Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, center, bicycling with retired cycling champions Ivan Basso and Alberto Contador in Jerusalem. Photo courtesy of the Giro.

Israel gears up to host prestigious Italian cycling race


Stressing the chance to show off Israel to the world, Israeli officials joined with their Italian counterparts in announcing Monday that three stages of the prestigious Giro d’Italia cycling race will be held in the country, starting in Jerusalem.

It will mark the first time that any leg of cycling’s Grand Tour races — the Giro, the Tour de France and the Spanish Vuelta — will take place outside of Europe, and just the 12th time the Giro had gone outside of Italy in its 101-year history.

Israeli officials said the race will be the biggest sporting event ever held in their country and touted it as an opportunity to showcase the Jewish state — and its capital — to the world.

“Hundreds of millions of viewers around the globe will watch as the world’s best cyclists ride alongside the walls of Jerusalem’s ancient Old City and our other historic sites,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said at the hotel gathering. “Our message to the world is clear: Jerusalem is open to all.”

The race will bring more than 175 of the world’s best cyclists to Israel along with tens of thousands of tourists and cycling enthusiasts.

Culture Minister Miri Regev called on “everyone who loves the Giro to come here to Israel.”

“This bike race across the Holy Land will be a fascinating journey through time covering thousands of years,” she said. “I’m sure it will be a thrilling experience for everyone.”

Israel will host the first three stages of the Giro, or “the Big Start,” on consecutive days from May 4 to 6. Stage 1 will be a 6.3-mile individual time trial in Jerusalem, passing the Knesset and ending near the walls of the Old City. Stage 2, in the North, will start in Haifa with riders pedaling 103.8 miles down the Mediterranean coast to the Tel Aviv beach. Stage 3, in the South, will cover 140.4 miles through the arid Negev from Beersheba to Eilat on the Red Sea.

Italian officials told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz earlier this month that they were being careful to avoid crossing into politically sensitive areas, like the West Bank or eastern Jerusalem, which they feared could spark protests. An official map of the Stage 1 route shows it approaching but not entering the Old City, which is located in eastern Jerusalem — where much of the world, but not the Israeli government, envisions a future Palestinian capital.

According to the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, the route will pass the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial as part of a tribute to Gino Bartali, an Italian cycling champion credited with saving hundreds of Jews during the Holocaust. While ostensibly training in the Italian countryside, Bartali, who won the Giro four times and the Tour de France twice, would carry forged papers in the frame and handlebars of his bicycle to Jews hiding in houses and convents. He also hid a Jewish family in his cellar.

In 2013, years after his death in 2000, he was recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations by Israel’s Holocaust authority, Yad Vashem.

Alberto Contador, left, and Ivan Basso, right, former winners of the Giro d’Italia, with race and Israeli officials including Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, fourth from right. (Courtesy of the Giro)

Italian Sports Minister Luca Lotti said Monday that the race would celebrate Bartali’s memory. In addition to being a great sports champion, he said, Bartali “was also an extraordinary champion of life, and a man of heroic virtues, and this needs to be commemorated, and shared, especially with the young generations — never to be forgotten.”

Retired Giro champions Alberto Contador of Italy and Ivan Basso of Spain, both two-time winners, also were on hand for the Jerusalem announcement.

Sylvan Adams, a Canadian real estate magnate and philanthropist who recently immigrated to Israel, helped bring the Giro to Israel and will serve as its honorary president. Adams said he was motivated by love of cycling and a desire to help his adopted country.

“I would call this the antidote to BDS,” he told JTA, referring to the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel. “The media sometimes portrays our country in a negative way, and this is a way to bypass the media and go straight into the living rooms of 800 million people. They’ll see our country exactly as it is, and my experience is people almost universally have positive experiences when they encounter Israel.”

The Giro is just part of Adams’ larger plan to make Israel a cycling powerhouse. A co-owner of the Israel Cycling Academy, Israel’s first professional cycling team founded in 2014, he is building the first velodrome in the Middle East in Tel Aviv to be finished in time for the race.

“My plan is to bring Israeli athletes to the highest level of the sport,” he said.

Ran Margaliot, an Israeli former professional cyclist and the general manager of the Israel Cycling Academy, said the team has applied to compete in the Giro and will find out if it qualified in December. It is among 32 second division teams jockeying for a wild card spot, but he is hopeful.

“I certainly think we deserve an invitation,” Margaliot told JTA. “No one can tell me we’re not good enough, and we work as hard as the Europeans, even harder.”

Margaliot said that while he failed to achieve his ambition of becoming the first Israeli to race in a Grand Tour, the next best thing would be for an Israeli member of his international team to do it.

“You can imagine what it would mean for an Israeli rider to be racing in his own country, passing near his home and friends and family,” he said before catching himself. “But we have a lot of work to do to get ready.”


An Orthodox Jewish man stands in front of the U.S Embassy in Tel Aviv. Photo by Baz Ratner/Reuters

Netanyahu: Moving Embassy to Jerusalem could ‘easily be done’


In a meeting this month with Republican members of Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued to express support for moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, according to one of the participants Representative Lloyd Smucker (R-PA). The Pennsylvania lawmaker told Jewish Insider that Netanyahu “believes is that it could easily be done. In his (Netanyahu) words: We already have a consulate in Jerusalem. It’s a matter of just changing the sign to make it the Embassy.”

While President Donald Trump repeatedly urged the transfer of the Embassy to Jerusalem during his 2016 election campaign, the real estate mogul turned commander in chief signed a national security waiver on June 1 keeping the U.S. diplomatic compound in Tel Aviv.

“President Trump made this decision to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, fulfilling his solemn obligation to defend America’s national security interests,” the White House noted in a statement at the time.

[This story originally appeared on jewishinsider.com]

The Israeli leader raised the issue of the Embassy in response to a question by Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE). According to Rep. Smucker’s recollection of the meeting, Netanyahu “believes that there wouldn’t be a lot of pushback in the event that we do that.”

Palestinian officials have vehemently opposed the Embassy’s relocation. Jibril Rajoub, one of the most influential Fatah members,  told the Times of Israel in January, “Moving the embassy to Jerusalem is a declaration of war against Muslims.” Jordan, which maintains ties to East Jerusalem guaranteed in the 1994 peace treaty, has also said that moving the Embassy would cross a “red line.”

After the national security waiver was signed this summer, the momentum to relocate the embassy appears to have declined in Washington following months of anticipation by many of the President’s supporters. However, Netanyahu’s backing of the embassy transfer to Jerusalem in the August meeting with Congress demonstrates it is not a settled issue yet.

A group of Jewish worshippers at the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem, Nov. 7, 2016. Photo by Sebi Berens/Flash90.

Temple Mount saw record number of Israeli visitors, despite tensions


July saw the largest number of Jewish Israelis visiting the Temple Mount  in any single month since it came under Israeli control in 1967.

Some 3,200 people visited the site, which is holy to both Jews and to Muslims, who refer to the compound as Haram al Sharif, Army Radio reported Friday.

This was slightly higher than the total number of visits recorded during the High Holy Days last year – the busiest period of the year in terms of traffic by Israelis. In previous years, approximately 11,000 Israelis visited the site annually.

The surge coincided with tensions and a deterioration in the security situation around the Temple Mount – which was the site of both of Judaism’s ancient temples and houses the al Aqsa mosque — following the slaying of two police officers by three Arab-Israeli terrorists outside the compound.

Israel placed metal detectors at all the entrances to the Temple Mount in reaction to the attack, triggering rioting amid further acts of terrorism by Palestinians.

To protest the measure, which Israel reversed earlier this month in an apparent bid to defuse the situation, the Muslim custodians of the Temple Mount refused to enter it until the metal detectors were removed.

The custodians, belonging to the Waqf Muslim religious authority under Jordanian control, have jurisdiction to administer worship at the site. They allow Jews and others to visit, but prevent Jewish worship or religious activity at the site.

Because the precise site of the Temples’ “Holy of Holies” has not been identified, religious Jews were often hesitant to visit mount and inadvertently step on hallowed ground. In recent years, some prominent Orthodox rabbis have relaxed their objections to Jews visiting the site, and a growing movement of Jewish Temple Mount activists have encouraged visits on religious and nationalist grounds.

During the protest strike of the Waqf custodians, many Israeli Jews came to the Temple Mount to pray there.

Employees work inside the office of Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network in Jerusalem. August 7. Photo by Ammar Awad/REUTERS.

Al Jazeera threatens legal action over Israel’s plans to close its Jerusalem bureau


Al Jazeera threatened to take legal action to remain in its Jerusalem bureau following Israel’s decision to close it down.

The Qatar-based news network, which is based in the same building as Israel’s Government Press Office, criticized the shutdown as “undemocratic” in a statement Monday.

“Al Jazeera stresses that it will closely watch the developments that may result from the Israeli decision and will take the necessary legal measures towards it,” the statement said.  “Al Jazeera will continue to cover the events of the occupied Palestinian territories professionally and accurately, according to the standards set by international agencies.”

Israel’s communications minister, Ayoub Kara, a Druze lawmaker for the ruling Likud Party, on Sunday announced plans to revoke the media credentials of Al Jazeera TV journalists, close the Jerusalem office, and remove the station’s broadcasts from local cable and satellite providers.

The actions would require legislation and legal action, according to reports.

The channel, which has about 30 employees in Israel in both its Arabic and English channels, according to Reuters, already is blocked in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan and Bahrain.

Israeli officials have accused Al Jazeera of bias against the Jewish state.

“We have identified media outlets that do not serve freedom of speech but endanger the security of Israel’s citizens, and the main instrument has been Al Jazeera,” Kara said Sunday. He also said the network “caused us to lose the lives of the best of our sons.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month accused Al Jazeera of inciting violence in Jerusalem, including over the Temple Mount.

Al Jazeera was the first Arab news outlet to interview Israeli military and government officials.

A woman holding a sign with the biblical verse “Love your neighbor as yourself” at Jerusalem’s Gay Pride Parade on Aug. 3. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90

This is what Jerusalem’s Gay Pride Parade looks like


The turnout for Jerusalem’s Gay Pride Parade on Thursday was more than three times the expected number, with at least 14,000 people marching.

Some estimates said that up to 22,000 people attended the 16th annual march. Officials had expected some 4,000 participants, according to The Times of Israel.

Heavy security surrounded the parade, which in 2015 was the scene of a stabbing attack by a Charedi Orthodox man that killed a 16-year-old girl. One thousand police officers and soldiers were deployed to secure the route, The Times of Israel reported.

Police detained 22 people, one of whom was found to be carrying a knife, they said on Twitter.

Participants in the 16th annual Gay Pride Parade in central Jerusalem, Aug. 3, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A young girl waiting in line to pass through a border gate as a small number of Syrian refugees are allowed to return to Syria at the closed Turkish border gate in Killis, Feb. 8, 2016. Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images

How Tisha b’Av can help us understand the refugee experience


For many Jews, Tisha b’Av is centered around mourning the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. But that interpretation misses out on an important lesson that is made more relevant by recent events, Rabbi David Seidenberg argues.

With the release of a new translation of the Book of Lamentations, the main text read on the annual fast day, the Massachusetts-based rabbi argues that Tisha b’Av, which begins this year on the evening of July 31, provides a powerful way to connect to the refugee experience.

Here’s his translation of chapter 1, verse 3, which depicts a personified Jerusalem in exile:

“She, Judah, was exiled,
by poverty, and by (so) much hard labor
She sat among the nations,
not finding any rest;
All her pursuers caught up with her
between the confined places.”

Seidenberg, who runs the website NeoHasid and is the author of the book “Kabbalah and Ecology,” released a partial translation of the Book of Lamentations in 2007, but the 2017 version is his first complete translation of the text. He was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary and by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, the late founder of the Jewish Renewal movement.

JTA spoke with Seidenberg about his translation, available for download here, and his thoughts on Tisha b’Av.

JTA: You write that “Tisha b’Av is not primarily about mourning, but about becoming refugees.”

Seidenberg: Jerusalem was a war zone [in 70 C.E.]. People were being killed in the streets. There was a siege, there was famine. Pretty much everyone was turned into a refugee, even the people that were left in Jerusalem, who weren’t exactly refugees, were still in the middle of a war zone and in the middle of violence.

The observances we have on Tisha b’Av, people think of as mourning customs. Of course we are mourning part of what it means to witness death and destruction, but the customs encompass a deeper, broader experience than just simple mourning, and that’s reflected in not washing, not sitting in a chair, which is both a symbol and the experience of not having a place of rest.

There are two ways to approach the whole experience of Tisha b’Av: One is to be empathizing with the nation, in a particularistic way, what happened to the Jews, and that’s an important part of our experience. And of course the other side is to empathize with the experience of what was happening, which is this experience of being refugees, being in a war zone. That would call on us to empathize with a lot of people who are not Jewish and a lot of people who are suffering in the world right now.

How can we reconcile these two perspectives — focusing both on the Jewish and the universal experiences?

The way we can empathize with an experience that is universal to human history of suffering — the consequences of war and exile and being refugees — is by going into our historical experience as Jews. In fact, you can’t really do one without the other.

You can be a liberal middle-class Jew who thinks that they care about refugees and has ideas and values that motivate you to act, but without going into the particularism of what the Jewish people have experienced, you also have a limitation. People have other ways of going into that experience — people go and work at refugee camps, that’s obviously a more direct experience. But for most Jews that aren’t experiencing that directly, one of the most powerful ways to get into that universal experience deeper on a gut level is to go through the particular experiences of the Jewish people in history.

Was the focus on refugees inspired by recent events?

I’ve thought about Tisha b’Av in this way for a good 20 years, but the past few years have really brought it into very stark reality because we see so many images of refugees. The refugee crisis isn’t just affecting us because we hear news, but it has also poisoned our political process, the rhetoric against refugees, not just in the United States but in many European countries. We’re living in this reality where if we don’t empathize with this experience, which is a human experience, people tend to go to opposite sides and dehumanize people who are in this crisis, and to reject them.

Rabbi David Seidenberg (Courtesy of Seidenberg)

Now that Jews have the State of Israel and can visit Jerusalem freely, what is the relevance of Tisha b’Av?

If we accept the rabbinic understanding of what Tisha b’Av is, it’s not that a foreign power conquered Jerusalem, it’s that Jerusalem undermined itself, hollowed itself out, by violating basic moral principles of what it means to have a good, fair society, so that it was already destroyed from within before it was destroyed from without. According to tradition, the First Temple was destroyed because of idolatry and murder, and the Second Temple was destroyed because of people hating each other in their hearts, ‘sinat hinam,’ which is a much subtler way of thinking of how a society gets undermined.

If we want to nominate any society in which sinat hinam is an endemic, deep problem, particularly with the polarization of right and left, Israel would be at the top of a list of nominees. I don’t wish to be partisan, but I think sometimes you can’t help it. The right-wing parties that are in control of Israel’s government have put a lot of energy into anathematizing, into demonizing, people on the left. And I think there’s hatred in many directions in Israel, but also the hatred against Jews from some quarters of Palestinian society and the hatred against Arabs and Palestinians from some quarters in Israeli Jewish society is lethal.

