being published for our community.

Keep up the good work.

George Epstein via email

Fond Memories of Hanukkah on the Go

The Hanukkah story by Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky, “Stronger Together” (Dec. 8), is a heartwarming reminder that Jewish life and many of our holiday customs are both joyful and portable.

And they’re even better when we manage to share them with others, wherever and whenever possible.

I’ll add three of our Hanukkah travel tales: First, at California’s Yosemite National Park lodge when my children were young, the desk clerk allowed me to post my hand-drawn sign with an eight-branched menorah plus candles along with an open invitation for hotel guests to join us in our room to light and sing Hanukkah brachot/prayers together.

Among several couples and families who arrived, one couple turned out to be formerly unknown distant family relatives with roots in Western Europe, visiting from the American Midwest.

On another occasion, we managed to light Hanukkah candles at Los Angeles International Airport (not likely permitted today) while en route to Argentina to visit my wife’s family.

Another memorable time I lit a hanukkiah while traveling was while en route to Israel on a stopover at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport on an American Professors for Peace in the Middle East faculty group study mission (an important U.S. and Canada faculty Israel support group founded in 1967). The two-hour layover before boarding our El Al flight was enough to allow the minimum half-hour needed for the candles to burn, per Jewish custom and law.

With permission from nearby boarding gate staff, I set up a menorah and three candles on the counter to light them, readily visible in the area. Others approached and while singing the prayers, together we recalled the living yet ancient “ages-old victory and miracle” (nes gadol hayah sham) while awaiting our flight to depart.

Again, as airport travelers en route to Israel, we joined in prayerful melodies and lights in a public reminder and joyful Hanukkah celebration of the Maccabees’ victory and our enemies’ defeat with God’s help — to restore the Temple in Jerusalem and enabling us to honor Jewish values and practices, thanks to this wonderful and supportive country, the United States, in which we have the privilege to live!

Allan Levine via email 

Gun Laws and Gun Violence in the U.S.

I read Danielle Berrin’s column about the need for gun control in this country (“The Great Gun Debate,” Dec. 15). First of all, homicides have gone way down from a high of nearly 20,000 over 10 years ago to around 12,000 to 14,000 thousand now. Of course, mass murders have increased, though.

The city of Chicago had very weak gun control laws years ago and had about 250 homicides a year. Now, with among with the strictest gun control laws in this country, the city has recorded more than 600 homicides this  year.

Gun control has never been effective in reducing homicides in this country and never will. Homicides may go up or down regardless of stricter gun control laws.

Lynda Wadkins, North Hollywood

Did Columnist See the Same Movie as Letter Writer?

How in the world could one possibly see the movie “Wonder” as “one big smack in the face at President Donald Trump and his politics of hate”? (“ ‘Wonder’: A Call to Our Better Angels,” Dec. 1.)

You not only printed a piece contending that protecting America is hatred personified, you made sure the whole point of Karen Lehrman Bloch’s column was mainly about that.

You’ve bought (and are now selling) the craziness of MSNBC journalist Rachel Maddow, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, comedian Kathy Griffin and the rest of the people who claim that all of the Trump supporters are a “basket of deplorables.”

Hasn’t that gotten a little old by now?

Steve Klein, Encino

Letter About Rohingya Was Misinterpreted

I am saddened by Usman Madha’s letter (“Muslim Wants to Dispel Distortions About Rohingya,” Dec. 15) misinterpreting the facts contained in my original letter regarding the Buddhist-Muslim strife in Myannmar (“Plight of the Rohingya Has Many Facets,” Dec. 8). I was clear in expressing sympathy for the innocent Rohingya at the outset of my letter, which focused primarily on the years of jihadist wars that have left indelible scars on the people of the Indian subcontinent.

This reality sheds light on the reactive behavior of Myanmar’s Buddhists to the Muslim Rohingya today. Madha admits he is well aware of the Jihadist problem in Islam when he proclaims he is a “practicing pluralist, non-jihadist Muslim.” Moreover, my letter did not focus on Jewish-Muslim relations but rather on Islamic-Buddhist relations, which lie at the heart of the Myanmar dispute.

I am a fan of moderate Muslim thinkers such as Zuhdi Jasser, who has called for a reform of Islam’s jihadist roots in a post-9/11 world. The recent rapprochement of Saudi Arabia and the moderate Arab countries with Israel, as well as the tone of Madha’s welcoming letter, give me hope for a better future.

Richard Friedman, Culver City

My Reform Colleagues Were Wrong on Jerusalem

A general view of Jerusalem's Old City shows the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site, in the foreground as the Dome of the Rock, located on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, is seen in the background December 10, 2017. Picture taken December 10, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

We were wrong.

As Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky pointed out, “The Reform response to the recognition of Jerusalem was terrible. When … a superpower recognizes Jerusalem, first you … welcome it, then offer disagreement. Here it was the opposite.”

Sharansky was referring to the Dec. 5 statement issued by all 16 North American Reform organizations and affiliates in response to President Donald Trump’s declaration recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The operative clause reads: “While we share the President’s belief that the U.S. Embassy should, at the right time, be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, we cannot support his decision to begin preparing that move now, absent a comprehensive plan for a peace process.”

There have been several attempts to clarify this position, but not by all of the original signatories. It is still the official position of the entire North American apparatus of the Reform movement. If our movement’s affiliates have had a change of heart, all of them should say it through another statement: “We made a mistake.”

If not, and if we still stand by our original statement, I want the Jewish world to know that this position is not my position, nor does it reflect the views of multitudes of, perhaps most, Reform Jews.

We were wrong on the politics. With the exception of one small hard-left party, there is wall-to-wall agreement among the Zionist parties in the Knesset supporting the embassy move. We have alienated the very people who support and defend us in our campaign for religious pluralism and equitable funding. Sharansky himself is the most dogged and prominent supporter of the Western Wall compromise.

More important, we were wrong on the merits. We have yearned for Jerusalem for two millennia. It is the source of our strength, the place where our people were formed, where the Bible was written. Jews lived free and made pilgrimage to Jerusalem for a thousand years. Our national existence changed the world and led to the creation of two other great faiths.

The world’s superpower finally did the right thing, and we opposed it — not on the principle, but on the “timing.” The timing? Now is not the right time? Two thousand years later and it is still not the right time? As if there is a peace process that the Palestinians are committed to and pursuing with conviction.

There were critics who accused the civil rights movement of moving too quickly. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s response: “The time is always ripe to do what is right.”

In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, King wrote: “For years now I have
heard the word ‘wait’ … that [our] action … is untimely. This ‘wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’ We must come to see that justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

King often reminded us that time is neutral, that it can be used constructively or destructively. Israel’s opponents have used time more effectively than we have. They have so distorted history that so many around the world question the
very legitimacy of Jewish ties to Zion and Jerusalem. We have neglected teaching and conveying, even to our own children, our millennia-old love affair with the Land of Israel and Jerusalem as its beating heart.

Judaism without Eretz Yisrael is not Judaism. Judaism without Jerusalem is not Judaism.

This is not to deny that others consider Jerusalem holy. It is not to deny that the Palestinians seek Jerusalem as their capital. I am in favor of two states for two peoples. For that to happen, some kind of accommodation on Jerusalem will be necessary. If and when it occurs, I will support it.

But let no one be fooled. Peace will never rise on foundations of sand. Any agreement will collapse under the weight of its own inconsistencies if constructed on a scaffolding of lies.

