This week, Australia’s center-left government reversed a decision by the previous, conservative administration, to recognize West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Australia’s Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, said the city’s status should be decided through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian people, and that Australia “will not support an approach that undermines” the chance of a two-state solution in which a Palestinian state exists alongside Israel.
Israel condemned the Australian government’s decision, and the Israeli Foreign Ministry has summoned the Australian envoy to lodge an official protest. But if we do not know what Jerusalem stands for or what its name means, can we expect others to recognize it as our capital?
I am not surprised that the new, left leaning government, reversed the previous decision, which was made by a conservative administration. These days, the Left is on the rise all over the world, and it has always been more antisemitic and anti-Israel than the Right.
Also, considering how Israel treated Donald Trump, perhaps Israel’s best friend since its founding, I think it is fair to say that we “had it coming.” If we do not appreciate our supporters, can we complain that our critics are emboldened?
Instead of reproving foreign ambassadors, we should focus on ourselves and do what we must do. The second part of the name Jeru-salem comes from the Hebrew word shalem (whole). Jerusalem should be a city of unity, where all Jews, of every culture, ethnicity, and denomination, come together in a celebration of unity. Jerusalem must be a symbol of unity. It will not be whole before we are whole inside, among ourselves.
In the days of the Second Temple, particularly during the 3rd century B.C., there was a period when Jerusalem was indeed a model of unity. At that time, people from all over the world flocked to it during times of celebration to derive inspiration and to learn how to unite. The book Sifrey Devarim writes that people would “go up to Jerusalem and see Israel … and say, ‘It is becoming to cling only to this nation.’”
Even Henry Ford, an otherwise rabid antisemite, advised his readers to learn from the Jews. In his compilation of antisemitic essays titled The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem, he wrote, “Modern reformers, who are constructing model social systems … would do well to look into the social system under which the early Jews were organized.”
When we begin to nurture our solidarity and cohesion, when we stop worrying about what this or that government does, we will discover that this is exactly what the world wants us to do, including our Arab neighbors. We will not resolve our conflict with our neighbors or the hatred from the world before we rise above the inner conflicts that divide us and stop hating one another.