What’s different in this translation?

There’s a general idea of how to translate called idiomatic translation, which says that when you translate something from one language to another, when it goes from Hebrew to English, it should sound like idiomatic English, it shouldn’t sound weird or funny, it shouldn’t be in the word order or syntax of Hebrew, and that’s what the [Jewish Publication Society’s], which is the most common translation, is based on.

What that misses is the texture of the Hebrew, and so much of the feeling and emotional depth is in the texture, not just in the words, and so much of it is in the relationship between different words, because every biblical text is commentary on other biblical texts, and when a word uses the same root there’s a connection between those sources. Rabbinic Judaism is based on this midrashic idea that all of the Bible is commentary on the other parts of it.

(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

The sovereignty of the Judean kingdom in the land of Israel came to an abrupt end with the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the leading citizens to Babylon in 586 B.C.E.

Why I celebrate on a day of mourning


Just over 2600 years ago, Babylonian armies destroyed the holy temple in Jerusalem, ransacked the ancient Kingdom of Judah, murdered scores of people throughout the kingdom (known as “Jews” – ie, the people of Judah), and hauled off scores more as captives, to the land of Babylon.

Fifteen years ago, around this very day, I stood on the edge of the land that once was a small city in that ancient Kingdom of Judah – on the exact spot where the city guard looked from his tower into the distance and saw flames of light extinguishing in surrounding towns. The ensuing darkness signaled that the Babylonians were approaching and the end was near.

A chill went through my spine.

While the rest of the people on the tour continued walking around the ancient city ruins, I stayed glued to that spot, feeling the warm breeze on my face, looking out into the expansive distance, imagining the terror that must have shot through the city people as they awaited their fates.

Their end was my beginning: the beginning of an exiled people in Babylon, who over the millennia transformed into a thriving, vibrant community — writing the authoritative Babylonian Talmud, launching the first ever Jewish learning institutions (yeshiboth, commonly known as yeshivas), and otherwise developing a rich and unique culture full of stories, music, language, spiritual teachings, architecture, prayers, dance, scholarly works, art, and religious rituals.

After nearly three millennia, my ancestors were sent packing once again: In 1950, my family was among the 100,000 Jewish refugees from Baghdad alone – forced to flee after a surge of anti-Jewish violence throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Most of these refugees, including my family, were absorbed by the modern state of Israel. As in hokey-pokey style: One foot in, one foot out.

While my grandparents, six aunts and one surviving uncle remained in Israel, my father continued his migration to Massachusetts, where he chose to go to graduate school.  There he met my mother, who had been on her way to New York from Colorado. When she’d gotten to the Massachusetts/New York fork in the interstate, however, she spontaneously decided to go north instead.

Together, they raised my sister and me as headstrong Iraqi Jews in Canada and California — teaching us the songs, prayers, religious rituals, food, personal and communal stories, Hebrew pronunciation, and a little of the language of Iraqi Jews.  (I can say the most important things in Judeo- Arabic: “watermelon,” “barefoot,” “hammer,” and “my stomach hurts.”)

I went on to disseminate this knowledge across the world, over the course of two decades, as part of my ground-breaking Jewish multicultural work. Still, as tirelessly as I worked, I could not re-create Jewish life in Baghdad. I was unable to undo the violence and destruction that Iraqi Jews had faced. I was unable to bring back everything that was lost in the upheaval and uprooting. I was unable, in short, to resurrect the Iraqi Jewish community — to bring it back to life as it once was, in bold Technicolor.

What’s worse, over the past few decades, those who grew up in Iraq have been growing old and dying. Meanwhile I have been isolated from so many of these people, for a number of complex reasons. I am an exile within a family and community of exiles. So where does that leave me?  Who am I?  And who will I be when the older generation passes?

Throughout the Jewish community around the world, thsa b’ab is a memorial day — a day of fasting, prayer, and commemoration.  It is a dark day, when people read paradoxically depressing yet triumphant stories about Jews who chose death over forced conversion, even when they had to watch their own children be killed before them. Today is also considered a day of terrible luck, replete with trembling fear, because the temple was destroyed not once, but twice on this day (the second time by the Romans, 656 years later).

I always have struggled with what exactly to do on this day. We are guided to actively induce a sense of grief and despair, so as to honor those before us and to remember being cast from freedom in our own land to captivity in someone else’s. But how, I wondered as a 14 year old in San Francisco, was I to do that, and what use was it anyhow? Actively feeling miserable and scared of moving all day long, because lordy knows what might go wrong next?

About a decade ago, I read an article by someone who suggested that this day actually should be one of celebration and honor: Yes, the temple was destroyed. Yes the kingdom was ransacked. Yes the people were hauled off as exiles. But look what’s come of it: vibrant Jewish life around the world, with the Babylonian exile reaching the far corners of the Middle East, North Africa, and Central, East, and South Asia, and the Roman exile stretching across all of Europe and the Americas.

As a Jewish multicultural educator, that spin resonated with me. Plus it was just so positive, so full of life and the pulsing rhythm of eternal change and transformation. It celebrated Jewish resilience and creativity and adaptation as a people, always surviving, always thriving, always pushing forward into new horizons.

And so, I realized, it is with me personally: Iraqi Jewish life is now gone, as Judean Jewish life once was gone as well. What stands in its place, in my shoes, is a vibrant, creative, pulsating mix of East and West, old school and cutting-edge, religious and secular, traditional and feminist. I express this mashup of perspectives by writing original songs for my band, Iraqis in Pajamas, which fuses punk rock with Iraqi Jewish prayers – making me a living, breathing, invigorating 21st century incarnation of all who came before me. Just like my Jewish ancestors on the rivers of Babylon, I am the beginning of something new.

And that is cause for celebration.

For two decades, Loolwa Khazzoom served as a pioneering Jewish multicultural educator, offering programs worldwide and publishing books and articles teaching about global Jewish heritage. She now channels her Jewish multicultural passion into her all-originals band, Iraqis in Pajamas, for which she is the singer, songwriter, and bass player.

What the Temple Mount could learn from Dresden’s Holy Temple


I recently prayed in the basement of the iconic Frauenkirche in Dresden, where original chambers, spared from the 1945 firebombing, serve as sanctuaries and prayer/meditation rooms. Aside from the three-dimensional cross in the center, the basement hall hardly advertises any creed.

Dresden Frauenkirche basement

Father in heaven forgive me, but I sat in the room dedicated to the Ten Commandments – the closest to my tradition – and prayed: for the peace of Israel, the world, and the blessings we all wish for ourselves and loved ones. Surprisingly, it was as spiritually fulfilling as some of my prayer sessions at the Kotel, the Western Wall.

The “Church of the Lady” was built as a glorious Protestant church in defiance of August the Strong, the Saxon ruler who controversially converted to Catholicism in his quest to secure the Polish crown. He died in 1733, a year before the Frauenkirche’s inauguration, but Bach broke in the state-of-the-art organ. Call its destruction measure for measure; during Kristallnacht of 1938, the beautiful Dresden synagogue built in 1840 burned to the ground.

Orit in front of the Frauenkirche

A day after the Royal Air Force firebombing on Tuesday night, February 13, 1945, survivors walked cautiously through the destroyed Old Town to see what was left of their homes, their city, and of course, their “Holy Temple,” the Frauenkirche. Only on Thursday morning did the beautiful Baroque dome buckle; the church’s sandstone had expanded during the fire but shrank upon cooling, causing the supports to loosen.

Only one facade remained; call it, the “Kotel” of Dresden. (Bear in mind, this is an artistic analogy, not a claim of moral equivalence between Jewish Jerusalem and Nazi Germany.) People would visit Dresden’s “Kotel” while the ruins, under communist East Germany, turned into a “Denkmal,” a memorial to war. Roses grew out of the rubble.

Finally, in 1994, reconstruction of Dresden’s “Holy Temple” began with private funding, much from England, the country that had bombed Dresden’s Old Town to bits. Original stones were placed in their original setting, thanks to special architecture software (apparently developed by an Israeli). The Church would be a symbol of peace and reconciliation. The cross was designed by the son of an RAF bomber pilot and donated by Her Majesty.

The “Kotel” of Dresden’s Frauenkirche

Today, the Frauenkirche is a pilgrimage site. As a Dresden tour guide, I take people of all races and creeds through the door of this miraculous house of worship representing love triumphing over hate. Today, Dresden, the “Florence of the Elbe” is a free city. Signs barring Jews from its plaza – long gone. I wish I could say the same for Jerusalem.

At the Frauenkirche, I don’t have to undergo the restrictions that the Israeli government and Islamic Waqf place upon Jews as they enter the grounds of the Temple Mount during “Jewish opening hours.” I don’t have to walk through metal detectors. I don’t have to show my ID. Once inside, no one shoves (or sells) me a scarf to cover bare arms. No clergy preaches how I should or shouldn’t behave. No Israeli or Muslim police shadows me to make sure I, as a Jew, am not praying.

This might sound like a sacrilege to some, but Dresden’s “Holy Temple” could serve as a model for the Temple Mount and whatever Third Temple, as a symbol of peace, will stand there.

True to the vision of the prophets, it would be a place where people of all creeds and races could find inspiration and say their prayers. As a historically Jewish site, Judaism should be given priority representation, but other religions (and atheists) should feel welcome.

Even today, the Temple Mount has its own “basement,” the Temple “Tunnels,” operated by Israeli authorities, but one could visit them only through booking a guide. For starters, the “Tunnels” should be turned into private prayer/meditation spaces for the general public.

Today, intolerant and violent Islam dominates the Temple Mount such that the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque stand for Islamic supremacy and the type of mouth-frothing Jew-hatred that would make Hitler proud. For Israel to reach the level of peace that Dresden now enjoys, these domed symbols of hate may have to meet the same fate as the Frauenkirche in 1945, at the hands of those who love human freedom, human rights, and real justice and peace.

Orit at the Frauenkirche Tower overlooking the rebuilt city

 

 

The week Israel won Jerusalem


It’s easy to see the latest brouhaha over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem as a defeat for Israel. After all, Israel caved to Arab and Muslim pressure and took down the metal detectors it installed after Arab terrorists smuggled weapons into the compound and killed two Israeli security guards.

Israel takes action. Arabs protest. Israel caves. Arabs win — right? Wrong.

The Middle East is a complex jungle where what counts, above all, is power. Israel’s enemies know this. They know that yelling and getting angry doesn’t confer real power. It’s like the power of a kid throwing a hissy fit. The real power belongs to the party that has ultimate control — that has, in other words, the power to install and take down metal detectors.

This view was why Palestinian leaders continued maligning Israel and calling for protests even after Israel took down the detectors. They were angry that Israel flexed its power so blatantly at a holy place that they considered theirs and theirs alone. They were humiliated by a “status quo” that had Jews guarding their mosque. So they continued to lash out because, well, that’s all they could do.

But protests or no protests, the world saw clearly last week who was in charge of guarding the holy sites of Jerusalem, and it was Israel.

Why does Israel have such power? Because it knows how to get power and maintain it.

It was the strength and savvy of the Israeli army that enabled Israel to take full control of Jerusalem after Arab armies tried to destroy Israel in 1967. Forget the fancy arguments about who has rights to what in Jerusalem. Forget the pipe dream of dividing the city under a peace process that doesn’t exist. For now and the foreseeable future, Israel controls all of Jerusalem.

That hard fact must drive Palestinian leaders nuts, because they know the value of raw power. They practice it all the time. If they could, they would do to Israel what Israel did to Jordan in 1967 and take complete control of Jerusalem. But they can’t. They’re too weak.

So, devoid of real power, they’re forced to fall back on the pathetic power of the blustering bully — lies, incitement and rage.

This lashing out has an effect. Among other things, it demonizes Israel and exacerbates the mutual animosity between the two sides. The Palestinians are great at playing the victim and winning public relations battles, but their leaders know that PR victories can’t compete with real power on the ground. They know that after the screaming stops, Israel is still on top.

Israel takes action. Arabs protest. Israel caves. Arabs win — right? Wrong.

It is Israel that has the most powerful army, the most successful economy, the most advanced technology and the most democratic and vibrant civil society in the Middle East. And it is Israel that controls all of Jerusalem.

The “days of rage” against the Zionist enemy will surely continue, but Israel has proven its resilience, even in the face of terror. If anything, the evil of terror only strengthens Israeli resolve never to relinquish power to those who seek to destroy their country.

After seeing the vile hatred directed at Israel over something as innocuous and reasonable as metal detectors designed to protect all visitors — including Muslims! — why would Israelis risk giving up even one inch of Jerusalem to its enemies?

What’s extraordinary about this situation is that Israel has used its power in Jerusalem for good. Instead of oppressing other religions, as is common in the region, it has done the opposite. Israel has turned Jerusalem into an open international city where tourism is thriving and all religions are honored and protected.

This also must drive Israel’s enemies nuts — they are victims who can’t even claim the moral high ground. They know very well that when an Arab country (Jordan) controlled the Old City of Jerusalem, it didn’t protect Jewish synagogues and holy sites — it destroyed them.

So, I’m not buying the conventional narrative that Israel lost last week. It didn’t. It tried to protect a holy site with a security measure that is ubiquitous around the world, and Arab Muslims went into a frenzy. Their rage was not directed at the use of metal detectors but at the Jews who had the power to put them there.

Arabs know real power when they see it. The more anger and frustration they direct toward the Israeli security forces guarding the Temple Mount, the more they remind us that Israel is in control of the world’s holiest city. For anyone who values freedom of religion, that control is a very good thing.


David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

Israeli medical personnel taking away the dead body of one of the terrorists involved in a shooting attack near the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem’s Old City on July 14. Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90

2 Israeli police officers killed in Jerusalem terrorist attack


Two Israeli police officers were killed and another one was injured by Arab Israelis of Palestinian origin who opened fire on security forces in Jerusalem’s Old City.

At least three armed terrorists were killed in a gunfight with security forces on Friday at the Lions’ Gate, which is situated directly northeast of the Temple Mount compound, the Israeli Broadcasting Corp., or IBC, reported.

The officers killed were Kamil Shanan, 22, and Hail Satawi, 30, Army Radio reported. The officers were Druze, according to a statement condemning the attack by Naftali Bennett, Israel’s education minister. The third officer hurt in the attack is in stable condition.

The attack was considerably bloodier and better organized than the dozens of terrorist attacks that Israel’s security services record each month in Jerusalem. Featuring semi-automatic weapons and multiple assailants, it constituted a substantial escalation compared to most of the attacks, which feature the use of knives and homemade firebombs.

The attack occurred at around 7 a.m., police told the IBC, when the Temple Mount compound was largely empty. The gunmen fired on the police officers before fleeing into an area housing several mosques before they were shot dead by security forces in pursuit. They were carrying a handgun and two Carlo assault rifles — makeshift weapons favored by Palestinian terrorists that are produced in metal workshops in the West Bank and Gaza.

Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, condemned the attack during a telephone conversation he initiated with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Channel 2 reported.