President Trump simply acknowledged reality. It is about time. It should have been done decades ago, in 1949, when Israel declared Jerusalem its capital. Many presidents — Democrats and Republicans — promised to move the U.S. Embassy.

The embassy will be in West Jerusalem. Who contests West Jerusalem? President Trump did not pre-empt the eventual borders of Jerusalem. He did not preclude a permanent status agreement. He simply acknowledged a fact. Where do people meet Israeli prime ministers, presidents, parliamentarians and Supreme Court
justices — in Tel Aviv? Where did Anwar Sadat speak when he wanted to
convey on behalf of the Egyptian people a message of peace to Israelis: Tel Aviv?

The embassy will be in West Jerusalem. Who contests West Jerusalem? President Trump did not pre-empt the eventual borders of Jerusalem. He did not preclude a permanent status agreement. He simply acknowledged a fact.

It is for each country to declare its own capital. What other nation declares a capital unrecognized by the nations of the world? What kind of special abuse is reserved for the Jewish nation?

At the same time, it is proper and necessary for us to remind ourselves and others that we are committed to a two-state solution that will require territorial compromises from both sides, including in Jerusalem. We should continue to urge the American government to help bring about a negotiated peace.

We also should urge the international community to disabuse the Palestinian national movement of its exaggerated expectations and its insidious efforts to undermine and erase our connection to Zion. Until that happens, peace is an illusion.

Ammiel Hirsch is senior rabbi of Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York. 

Jerusalem Move Blows Up Mideast Myths

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Two weeks ago, President Donald Trump made what was, according to the media, a cataclysmic decision: He declared that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel, and that the United States would move its embassy there.

This move, we heard, was unprecedented and dangerous. It was supposed to launch a massive terror campaign against Israel and the Jews worldwide. It was supposed to sink the so-called “peace process.” It was slated to blow up the Middle East.

None of these things have happened.

They haven’t happened because Trump merely recognized reality. The reality is that Jerusalem is the Jewish dream, the heart of the case of Israel as Jewish territory. If we forget Jerusalem, we forget our right hand. If Jerusalem is not linked to Israel, Israel might as well be in Montana. Jerusalem has far more to do with Israel than Tel Aviv.

Furthermore, there is no moral case for Jerusalem to be placed in non-Jewish hands. Under Jewish rule, holy sites have been preserved and access to those sites granted; while under Muslim rule, holy sites have been destroyed and defaced, and access to those sites denied. Jerusalem is mentioned hundreds of times in the Old Testament; it isn’t mentioned once in the Quran. Jerusalem is only important to anyone because it was first important to the Jews.

This means that Israel was never going to give away Jerusalem in any negotiation with the terrorist Palestinian government. Here is Yitzhak Rabin, the father of Oslo, in 1995: “Jerusalem is the heart of the Jewish people and a deep source of our pride. We differ in our opinions, left and right. We disagree on the means and the objective. In Israel, we all agree on one issue: the wholeness of Jerusalem, the continuation of its existence as capital of the State of Israel.”

Nor should Israel give away Jerusalem — particularly not to the Palestinian Authority, whose charter still denies the legitimacy of the state of Israel. And Israel should never be discussing handing over any territory to Hamas, an actual terrorist group that has stated its dedication to Israel’s destruction.

“We all agree on one issue: the wholeness of Jerusalem … its existence as capital of the State of Israel.” — Yitzhak Rabin

Recognizing this truth means setting a serious groundwork for peace. No divorce can be negotiated without a common frame of negotiable items. Jerusalem is not negotiable. End of story. Trump recognized that, and in doing so, he undermined the chief rationale driving Palestinian terrorism: the delusional hope that spilling enough blood would cause the West to push Israel into surrendering its spiritual and physical capital.

Trump’s move also fostered peace by formally recognizing that Israel’s new alliances with Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia against Iran are more important than any religious dispute over Jerusalem. There have been no serious protests from any of those governments — each of which attacked Israel in 1948, 1967 and 1973. Those governments now recognize that Israel is an important strategic ally in the region.

The lack of blowback from Trump’s decision has left only two groups angry: Democrats and the media. Democrats are angry because they have been publicly humiliated: The Senate voted 90-0 to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital not six months ago, and yet Democrats were now forced to denounce Trump for taking their words seriously. The media are angry because they have spent years building the myth that conflict in the Middle East centers on Israeli intransigence. Now it’s clear that it was Muslim intransigence all along that caused conflict, and that Muslim willingness to side with Israel against Iran supersedes religious conflict.

So, well done, President Trump. And thank you for speaking plain truth and acting bravely when most were willing to offer empty only verbiage backed by inaction and fear.

Ben Shapiro is a best-selling author, editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire and host of the conservative podcast “The Ben Shapiro Show.”

Netanyahu Thanks Nikki Haley for Vetoing Anti-Israel Resolution

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he speaks during an event marking "The Appreciation for the Fallen of Israel's Wars and Victims of Terrorism Day" at the Knesset, Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Israeli Prime Minister Benjaim Netanyahu put forward a video thanking Nikki Haley, the United States’ Ambassador to the United Nations, for vetoing an anti-Israel U.N. resolution.

The resolution, put forward by Egypt, would have rendered President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and his plan to eventually move the U.S. embassy there as “null and void” and prevented “the establishment of diplomatic missions” in Jerusalem.

But Haley prevented it from going into effect by wielding the U.S.’s veto power, and Netanyahu expressed his gratitude to her.

“On Hanukkah, you spoke like a Maccabi,” Netanyahu said in a video. “You lit a candle of truth. You dispel the darkness. One defeated the many. Truth defeated lies.”

When Haley issued the veto, she declared, “The United States will not be told by any country where we can put our embassy,” adding that “it’s scandalous to say we are putting back peace efforts.”

“The fact that this veto is being done in defense of American sovereignty and in defense of America’s role in the Middle East peace process is not a source of embarrassment for us,” said Haley. “It should be an embarrassment to the remainder of the Security Council.”

Danny Danon, the Israeli U.N. ambassador, also criticized the resolution.

“While the Jewish people celebrate the holiday of Hanukkah that symbolizes the eternal connection to Jerusalem, there are people who think that they can rewrite history,” said Danon. “It’s time for all countries to recognize that Jerusalem always was and always will be the capital of the Jewish people and the capital of Israel.”

Before the U.S. used its veto power, 14 countries voted in favor of the resolution, including Britain and France.

Palestinian Wearing Fake Explosive Belt Stabs IDF Soldier

Israeli border policemen stand away after shooting a Palestinian man with a knife and what looks like an explosive belt near the Jewish settlement of Beit El, near the West Bank city of Ramallah. December 15, 2017. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic/File photo

A Palestinian man wearing a belt that appeared to be laced with fake explosives stabbed an Israel Defense Force (IDF) soldier on the shoulder and was shot as a result.

The man, identified as 29-year-old Mohammed Aqal, was reportedly at a riot in Ramallah that became violent to the point of IDF intervention. Aqal allegedly stabbed an IDF soldier twice in the shoulder. Law enforcement officials responded by shooting Aqual and then shooting him again when they noticed the apparent explosives on his belt.

Aqal died from his gunshot wounds. The Hadashot newspaper later reported that the belt didn’t contain actual explosives. The IDF soldier who was stabbed is currently in stable condition.

