When Trump delivered his speech, I was in the car with the children listening to his impassioned words. We explained to them just what a big deal it was that the President of the United States had just declared Jerusalem the capital of the State of Israel. The reaction from the back seat was laughter: “Hey, who doesn’t know that, and that London is the capital of the UK.”
To a certain extent they are correct. Jerusalem had already been the center of our existence hundreds of years before America was even discovered. So the big deal is not the self-evident, obvious, and simple words of Trump’s speech about Jerusalem. As musician Kobi Oz wrote: “My doctor suddenly called me to his office and told me that he has reached the conclusion that I have a heart. That is how I feel about Trump’s declaration about Jerusalem.” Of course this is a welcome move but the real news is the total and historic change in how the Americans view Jerusalem and that is more difficult to capture in one picture and turn into a headline. What Trump was really saying was: Time and time again previous presidents put off making a decision about moving the embassy and recognizing Jerusalem in order to promote peace and to not hinder the process. The time has come to understand that postponing these decisions does not promote peace, rather it rewards the aggressor. Israel is not the problem of the Middle East, it is part of the solution. The time has come to officially put an end to the situation in which the US only pressures the prime minister of Israel from the left and talks about ‘painful concessions.’ Trump ended his speech by saying: “The incredible future awaiting this region is held at bay by bloodshed, ignorance and terror.” Bingo.
It is worth rereading the opening sentence of Trump’s speech: “We cannot solve our problems by making the same failed assumptions and repeating the same failed strategies of the past. All challenges demand new approaches.” We should apply this approach to many other areas of life, both in the public and private spheres. We should discard old paradigms and adopt creative thinking to address problems. Just look how Islamic terrorism is always changing its tactics and reinventing itself. Why does the democratic West have to be so set in its ways when faced with this enemy? The Palestinians and the entire Middle East have changed so why are we still stuck in the old arguments from back in the nineties for and against the Oslo Accords?
This is how I feel every time I talk to the family of Hadar Goldin, the soldier who fell in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge, and whose family is still campaigning to have his body returned. When I speak to them I realize we have become so accustomed to the equation of releasing terrorists in return for the bodies of our soldiers that the authorities almost expect the Goldin family to demand exactly that formula. The Goldin’s are constantly trying to question the wisdom of this paradigm, to cause Israel to apply different pressure techniques on Hamas and to think out of the box.
In a sour, mocking tone, one commentator was heard saying that the “masses did not take to the streets to dance in joy.” Well of course not, because today people celebrate on new media. There were plenty of healthy, down-to-earth celebrations to be found on the social networks. Once again it became clear that we may already have created two states for two nations: The state of the Studios and the state of the Feeds.
That comment is just one of many we have heard from journalists and reporters since Trump was elected. The mindset of all these commentators had been that if Trump would dare to say what he actually did say this week, it would only be part of a problematic package deal for Israel, a carrot and stick deal. What a shame there’s no return policy for news commentary that would let us send back all the faulty reports we heard and get a refund.
Remember the children from the back seat of the car? Unfortunately, Meretz leader Zehava Galon’s reaction was on the same level: “The decision was made by a person, who I doubt would even be able to locate Jerusalem on a map. I would be surprised if he even knew how to read a map.” Just imagine if a right-wing MK had dared to insult Obama when he was President. It is sufficient to recall the exaggerated and unjustified outrage when Judy Nir Mozes Shalom dared to write: “What is Obama coffee? Black and weak.” One can oppose Trump (and sometimes one must do so) but why the need to insult and belittle him? He may yet tweet back at three in the morning that yes, he does know how to read a map, Mrs. Zehava.
Just notice how amazed we are when a public official actually fulfills an election promise. During the Presidential election campaign, Trump actually promised to do more, so why are we so surprised that he is beginning to keep his pledges? It is unbelievable just how accustomed we have become to clichés like: “What you see from here, you cannot see from there” or “I did promise, but the timing is just not right now.” It is problematic that in the end we only expect characters of Trump’s ilk to keep their word.
Later that evening, I took a cab in Jerusalem with a driver from East Jerusalem. He was the one to start with small talk, making me embarrassed to ask what I really wanted to know: will you go out and cause trouble? Will there be violence? I could not ask him, it would be a show of racism that has been hanging over us like a cloud all week. Without even noticing it, anyone who is constantly warning about riots, automatically assumes that the other side is crazy, lacks any control and is inherently violent.
But as we all know, what the Gentiles say is less important than what we Jews do. It is our responsibility to act – to transfer government ministries to Jerusalem, to improve the living conditions of East Jerusalem’s residents (because it is in our interest) and most importantly to make the city into what it is meant to be – A Light to the Nations, a source of inspiration, a focus of a cultural alternative to Europe, America and the Muslim world. The final goal is not to move the American embassy to Jerusalem but to enable the prophesy that “out of Zion the Torah shall come forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”