Attacks rarely occur so close to the Temple Mount compound, which also houses the Haram a Sharif mosque.

The suspected assailants were from Umm al Fahm, the Israel Security Agency, or Shin Bet, said in a statement. The agency identified them as Mohammed Hammed Abed al-Latif and Mohammed Ahmed Mafdl Jadarin, both 19, and Mohammed Ahmed Mohammed Jabarin, 29. They had no previous record of terrorist activity.

Gilad Erdan, Israel’s interior security minister, told Army Radio that the “unusual and severe incident may require Israel to review its security arrangements around the Temple Mount.” And Zeev Elkin, the Cabinet minister responsible for issues connected with Jerusalem, told the radio station the attack was possible because of Israel’s desire to allow freedom of worship to Muslims and others at the site.

“Though we want to allow freedom of worship to Muslims at the Temple Mount, we need to balance that with the desire to prevent the cynical use of precisely this holy site for staging terrorist attacks,” Elkin said.

Separately, an 18-year-old Palestinian was killed Friday morning during clashes with Israeli troops near Bethlehem, IBC reported. The Palestinian Maan news agency identified him as Baraa Hamamda. An Israeli army spokesman told Maan that during a detention raid in Bethlehem’s al-Duheisha neighborhood, Palestinians threw “explosive devices and blocks” at Israeli forces, who fired toward the youth.

The Israel Security Service recorded a total of 94 terrorist attacks against Israelis in June – a 35 percent drop over the previous month. Of those, 21 occurred in Jerusalem, compared to 29 in May. One victim was killed in terrorist attacks in June, an Israel Border Police agent, and three other security personnel were wounded.

Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks to the U.N. Security Council as it meets to discuss the recent ballistic missile launch by North Korea at U.N. headquarters in New York on July 5. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

Trump’s lack of State Department appointments can hurt Israel, experts say


Carmel Shama HaCohen, Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO, is second to none in his admiration for the Trump administration’s United Nations envoy, Nikki Haley. In fact, he’d like to clone her.

Shama HaCohen appreciated Haley’s efforts in trying to head off last week’s vote by UNESCO’s Heritage Committee naming Hebron’s Old City an endangered heritage site. And he believes the joint U.S.-Israeli bid to kill a resolution Israel saw as one-sided might have succeeded had a U.S. official of Haley’s caliber been onsite in Krakow, where the vote took place. (Haley conducted her efforts from New York.)

“We didn’t have the spirit that was strong enough,” Shama HaCohen said in an interview.

Crystal Nix-Hines, the Obama administration’s UNESCO envoy, left on Jan. 20. The Trump administration’s failure to replace her is part of a broader slowdown in naming top State Department positions. According to reports, fewer than 10 of the approximately 200 State Department positions that require nomination and confirmation have been filled.

Shama HaCohen, a blunt-speaking former Likud member of Knesset, said the absence of Israel’s most important ally at UNESCO was having far-reaching effects on defending his country.

“As soon as you have an ambassador, you have an ability to create a relationship with Washington, to advance an agenda,” he said. The absence of envoys “harms our efforts” to defend Israel, he said. “The United States is far from a capacity to bring her full complement to defend Israel.”

Shama Hacohen is not the only official on the front lines of defending Israel concerned about under-staffing among the U.S. diplomatic corps.

“The issue of staffing at the State Department is critical — at UNESCO and in the myriad other areas where U.S. leadership is crucial,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the Anti-Defamation League’s CEO, told JTA. “While there was a good-faith effort by Ambassador Nikki Haley and other members of the administration at UNESCO last week, the fact that there was no ambassador on the ground had an impact.”

For months, a broad array of Jewish groups and lawmakers from both parties have decried the Trump administration’s failure to fill another role: the State Department’s anti-Semitism monitor.

“We are also concerned by the Secretary of State’s seeming reluctance to appoint a special envoy to monitor and combat Anti-Semitism, which plays a critical role in raising awareness and action against anti-Semitism and anti-Israel actions globally,” Greenblatt said. “These positions should be filled as soon as possible.”

The understaffing and how it affects Israel-related diplomacy has also caught the attention of Republicans in Congress.

We “need more appointees in place,” said Kevin Bishop, a spokesman for Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one of the Jewish state’s most ardent defenders in the Senate, when asked about Israel-related diplomacy. He pointed to remarks by Graham on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday: “Secretary (Rex) Tillerson needs to staff up the State Department and use it wisely,” Graham said, referring to a range of areas where he said it was AWOL. “I’m so worried about the State Department.”

A State Department official told JTA that the Trump administration remained committed to defending Israel in every international forum.

“We have been clear that the United States will oppose any effort to delegitimize or isolate Israel, wherever it occurs. We continue to do that,” said the official. “With respect to staffing, we continue to have a deep bench of experienced career professionals serving in key positions that are highly capable and able to help the Secretary lead the Department. We will continue the process of exploring and evaluating ways to improve organizational effectiveness and efficiency, including optimizing the impact of available resources.”

The White House has blamed Senate Democrats for obstructing nominations, noting in a release this week that Trump’s nominees are on average taking longer to clear the Senate than those of his predecessors. But Trump has also been slow to nominate: A June 29 count by the Washington Post showed that of the 200-plus State Department positions filled by nomination, Trump had formally nominated just 20 and that the Senate had confirmed eight.

Dan Shapiro, until January the Obama administration’s envoy to Israel, said career professionals were no substitute for diplomats who had the confidence of the administration.

“When in the past, during the Obama administration when we were fighting an anti-Israel resolution to recognize a Palestinian state, it was all hands on deck,” he said. “We would have ambassadors in capitals raising it, we would have senior officials, secretaries and under secretaries weighing with counterparts.”

Without the personal relationships diplomats cultivate with their counterparts in other countries, Shapiro said, “you don’t have the tools available, you can’t get to the most senior officials in other governments to be engaged to rally other countries to stand with us.”

Shapiro said the lack of appointees is hindering another issue Israel says is critical: Pressing the Palestinians to stop paying families of people jailed or killed while carrying out attacks on Israelis.

“We should be engaging many other governments at senior levels to urge them to let the Palestinians know we think it’s unacceptable,” he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is generally pleased with the Trump administration’s priorities, and appreciates that Trump himself raised the payments-to-prisoners issue in his meetings with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Indeed, Shama HaCohen said that part of his frustration was that the career diplomats in the U.S. UNESCO office were carrying out Obama-era policies seen as friendlier to UNESCO — not because they sought to undermine Trump, but because it was the only guidance they had in hand.

Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said the UNESCO vote might have been an outlier: The Obama administration stopped paying dues in 2011 because UNESCO recognized “Palestine” as a state, and as a result the United States lost its capacity to vote, diminishing its influence at the body in any case.

“We take the UNESCO issues very seriously and welcome the strong statements by Ambassador Haley,” Hoenlein told JTA.

Daniel Mariaschin, the executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International, said that the lack of staffing was a problem, but that Israel’s overall obstacle at the U.N. and its affiliated bodies was institutional bias.

“There’s no question, having ambassadors with the worldview of Nikki Haley, building relationships, is important,” he said. “But automatic majorities, block voting which is built in the U.N. infrastructure. that’s really where these problems lie.”

PM Benjamin Netanyahu at the Western Wall (Photo: Reuters)

Charles Bronfman to Prime Minister Netanyahu: “Do What’s Right”


Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Like many in the Diaspora I have been dismayed, then shocked, then angry, then sorrowful, concerning the events of this past week.

Both the delay of the agreement concerning  non-Orthodox praying at the Western Wall, and the confirmation, if it passes, enabling only the Chief Rabbi and those designated by him, to rule in conversions, are, as you know by now, anathema to Diaspora Jewry.

Prime Minister, as Israel is the spiritual and emotional home of the Jewish People, these two insults confirm that only a certain denomination or Jew is welcome. To my knowledge, no other country in the world denies any Jew based on denomination.

We who love Israel and the Jewish People are left to ponder our relationship with Israel – and particularly with the coalition you lead. Significant damage has been done to our relationship in the last years because of reasons to which I need not allude. These two new issues will ensure that our youth will be more and more estranged from the great Nation that we adore..

Yes, a Birthright trip, which your Government generously funds, helps. But I foresee a decline in registration that will affect the future of our younger Jews. And polls among our youth who have. It experience Birthright demonstrate forcibly that their majority now feel estranged from Israel. What a shame!

And what a shame for all those fighting BDS throughout the world!

Prime Minister, I believe that it is your duty to do what’s right, rather than what’s politically expedient.

Please immediately instigate the Agreement spearheaded by Natan Sharansky. And please withdraw your support of the Conversion Bill.

Yours,

Charles Bronfman

Women of the Wall members bringing Torahs to the Western Wall on Nov. 2, 2016. Screenshot from Twitter

Divided at the Wall


In January 2016 the Israeli government, and the Rabbi of the Western Wall, agreed to legally cordon off a section of the Wall for egalitarian prayer services — a sort of miniature Kotel that would entail official government management and funding. Last week Netanyahu’s cabinet passed a motion formally freezing all plans for the site until further notice.

Before we explore the reaction to this move a few critical facts should be established. Firstly, women as individuals can pray as they wish at the regular section of the Western Wall. If they prefer to wear a prayer shawl and tefillin, noone prevents them. All they are not allowed to do is read from the Torah scroll. Secondly, they can read from the Torah scroll by the Southern side of the Western Wall, where any and all prayer services have been permitted for nearly twenty years. All the cabinet freeze means for egalitarian Jews is that for the time being the Southern Wall won’t be officially cordoned off for their exclusive use.

There were certainly some Israelis who shunned the move, but not all that many. Protests in the wake of the decision drew only a few hundred participants. In Israel, a country that has more politically-driven demonstrations than any other on earth,[1] that isn’t much. To put it into perspective, two thousand Israelis recently protested the kidnapping of Yemeni Children nearly seventy years ago, with another 7,000 Israelis taking to a Tel Aviv square in 2015 to protest a gas deal. A year before that, over 300,000 protesters gathered to the streets in Israel to decry Israel’s planned draft plan, and three years before that 450,000 took to the streets to push for improvements in social justice. So, a few hundred people holding placards outside the Prime Minister’s home doesn’t indicate any exceptional outrage. At least, not in Israel.

And, it’s also fairly easy to understand why. Israelis have proven remarkably indifferent to the Reform and Conservative movements, with less than 3% and 2% of Israelis identifying themselves with each of those movements, respectively. Moreover, the Chairman of the Union of Synagogues and Communities in Israel, Eliezer Sheffer, has reported that there are over 10,500 synagogues in the State of Israel. Of that number, only about forty identify with Reform Judaism — less than 0.4%.

Thus, it was largely the American Jewish community that would form the brunt of the backlash, with leading Jewish-American organizations swiftly condemning the move.

In an Op-Ed published in the New York Times, Lesley Sachs, the Executive Director of Women of the Wall, took a harsher approach. Resorting to unfortunate orthodox-bashing tropes, Sachs described efforts of the Western Wall Foundation to provide shawls to immodestly dressed women as “medieval.” Guards, she went on to claim, forced women to pray silently lest they send the men into a “sexual frenzy.”

Most surprising, however, was the decision by real estate tycoon Isaac Fisher, himself a leading fundraiser in the Greater Miami Jewish Federation and member of the board of AIPAC, to freeze his philanthropic activities for the Jewish state unless the government reversed its decisions.

But Israel is a sovereign democracy and its decisions must reflect the will of its citizens rather than that of foreign Jewish donors. As for Lesley Sachs’ claims of the “medieval” practice of “enforcing” modest-dress, women are offered scarves at the Kotel but cannot be forced to take them. If the mere suggestion seems intrusive, one should consider that there are plenty of memorials throughout the United States that enforce a dress code, such as wearing shoes. They do so not to oppress but to accord respect to hallowed ground. If that level of respect can be demanded at a memorial going back just a hundred years, the holiest site of the Jewish Nation should be granted similar latitude.

With regard to Sachs’ claims that female singing is not allowed, any visit to the Western Wall on any Friday night this summer will bear witness to hundreds of Jewish women singing and dancing to their heart’s content. 

When my son and I visited the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, we had to take off our shoes and rinse our hands regardless of what our own religious beliefs were because that was the custom the local orthodoxy upheld. No modernist interpretations of Islam, however popular, would expect to exert its customs in the mosque either. The same can be said of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem — protestant services cannot be held there, though it is considered a holy site to Protestants as well. The Western Wall should not be faulted, in a similar vein, for preserving the customs of those who administer it — namely, Israel’s orthodox Rabbinate.

I have seen some ultra-orthodox Jews behave disgracefully at the Kotel, including toward my own family this past Shavuot when I was teaching a Torah class in middle of the night to approximately 60 young men and women gathered in a circle. My children were pushed by extremists who were offended by even the idea of men and women merely sitting together in the very back of the Kotel plaza. These fundamentalists disgraced themselves. But they are no more representative of Judaism than Sachs’ tirade against the State of Israel is representative of egalitarian Jews.

The lesson, as always in the Middle East, is that the real danger to peace is not from people of good will but from extremists and fundamentalists who only know how to disagree with their opponents by demonizing them.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international bestselling author of 30 books including his most recent “The Israel Warrior.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

 [1] Alan Dowty, in Politics and Society in the Contemporary Middle East, 2nd ed., edited by Michael Penner Angrist, (Boulder, CO: Rienner Publishers, 2017), p. 309. 

People pray at the Western Wall on Jan. 12. Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images

UNESCO World Heritage Council votes to condemn Israeli actions in Jerusalem


The United Nations’ cultural agency voted to condemn Israeli actions in Jerusalem.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization’s World Heritage Council on Tuesday during its meeting in Poland passed a resolution submitted by the council’s Arab states rejecting Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem.

The resolution that was passed was a softened version of the original text submitted, reportedly due to pressure exerted by Israel and the United States.

The resolution was passed by a vote of 10 countries in favor, three opposed and eight abstentions.

The three states that opposed the resolution were Jamaica, the Philippines and Burkina Faso. The eight countries that abstained were: Angola, Croatia, Finland, Peru, Poland, Portugal, South Korea and Tanzania.

The resolution called Israel the “occupying power” and said that  the UN body “regrets the failure of the Israeli occupying authorities to cease the persistent excavations, tunneling, works, projects and other illegal practices in East Jerusalem, particularly in and around the Old City of Jerusalem, which are illegal under international law,” the Times of Israel reported, citing the resolution.

Unlike in previous years, the resolution stressed “the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls for the three monotheistic religions,” and does not refer to the Temple Mount compound solely by its Muslim names, “Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif,” instead calling it “a Muslim holy site of worship,” according to the Times of Israel.

A UNESCO resolution passed last October  ignored Jewish ties to the Western Wall and Temple Mount sites. In May, UNESCO approved a resolution that called on Israel to rescind any “legislative and administrative measures and actions” it has taken to “alter the character and status” of Jerusalem and rejected the idea of a “basic law” in Jerusalem, based off of a 1980 Knesset law, which implies that the city is one unified whole and governed solely by Israel.