Aqal was one of four Palestinians who died in riots in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem on Friday in response to President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Another 250 were injured and a total of 2,500 Palestinians took part in the riots, a decline of “thousands” from the week prior. According to the Times of Israel, “Demonstrators burned tires and threw rocks at Israeli troops, who fired back at them with tear gas and rubber bullets.”

A 30-year-old Israeli who has yet to be identified was wounded when some Palestinians chucked rocks at his vehicle. His injuries are not believed to be serious.

Video from the riots can be seen here.

The flare-up in riots come as Vice President Mike Pence is set to visit the Middle East at the beginning of next week. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is refusing to meet with the vice president due to Trump’s Jerusalem move.

Abbas: Jews ‘Are Really Excellent In Faking and Counterfeiting History and Religion’

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a news conference following the extraordinary meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, Turkey, December 13, 2017. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas claimed that Jews are spreading lies about “history and religion” in a speech to the Organization for of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Wednesday.

Abbas railed against President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, stating that Jerusalem deserves to be the capital of Palestine. During the speech, Abbas said that Jews “are really excellent in faking and counterfeiting history and religion.”

“If we read the Torah it says that the Canaanites were there before the time of our prophet Abraham and their existence continued since that time—this is in the Torah itself,” said Abbas. “But if they would like to fake this history, they are really masters in this and it is mentioned in the holy Qur’an they fabricate truth and they try to do that and they believe in that but we have been there in this location for thousands of years.”

Abbas also claimed in his speech that Jerusalem “is a Palestinian Arab Muslim Christian city” and attempted to rebut the notion that the Palestinian Authority is a terrorist entity.

“The U.S. Congress issued 27 resolutions saying we are terrorists, even when we have signed an agreement with the U.S. and 83 other states on fighting terrorism,” said Abbas. “Despite that, Congress insists we are terrorists, and we are not; it is they who invented terrorism. We have complied with all understandings between us and successive U.S. administrations, including this administration, but these illegal resolutions on Jerusalem have crossed all red lines, which will not make it possible for us to keep our commitments unilaterally.”

Additionally, Abbas declared that the Palestinians were no longer interested in having the United States as a peace broker.

Tablet’s Yair Rosenberg pointed out that Abbas’ reference to Qu’ran specifically “mentions Jews,” therefore meaning that Abbas was using a longtime anti-Semitic trope of Jews fabricating history. Rosenberg also notes that this would be in line with other anti-Semitic comments from Abbas, including him stating a blood libel in 2016 that “Israeli rabbis had called to poison Palestinian water.”

The Trump administration fired back at Abbas over his speech, claiming that his type of rhetoric “has prevented peace for years.”

“We will remain hard at work, putting together our plan, which will benefit both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples,” a White House official told the Jerusalem Post.

City of Peace

Photo from Pixabay.

“This sacred city,” declared President Donald Trump last week, “should call forth the best in humanity.”

It was somewhat of a Nixon-in-China moment, as Trump is not exactly known as a beacon of moral clarity. And yet it was very much a moment of essential truth. Not just that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel, but that Jerusalem — Israel — can arouse the best within us.

In the days that followed, despite fervent calls for mass hysteria, mass hysteria did not ensue. Could some Arabs and Muslims actually have been inspired by Trump’s words, which were notably translated into Arabic on the White House’s website? Are they finally beginning to see that they’ve been exploited by their leaders for nearly a century?

The fact is, no one is born with hate in their soul.

Perhaps this moment of truth will ignite a new beginning for the Arab world — a time to move beyond hate, to get their own houses in order, to begin creating magnificence again.

As we know in our own politics, the loudest voices don’t necessarily represent the majority, and the extremes are rarely sane. My three closest Muslim friends — two Egyptian, one American — are more than ready to get beyond this achingly difficult place. They scoff at the left’s bigotry of low expectations: They don’t want to be seen as victims or conquerors.

In stark contrast to the fanatical statements from Turkish, Iranian and Palestinian leaders, Muslim reformer Zuhdi Jasser had this to say about Jerusalem: “The path to peace will always be through treating Arabs and Muslims as adults, without appeasing the militant Islamist hectoring veto.”

On a micro level, I have been watching this play out on the Facebook page of my book and exhibition “Passage to Israel.” Nearly one-third and sometimes one-half of the “likes” on the photos I post are from people with Arabic names. Even when I explicitly write “Jerusalem, Israel,” or “Hebron, Israel.” Even when I post photos of the Israel Defense Forces.

Beautiful imagery, of course, can bypass ideology and make a beeline for the soul. I carefully chose photos that are emotionally captivating. But my primary intent had been for Jews in the Diaspora to reconnect with Israel, for everyone to see the inherent beauty and diversity of the country that the mainstream media rarely shows.

At some point, enough Muslims will say to their leaders: “Stop treating us like children. Stop teaching us to hate.”

I have been surprised that Arab Israelis are responding so positively, but maybe I shouldn’t have been. We are all human. Just as I am moved by Islamic art and design — even after a terrorist attack — so, too, the layered beauty of Israel cannot easily be ignored, no matter how much hate you’ve ingested since birth.

We each rise and fall to the expectations of others. When you treat a group of adults like toddlers, unable to control themselves, they will act like toddlers. At some point, enough Muslims will say to their leaders: “Stop treating us like children. Stop teaching us to hate.” That will be the day the Muslim world begins to blossom again.

The night of Trump’s speech, I posted on Facebook a beautiful rendition of “Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu.” A spiritual song of peace and hope, its soulful melody brilliantly tears down all defenses, clears out negativity and anger. One of my Egyptian friends was the first to “heart” it.

In my book, I wrote that Israel is a mirror to one’s soul. Despite the anti-Semitism that permeates the Arab and Muslim world, I do believe there is a familial love underneath the anger and frustration. A love that can be tapped through personal connections, shared experiences and raised expectations. A love that could flourish through rational compassion — a compassion that’s not self-denigrating.

In the Talmud it is written: “Ten measures of beauty descended upon the world, nine were taken by Jerusalem.”

Can an undivided Jerusalem — a city that’s been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, captured and recaptured 44 times — ever be the City of Peace, as it was once called, ever be our true connector to God, one another and the best within us?

Perhaps the better question is: How can it not be?

Karen Lehrman Bloch is a cultural critic and author. Her writings have appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, The Wall Street Journal and Metropolis, among others.

Peace Through Raising Expectations

I support the plan to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. I acknowledge this is a controversial topic, and I will observe the talmudic principle of stating the primary, opposing viewpoint before my own:

“The American Embassy in Israel shouldn’t be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem at this time because it will result in violence, impair the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and further destabilize a region already beset with violence and chaos.”

I disagree with this view because it expects the worst from Palestinian Arabs and Arabs in general. I believe it is racist to assume that these groups will become violent merely because something happens that displeases them.

It is true that actions by Israel and the United States have met with violence in the past. If we dig deeper, however, we find that the real obstacle to peace is a Palestinian leadership that benefits financially from the ongoing cycle of violence. One need look only at the personal fortune of Yasser Arafat at the time of his death — a stash worth more than $1 billion — to grasp the profound impact of the leadership’s corruption on the Palestinian people.

Fourteen years later, Arafat’s successors continue to hire protesters for suicide missions by offering lifetime payments of $3,000 a month to their families, distributed through the Palestinian Authority Martyrs Fund. Thousands of families receive these payments, funded entirely by foreign aid. Needless to say, the politicians take a huge cut for themselves.

The real obstacle to peace is a Palestinian leadership that benefits financially from the ongoing cycle of violence.

