Four years ago, Senator Obama spoke in Berlin. He discussed how America under his leadership would be more connected to the European people and their values.
Governor Romney has indicated that he will return to the US tradition of not criticizing the US president in a foreign land. Nonetheless, it would be a shame if he comes to Jerusalem on Tisha B’Av and fails to make some key points:
Here’s what I’d love to hear from the Governor:
It is an honor to join Jews in Jerusalem on Tisha B’av.
For nearly 2,000 years Jews have spent this day mourning Jerusalem’s destruction, and praying for it to be rebuilt.
The story of the nation of Israel, from Moses and King David to the present day, has inspired many nations, perhaps none more than the United States. It inspired our belief that all men are created equal. That men are not the property of any human king. That slaves can and must be liberated. It is a privilege to witness the Jews once again flourishing in their land.
Some leaders, often with perfectly good intentions, imply that Israel’s right to exist is based on the Holocaust. This is disastrous for Israel for a few reasons:
First, Arab leaders reply by asking why they should have to suffer for Europe’s sins. “Europe couldn’t live with the Jews so they want us to?” they ask. If Europe feels guilty for the Holocaust, they say, then find the Jews a homeland in Europe.
Second, it opens the door for the evil and preposterous claim of Judeo-Nazis: the canard that Jews are the new Nazis, that the Palestinians are suffering because Jews need to make others suffer like they suffered, and that Europe feels too guilty to stop them.
I have no doubt that many of the people that try to base Israel’s right to exist, and need to exist, on the Holocaust, have the best of intentions. They can’t imagine a better claim than those of victimhood and necessity.
But the connection of the Jews to Israel is not a recent one.
For 2,000 years every Jewish wedding since the destruction has included the breaking of glass, to remember the destruction.
For 2,000 years the Jews have prayed three times a day to return to their land:
Blow the great Shofar for our redemption, and carry the banner to ingather our exile, and gather us together from the four corners of the earth, Blessed are You the ingatherer of our exiles.
And to Jerusalem Your city in mercy return, and dwell in it as You’ve promised, and build it quickly and in our day, an eternal building, and set the chair of David Your servant quickly in its place, Blessed are You the builder of Jerusalem.
Let our eyes witness Your return to Zion. Blessed are You who will return his presence to Zion.
No day symbolizes the Jews’ eternal connection to this city more than Tisha B’av. The prayers are deep and sorrowful. Jewish mourning is not a violent affair of anger and hatred. It remembers enemies long gone, for Israel’s enemies generally perish from the earth. There are some calls for G-d to take vengeance, but there are no rallying cries for the Jews to take vengeance. The Jews commit themselves to become better people. And they pray to the Almighty for forgiveness and to return to Jerusalem.
The Tisha B’av prayers always included the promise that Jews would return to this city. It is remarkable to watch that promise fulfilled.
God promises that He will bless those who bless Israel, and curse those who curse it. One of the many reasons I am proud to be an American is that the United States is perhaps the only country that has stood firmly with the Jewish people for centuries. We are connected by shared values and a shared destiny. To oppress tyranny. To care for the widow and the orphan. To proclaim liberty throughout the land. From the Pilgrims and Puritans to the Democrats and Republicans, the bond between the United States and Israel has been unbreakable. De Tocqueville said that America is great because America is good, and that if America were to cease to be good, it would cease to be great. Our connection with Israel has always been a key part of our goodness, and our greatness.
Thank you for inviting me to spend this day with you. May God bless Israel. And may God bless the United States of America.