The UNESCO World Heritage Council is expected to vote Friday on a resolution which would declare  the Old City of Hebron — including the Tomb of the Patriarchs — a Palestinian “World Heritage Site in danger.”

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Friday sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova asking them to oppose the resolution that would designate Hebron as a Palestinian heritage site.

The resolution, in which  Palestinians claim that the Tomb of the Patriarchs and the Old City of Hebron are endangered by the Israeli occupation, needs a two-thirds vote to pass.

In her letter, Haley said passage of the resolution could undermine the Trump Administration’s efforts to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Haaretz reported.

“The Tomb of the Patriarchs, which is sacred to three faiths, is in no immediate threat. Such a designation risks undermining the seriousness such an assessment by UNESCO should have,” Haley also wrote. “Many precious sites — from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Libya to Iraq to Syria — are under real and imminent threat of destruction today. They urgently demand UNESCO’s full and immediate attention, which should not be wasted on this sort of symbolic action.”

Jason Greenblatt, left, meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to Jerusalem on March 13. Photo by Government Press Office

Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt returning to Jerusalem this week


Two top advisers to President Donald Trump, including his Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner, will return to Jerusalem this week to push for restarted peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

The visits to Jerusalem and Ramallah by Kushner, a senior adviser to Trump, and national security aide Jason Greenblatt were widely reported on Sunday night, all citing unnamed White House officials. The visits were first reported in The Wall Street Journal.

It will be the first major peace push by the White House since Trump visited the region last month.

Kushner, who reportedly will arrive in Israel on Wednesday, is scheduled to meet in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and in Ramallah with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Greenblatt is scheduled to arrive Monday in Jerusalem.

An unnamed White House official told The Wall Street Journal that no three-way talks are expected during the visits and that no major breakthroughs are anticipated. Reuters reported that the White House has been holding behind-the-scene talks since Trump’s visit at the end of May, which reportedly was planned by Kushner.

Unnamed White House officials cited by several news sources reiterated that an agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians is a priority for the Trump administration.

Kushner is currently under scrutiny as part of the investigation into whether Trump officials colluded with Russia to sway the outcome of the presidential election.

Staff Sgt. Hadas Malka, 23, was killed in a knife attack at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, June 16.

Israeli police officer killed in Jerusalem stabbing, attackers killed


An Israeli policewoman was killed in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Two assailants attacked a group of officers with knives on Friday at Damascus Gate, The Times of Israel reported. Both were shot and killed. One of the attackers was reportedly holding a gun, but it jammed.

Staff Sergeant Major Hadas Malka, 23, was evacuated to Hadassah University Medical Center in critical condition from her stab wounds. Hospital officials later pronounced her dead.

Israeli security services later identified the attackers as 19-year-old Bara Ibrahim Muhammad Saleh; Adel Hassan Ahmad Anakush, 18; and Osama Ahmad Mustafa Atta, 19. All are from the West Bank.

The first attack occurred near Damascus Gate at the entrance of the Old City, resulting in the death of the Border Patrol officer.

The second attack reportedly occurred near Zedekiah’s Cave, located in the Muslim quarter of the Old City.

Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, visits the Western Wall on June 7. Photo by Ammar Awad/Reuters

Nikki Haley calls UN a ‘bully’ against Israel during meeting with Netanyahu


Nikki Haley, the American ambassador to the United Nations, called the U.N. a “bully” against Israel, during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu thanked the envoy for “standing up for Israel” in the U.N.

“You know, that’s all I’ve done, is tell the truth, and it’s kind of overwhelming at the reaction,” Haley said in response.

She called Israel-bashing at the U.N. “a habit.”

“It was something that we’re so used to doing,” she said. “And if there’s anything I have no patience for is bullies, and the U.N. was being such a bully to Israel, because they could.”

She added: “We’re starting to see a turn in New York. I think they know they can’t keep responding in the way they’ve been responding. They sense that the tone has changed.”

She said that some members of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, where she attended a meeting before arriving in Israel, were “embarrassed” by the council’s permanent Agenda Item Seven, which discusses “the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories,” and routinely singles out Israel for condemnation.

At the Human Rights Council meeting Tuesday, Haley said the U.S. is reconsidering its membership in the U.N. Human Rights Council, citing among other things bias against Israel.

“It’s hard to accept that this council has never considered a resolution on Venezuela and yet it adopted five biased resolutions in March against a single country – Israel,” Haley said Tuesday. “It is essential that this council address its chronic anti-Israel bias if it is to have any credibility.”

She also met Wednesday with Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin at his residence in Jerusalem.

Rivlin called Haley a “dear friend of Israel. We appreciate your strong stand on the world’s most important stage, in support of the security of the people and the State of Israel. With your support, we see the beginning of a new era. Israel is no longer alone at the U.N. Israel is no longer the U.N.’s punching bag.”

During her three-day visit to Israel,  Haley is expected to fly over the country’s northern and southern borders in a helicopter, visit Tel Aviv and lay a wreath at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial center. Haley’s visit to the Old City of Jerusalem and the Western Wall are being billed as “private and religious,” however, and she will not be accompanied by Israeli officials. President Trump, during  his recent visit to holy sites in Jerusalem, was also unaccompanied by Israeli political leaders.

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. Photo via JTA.

American UN Ambassador Nikki Haley to visit Israel on Wednesday


U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley will visit Israel, including the Old City of Jerusalem and the Western Wall.

Haley will arrive in Israel on Wednesday, according to Israeli news reports.

She is scheduled to meet with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as senior Palestinian officials, the Times of Israel reported.

Haley is scheduled to fly over the country’s northern and southern borders in a helicopter, visit Tel Aviv and lay a wreath at Yad Vashem, accompanied by Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon. Her visit to the Old City of Jerusalem and the Western Wall are being billed as “private and religious,” however, and she will not be accompanied by Israeli officials. President Trump, in his recent visit to holy sites in Jerusalem, was also unaccompanied by Israeli political leaders.

In an interview in May with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Haley said that the Western Wall belongs to Israel and that Israel’s capital is Jerusalem. “I don’t know what the policy of the administration is, but I believe the Western Wall is part of Israel and I think that that is how we’ve always seen it and that’s how we should pursue it,” Haley said. “We’ve always thought the Western Wall was part of Israel.”

The comments came in the wake of reports that a Trump administration official, responding to a request that Israeli officials accompany the president when he visited the Western Wall, replied that the Western Wall “is not your territory, it’s part of the West Bank.”

In the interview, Haley also reiterated her support for moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

“Obviously I believe that the capital should be Jerusalem and the embassy should be moved to Jerusalem because if you look at all their government is in Jerusalem,” she said. “So much of what goes on is in Jerusalem, and I think we have to see that for what it is.”

As a candidate, Trump promised to move the embassy. But last week, Trump signed an order renewing the six-month waiver that allows the U.S. embassy to remain in Tel Aviv. An act of Congress in 1995 required relocating the embassy to Jerusalem, but successive administrations have delayed the change with a series of six-month waivers, citing national security concerns.

Ariel Sharon, third from left, meeting with his officers a week before the start of the Six-Day War, May 29, 1967, at their headquarters somewhere in southern Israel. Photo by Micha Han/GPO via Getty Images

‘I have a feeling the war is going to start tomorrow’: Three days in June 1967


Five days before the Six-Day War broke out in June 1967, the American reporter Abraham Rabinovich arrived in Jerusalem. When the war ended, he decided to remain and write an account of Israel’s lightning victory. Over the next two years he interviewed close to 300 soldiers and civilians. 

In this excerpt from the 50th anniversary edition of “The Battle for Jerusalem: An Unintended Conquest,”Rabinovich recounts the days leading up to the war’s start and the decisions of the Israeli politicians and generals on the ground.

(JTA) — The date for war was fixed on Friday, June 2, 1967, the day after Prime Minister Levi Eshkol relinquished the defense portfolio to Israel’s military icon, Moshe Dayan. For two weeks, Eshkol had blocked his generals’ demand for a strike against Egypt, but the signing of a defense pact between Jordan and Egypt had finally convinced him that war was inevitable.

At a meeting with Eshkol and Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin, Dayan said that if the cabinet on Sunday approved a preemptive strike, the air force would carry it out the following morning. He rejected as irrelevant the army’s plans for attacking the Gaza Strip and the coastal guns overlooking the Tiran Straits, which Egypt had closed to Israel-bound shipping.

The army’s primary task, he said, was the destruction of Egypt’s tank divisions, the core of  its army. The brazenness of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser in sending his army into Sinai, banishing a U.N. buffer force, and closing the straits meant that he no longer feared Israel. Therefore, Dayan argued, his challenge must be met head-on. The army would bring the Egyptian tank formations to battle and leave the Straits of Tiran and Gaza Strip for later. Rabin said that nothing would be done to provoke the Jordanians in order not to draw forces away from the Egyptian front. Jerusalem’s Old City was on no one’s agenda.

Air Force Commander Motti Hod had never revealed details of the preemptive strike to his colleagues on the general staff. Even now, at a meeting Saturday night, June 3, he revealed only one element: zero hour. The planes would strike at 7:45 a.m. Intelligence knew that the Egyptian air force mounted patrols from first light until 7 a.m. in anticipation of a possible Israeli attack out of the rising sun. At 7:45 the Egyptian pilots would be back at their bases having breakfast. Senior commanders lived off base and arrived about 8 a.m. They would still be in their cars when the planes struck. At zero hour, Israel’s armored divisions would shed camouflage netting and cross into Sinai.

Dayan, in his first press conference as defense minister that Saturday night, declared that the time for a spontaneous response to the closing of the straits had passed. A diplomatic solution, he said, would now be sought. At an English-language newspaper in Jordanian Jerusalem, skeptical journalists joked that they should run Dayan’s soothing remarks under the headline “Israel about to attack.”

Sunday morning, at the crucial cabinet meeting, several ministers asked that a decision be put off, but for the first time Eshkol came out clearly for war. Washington’s objection to an Israeli first-strike, while officially still in place, had softened,  he said, in the wake of the Jordanian-Egyptian pact. Washington had not flashed a green light, “but the light was no longer red.”

Dayan warned that if the Egyptians struck first (“to do to us what we want to do to them”), one of their first targets would be the nuclear reactor at Dimona, which the Egyptians believed was about to come on line. “Our only chance of winning the war is to initiate it and shape it,” he said. The cabinet voted 12-2 for military action.

Gen. Hod summoned his base commanders after the cabinet decision and informed them that the long-mooted attack would be launched in the morning. In the first wave, 160 planes would attack. Only 12 planes would remain behind  to guard Israel’s airspace.

Gen. Uzi Narkiss, commanding the Jordanian front, met Sunday night with his brigade commanders for a final briefing. He had been informed of the cabinet’s decision but gave no hint of it to his officers. On a wall map, an intelligence officer reviewed the Jordanian deployment. Five infantry brigades on the West Bank had been reinforced by an additional brigade, held in reserve 10 miles east of Jerusalem. Troops had been shifted in substantial numbers from rear encampments to the front line and Jordan’s two armored brigades were poised to cross the Jordan River to the West Bank. A large Iraqi force was expected to take up positions threatening  Israel’s narrow waist within a few days.

At Narkiss’ request, his brigade commanders rose in turn to outline their operational plans. The commander of the Jerusalem Brigade, Col. Eliezer Amitai, was restrained. The Jordanian army was considered the best in the Arab world. In the War of Independence, the Israeli army had failed to dislodge it from any  fortified position. The British officers who commanded the Arab Legion, as it was known then, were dismissed by Hussein a decade later and replaced by Jordanian officers but the army’s reputation remained.

Israel’s Jerusalem Brigade had more than twice as many men as the Jordanians opposite them in the city but it was a hometown unit of reservists, many of them over 30. Contingency planning called for an elite regular army unit to break through stout Jordanian defenses to relieve the 120-man garrison on Mount Scopus, a mile behind Jordanian lines, if it was threatened. But it was doubtful whether elite units could be spared for the task in a multi-front war.

At an Israeli position on Mount Zion, adjacent to the Old City, a platoon commander challenged one of his men to chess Sunday evening. There was little conversation as they concentrated on the board. Suddenly the officer looked up and said, “I have a feeling the war is going to start tomorrow.”

At Tel Nof air base, pilots were wakened at 3:45 a.m. on Monday, June 5. Filing into the briefing room, their eyes focused on the terse announcement on the blackboard: “Zero Hour 0745.” When all were seated, the squadron leader said, “Good morning. We go to war with Egypt today.”

In nearby orange groves, Col. Motta Gur’s reserve paratroop brigade had spent the night in anticipation of boarding troop carriers for a jump into Sinai. An officer rose before dawn and looked expectantly towards the air base but could see no sign of unusual activity. The troops were wakened at six, and the orchards were soon bustling. The men were making coffee when a succession of roars erupted from the airbase. As the sound intensified, planes began to rise above the tree line — dozens of them following each other into the sky like children playing tag. Low-slung with bombs and rockets, the aircraft wove themselves into formations of four and headed southwest at treetop level. At the airfield, a mechanic wept as the planes swept past him, wave after wave, glinting in the sky like a sword unsheathed. In the orchards the paratroopers watched in silence, awed by what they were seeing and by what they knew must come. They then drifted off to write postcards home. “We’re seeing the start of the war,” wrote one. “We hope it’s finished soon. We’ll do what we can to finish it soon.”

In the afternoon, Col. Gur was informed that the fast-moving tank divisions in Sinai would overrun the paratroopers’ planned target.  The brigade was being sent instead to Jerusalem to break through to Mount Scopus. No one in authority mentioned the Old City. Some, however, were beginning to think about it.


Abraham Rabinovich is a journalist born and raised in New York City. He is the author of six books, including “The Yom Kippur War,” “The Boats of Cherbourg” and “Jerusalem on Earth.” He lives in Jerusalem.

Israeli troops preparing for battle during the Six-Day War in 1967. Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images

6 things you didn’t know about the Six-Day War


The three paratroopers casting eyes upward at the Western Wall. The troops reveling in the waters of the Suez Canal. The sweeping views of a Galilee no longer vulnerable to shelling from atop the Golan Heights.

Not to mention Naomi Shemer’s anthem “Jerusalem of Gold,” reissued after the Six-Day War with a new verse celebrating access to the Old City. Or the settlements, the Palestinians, the tensions, the violence.

These – and many others – are the images, memories and challenges that persist after 50 years of triumph, soul searching and grief.

But there are anomalies – small, telling wrinkles in what the war wrought – that, if not quite forgotten, have faded into the recesses of memory. They are worth reviving to deepen our understanding of an event that changed Jewish history.

For 20 years, Jews paid fees to a symbol of Palestinian pride.

In the wake of Jerusalem’s reunification, its mayor, Teddy Kollek, was faced with a dilemma: Jewish neighborhoods were sprouting up in the eastern part of the city. Any attempt to extend electricity to them from the electricity provider in Israel would likely elicit local and international protest because the world did not recognize Israel’s claims to the city.

Kollek’s solution: Allow the Palestinian-run Jerusalem District Electric Company, or JDEC, predating Israel’s establishment, to continue providing power in and around the Old City, including the new Jewish neighborhoods.