It’s a simple cycle: incite violence against Israelis, exploit the predictable military response for publicity, receive payments from sympathetic nations and skim for personal gain.

The leaders of this operation are not motivated to imagine peace with Israel because it would take money out of their pockets. Bypassing such leaders is the key to forging the elusive peace.

In announcing the intention to move the embassy, President Donald Trump noted that 1) the modern State of Israel declared Jerusalem its capital decades ago and has thus governed itself ever since; 2) the American pretense that Tel Aviv is Israel’s capital has not contributed to peace in the region; and 3) most importantly, Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people.

This truth has never been taught in Palestinian schools. The fact that Jerusalem is mentioned by name 622 times in the Torah and has been the focus of Jewish prayer for 2,000 years, and has never been the capital of any other nation, doesn’t matter if such facts are not communicated to the population that is being manipulated into violence.

The proposed embassy move, which carries tremendous symbolic weight, bypasses the Palestinian Authority gatekeepers and communicates to the Palestinian-Arab people that Israel and Jerusalem will never be parted. It brings us closer to peace by respecting them enough to assume that violence is neither their only form of communication nor negotiation, when presented with actual facts.

In its coverage of the embassy story, however, the Los Angeles Times noted on its front page that the president’s announcement sent “a sense of anger and apprehension coursing through the Arab world.”

This is the racism of low expectations. How can relocating the diplomatic office to reflect a historical and practical reality create apprehension for Arabs? Who is threatening them? It’s as if the L.A. Times already is justifying the violence it expects from the Arab world.

If more violence comes, and I pray it does not, it will not be because the United States respects Israel’s right to determine its own capital like every other nation. Such violence would arise from the same corrupt leadership that has always benefited from it. If we recognize these leaders and hate peddlers for what they are, we may well hasten the day when new leadership arises that seeks to build a genuine peace and more hopeful future for Palestinians.

This kind of revolution can’t happen if we don’t engage with the people directly. Let’s assume they want peace and they’re open to new ideas. Let’s raise our expectations.

Such assumptions won’t make the road to peace a smooth one,  but at least there will be a road.

Salvador Litvak shares his love of Judaism every day  at

Machal Fighters Get Memorial in Jerusalem, Seven Decades After Volunteering for Israel

An artist’s rendering of the Machal memorial in Jerusalem. Image courtesy Jerry Klinger

Nearly 70 years after volunteers from five continents left homes and jobs to fight for the newly proclaimed State of Israel, their deeds will be honored and memorialized on Dec. 17 at a historic site in Jerusalem.

The 4,922 volunteers from 59 countries were part of Machal — a Hebrew acronym for Overseas Volunteers — and 123 of them died in the line of duty. Less than a dozen elderly survivors are expected to attend the dedication of the massive memorial, located across the Ammunition Hill national memorial site.

The memorial is 10 feet long and 8 feet high, made of stone, concrete and steel, and inscribed in Hebrew with the words of Yitzhak Rabin. In a tribute to the volunteers, the late general and prime minister said, “You came to us when we needed you most, during those dark and uncertain days of our War of Independence.”

Dignitaries will include Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat; national Housing and Construction Minister Yoav Galant; Jeffrey Margolis, president of American Veterans for Israel Legacy Corp.; and Harold (Smoky) Simon, the World Machal chairman. The afternoon events will include a torch relay from the city center to the dedication site, honor detachments and music from the armed forces, and a Hanukkah lighting ceremony.

Before and during the War of Independence, which began in 1948, the largest contingents of volunteers came from the United States, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Canada and France. Almost all — including 168 gentiles — had fought for their home countries in World War II and brought valuable experience and skills, particularly to the Israeli air force and navy, which had to be built from scratch.

Over the decades, the contributions of the volunteers to the outcome of the war either have been ignored in Israel and their home countries, or overblown, Hollywood-style.

A blunt and only slightly exaggerated description came from California novelist Harold Livingston, who flew for the Israel Air Transport Command and who described “Ben-Gurion’s Foreign Legion. They took anyone. Misfits from America, English communists, South African Zionists, Soviet army deserters, Polish noblemen, ne’er-do-well soldiers of fortune.

“If you want excitement and adventure, come on over. … If you want to write a book. If you’re running from the police. If you want to get away from your wife. If you want to prove that Jews can fight. If you want to build a new land.”

Perhaps Machal’s most important contribution was to lift the morale of Israelis, knowing that their Diaspora brethren were with them.

The motives always were mixed. My time as an American infantryman in France and Germany during World War II had left me restless, my early exposure to Zionism in a Jewish school and youth organization in Berlin during the mid-1930s had left an imprint, and since a new Jewish state arises only every 2,000 years or so, I figured I probably wouldn’t be around for the next time.

My past military experience qualified me to serve as squad leader in an “Anglo-Saxon” anti-tank unit, composed entirely of English-speaking volunteers, who spoke the mother tongue in a variety of often-incomprehensible accents. In this unit, the men from the highly organized and supportive Jewish communities of South Africa formed the most stable element; the Americans, Canadians and Brits were somewhere in the middle, while two teenage Australians arrived fairly late in the game after a slow ship ride from Down Under.

Machalniks served in all branches of the Israel Defense Forces — army, navy, air force, Palmach shock troops and medical corps — as well as Aliyah Bet, composed of men and women who ran the British blockade in 1946-47 to bring “illegal” Jewish immigrants to pre-state Palestine.

The single largest Machal contingent came from the United States. Its given numbers have varied acceding to time and source, some running as high as 1,400. In the most current compilation, Machal world chair Simon has downsized the figure to 805. Of these, 263 served in the air force, with many hailing from the Los Angeles area.

But given the size of the American Jewish community at the time, this number lags well behind the contribution of every other English-speaking country proportionally. For example, the South African contingent was almost as large as the American, with a Jewish population one-fiftieth that of the U.S.

Americans gave freely of their money, and a few lost their citizenships for illegally sending arms and planes to Israel.

But the disparity in the number of American volunteers reflected the differences in communal attitudes and civic courage. South African Jews — and Britain’s to a slightly lesser degree — set up their own selective service systems, complete with physical and psychological testing, and rallied fully behind their young men and women heading for the battlefield. By contrast, organized American Jewry, fearful of the dreaded accusation of double loyalty, generally averted its collective eyes and prayed silently that those crazy kids going over would not prove an embarrassment.

Whatever the Machal contributions, on the ground — where ultimately wars are still won — the Israelis did most of the job themselves and paid a high price. The War of Independence claimed the lives of some 6,200 Israeli soldiers and civilians.

Perhaps Machal’s most important contribution was to lift the morale of Israelis, knowing that their Diaspora brethren were with them.

One of the key initiators and backers of the Machal memorial has been Jerry Klinger, a son of Holocaust survivors, retired first vice president of Merrill Lynch and president of the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation.

Klinger, who lives in Boynton Beach, Fla., has made it his mission to cut red tape and to fund and affix signposts and markers across the the world to draw attention to Jewish contributions and pioneering enterprises. He was instrumental in erecting a memorial in Haifa to the fabled refugee ship Exodus,  as well as 66 historical markers throughout the West and the United States.

To Klinger, looking back on all his historical markers, the one honoring the men and women of Machal may be the most important. “If we let them be forgotten,” he said, “we are denying their tomorrows and our yesterdays.”