So until 1987, Jews living in the Old City and the new neighborhoods received electric bills that seemed a mirror image of their other utility bills: First the text was in Arabic, then in Hebrew.

The JDEC held exclusive rights to a radius of 50 kilometers, or 31 miles, around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Old City site believed to be the site of Jesus’ burial.

After 1948, Israel assumed responsibility for providing electricity to western Jerusalem.

The JDEC, which had become a symbol of Palestinian aspirations for independence, was helmed by Anwar Nusseibeh, the scion of an ancient Palestinian family.

According to the 1999 book “Separate and Unequal,” about relations between Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem, even after the JDEC’s limited capacities were exhausted by the rapidly expanding demand, Israeli authorities balked at extending the Israel Electric Corp.’s reach into eastern Jerusalem. Instead, the Israeli company sold capacity to the JDEC.

In December 1987, the government finally – quietly – shifted total responsibility for the Jewish neighborhoods to the Israeli company.

“Separate and Unequal,” penned by three Israelis – Amir Cheshin and Avi Melamed, two former municipality liaisons to the city’s Palestinian population, and journalist Bill Hutman – cited the conundrum as an example of the balancing act that Israeli officials had to perform: Maintaining a Jewish claim to the entire city, while at times deferring to Palestinian nationalism, in order to keep the peace.

“Israel could not expect to wipe out an important Palestinian national symbol without a reaction, possibly a severe reaction, from the Palestinian public,” they wrote.

The JDEC still exists, albeit providing electricity only to Palestinian residents.

King Hussein longed for peace — and liked his Israeli hardware.

King Hussein

King Hussein of Jordan at London Airport, May 4, 1964. (George Stroud/Express/Getty Images)

 

During most of his reign, King Hussein of Jordan sought a peaceful arrangement with Israel, taking a cue from his beloved grandfather, King Abdullah I, whom he saw assassinated in Jerusalem in 1951 because he was seeking peace with Israel.

Like his grandfather, he sought peace in secret but did not escape opprobrium – and was wary of meeting Abdullah’s fate. Hussein felt he had little choice but to join President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt in saber rattling against Israel in 1967 – Nasser, wildly popular in the Arab world, had already taunted the king as being subservient to Israel.

Moreover, Israel had humiliated Hussein a year earlier with a massive daylight raid into his territory to exact revenge for an attack carried out by Palestinian Fatah troops, who then operated with relative impunity from Jordanian soil.

According to historian Martin Gilbert’s “Jerusalem Illustrated History Atlas,” on June 4, 1967, Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol relayed a message to Hussein: “We shall not initiate any action whatsoever against Jordan. However, should Jordan open hostilities, we shall react with all our might and (Hussein) will have to bear the full responsibility for all the consequences.”

At 8:30 a.m. the following day, Jordan started shelling western Jerusalem, and at 9:30 a.m., Hussein broadcast, “The hour of revenge has come.”

That kind of talk and the ensuing bloody battles — plus prior years that witnessed the destruction of Jewish properties in eastern Jerusalem and Hussein’s refusal for 19 years to allow Jewish access to the Western Wall — left some Israelis wondering whether Hussein truly sought peace.

The answers came over time – King Hussein drove Fatah out of Jordan in 1970 and in 1973 waited out the Yom Kippur War. In 1986, he came close to signing a peace deal with Israel.

In 1994, symbols bold and subtle made evident that Hussein had earned the trust of leading Israelis. The king was present at Israel’s Arava terminal when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin signed a peace treaty with his Jordanian counterpart, Abdelsalam al-Majali.

The next day Maariv, a newspaper then owned by the Nimrodi family, published a full-page photo captioned “1965, collection of Yaakov Nimrodi,” with no other comment. Nimrodi, the clan patriarch, was Israel’s leading private arms dealer.

In the photo, a smiling King Hussein is cradling an Israeli-manufactured Uzi submachine gun.

When did Israel unite Jerusalem? Did it unite Jerusalem?

Smoke rising from the Old City of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War, June 1967. (Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

 

“The future belongs to the complete Jerusalem that shall never again be divided,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said two years ago on Jerusalem Day, which marks the Hebrew calendar anniversary of Israel’s capture of eastern Jerusalem during the Six-Day War.

The adjectives vary – “complete,” “united,” “indivisible” — but the meaning is clear enough: Israel will never cede an inch of the Jerusalem it reunited.

Except when it formally reunited Jerusalem is not so clear: 1967? 1980? 2000? Ever?

On June 27, 1967, less than three weeks after the war’s end, Israel’s Knesset passed ordinances that allowed Israeli officials to extend Israeli law into areas of their designations. The next day, the Interior Ministry acted on those new ordinances, extending  Israeli law into the areas that now constitute the Jerusalem municipality. They included 28 Palestinian villages, the Old City and what had been defined by Jordan as municipal Jerusalem.

So, June 28, 1967, apparently is when Israel “united” Jerusalem. Except Ian Lustick, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, published a widely cited paper in 1997 that showed unification was not necessarily the intention of the 1967 ordinances.

An Interior Ministry news release on June 28, 1967, said the “basic purpose” of its order was “to provide full municipal and social services to all inhabitants of the city.” Absent was any expression of political purpose.

Not long after, Abba Eban, then Israel’s foreign minister, told the United Nations that the ordinances had a practical, not a national consequence.

“The term ‘annexation’ is out of place,” he said. “The measures adopted related to the integration of Jerusalem in the administrative and municipal spheres and furnish a legal basis for the protection of the Holy Places.”

As Lustick noted, even within these parameters, anomalies persisted: For decades, Jordanian curricula prevailed in Palestinian schools in eastern Jerusalem.

In 1980, the Knesset passed a Basic Law – what passes in Israel for a constitution – declaring united Jerusalem to be Israeli. “The complete and united Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” it said.

But left out of the law was a definition of what constituted the “complete and united” Jerusalem. It took until 2000 for the Knesset to pass an amendment to the 1980 Basic Law specifying that Jerusalem was defined by the Interior Ministry order of June 28, 1967.

So was 2000 when Israel formally set down in law what constituted the united, indivisible, complete Jerusalem?

Not exactly, according to a Haaretz analysis in 2015, which said the 1980 law is essentially declarative: Nowhere does it include the words “annexation” or “sovereignty.”

Marshall Breger and Thomas Idinopulos, in a 1998 Washington Institute for Near East Policy tract, “Jerusalem’s Holy Places and the Peace Process,” suggest that these are distinctions without a difference and say that Israeli court decisions that treat eastern Jerusalem as essentially annexed should be determinative.

The first Jewish settlement in the captured territories

There are plenty of dramatic markers in the history of the return of Jews to the areas Israel captured in the Six-Day War:

The first homes reoccupied by Jews in the Old City’s Jewish Quarter, in 1969; the Jews, led by Rabbi Moshe Levinger, who moved into a Hebron hotel to mark Passover 1968 and would not leave until the government allowed them to establish the settlement that would become Kiryat Arba; the settlers who would not leave the area of Sebastia in the northern West Bank until the government in 1975 allowed them to establish Elon Moreh.

But the first settlement? That would be Merom Golan, a kibbutz originally named Kibbutz Golan, when Israelis quietly moved in on July 14, 1967, just over a month after the war.

Why the urgency? A clue is in who founded the kibbutz: Israelis from the eastern Galilee, who had suffered potshots and shelling from Syrian troops for years.

The Israeli attachment to the West Bank and to Jerusalem has been from the outset one defined by emotion, history and identity. Occupying and settling the Golan Heights — an area traditionally not defined as within the boundaries of the biblical Land of Israel — was seen as a matter of security and practical necessity: Israel, atop the Golan, was less vulnerable.

These days, Merom Golan is a resort.

That ancient church in Gaza? It was a synagogue.

The Western Wall, Qumran, Shiloh, King Herod’s tomb – the Six-Day War was a boon for historians seeking evidence of ancient Jewish settlement in the Holy Land.

Most of these sites are in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. But a team of archaeologists rushed to the Gaza Strip within weeks of its capture.

Why? In 1966, Egypt’s Department of Antiquities announced the discovery of what it said was an ancient church on Gaza’s coast. Examining the pictures in the Italian antiquities journal Orientala, Israeli archaeologists immediately understood it was no church – it was a synagogue.

Visible in one photograph was a Hebrew inscription, “David,” alongside a harpist – King David.

According to an article published in 1994 in Biblical Archaeology Review, by the time the Israelis reached it a year later, the David mosaic had been damaged – evidence perhaps that the Egyptians understood that the biblical king’s depiction validated claims of ancient Jewish settlement and sought to erase it.

They set about excavating the site, which turned out to be one of the largest Byzantine-era synagogues in the region.

At the foot of one mosaic they found the following inscription: “(We) Menahem and Yeshua, sons of the late Isai (Jesse), wood traders, as a sign of respect for a most holy place, donated this mosaic in the month of Louos (the year of) 569.”

The quiet reunifications

Israeli soldiers approaching the Dome on the Rock in Jerusalem, June 7, 1967. (Newsmakers/Getty Images)

 

This was the myth: Between 1949 and 1967, the heart of a city identified since the beginnings of history with the Jews had been made Judenrein.

The myth was largely based in fact, but there were exceptions: Every two weeks, a convoy of Israeli troops would travel through Jordanian Jerusalem to Mount Scopus, the Hebrew University campus that remained Israel’s as part of the 1949 armistice. Intrepid non-Israeli Jews occasionally passed through the Mandelbaum Gate, the gateway between Jordanian and Israeli Jerusalem. Muriel Spark, the Scottish novelist, captured the danger in such a crossing in her 1961 novel “The Mandelbaum Gate.”

And then there were stories like this one: In 1991, the building where I owned an apartment obtained permission from the municipality to add rooms and balconies. The contractor subcontracted some of the work. One day, a gregarious Palestinian subcontractor came by to measure my balcony for the railing he would build.

But the contractor disappeared just before completing the job. I paid others to complete the work and asked around for the number of the subcontractor.

He lived in Silwan, the ancient neighborhood abutting the Old City. I called.

A woman speaking fluent Hebrew answered; this in itself was striking. It was not unusual for Palestinian men, who worked throughout Israel, to speak Hebrew, but it was a rarity at the time to encounter a Hebrew-speaking Palestinian woman. Moreover, her Hebrew was unaccented and flawless.

She was the subcontractor’s mother. Of course he would come and install the railing, it was gathering dust in their yard, and he had forgotten my exact address, she said Not only that, but I wasn’t to pay him a shekel extra, he had been paid for his work and wouldn’t hear of it.

I couldn’t resist asking her to explain her Hebrew.

She was Jewish, born and raised in Jerusalem. She had married a Palestinian Muslim before independence. And she remained in Silwan after the war. Did she reunite with family? Yes, she said, immediately after the Six-Day War, but would not elaborate.

The subcontractor came by.

“I spoke to your mother,” I said.

“Yes,” he said and smiled.

I asked the neighbors who had used the same contractor, I asked other Jerusalemites, and no one expressed surprise.

They had heard similar stories of excommunication and then tentative reunification. How many were there? No one knew. No one compiled these stories. There was no shame to the phenomenon, but neither was there a celebration of it.

It seemed unresolved, like so much else about the Six-Day War.

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Israeli soldiers, blowing the shofar at the Western Wall, Temple Mount, 1967

The Six-Day war anniversary: I can still hear the sirens, even though I was not yet born


A.

June 5, 1967. Fifty years ago, today. Israel launches an attack on Egypt. The Six-Day War begins.

Do you remember that day? I do not remember it, as I was not yet born at that time. And yet, I feel as if I almost remember it. I can taste the three weeks of apprehensive waiting for war. I can hear the sound of sirens and roaring airplanes. I can sense the amazed realization of sudden success. The dreamy – surreal – nature of great victory.

I was born a year after the war, like many other Israeli baby boomers. I was born early enough to still be able to imagine how it was like. But not early enough to be there. Also, I suspect, not early enough for my sons and daughters to be born at a time when such feelings of apprehension and amazement and glee still linger, available for the taking. For many young Israelis, and non-Israelis, the anniversary of the Six-Day war is not much different than the anniversary of the First World War, or the Second Punic War.

There was once a war. It was dramatic, or so they say. It was a long time ago. Before we were born. Before our parents were born. Soon it will be before our grandparents were born. Any attempt to connect the dots between then and now, to explain why certain events that happened fifty years ago still impact us today, might feel natural and easy for some of us. But for younger people it feels irrelevant. What was then is history. What is now is reality. The fact that the Six-Day War is or isn’t the reason for some of the challenges Israel faces today hardly matters.

B.

An anniversary is a good time for a photo-op, for a campaign, for fundraising. It is not a good time to resolve challenges. Not better than the time before it – or after it.

An anniversary is a good time for reflection, so we all reflect. We write and read books about the war and its consequences. We write and read articles about the war and its consequences. We unite in facing the challenge. We do not unite in prescribing a remedy for it.

I don’t know anyone for whom the anniversary has been an eye-opening experience. I don’t know anyone for whom the many books and articles published this week have served as a wakeup call for long-term action. I haven’t seen any surveys showing that attitudes are changing because of the anniversary.

Yesterday, the Israel Democracy Institute published interesting data on its web site. It is a series of surveys of Israelis from 50 years ago – from before, during, and after the war. In these surveys (the ones during and after the war), 94% of respondents, Jews from major cities, argued that Israel must hold the Old City of Jerusalem “at any cost.”

Has this changed after fifty years? It has, but not by much. According to one survey, 73% of Jewish Israelis today think that the Temple Mount must remain under Israeli control. They might agree to compromise on some Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem – as another survey found. But this is hardly a consolation for those seeking an agreed upon compromise in the Middle East. Can we have peace with the Palestinians without relinquishing Israeli control over parts of the so called Holy Basin? In a survey by Israel Hayom last weekend, 87% of Israelis say that if they’d have to choose between a peace agreement with the Palestinians and keeping the Old City under Israeli control – they’d accept the reality of no agreement and keep the territory.

What is the story that these numbers tell us? A simple story, really. Israel believes that many of the assets it acquired in the Six-Day War are more valuable than a dubious agreement with the Palestinians. Nothing thus far has convinced these Israelis that they ought to change their minds. In fact, they were actively convinced by the Palestinians (because of their violence and rejectionist approach) that an agreement with them is worth less than the tangible possessions that Israel collected fifty years ago.

C.

This should give one a realistic sense of what’s possible and what’s impossible as we mark the fifty year anniversary of the war. We can analyze, or reminisce, or mourn, or celebrate, or fundraise, or get angry, or get nostalgic, until some of us will get bored.

What we can’t do it turn the clock back.

And we can’t turn the clock forward either.

We are stuck in a certain situation. Not great, but also not as bad as some people argue. Far from ideal, but also far from being the worst imaginable situation. The fact that this situation has lasted for fifty years is not relevant. It was not ideal in the first fifty years, and it will still not be the end of the world after five hundred years.

The only question that matters today is not “how long has this been going on?” – but rather “do we have a way of changing it for the better?” If all we can do is change the situation for the worse, we ought not change it. In fact, it would be immoral to change it.

 

A group of Israeli soldiers at the Western Wall after it was recaptured in the Six-Day War. Photo by David Rubinger

Six-Day War: Voices after victory


Few wars fought on any soil have had as profound an impact as the Six-Day War, which began June 5, 1967. The Jewish Journal asked Jewish leaders and thinkers to assess the war’s aftermath 50 years later.

Six Days, Followed by 50 Years of Palestinian Posturing

The Six-Day War was a turning point. Until then, Arab leaders were all about avenging Palestine; the defeat in 1948 swept the old elites out of power and brought in younger ones from the military. They made Palestine the central issue — not to resolve it but to use it internally and in their rivalries with other Arab leaders to see who could dominate the Arab world. Pan-Arabism — one Arab nation — was the idiom, and Palestine was the vehicle around which it was built. That, for all practical purposes, ended after those six days in June 1967.

Dennis Ross

Palestinians, who had left their fate to the Arabs after 1948, now knew they could not count on them. Unfortunately, the Palestinian leaders — while claiming they now would assume responsibility for fulfilling national aspirations — found it easier to focus on symbols and not substance, rejection rather than reconciliation, and grievance rather than achievement. Even today, their tendency remains more a flag at the United Nations than state and institution-building. There are those like former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad who recognize that the State of Palestine is far more likely to emerge when the rule of law becomes more important than seeking resolutions in international forums that deny the Jewish connection to Jerusalem.

Israelis expected peace after the war. The Cabinet adopted a secret resolution on June 19, 1967, accepting withdrawal to the international border in return for peace with Egypt and Syria. More discussion was needed on the West Bank/Gaza. Israelis had not expected to be occupiers of what at that time were a million Arabs. The Oslo process was supposed to resolve the problem of occupation, but has not.

The challenge now — 50 years after 1967 — is for Israeli leaders to figure out how to avoid becoming a binational state when it is not clear that two states for two peoples can be negotiated, much less implemented, anytime soon.    

DENNIS ROSS is a former Middle East envoy and negotiator under four U.S. presidents.


From Auschwitz to Jerusalem and From Jerusalem to …

As the three-week buildup to the Six-Day War began, Jews sensed that Jewish life was again at risk, this time in the State of Israel. Once again, the world was turning its back. The United States would not come to Israel’s aid. The United Nations troops left.

Michael Berenbaum

A friend suggested that we bring the Israeli children to the U.S., where they would be safe. I decided that my place was to be in Israel. If the Jewish people were threatened, it was my fight, my responsibility. So instead of attending my college graduation ceremony, I left for Jerusalem. I was in the air when the June war began, and landed in Israel just in time to be in Jerusalem when the city was reunified.

I can still hear the words of the bus radio announcement as it was driving on old Highway 1: 

“An IDF (Israel Defense Forces) spokesman has said: The Old City is ours; I repeat the Old City is ours.”

I can still see the tears in the eyes of my fellow passengers as they embraced one another.

On the fifth day of the war, I went to Shabbat eve services and heard then-Israeli  President Zalman Shazar speak the words of “Lecha Dodi”: “ ‘Put on the clothes of your majesty, my people. … Wake up, arise.’ All my days I have prayed these words and now I have lived to see them.”

Never were those words more true. Never did they touch my soul more completely. I was a participant in Jewish history; I was at home in Jewish memory; I was embraced by Jewish triumph. However much skepticism — political and religious — has entered my understanding of that war and its consequences in the past 50 years, that moment is indelible in my soul and touched it, oh, so deeply.

My role in the war was anything but heroic. I organized a group of American volunteers to drive and work on garbage trucks. In that capacity, I helped clear the rubble of the war that divided Jerusalem at Jaffa Road and some of the stones from the homes demolished near the Wall. I was there on Shavuot when 100,000 Jews went to the Wall — under Jewish sovereignty for the first time in 1,878 years — and women in miniskirts danced alongside Charedi men, each fully absorbed in the moment, oblivious to the incongruity of what they were doing.

And yet, looking back, I think we are still fighting the Six-Day War, now a 50-years war. The “victory” has lost its majesty and mystery, though not its necessity. Even without walls in the center of Jaffa Street, Jerusalem is a divided city, nationally, ethnically and religiously. Repeated triumphs have not yielded security. The Jewish narrative is anything but simple: From Auschwitz to Jerusalem, and from Jerusalem of Gold to an earthly place divided and dividing. Time has made it more difficult to return to that heroic, miraculous moment -— more difficult but perhaps not less urgent.

MICHAEL BERENBAUM is a professor of Jewish studies and director of the Sigi Ziering Institute at American Jewish University.


Following Maestro’s Advice Changed His Life

Both of my parents are seventh-generation Israelis. On June 3, 1967, I was in medical school in Philadelphia studying for my med boards when the Arabs were surrounding Israel, screaming for its destruction.

Howard Rosenman

I flew to Israel,  volunteered as an intern in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and was stationed in Gaza. On the morning of June 8, my commanding officer, who knew of my family — called “Vatikay Yerushalayim” (“The Ancients of Jerusalem”) — said, “Tzahal [the Hebrew acronym for the IDF] is about to recapture the Old City. Go up to Jerusalem.”

I was there when Rabbi Shlomo Goren blew the shofar on Har ha’Bayit (the Temple Mount). It was the most important moment in my life.

I was then transferred to the Hadassah Medical Center, and Leonard Bernstein came to conduct Mahler’s “Resurrection Symphony” on the newly reconquered Har ha’Tzofim (Mount Scopus).

Bernstein came to visit the volunteers. “You look exactly like a waiter of mine at a discotheque in New York City,” he said to me.

“I am your waiter,” I answered. He immediately invited me to the concert.

Afterward, at the party at the King David Hotel, he offered me a “gofer” job on the documentary film of “the maestro” conducting the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in Judea and Samaria for the Tzahal, with Isaac Stern playing the violin. It was a war zone and you couldn’t go unless you got special clearance. 

Lenny encouraged me to leave medical school: “You are too good of a storyteller. Go into the arts. You will never bow to the Mistress of Science.”

Back in Philly, while assisting on an amputation, I decided to take a leave of absence. I called up Mr. Bernstein and told him, “I took your advice.”

Mr. Bernstein then introduced me to Katharine Hepburn, whose assistant I became on [the Broadway musical] “Coco,” and Stephen Sondheim … and my life was never the same again.

HOWARD ROSENMAN is a Hollywood producer.


An Unexpected Narrative

Eight years ago, I happened to be in Memphis, Tenn., where I visited the National Civil Rights Museum. The guided tour was led by an elderly gentleman, probably in his early 80s, who introduced himself as a civil rights activist and a personal friend of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Sharon Nazarian

As he walked us through the museum, we arrived in the hall showcasing an actual Freedom Rider bus. He proceeded to share with us the story of young students bravely coming to Memphis, in racially mixed groups, to show solidarity with the civil rights movement.

Knowing that many of the courageous riders were Jewish students, I raised my hand to ask his perspective on the role of the American-Jewish community in the civil rights struggle.

His answer has plagued me to this day. He said that at the height of the civil rights battles, the Jewish community had stood side by side with the African-American community, that is, until the 1967 Six-Day War.

During and after the war, he said, the attention and passion of the Jewish community turned completely toward Israel and away from the equal rights struggle in the United States. He went on to say that he, along with the leadership of the civil rights movement, felt completely abandoned and forgotten and continue to feel that way to this day.

Although this was a narrative I had never heard before, it helped explain what may have been the beginning of the deep rift that has taken hold between the Jewish and Black communities in the U.S., as felt and viewed from the perspective of the African-American community. We are still realizing the ripple effects of those momentous six days; this is another ripple that continues to impact our community here in the U.S.

SHARON NAZARIAN is president of the Y&S Nazarian Family Foundation.


Millennials and the War

Jesse Gabriel

For my parents and many of their friends, the Six-Day War brings to mind David Rubinger’s iconic photograph of Israeli paratroopers standing in front of the Western Wall, their hopeful young faces an indelible reminder of Israel’s miraculous military victory less than 25 years after the Holocaust. But for many millennials, the Six-Day War is not what comes to mind when they think about Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict. On the contrary, my peers have tended to view Israel largely through the lens of more recent conflicts. As we tell Israel’s story on college campuses and to a new generation of U.S. policymakers, we should keep in mind that Israel’s incredible contributions to science and technology, its vibrant democracy and free press, and its commitment to treating victims of the Syrian civil war are likely to resonate more strongly than its struggle for survival in 1967.

JESSE GABRIEL is an attorney and board member of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.


Six-Day War: A Poem

Rabbi David Wolpe

The war
Became the wall.
But it was also
Families fleeing, fighters dying
Ghosts returning, rejoicing.
The city no longer a widow
The people no longer an orphan.
The tangle of promise and power
Tight as a schoolgirl’s braids.
And the Jews,
Bearing rifles and regulations
Dove deeper into history,
Brutal, fickle history,
Afraid
And unafraid.

RABBI DAVID WOLPE is the Max Webb Senior Rabbi of Sinai Temple.

Left: An undated picture of Mula Goldman during his service as a paratrooper for the Israel Defense Forces. Right: Goldman recently at his home in Tarzana. Photo by Eitan Arom

Mula Goldman on the Six-Day War: ‘You can’t even think about losing’


Two weeks after Sam “Mula” Goldman was discharged from active duty military service in May 1967, war broke out in between Israel and its neighbors. Around him, Tel Aviv began to empty out as the fighting-age men went to war.

“The way you mobilize at that time was you just go from door to door, people go get people,” he said in a recent interview.

But because he had just left active service and wasn’t yet on the roster of reservists, nobody came to get him. So, unbidden, Goldman turned up to his unit. It was never a question of whether he should report for duty.

“When there is a war, you go fight the war,” he said, speaking on the phone from Texas.

Goldman now works in construction, commuting between Tarzana and Dallas. His three sons, all of whom live in the United States, also were Israel Defense Forces soldiers, including one, Erez, the Los Angeles regional director of the Israeli American Council, who was a paratrooper like his father.

Fighting in 1967 was something like a rite of passage for many members of Goldman’s generation. In Israel, war is a fact of life, he said.

“It’s part of growing up,” he said. “It’s part of the culture. … But we don’t make a big deal out of it. You’re not unique. Many people go through the same thing, you know what I’m saying? You don’t brag about being in the army.”

When Goldman reported for duty, the army found a job for him, commissioning him to organize a unit that would drop behind enemy lines with mortar equipment.

“We were trained only a few days,” he said. “I never dealt with that stuff before.”

The plan was to jump out of planes into the Mitla Pass in the Sinai Desert. But on the way to the plane, plans changed and the mission was canceled. Instead, Goldman was sent to the Sinai to fight alongside regular infantry. Then, plans changed again, and Goldman was moved to the Golan Heights.

“All the way across the country,” he said. “And then everything was so quick — in six days it was over, man.”

For the remainder for the war — three or four days — Goldman fought a literal uphill battle in the Golan, exchanging mortar fire with Syrian forces until the Israelis gained the higher ground.

The experience was not without its frightening moments, but actual battle left no room for the emotion, he said. “You’re afraid on the way going there, on the way back maybe. While you’re doing it, eh — no time to be afraid.”

Instead, Goldman’s narrative betrays a tone of absolute necessity, where failure was simply out of the question.

“In Israel, you can’t even think about losing,” he said. “You gotta win. Losing is not an option. … If Israel lost the Six-Day War, there wouldn’t be Israel anymore.”

As the child of Holocaust survivors, the thought of annihilation was not far from Goldman’s mind. Of his mother’s 12 siblings, only four survived World War II. Goldman himself was born in 1946 in the displaced persons camp at Bergen-Belsen before his parents took him to Israel two years later.

“We grew up with the slogan, ‘Never again,’ ” he said. “So, of course, it’s in the background.”

But after the war, any fear evaporated, replaced almost overnight by jubilation.

“We lived for a little while in a euphoria. We the garesh [apostrophe],” he said, a reference to the Jewish state’s diminutive size. “The little Israel can do what nobody can do.”

Shortly after the war, Goldman moved to Pennsylvania to attend Philadelphia University, but Israel was never far from his heart. When war broke out again in 1973, he decided to join the fray. By his telling, Israeli expatriates were fighting for seats on flights to Tel Aviv.

“Of course, you don’t have to go,” he said, “but I came. I wasn’t by myself. A lot of people did it.”

Why join a war when you’re tens of thousands of miles away with no specific obligation to fight?

“Because that’s your country,” Goldman said. “What do you mean? It’s your country, and if not you, who will?” n

Left: David Bahat, wearing the red beret of the Israeli paratroopers, with his wife, Hannah, in 1968, shortly after his service in the Six-Day War. Right: David and Hannah at the Grand Canyon in April. Photos courtesy of David Bahat

David Bahat on the Six-Day War: ‘Like sitting ducks just waiting for the war’


David Bahat used to marvel at the paratroopers who would practice their jumps near where his family lived, in a refugee camp outside Tel Aviv.

His parents brought him there from Baghdad in 1951 and moved into a shack in Kiryat Ono. The contrast between dirt-poor immigrants like Bahat and the men heroically throwing themselves from planes was vast. He and his elementary school friends used to ditch class to watch them.

“We were fascinated to see the people jumping,” he said in an interview in his Encino home. “I was maybe 8 years old at that time. I said, ‘I want to be a paratrooper.’ ”

Less than 10 years later, Bahat lived up to that dream, donning the red beret worn by the elite soldiers. But he describes his own service fighting with Hativat HaTzanchanim, Israel’s legendary paratroopers brigade, in 1967 as nothing more than an ordinary man called on to do his duty.

“I don’t consider myself a hero,” he said. “I just happened to be a young paratrooper who was in the service at that time and ended up in the war.”

Bahat agreed to an interview only reluctantly, worried about portraying himself as something extraordinary rather than a person who just did what was expected of him in the service of his country. Eventually, though, he agreed to meet a reporter at his townhome, answering the door on his day off in gym shorts and an AC/DC T-shirt. “I’m a classic rock kind of guy,” he explained.

Bahat, 67, was a 17-year-old soldier when tensions began to escalate between Israel and its neighbors in May 1967. He and his unit were sent to the Negev Desert to await action, where they slept under the stars, battle ready.

“We were on alert for, like, three weeks, like sitting ducks just waiting for the war,” he said.

Bahat saw combat during the six days of hostilities, “but it’s something that I don’t like to talk about. It’s war,” he said.

Instead, he chose to recall other memories, like listening to the news that came in from the other theaters of battle — of victories in Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. As much as they could, other units kept Bahat and his companions up to date via radio with what was going on. Meanwhile, he said, an Egyptian station was broadcasting false news reports in broken Hebrew aimed at demoralizing the Israeli troops, relating how Arab armies had taken Tel Aviv.

Tuning into the broadcasts from his fellow soldiers scattered across the country, Bahat was particularly moved to hear about the unification of Jerusalem under Israeli rule. He used to spend his summers there as a kid, visiting relatives, and always was confused when he turned a street corner and suddenly came face to face with barbed wire and barricades.