“Friends” is part of the book and international exhibition “Passage to Israel” (

“Friends,” by Iris Cohenian

Muslim girls chat on the roof of the Austrian Hospice of the Holy Family, a popular place to see friends in the Old City of Jerusalem. The hospice opened its doors in 1863 for pilgrims. Today, it is a guesthouse that aims to bring together different cultures through art and music.

“Friends” is part of the book and international exhibition “Passage to Israel” (

Rabbi Uziel’s Jerusalem: A Yearning to Return Home

Rabbi Benzion Meir Hai Uziel

It was April 1949, and the residents of Jerusalem were in the midst of the first Passover being celebrated in the still young State of Israel. Rabbi Benzion Meir Hai Uziel, Israel’s first modern-day Sephardic Chief Rabbi, addressed a gathering of Jews, reminding them what life was like during Passover of 1948: “Just a year ago on Passover,” he told them, “under extreme conditions, we prepared and celebrated the seder. By the same merit that our ancestors were redeemed in Egypt, we, the people of Jerusalem, were also redeemed. So here we are today, one year later, celebrating Passover in Jerusalem, this time with joy and happiness.”

A native-born child of the Old City of Jerusalem, Rabbi Uziel was well aware of the paradox of his celebratory words. He knew that he was addressing a crowd of people who, just a year earlier, were living in Jerusalem’s Old City, a place where his family and Sephardic community had lived for centuries. He knew that the crowd he was speaking to — a multitude of families, rabbis and Jewish leaders — were forced out of their homes by the Jordanians and forced to abandon their belongings and holy sites.

So, Rabbi Uziel knew that his celebratory words were bittersweet: “Our joy is tempered by the fact that Jerusalem ‘within the walls’ (the Old City) lies in ruins, emptied of her Jewish people, with the Kotel standing alone. This breaks our hearts, and we will never feel comforted until the day comes when we merit to return to the sacred Old City, which is the eternal capital of the State of Israel.”

I have read Rabbi Uziel’s moving words several times around my Passover tables, but last week, as the president of the United States formally declared Jerusalem as the State of Israel’s official capital, I found myself re-reading Rabbi Uziel’s remarks away from my seder, in a totally new light. As I heard President Donald Trump say, “I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” it brought me back to Rabbi Uziel’s speech, when, standing in a physically divided Jerusalem, he nonetheless declared Jerusalem’s Old City “the eternal capital of the State of Israel.”

I re-read Rabbi Uziel’s entire address, wondering what was going through his mind as he made this declaration. Was it politics? Knowing Rabbi Uziel’s illustrious career as a public leader, one might be tempted to think so. Born in 1880 in Jerusalem, Rabbi Uziel is the only chief rabbi — Sephardic or Ashkenazic — to have held official positions of rabbinic leadership under three political administrations in the Land of Israel. In 1911, he left his native Jerusalem to become the Chief Rabbi (Haham Bashi) of Tel-Aviv-Jaffa, under the Ottoman Empire. In 1939, he returned home to Jerusalem, where he was unanimously appointed the Sephardic Chief Rabbi (Rishon L’Zion) under British Rule. On May 14, 1948, he stood behind David Ben-Gurion and heard him declare the State of Israel, then serving as Chief Rabbi of Israel until his death in 1953.

Embedded within Rabbi Uziel’s words were his childhood memories from “within the walls,” when the languages spoken in the Jewish Quarter included Ladino and Arabic.

As an official leader under three distinctly different governments, he probably had more political experience than most politicians.

And yet, from studying Rabbi Uziel’s life story, I have no doubt that that his remarks went far deeper than politics. Embedded within Rabbi Uziel’s words were his childhood memories from “within the walls,” when the languages spoken in the Jewish Quarter included Ladino and Arabic. He spoke as the descendant of the Hazan and Uziel families, two Sephardic families who, after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, made their way to Jerusalem and settled in the Old City.

As he spoke about Jerusalem, he could still hear the prayers from the complex known as the “Four Sephardic Synagogues,” where the tunes included the sounds of Istanbul, Holland, Iraq, Syria and Morocco, blending together to become “Yerushalmi.” As he looked out into his audience, he must have seen some of the widows and orphans he visited every day in the Spanish courtyard building, the same ancient building where he studied in the famous Sephardic Talmud Torah as a child. He could probably hear the echoes of his teacher’s soft-spoken voice teaching him Torah with love, much like he could hear the sweet voices of mothers singing Ladino lullabies to their children, all in the Old City.

Just one year before his speech, when the Old City was under siege in 1948, a group of yeshiva students approached Rabbi Uziel to ask for exemptions from military service so they could continue to study Torah. He denied their requests and told them that were it not for his age, he would proudly pick up a rifle and defend the Old City of Jerusalem where he was born and raised. Indeed, Rabbi Uziel volunteered for the Civil Guard in Jerusalem, and when he issued halachic permission to dig trenches on Shabbat for safety purposes, he himself participated in the digging.

Rabbi Uziel lived with the pain of having lost his home and community in the Old City, but he nonetheless remained an optimist:

“Despite this,” he said, “we nevertheless rejoice in the establishment of the ‘New Jerusalem’ that we currently live in by the good grace of God, secure from the threat of the enemy.”

He never lived to see the reunified Jerusalem, but on that Passover day in Jerusalem in 1949, after declaring Jerusalem’s Old City “the eternal capital of the State of Israel,” he concluded his speech with this prayer: “As we celebrate Passover this year in our newly liberated City of Jerusalem, next year, and for many years to come, may we merit celebrating Passover in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, with great joy, happiness and songs of praise to God. Amen.”

A prayer from a Chief Rabbi of Israel, but, more than that, a prayer from a child who yearned to return home.

Rabbi Daniel Bouskila is the director of the Sephardic Educational Center, an international educational and cultural organization with its own campus in the Old City of Jerusalem and executive offices in Los Angeles. He also is an instructor of Talmud at Shalhevet High School in Los Angeles.

Community Reacts to Jerusalem News

Skyline of the Old City and Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Israel.

At face value, President Donald Trump’s declaration last week that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel had many in the community wondering, “So, nu? Of course, it’s the capital!”

For Jews, the ancient city has been considered the capital of Israel — and by extension, the Jewish people — at least since the time of King David, some 3,000 years ago.

But modern geopolitics have complicated the claim to Jerusalem, which was designated a special international zone at the time Israel became a state in 1948. Indeed, Jews, Christians and Muslims all claim holy sites and history in Jerusalem, which has made political jurisdiction over the city a controversial issue for more than half a century.

Trump’s announcement on Dec. 6 upended the status quo, sending shockwaves throughout the global political establishment, which generally criticized the move. In Los Angeles, community leaders and others expressed a range of opinions. Some view Trump’s announcement as a blow to the peace process, ignoring Palestinian claims to the city and thus further entrenching both sides in the current stalemate. But many others are elated, seeing a long overdue reckoning in Trump’s bold announcement. Here they are in their own words, edited for length and clarity.

For the Jews, it is never the right time.

In March of 1948, as President Harry Truman was grappling with the issue of whether to recognize a Jewish state, his secretary of state, George Marshall, threatened to resign over the matter. Marshall warned the president that such a precipitous move would engulf America in a war and enrage the Arab world, thereby handing over the oil-rich Middle East to the Soviets on a silver platter. Eventually, Truman ignored Marshall’s advice and recognized the Jewish state when it was declared. And Marshall decided not to resign. Israel, which will soon celebrate her 70th birthday, went on, despite Arab hostility and conflict, to be one of the great achievements in the whole history of nation building.

The catchphrase, “This is not the right time,” has been used often in Jewish history. It was used against Moses by the “elders” who refused to accompany him to confront the Pharaoh. They were wrong! The leaders of both the Orthodox and Reform movements used it when Theodor Herzl came to them with the idea of establishing a Jewish state, and they were wrong, too!

So, kudos to Trump for seizing the moment and righting a historic wrong by becoming the first president to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance

While the Israeli-Palestinian issue is not a high priority in the Arab world today with all the other turmoil engulfing the region, not even the Trump administration’s closest allies support this move. Jerusalem is an issue that still resonates strongly across the Arab and Islamic world. If the president only recognizes Israel’s claim to the city, and does not distinguish between West and East Jerusalem, his decision will be universally condemned in the region and globally. Close allies like Jordan will be vulnerable to blowback domestically.

Once again, the United States is isolated globally with no clear strategic gain. And it risks inflaming regional tension and increasing anti-American sentiment. The result is a boon for extremist forces and countries like Iran, unfortunately.

Dalia Dassa Kaye, director of the Center for Middle East Public Policy and senior political scientist at Rand Corp.

If one declared Athens the capital of Greece or Rome the capital of Italy, the reaction would be, “No kidding — we’ve known that for thousands of years.” Well, Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel since King David, who flourished around 1,000 B.C.E. To say it out loud should evoke yawns, not yells. But there are political realities, of course, and an unfortunate interruption in Jewish sovereignty. (As the great Shai Agnon put it, “Like all Jews, I was really born in Jerusalem, but the Romans stole my cradle.”)

So, yes, I acknowledge that the timing and tactics could have been improved. And some who are genuinely pro-Israel (along with many who are not) wish it had not been done for prudential reasons. But American presidents, including the current president’s predecessor, have been saying an undivided Jerusalem is the capital of Israel for a long time. Now it has been made official. Somewhere under the earth of that ancient, sacred city, King David sleeps a little more soundly tonight.

Rabbi David Wolpe, Max Webb Senior Rabbi of Sinai Temple

In essence, the U.S. politically recognized West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He left the status of East Jerusalem open. Did this hurt the peace process?

I am not aware of a current peace process. During the past 20 or so years of a sporadic “peace process,” Israel has suffered incessant terrorism and intermittent wars with Hamas and Hezbollah, even without Jerusalem being politically recognized. Hamas now has announced that the gates of hell are open. I have lost count of how many times Hamas has announced the opening of the gates of hell. Palestinians are demonstrating, and things may get violent.

Sadly, the Palestinians have gone on rampages over far less serious issues. In reality, they are militating for a nation of their own on the 1949 armistice lines, not over the symbolic status of Jerusalem. Every perceived offense is an opportunity to continue that struggle. Israelis are somewhat inured to Palestinian threats.

For sure, the Palestinians have lost political ground. The president has messaged the Palestinians: Time is not on your side. If you want your own capital in Al Quds, you had best move quickly into a real process for peace.

Jerusalem, even if only West Jerusalem, is the capital city of Israel. That is a fact. Admitting the reality of things often  cuts through neurotic obsessions and moves people through grieving and into resolution.

Rabbi Mordecai Finley, co-founder and co-CEO, Ohr Hatorah

All Jews who love Israel recognize that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish state. For me this has never been a question.

Our people’s yearning for international recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is as old as the state itself. Our yearning at last has been addressed by President Donald Trump’s proclamation.

As satisfying as this is, there was something significantly missing in Trump’s address — recognition that Jerusalem also is the capital of a future Palestinian state. Had the president said that, world reaction would be magnanimous and I believe positive, and there would be less risk of violence against Jews, Americans and Palestinians.

Now that Jerusalem has been so recognized, I would hope the United States and Israel would be able to say publicly that East Jerusalem can one day be the capital of a Palestinian state in an end-of-conflict negotiated two-state solution. Only a two-state solution can address the long-term security needs of the State of Israel, preserve its Jewish character and sustain its democratic system of government.

I hope the needle has been moved in a positive direction as a consequence of Trump’s proclamation. I also hope there is a secret strategic plan that the United States has developed to bring about a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Rabbi John Rosove, senior rabbi of Temple Israel of Hollywood, national chair of the Association of Reform Zionists of America, and past co-chair of the Rabbinic and Cantorial Cabinet of J Street.

The president’s strong statement made America’s position clear for the world, acknowledging the reality that Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel since the country’s declaration of independence nearly 70 years ago. From Israel’s founding, Jerusalem has been the location of the country’s parliament, the Supreme Court, and the residence of both its president and prime minister.

Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for some 3,000 years. We have been praying “Next year in Jerusalem” for many centuries, and Israel’s national anthem ends with the word Jerusalem. It is at the heart of our past, present and future.

We praise the president’s statement that this action is a step to advance the peace process and that Jerusalem will remain the heart of three religions, which will continue to worship their religion freely.

Shoham Nicolet, CEO, and Adam Milstein, chairman, Israeli American Council

For decades, the Anti-Defamation League has called on the United States — and the entire international community — to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. And yet this important and long overdue step should not preclude the imperative of peace negotiations, including discussions over the final status of Jerusalem. We urge the U.S., Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the international community to work together to reduce tensions and create conditions conducive for the rapid resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations leading to a two-state solution.

We recognize that this is an enormously sensitive and volatile issue, and we call on the Trump administration to implement this new policy in a careful and thoughtful manner in consultation with regional leaders.

We also hope that all parties emphasize the fact that this announcement does not diminish the recognition of, and respect for, the Muslim and Christian connections to the holy city.

Amanda Susskind, regional director Pacific Southwest Region, Anti-Defamation League

Given that the current U.S. consulate, built in the early 21st century, is a literal fortress overlooking East Jerusalem, the move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who was paying attention. That being said, I believe that we are living in historic times. What is perceived as a tunnel of darkness can also be a birth canal. And, like the twins Jacob and Esau, we are battling inside the womb. Israel and Palestine are shadow characters of each other. But what if, instead of perceiving the shadow as an enemy, we view each other as mutual vehicles for redemption? What if this stunning announcement regarding Jerusalem ends up breaking the waters of reconciliation?

Prayers and blessings have a place, even in the midst of politics. May the U.S. and Israel find peace in their special relationship, and may our sisters and brothers of Palestine find statehood speedily in our time.  May all three elevate their nations to the true ideals of democracy and self-determination. And may the shared holy ground of Jerusalem become the inspiration for a rebirth of freedom for all.

Rabbi Lori Shapiro, rabbi and founder of the Open Temple

This is a historic moment for the State of Israel and the Jewish people worldwide. Recognizing Jerusalem as our capital is a reflection of reality that dates back to the time of King David. Although we don’t need anyone to endorse our history, the fact that the United States government finally has stated its recognition of Jerusalem as our capital is the support that Israel deserves. There is no other country in the world that has had its capital challenged, except the State of Israel.

President Donald Trump’s recent statement supports what we all know is true: Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people. The recognition by the U.S. government of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital should not in any way affect the peace process if, indeed, the other side really is interested in peace. The American government is not proposing to move its embassy into East Jerusalem. West Jerusalem, where the U.S. Embassy will be built, always has been acknowledged as Israel’s territory.

May we all pray that Jerusalem will be the city of peace that our biblical prophets envisioned.

Rabbi Elazar Muskin, senior rabbi of Young Israel of Century City and president of the Rabbinical Council of America.

Yes, Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel; it always has been the capital, whether it was recognized by the United States or not.