“I couldn’t understand,” he said. “It’s like you go on Ventura Boulevard and all of a sudden there’s a border there. As a kid, I could not comprehend that. … So when I heard in Sinai in the war that Jerusalem was liberated, the first thing that came to mind was, ‘Now I can actually cross that street.’ ”

Another cherished memory comes from the second day of the war, when Mike Burstyn, the Israeli-American actor and singer, came to entertain Bahat’s unit at Rafiah.

The soldiers arranged their jeeps and turned on their headlights to create a makeshift stage, and Burstyn pulled out a piece of paper on which singer-songwriter Naomi Shemer had written the lyrics to her new song, “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav” (Jerusalem of Gold), which would later become an anthem for a reunified Jerusalem. For years afterward, Bahat would tell his wife that the first time he heard the song was from Burstyn in the midst of war and chaos in the Sinai Desert.

About five or six years ago, Bahat ran into Burstyn at an event in Los Angeles and reminded the performer about the show in the Sinai.

“We both were crying,” Bahat said, choking up at the recollection. “He didn’t believe he could see a guy after 40 years here who remembered that he came to Rafiah the second day [of the war].”

After finishing his military service, Bahat returned to civilian life and married his elementary school sweetheart. In 1976, with two young daughters in tow, they moved to Los Angeles and ended up in the San Fernando Valley, where Bahat works in the jewelry business. With his wife, Hannah, an administrator and teacher at Wise School, he has eight grandchildren.

From time to time, he talks about his wartime experiences with his grandchildren, to make sure they understand the State of Israel and its origins. But sometimes, they just want to hear about his exploits.

“ ‘Saba, how can you jump from a plane? Were you scared?’ ” he said, recalling their inquires. “All kinds of questions like that. They take pride.”

President Donald Trump touches the Western Wall on May 22. Photo by Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

Trump signs waiver, won’t move embassy to Jerusalem now


President Donald Trump signed an order to renew the six-month waiver that allows the U.S. embassy to remain in Tel Aviv rather than moving it to Jerusalem.

As a candidate, Trump promised to move the embassy to Jerusalem, which was required by an act of Congress in 1995 but which successive administrations have delayed with a series of six-month waivers, citing national security concerns. The latest waiver, signed by Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, expired on Thursday.

Trump’s signing of the waiver was first reported Thursday morning by the New York Times, though there had been much speculation in political circles and in the media that he would do so.

“While President Donald J. Trump signed the waiver under the Jerusalem Embassy Act and delayed moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, no one should consider this step to be in any way a retreat from the President’s strong support for Israel and for the United States-Israel alliance,” the White House said in a statement announcing the signing of the waiver. “President Trump made this decision to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, fulfilling his solemn obligation to defend America’s national security interests. But, as he has repeatedly stated his intention to move the embassy, the question is not if that move happens, but only when.”

Trump did not discuss the waiver publicly during his visit to Jerusalem late last month. He was, however, the first sitting president to visit the Western Wall. He has stated that he would like to broker the “ultimate deal,” a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians with the approval of the rest of the Arab world. He reportedly was convinced on his recent visit to Saudi Arabia and to the Palestinian Authority that moving the embassy at this time would imperil such a deal.

The United States, like most countries throughout the world, does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Israel calls all of Jerusalem its “undivided capital,” while the Palestinians consider eastern Jerusalem the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement issued by his office said that Israelis “disappointed” that the embassy will not move at this time.

“Israel’s consistent position is that the American embassy, like the embassies of all countries with whom we have diplomatic relations, should be in Jerusalem, our eternal capital,” the statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office said. “Maintaining embassies outside the capital drives peace further away by helping keep alive the Palestinian fantasy that the Jewish people and the Jewish state have no connection to Jerusalem.”

“Though Israel is disappointed that the embassy will not move at this time, we appreciate today’s expression of President Trump’s friendship to Israel and his commitment to moving the embassy in the future,” the statement said.

J Street in a statement, welcomed Trump’s decision to sign the waiver, calling it “in keeping with 20 years of bipartisan policy” since the passage of the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act.

“J Street believes that Jerusalem is absolutely central to the history, culture and identity of the Jewish people. We look forward to it, one day, being recognized by the entire world as Israel’s capital, as part of a negotiated two-state solution,” the statement also said.

An aerial view shows the Dome of the Rock (R) on the compound known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, and the Western Wall (L) in Jerusalem's Old City October 10, 2006. REUTERS/Eliana Aponte/File Photo

Jerusalem is already divided? Think again


All I will do today is draw your attention to an interim report by the Jewish People Policy Institute about Jerusalem and the Jewish People. This short summary of a much longer report scheduled for the end of the summer was presented two weeks ago, just before Jerusalem Day, to the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat.

The report is not very long and you can read it here, but I’d like to tie some of its findings to a survey that was released two days ago by Israel’s Walla news (Hebrew only).

What JPPI reported, based on its Structured World Jewish Dialogue on Jerusalem, is that “most Jews in Israel and Dialogue participants around the world believe that Jerusalem’s development is moving in the ‘wrong direction.’” That is to say: hundreds of participants in discussions held by the institute in Jewish communities around the world agreed with the statement: “Jerusalem is moving in the wrong direction.” Similarly, a survey JPPI conducted in Israel showed that a majority of Jewish Israelis believe that Jerusalem is moving in the wrong direction.

So do we have a consensus? No, we do not. As we reported (we is my JPPI colleague John Ruskay and me), there are in fact “three circles of reference” when discussing Jerusalem’s direction. Jews around the world “are highly concerned about the direction in which the city is moving.” 70% of them – and by “them” we mean the 500 dialogue participants – assert that it is moving in the wrong direction. Jews in Israel “also have a relatively dim view of the city’s current trajectory.” Based on our survey, 60% of them argue that it is moving in the wrong direction. However – and we believe that this is significant – “the Jewish residents of Jerusalem have a much more positive assessment of the direction the city is taking.” Namely, “the people who are most familiar with the city also have a more positive view of the direction in which it is moving.”

Here’s the graph with the numbers. Note that the numbers concerning world Jewry are from a self-selected group of JPPI dialogue participants, while the numbers from Israel are drawn from a poll of a representative sample of all Jewish Israelis.

The report also argued that Jews are highly connected to Jerusalem. JPPI asked Dialogue participants to coin slogans meant to strengthen the connection of Jerusalem to world Jewry, and many proposed taglines such as “Jerusalem – Welcome Home” and “Jerusalem – Our City.” Half “completely” agreed with the statement “When visiting Jerusalem I feel at home,” and 30 percent more “somewhat” agreed with this statement. And, of course, not all Jews connect to Jerusalem with similar intensity. The sense of connection among Jews around the world is stronger for religious Jews than for secular Jews and stronger among Orthodox Jews than Reform Jews. In Israel, based on JPPI’s survey of Israelis, it is stronger among Jews who define themselves as “right wing” than among Jews who self-identify as “left wing.”

What we do not have in the JPPI data but do have now, thanks to Walla news (they used the same pollster we use at JPPI, Menachem Lazar of Panels Politics), is numbers on how many Israeli Jews visit the parts of Jerusalem that make the city a special place – that is, the holy city, the old city, or, if you want to describe it in political terms, the eastern part of the city.

The survey asked Jewish Israelis when was the last time they visited East Jerusalem. 50% of Jewish Israelis reported that they’ve been to eastern parts of Jerusalem in the last year. I was surprised by this number. It seems high. An additional 30% of Israeli Jews reported having been to East Jerusalem in the past five years. Only 3% say there have never been to that part of Jerusalem (12% have been there in the “last decade”).

What do we learn from this? We learn that at least some of the familiar the-city-is-already-divided song is not accurate. 80% of Jewish Israelis have visited the eastern part of Jerusalem in the past five years. It’s hard to believe that a similar number would have visited these areas had they not been under Israeli jurisdiction. Should they therefore remain under Israeli jurisdiction? A majority of Jewish Israelis say yes. But their answer is not always consistent – as is the answer of JPPI dialogue participants (that is, highly engaged Jews from around the world).

As JPPI reported: “when it comes to the nuances of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the issue of who should control the city, and whether there should be a compromise that divides the city between Israelis and Palestinians, Jews are more ambivalent, and at times even contradictory. On the one hand, a clear majority of more than 70 percent agreed that ‘The Temple Mount must remain under Israeli jurisdiction.’ A 55 percent majority agreed that ‘Jerusalem should never be divided.’”

Yet, “when presented with a more nuanced statement regarding a theoretical peace arrangement they responded differently”. 61% of world Jews that we interviewed agreed or somewhat agreed with the statement: “In the framework of a permanent peace with the Palestinians, if satisfied with the rest of the agreement, Israel should be willing to compromise on the status of Jerusalem as a united city under Israeli jurisdiction.”

So “even though a majority oppose a division of Jerusalem, and even though a majority oppose non-Israeli control over the ‘Holy Basin’ – a clear majority was still willing to ‘compromise on the status of Jerusalem as a united city under Israeli jurisdiction’ under the above-mentioned circumstances of a satisfactory, durable peace agreement.” A confusing, contradictory, position. As confusing as the state of Jerusalem.

 

 

 

 

The Western Wall and Dome of the Rock in the old city of Jerusalem. Photo via WikiCommons

The problem with Jerusalem


In 1967, when Israeli paratroopers stormed the Old City of Jerusalem and commander Mordechai “Motta” Gur proclaimed, “Har HaBayit BeYadeinu (the Temple Mount is in our hands!)” — the Six-Day War had reached its historic and emotional climax.

“The events of 1967 did for Judaism what 1948 did for Jewish nationalism,” B’nai David-Judea Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky said during the Shalom Hartman Institute’s Six-Day War conference.

The reunification of Jerusalem and the assertion of Jewish religious primacy there “returned Judaism to the stage of world history,” he said.

For the first time in two decades, the Jews had regained access to their holiest sites — including the Temple Mount and the Western Wall — and brought a “reunified” Jerusalem under their control for the first time since the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E.

But a Jewish-controlled Jerusalem came with a price: East Jerusalem, the location of the holy sites, was an Arab-majority neighborhood. And the Temple Mount — where Jews believe the world began, where the first human was created, and where Abraham bound his son Isaac — also happens to be one of Islam’s holiest sites.

Known in Arabic as Haram esh-Sharif, the Temple Mount is home to the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, and is the place Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven on the Night Journey. It is considered the third-holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina.

While Jews have made the Western Wall the focus of their prayer life, the Temple Mount remains the most contested holy site in the world. And yet, it is only one aspect of a larger quarrel over Jerusalem, in which Christians also have a stake: Jesus Christ arrived in Jerusalem to preach his message to the masses, and, according to Christianity, was crucified, resurrected and ascended to heaven from there.

Throughout history, the “City of Peace” also has seen violent discord. Even as Jerusalem remains under Israeli control, efforts to discount one another’s claims to the city persist.

Before the anniversary of reunification, I asked Israeli tour guide Michael Bauer why Jerusalem remains a quandary. He identified several areas that explain, at least in part, the gaps separating the aspirations of each faith tradition and the reality of political Jerusalem.

Knowledge: Both within Israel and the Palestinian territories, there is a concerted effort to teach identity-building, nationalistic versions of history that do not leave room for learning about other faiths or alternative perspectives.

“I’m shocked when I see kids finishing high school and they literally don’t know anything about Christianity, which is, in a way, part of our history and part of our surroundings,” Bauer said. “I also teach the Palestinian narrative in a pre-army program, and if I don’t do that, no one does it. I’m always shocked at the lack of knowledge.”

The same is true of Palestinians: Most are not taught about Jewish religious and historical claims to the land, leaving both sides mostly ignorant of the other’s place there.

Emotion: “Jerusalem is where all the emotions are,” Bauer said. “For things to get better in Jerusalem, things need to be solved around Jerusalem.”

After 1967, Bauer pointed out, Arab Muslims were humiliated at losing control of Jerusalem, a defeat made worse by the fact that they had to pass through Israeli security checkpoints to visit their holy sites. Until their dignity is restored through political compromise, Jerusalem remains a proxy for conflict.

History versus faith: “When you walk in Jerusalem, you’re looking at stories which for one person is history and for another is faith,” Bauer said. “If I say the words ‘Jesus,’ and ‘resurrected,’ one person in front of me has heard not only a fact but maybe one of the most important facts of his life, because to believe in resurrection is a fact that defines his Christianity. But for a Jew or Muslim, they’ve heard something that they think is just not true.”

Historical and spiritual claims are equally fraught in a place that encompasses both.

Human frailty: “Religion is not the problem in Jerusalem. The problem is people,” Bauer said. “They don’t know how to get along with ‘the other’ too well. And in Jerusalem, there are a lot of ‘others’ in one small place. As long as people do not know how to live with someone different, Jerusalem will be challenged.”

This pretty much explains why we need religion in the first place.

But let’s face it: Except for periodic skirmishes and flare-ups, and the intrareligious conflicts that plague all three faiths’ holy sites, Jerusalem has been in pretty good hands since ’67.

“Most days, it works,” Bauer said. “It depends what you want to focus on. You can choose to see a reality that is very conflicted. Or you can take another look, walk the same route in a different mood, and you will see coexistence.”

A historian, Bauer prefers to look at the precedents of the past rather than predict the future.

“Through everything that has happened over 3,000 years, there were eras of stability,” he said. “Last year was terrible in Jerusalem; there were stabbings all the time and al-Aqsa was a horrible place to visit. There were kids and women yelling at every Jew that went up there, singing songs, ‘With blood we will redeem Palestine.’ But it’s not happening there now. It’s a different Jerusalem from last year. It’s like a roller coaster. Things get better and then they get worse again.”


Danielle Berrin is a senior writer and columnist at the Jewish Journal.

People pray at the Western Wall on Jan. 12. Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Why Are There Two Jerusalems?


Why is Yerushalayim plural,

One on high and one below?…

I want to live in one “Yerushal,”

Because I am just “I” and not “I”s.

—- Yehuda Amichai, “Open Closed Open”

 

Welcome to one of the great grammatical conundrums in the history of Jewish geography: why is the Hebrew word for Jerusalem – Yerushalayim — in the plural form?

Because, in fact, there is not one Jerusalem; there are two.

On a political level, there are two Jerusalems — the “new city” of west Jerusalem, and the Old City and eastern Jerusalem — two entities forged into one fifty years ago with the Six Day War.

On a linguistic level, there are two Jerusalems – Yerushalayim in Hebrew; al-Quds (“the holy city”) in Arabic.

On a geographical level, there are two Jerusalems. Jerusalem is on the border between the coastal plain that leads to Tel Aviv, and the wilderness that begins to its east. As soon as you leave Jerusalem, and head east, the Asian desert begins. Jerusalem, therefore, is at the nexus point of a Mediterranean climate and central Asian climate.

What is the origin of the “two Jerusalem” theory?

The first mention of Jerusalem in the Hebrew Bible is in Genesis 14, in the account of Abram’s war against the kings.