President Donald Trump’s announcement would have been more significant had he used it to strategically advance his stated goal of an “ultimate deal” leading to peace between Israel and the Palestinians by, for instance, also recognizing East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. This was a missed opportunity to advance a comprehensive peace plan rather than just make a largely symbolic gesture that benefits only one of the parties.

Rabbi Laura Geller

The Power of Recognition

Skyline of the Old City and Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Israel.

One of the people around the table couldn’t control herself and erupted in laughter. I couldn’t blame her. The story I was telling the group of mostly Americans earlier this week seemed to compare President Donald Trump with Alexander the Great — a comparison worthy of a good chuckle.

Still, the point was made. And it was made because of my need to explain to this group of non-Israelis why Israelis would care that a faraway foreign leader is recognizing Jerusalem as the nation’s capital.

The story is from the Talmud, and whether it actually happened is unclear. It appears in several sources, among them Josephus, the first-century Jewish scholar. But the details aren’t always the same, and in fact, many historians believe that Alexander the Great never set foot in the Holy Land.

‎But according to the Talmud in tractate Yoma (69a), Alexander gave permission for the Samaritans to destroy the Temple in Jerusalem, and the high priest, Shimon HaTzaddik, was informed. “What did he do? He donned the priestly vestments and wrapped himself in the priestly vestments. And the nobles of the Jewish People were with him, with torches of fire in their hands.”

This band of Jewish leaders walked all that night until it reached the armies of Alexander and the Samaritans. When dawn arrived, Alexander asked the Samaritans: Who are these people? The Samaritans said to him: These are Jews who rebelled against you. The sun shone and the two camps met each other. And then, when Alexander saw Shimon HaTzaddik, he “descended from his chariot and bowed before him.”

His escorts, no doubt puzzled, asked him: “Should an important king such as you bow to this Jew?” His answer: I do so because “the image of this man’s face is victorious before me on my battlefields.” That is to say: In past battles, he has seen Shimon’s face and only now does he realize that this is the face of a real person, the high priest of the Jews. Naturally, Alexander, after this encounter, did not destroy the Temple. In some versions — but not this one — he even came to Jerusalem to bring an offering in the Temple.

How is this story relevant to modern Israel and modern Jerusalem? In fact, it is relevant. The Jews were always a relatively minor people who lived in the shadows of great empires. Thus, they craved recognition. They needed the great rulers of the great empires to accept or even embrace them as a worthy people.

Trump’s recognition was a psychological re-enactment of something the Jewish people always seek: the approval of the great empire.

Cyrus of Persia was one such ruler of an empire — and he let the Jews go back to their land and rebuild their Temple. With Alexander, the historical facts are not as clear, yet the myth is in place. Here is another great king, the leader of another great empire, recognizing the uniqueness of Jewish Jerusalem.

Hence the burst of laughter. President Trump — the great Donald — is no Alexander. Not even close. And yet, he is the leader of the great empire of this era. In this sense, his recognition of Jerusalem echoes Alexander’s true — or imaginary — moment of realization.

We can explain why Trump’s recognition is an important political move, and we see that it has repercussions and consequences, and we follow the chain of events ignited by his speech. But first and foremost, Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was a psychological re-enactment of something the Jewish people always have sought: the approval of the great empire.

This is especially worth mentioning during the week of Hanukkah, a holiday marking the clash between the Jews and an empire. When Hellenistic culture threatened to erase the culture of the Jews, when that empire showed little respect to the ways of the Jews, the inevitable result was war. In the Hasmonean dynasty’s case, a triumphant war. But there have been many wars that the Jews haven’t won. So for them, the best war is often the one that can be avoided.

Indeed, the essence of America’s friendship with Israel is war prevention. When the U.S. is on Israel’s side, Israel’s enemies know that battling Israel is going to be difficult and costly. They know that their initial goal — to eradicate the Zionist project — cannot be successful.

A recognition of Israel’s capital is also a reaffirmation of the alliance. It is a signal to the countries around Israel that we still have the American shield above our heads. Contrary to what some pundits would have you believe, this shield — including Trump’s manifestation of it by his Jerusalem declaration — is a receipt for reducing violence.

The U.S. stands with Israel. The U.S. is mighty. Hence, there is no point in making war with Israel over, say, Jerusalem.

Thus, we are left with little wars. Demonstrations by frustrated Palestinians or Arab Israelis, whose leadership again failed to restrain the Arab public. The occasional terror attack — on Dec. 11, a security guard was stabbed and badly hurt by a Palestinian. But by the time this story went to press on Dec. 12, the response to Trump’s speech was less than overwhelming.

There was verbal hostility, especially from the autocratic bully ruling Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to Erdogan’s threats and complaints, stating: “I am not used to receiving lectures about morality from the leader who bombs Kurdish villagers in his native Turkey, who jails journalists, who helps Iran go around international sanctions.” Netanyahu has information about attempts by Turkey to strengthen Islamic institutions in Jerusalem, and hence, his denouncing Turkey is not only about words.

Beyond the expected and tired words of condemnation, there was not much of a dramatic response to report. The fact that Israel’s prime minister traveled to Europe as scheduled this week — to receive the usual lectures from the leaders of France and other nations — is telling: Had he thought that Israel is under grave threat of severe retaliation because of Trump’s announcement, he probably would have canceled the trip. Had he thought that the visit would be intolerably hostile, he easily could have found an excuse to postpone the trip.

There was no need to do that. To anyone worried about how Jerusalem’s new status might affect the stalled peace process, Netanyahu had his answer ready: “The sooner the Palestinians come to grips with this reality, the sooner we will move toward peace.”

Will they come to grips with reality? The Palestinians have a history of rejectionist sentiments, but their options are limited. A great desire for violence does seem to exist among the masses, and the leadership is stuck. The threat to boycott a peace process led by the U.S. is hollow. There are not many alternatives to such a process. The threat exists of the Palestinian Authority moving toward a Hamas-like approach —  but Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas knows better than anyone that when Hamas takes over, there is no room left for other Palestinian factions.

In fact, Trump’s decision to detach his statement from an active peace process has its own logic. Israel conducted many rounds of the peace process of the past under the assumption that a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem is part of the ultimate deal. Some Israeli leaders, such as Ehud Barak at the Camp David Summit in 2000 and Ehud Olmert after the Annapolis (Md.) Conference in 2007, were more prone to acknowledge this intention publicly. Other prime ministers, such as Netanyahu, would deny such an assumption, because they believe Israel shouldn’t tip its hand before all issues are resolved. But even in the last round of negotiations, initiated and run by former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, all three parties understood that a compromise involving Jerusalem was on the table. They understood that the Palestinians also will have a capital called Jerusalem.

Consider the main components of the pragmatic political debate over the future of Jerusalem. There are two main issues to be resolved: One is where the border separating Israel from a Palestinian entity (a state, or a semi-state) will be located. The second is what’s going to happen with the holy sites, the Western Wall, Temple Mount, the Old City, Mount of Olives, etc.

The essence of America’s friendship with Israel is war prevention. When the U.S. is on Israel’s side, Israel’s enemies know that battling Israel is going to be difficult and costly.

Trump didn’t resolve these two issues. He didn’t even hint at how these two issues are to be resolved. He kept the door open for a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem; he kept the door open for all arrangements that preserve the rights of adherents to all faiths to practice their religion in Jerusalem.