There Abram encounters Melchizedek, who is both the king of Salem and a priest of the Canaanite god El Elyon, God Most High. Melchizedek greets Abram with bread and wine and blesses him in the name of El Elyon. It is the first interfaith dialogue in history. There, the place is called Salem, or Shalem.

A few chapters later, in Genesis 21, Abraham returns to that place. He brings his son, Isaac, to “the land of Moriah” as a potential sacrifice.

Abraham calls the place Adonai-yireh, “God will see” — or simply, Yireh.

Abraham named the place Yireh, and Melchizedek knew it as Shalem. Yireh-Shalem becomes Yerushalayim. Those two names are soldered together: One name, given to it by a pagan king who blesses Abraham — representing the possibility of peace; and another name, given to it by Abraham himself, representing the presence of God and the sacrificial offerings that will be there at that place.

Peace between people and peace with God — wedded together in one name. A promise and a goad. A duality.

But, there is far more than this; as the late poet, Yehuda Amichai, intimates, there is a spiritual duality as well.

Jerusalem is Yerushalayim because of a subtle duality that is nevertheless omnipresent in our literature and thinking — the earthly Jerusalem (Yerushalayim shel matah) and the heavenly Jerusalem (Yerushalayim shel maalah).

Where does one begin on this quest for the heavenly Jerusalem and the earthly Jerusalem?

The idea of a supernal Jerusalem begins in Isaiah 6. The prophet has a vision of God in a supernal temple, surrounded by angelic beings, each one chanting “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts.”

The rabbis imagined that the heavenly Jerusalem served as an alternative and antidote to the real, imperfect Jerusalem. Their fantasies took on new fervor after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. They believed that the heavenly Jerusalem had its own temple with its own elite of priests and prophets.

Resh Lakish said: There are seven firmaments, and in one of those firmaments there is a place where millstones grind manna for the righteous, and in one of those firmaments there is a place where the heavenly Jerusalem, and the Temple, and the very altar are built, where the angel Michael stands and every day brings an offering.

The Rabbis idealized Jerusalem, twisting it beyond its own reality. For them, the mountains of Jerusalem pointed straight to heaven. They imagined Jerusalem as a place where no woman ever miscarried, where no one was ever stung by serpent or scorpion, where the fires of the altar were never doused with rain, where no wind blew the pillar of smoke over the worshipers.

The idea of a heavenly Jerusalem exists in Christianity as well.

For Christians, the earthly Jerusalem is Jewish and sinful; the heavenly Jerusalem, Christian and righteous. The heavenly Jerusalem is the place of the new covenant sealed through the blood of Jesus.

But you are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant. (Hebrews 12:22-24)

The ultimate vision of the Heavenly Jerusalem comes from Revelations. John sees the New Jerusalem descending from heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband in gold and precious stones.

I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is the new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name…And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Revelations 3;12)

For Christians, the heavenly Jerusalem was not real. It was an ideal. In the Middle Ages, there were many fanciful descriptions, maps, and paintings of Jerusalem, each one showing Jerusalem as the center of the world, as the sages themselves imagined it – as axis mundi.

The idea of the heavenly Jerusalem finds its way into even the very architecture and design of the modern city of Jerusalem.

Anyone who has been to Jerusalem marvels at the beauty of Jerusalem stone as a building material.

The man who first figured this out was Sir Ronald Storrs, the first British military governor of Jerusalem, and a vicar’s son. He enacted a law that permitted only Jerusalem stone to be used as a building material used in construction in Jerusalem. In his memoirs recalls the medieval hymn “Jerusalem is built in heaven/ Of living stone.” He believed that the earthly Jerusalem should be a replica of the heavenly Jerusalem.

By contrast, the Jewish view of the heavenly Jerusalem is that it is actually not entirely in heaven.

In fact, the heavenly Jerusalem is adjacent to the earthly Jerusalem.

Towards where should we pray? Rabbi Hiyya said: Toward the heavenly Holy of Holies. Rabbi Simeon ben Halafta said: Toward the earthly Holy of Holies. Rabbi Pinchas said: There is no disagreement here. The earthly holy of holies is directly opposite the heavenly Holy of Holies. (Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot 4:5).

Jerusalem represents the revealed presence of God in human history. In the liturgy, in seder kriat ha-Torah (the service for the reading of the Torah), you would expect references to the place from which Torah came – Sinai.

Not so. Instead, Jerusalem has a starring role. As we take the Torah from the ark, we echo the plaintive cry of Jews in Jerusalem during Crusader times: “Rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.” “For out of Zion Torah goes forth, and the word of God from Jerusalem.” In fact, the revelation at Sinai is absent; instead, the Torah service asks us to remember and dramatize the first time that Ezra read the Torah to the returning exiles at the newly built, makeshift second Temple.

Jerusalem represents the homecoming of the soul. At the end of Neilah, as well as at the end of Pesach seder: “Next year in Jerusalem!”

We can understand singing those words at the end of the seder; we have just imagined ourselves leaving Egypt, and about to trek into the wilderness on our way to the land of Israel/

But, why do we say those words at the end of the Day of Atonement? Because, here, Jerusalem is not “really” Jerusalem. It is a metaphor for inner wholeness, forgiveness, and redemption.

Jerusalem ultimately represents God. The Jerusalem Talmud says that in days to come, the name of the city will be “Adonai is there.” “Do not read ‘shama,’ there, but rather, shemah — her name.”

Jerusalem and God will have the same name.

Let us not read this as the deification of a city.

Rather, let us read this as the urbanization of an ideal of holiness.

Let us return to the Christian perception of the heavenly Jerusalem.

Because Jerusalem is not just Jerusalem. It is, properly, Zion – and beyond that, it is the state of Israel itself.

A theology is only as good as the implications that flow from it. Were it not for Christian (more precisely, British) philo-semitism of the nineteenth century, Zionism could never have come into existence. Sir Ronald Storrs – but not only Storrs, Balfour himself – personified that thrust. Christian Zionism is itself a child of this phenomenon – an over-idealization of the Jews and their land.

Over the last fifty years, since the Six Day War, criticism of the state of Israel – its policies, and even its very existence – has mounted. While some of the sharper, more pointed critiques verge on anti-Semitism, not all of them do.

Some, in fact, are the results of a welcome, but ultimately misplaced, philo-semitism. It is the expectation — not that Jews are devils, but that they should be angels. The same should be true of a Jewish state – that it should be angelic, perfect, beyond reproach.

Christian perceptions of the heavenly Jerusalem crowd into the public imagination. It is the problem of a misplaced philo-semitism. Like anti-semitism, philo-semitism relies on distorted, fantastical views of Jews and Judaism. Philo-semitism can become a malevolence, masked in benevolence. In fact, this love-hate relationship with Jews and Judaism is one of the most pre-dominant themes in Christian history.

Philo-semitism is the hope – even the expectation – of the moral excellence of the Jewish people. It is a moral excellence that has yet to be achieved.

The liberal Christian philo-semite does not hate the Jew because the Jew has rejected Jesus. The liberal Christian philo-semite is merely disappointed with the Jew because the Jews have not yet lived up to the advertisements of moral excellence that they have created for themselves. The liberal Christian philo-semite sees the reality of the earthly Jerusalem – an Israel that must still fight, has problematic policies, where the people are far from saintly – and is disappointed, sometimes, radically disappointed — that the heavenly Jerusalem is not yet here. They are not like the fabled Southern anti-semites who used to look for the horns on the Jews they met. They are looking for angel’s wings. And when they do not find those wings, the disappointment can become anger, can become hatred.

That disappointment with the all-too-human, realpolitik failures of the Jewish state has seeped into leftist Jewish critiques of Israel and Zionism. They are addicted to the prophetic ideal, while often forgetting that the Jews and the Jewish state have real enemies who never got that prophetic memo.

That is the paradox. In the Jewish soul, we live with the vision of a heavenly, perfect Jerusalem of our ideals. But, in real life and in real time, we live with the imperfect, morally tainted, earthly Jerusalem. The tension is built into Zionism, and Jewish historical longing – the struggle between being a “light to the nations” or “like all the nations.”

It does not seem likely that we will solve this conundrum and this tension any time soon. Jerusalem – like all of us – is a spiritual work in progress. Reb Naftali of Ropschitz, a Hasidic master, taught: “By our service to God, we build Jerusalem daily. One of us adds a row, another only a brick. When Jerusalem is completed, redemption will come.”

Let that be a new definition of Zionism, in our time – the work of making the earthly Jerusalem look more like the heavenly Jerusalem.

 

Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Trump’s trip: experts react


“If President Trump wanted to demonstrate his stunningly pro-Israeli credentials to pave the way for pressing [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu for concessions down the road, this trip couldn’t have gone any better.”

Aaron David Miller, Middle East analyst at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars


“President Trump risked stepping on his own narrative of strong support for Israel and restarting peace talks with his ‘I didn’t say the word Israel’ moment. … Regardless, the president is likely to leave Israel with the well-deserved sense that the visit was a success.”

Dan Shapiro, former United States ambassador to Israel


“The president’s belief that the Palestinians are ready to reach for peace appears to be based on statements made to him by [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas. But actions by the PLO speak louder than words. The previous Israeli offers of peace were rejected, the glorification of terror continues, and payments to terrorists continue to be made.”

Elliott Abrams, former United States assistant secretary of state


“If he is going to try the same flawed policies that have failed for decades, he, too, will fail. The road to peace will begin in the towns and cities of Judea and Samaria, and we pray that he will accept our invitation to come and see real peace and coexistence in action.”

Oded Revivi, chief foreign envoy of the Yesha Council of West Bank Jewish communities


“Donald Trump is the first sitting president to visit the Western Wall. To a Jew, that is remarkable. … His timing to visit the Middle East at this time was impeccable. He couldn’t have picked a better time. It’s true that the Saudis proposed a peace proposal years ago, but now it’s a different Saudi Arabia. Oil is down. Saudi Arabia has a huge problem with Iran. Saudi Arabia realizes that there’s only one strong country in the Middle East that can benefit it, and it’s Israel. … [The Gulf States] are waiting for the time when it will be acceptable to have that great alliance and one of the great players will be the State of Israel, because who else can stand up to Iran other than Israel or the United States? His timing was excellent. This he could not have handled better.”

Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles


“At a time when UNESCO and others continue to deny Jewish history, identity and rights in Jerusalem and Israel in general, the president’s visit to the Western Wall serves as a critical reminder to the world that Israel is the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people. We are grateful that the administration recognizes the threat Iran’s regime poses to the world and to Israel in particular. We are also excited about the new possibilities of increased cooperation and even peace between Israel and the Arab world. Time will tell if these regional efforts and peace negotiations with the Palestinians will be successful, but we remain hopeful.”

Roz Rothstein, co-founder and CEO StandWithUs, an Israel education organization

President Donald Trump leaves a note at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on May 22. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

In Israel, Trump reinforces the Wall


Let the record show: On May 23, 2017, the president of the United States updated his Twitter header to display a photograph of himself standing at the Western Wall. Not saluting an American flag, not kissing a Latino baby or speaking at a Midwest rally or shaking a veteran’s hand, but communing with Judaism’s holiest site.

I have nothing cynical to say about it. For a man whose self-worth is in direct proportion to the size of his Twitter following (30.2 million), and who likely checks his feed more often than his briefing papers (OK, that was a little cynical), this means something.

The most powerful person in the world is demonstrating the power of that place. President Donald Trump is linking the sovereignty of the Western Wall to the State of Israel, despite the demurrals and hedging of his advisers and representatives. Tel Aviv may be one of the most dynamic, creative and delicious cities on earth, but only a fool, or the former head of a large oil company, would say, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did, that it is the “home of Judaism.”

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which must be solved sooner rather than later in a just way for both sides, is not going to be solved by ignoring or minimizing the narratives each side claims as its own.

In their justified desire for a homeland, Palestinians have sought to deny the primacy of Jerusalem in the Jewish narrative. This week, one prominent Palestinian activist wrote that the holiness of the Western Wall is a post-1967 development, not an age-old tradition. When I read that I laughed and looked up at my study wall, at a photo taken in the late 1800s of Jewish men and women packed up against the ancient stones, in prayer.

In defense of their rights to Jerusalem, many Jews have negated the Muslim claim on the city. There seems to be an online cottage industry in this, in fact. Don’t fall for it. Do your own research. Jerusalem is a holy place in Islam — that big gold-domed atop the Temple Mount might be your first clue.

Jerusalem has been wracked by a long history of dumping on other people’s history. And I mean this literally. To assert their own primacy over the holy city, the Byzantine rulers turned the Jew’s Temple Mount into the city dump. In the “Encyclopedia of Religion,” professor Reuven Firestone relates the legend that it was the Muslim caliph Umar who, after vanquishing the Christians, ascended to the desecrated area, rolled up the sleeves of his robe and began cleaning up the soiled Muslim and Jewish holy place himself.

The caliph then built the Dome of the Rock, not as a mosque, Firestone writes, “but rather as a monument celebrating the presence and success of a new faith.”

We are just about a week away from the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War, when the Israelis ascended to the Dome, captured East Jerusalem and united the city.

That moment when Israeli soldiers gathered where Trump stood this week, and wept and prayed that the Wall was back in Jewish hands, remains the iconic image of the war, the Jewish Iwo Jima. The emotion, the sacrifice, the sense of historical and religious destiny has affixed in Jewish minds the idea that from that moment on, all of Jerusalem belongs to Israel.

Har HaBayit b’yadenu,” Lt. Gen. Motta Gur proclaimed as his troops captured the Old City, the most famous single sentence of that war. “The Temple Mount is in our hands.”

But the irony of Trump’s visit is that if the president gets his way, the grip will have to be loosened. For years, Jews and the groups that pander to them have proclaimed intractable sovereignty over every square inch of the city. “Jerusalem will never be divided,” has been the go-to applause line for every Jewish or Israeli speaker — despite the reality that the city even now is pretty much divided.

The truth is every serious final status solution ever put forth by an Israeli prime minister, and any agreement that would ever be agreed to by the Palestinians, would include some shared sovereignty over Jerusalem. What’s the alternative — constant fighting? You can’t pray for the peace of Jerusalem and want to see it, like Aleppo or Damascus, reduced to pieces.

I don’t know how serious Trump is about making what he calls “the ultimate deal.” He has a short attention span, a disdain for details and a lot of ’splaining to do back in Washington. But this week, he leveraged Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states to crack open negotiations, demonstrated the kind of support for the Israelis they need to feel secure, and showed the proper respect to the Palestinians.

A dear friend and die hard Israeli leftist  I know e-mailed me as Trump departed for the Vatican.

“The bastard gave a fantastic speech that was even given compliments by Barak Ravid from Ha’aretz,” he wrote, citing the left-leaning columnist. “He’s going about this whole Middle East thing in a completely opposite manner than Obama, and it may be that he is hitting the spot. Oy vey….”

If Trump continues on this path, and doesn’t shy away from confronting each side with the truths the other holds dear, the president might just have a prayer.


ROB ESHMAN is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. Email him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism and @RobEshman.