But he did provoke the Palestinians. The Palestinians invested a lot of effort in recent years in their attempt to undercut the historic claim of the Jewish people on Israel and Jerusalem. Trump provoked them to accept reality, to accept the underlying assumption according to which Jerusalem is and will remain Israel’s capital. He provoked them in a way that might expose the futility of any peace process.

Trump, by making his statement, sent them more than a hint that the nonsense of rejecting the Jewish connection to the Holy Land wouldn’t fly. If they are willing to deal with Israel — the state of the Jewish people that was established on a historically Jewish homeland — maybe a compromise can be reached. If their intention is to negotiate with Israel while still denying Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state in the Jewish homeland — and that is the underlying meaning of rejecting Israel’s right to have its capital in Jerusalem — then there’s no point in putting a peace plan on the table.

Either way, the recognition of the Jewish capital of Jerusalem is a truth that will endure, in war or in peace.

Shmuel Rosner is senior political editor. For more analysis of Israeli and international politics, visit Rosner’s Domain at

Can Jerusalem Be Good for All Religions?

In the middle of the euphoria and hysteria that greeted last week’s U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, it was a story about stolen apples that caught my eye.

According to Israeli news reports, an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) squad commander was suspended after being caught on film stealing apples from a Palestinian fruit stand in Hebron, which had been abandoned in the midst of the “days of rage” violence.

“This behavior is not in line with what is expected from a soldier and commander in the IDF,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “The commander was suspended and will face disciplinary action.”

I know, compared to everything that’s going on, a stolen apple or two is hardly worth a story. I can’t imagine any army in the world making a fuss about stolen fruit. But tiny story or not, the apple saga gives us a context to assess the explosive issue of who should control Jerusalem.

There’s no need to belabor the historical and religious context for recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state. The Conservative movement, in a statement authored by the Rabbinical Assembly, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Masorti Israel and Masorti Olami, summarized it succinctly: “In recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and planning to move the American embassy to a location under uncontested Israeli sovereignty, the U.S. government acknowledges the age-old connection that Israel and the Jewish people maintain with the holy city.”

Let’s also remember that this past June, the U.S. Senate passed a unanimous resolution calling on President Donald Trump to abide by a 1995 law ordering the move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. That law, called the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, recognized Jerusalem as “the spiritual center of Judaism” and was adopted overwhelmingly by the House (374-37) and the Senate (93-5).

The law cites the right of “each sovereign nation, under international law and custom, to designate its own capital,” and notes the irony that the U.S. “maintains its embassy in the functioning capital of every country except in the case of our democratic friend and strategic ally, the State of Israel.”

But it’s an innocuous mention in the Embassy Act that caught my attention: “From 1948-1967, Jerusalem was a divided city and Israeli citizens of all faiths as well as Jewish citizens of all states were denied access to holy sites in the area controlled by Jordan.”

That, for me, is the crucial link missing from this emotional debate: When East Jerusalem was under Jordanian control, religious liberty suffered. When it was under Israeli control, religious liberty flourished. You do the math.

As if it weren’t bad enough that Jews were denied access to their holy sites, under Jordanian control, “All but one of the 35 synagogues within the Old City were destroyed,” according to The Jewish Virtual Library. “The revered Jewish graveyard on the Mount of Olives was in complete disarray with tens of thousands of tombstones broken into pieces to be used as building materials … Hundreds of Torah scrolls and thousands of holy books [were] plundered and burned to ashes.”

Jordanian rule was no picnic for Christians and Muslims either. As Dore Gold writes in his book, “The Fight for Jerusalem,” Israeli Muslims “were blocked from visiting the Islamic holy shrines under Jordanian control” while “Israeli Christians did not fare much better; they were permitted to cross over and visit their holy sites once a year, on Christmas.”

All of this was in blatant violation of the 1949 Armistice Agreement, which gave Israelis of all faiths access to their holy sites, and which the United Nations was empowered to oversee.

When East Jerusalem was under Jordanian control, religious liberty suffered. When it was under Israeli control, religious liberty flourished. You do the math.

When did the U.N. finally intervene? In 1964, when Israel had the chutzpah to have a Hanukkah festival of lights display atop Mount Scopus, which it legally controlled. Why the U.N. intervention? Because of “Jordanian sensitivities.” You can’t make this stuff up.

So, forgive me if I have little sympathy for the professional hypocrites at the United Nations who are now portraying the confirmation of Israel’s capital city as another urgent crisis for humanity. They might do well to read an August 2015 report from the Washington Institute showing that the majority of Palestinian Arabs living in Israeli-ruled East Jerusalem would prefer to be citizens of Israel rather than citizens of a Palestinian state.

These Arabs are no fools. They know that since Israel took over East Jerusalem in 1967, it has protected all holy sites and created an open city that has become a global destination.

But none of that seems to matter to the critics of the embassy move. Perhaps the silliest criticism I’ve heard is that the announcement was “ill-timed” because it would hurt the “peace process.” That’s like saying a tap on the wrist would hurt a patient in a coma. What peace process? Everything the experts have tried has failed, including the delusional idea that the capital of Israel is an “open” question. It’s not. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, full stop.

Such a cold dose of reality may, in fact, be just what the comatose peace process needs. What it does not need is the continuation of a failed strategy of appeasing corrupt Palestinian leaders who have refused all Israeli peace offers and who hold us hostage to their threats of violence.

Their latest reaction to Trump’s announcement is more evidence of their chronic refusal to accept a Jewish state under any borders. Nothing in the announcement precludes a two-state solution or the sharing of Jerusalem as a capital for two states. But instead of calling for peace talks, they call for violence. If Palestinian leaders cared for their people as much as they care for their personal bank accounts, we would have had peace a long time ago.

So, I’m sure it won’t surprise you that Jerusalem is the subject of our cover story, with an analysis from our political editor in Israel, Shmuel Rosner. It also won’t surprise you that local reactions in the Jewish community have been diverse, as you’ll see in our coverage.

My own take is that if we’re going to put Jerusalem in the hands of a sovereign nation, let it be a nation that respects the dignity of all religions — not to mention the dignity of an apple cart.

Week of December 15, 2017

Abbas Won’t Meet with Pence After Trump’s Jerusalem Move

Photo from Flickr/Olivier Pacteau.

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has declined to meet with Vice President Mike Pence as a result of President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Pence was hoping to meet with Abbas on December 19 during his trip to the Middle East, but Trump’s Jerusalem move “crossed red lines,” according to Majdi Khaldi, the diplomatic adviser to Abbas.

“It’s unfortunate that the Palestinian Authority is walking away again from an opportunity to discuss the future of the region, but the Administration remains undeterred in its efforts to help achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians and our peace team remains hard at work putting together a plan,” Alyssa Farah, Pence’s press secretary, told Fox News.

Pence plans on meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, according to Farah.

Shortly after Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem, a high-ranking member of Fatah declared that Pence would not be allowed in their territory.

“In the name of Fatah, I say that we will not welcome Trump’s deputy in the Palestinian territories,” said Jibril Rajoub.

In 2008, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered Abbas most of the West Bank, a bridge to the Gaza Strip and to put Jerusalem under international control. Abbas declined the offer and has since doubled down on the notion that he will never recognize Israel’s right to exist. Under Abbas, the PA provides financial incentives for Palestinians to commit acts of terror against Jews.

Abbas’ background also consists of him writing a book that denies the Holocaust and funding the 1972 Munich massacre of Israeli athletes.

Jerusalem has long been viewed as the eternal capital of Jewish people.