Aviva Klompas
Aviva Klompas

Recognizing Israel’s Capital

Anticipation continues to build that the Trump administration will relocate the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In an interview with Meet the Press, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson revealed that President Trump is evaluating whether moving the embassy would help or hinder prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

Relocating the American embassy to West Jerusalem, where Israeli sovereignty isn’t challenged, is an important and long overdue step toward normalizing Israel’s place in the international community. It would also serve to underscore what Israelis and Jews already know: that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, the seat of the state’s democratic institutions, and the heart of the Jewish people.

In just over a week, on the 28th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar, we will celebrate Jerusalem Day, commemorating the continued historical connection of the Jewish People to the city of Jerusalem.

To walk in Jerusalem is to follow in the footsteps of our forefathers and foremothers who traversed the same hills and valleys almost 4,000 years ago.

Jerusalem is named more than 900 times in the Bible — it is the place where Abraham was sent to sacrifice his son Isaac, where Jacob fell asleep and dreamed of angels, where King David laid the cornerstone for his palace, where King Solomon built the First Temple, and where the Prophets Ezra and Nehemiah built the Second Temple.

Jerusalem was, is, and always will be central to the Jewish people. It was our capital long before Homer composed the Iliad, before Romulus and Remus founded Rome, and before the armies of Alexander the Great marched across the Middle East.

As Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion said, “No city in the world, not even Athens or Rome, ever played as great a role in the life of a nation for so long a time, as Jerusalem has done in the life of the Jewish people.”

Over the centuries, Jerusalem has been besieged, conquered, pillaged, and destroyed, but the Jewish people never forsook its ancient city. Across the centuries of persecution and the continents of exile, Jerusalem remained in our hearts and on our lips – a part of our daily prayers, the final song at every Passover seder, and a moment of memory at every Jewish wedding.

With the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the inertia of Jewish homelessness finally gave way. The Old City of Jerusalem remained under the control of the Kingdom of Jordan — within sight, but out of reach.  It took almost two more decades until the prayers of generations were finally answered.  With the simple words, “The Temple Mount is in our hands,” Jerusalem was reunified and, for the first time in 2,000 years, Jerusalem’s holy sites were once again under Jewish sovereignty.

Soon after, Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan pledged to preserve religious freedom for all faiths in Jerusalem, declaring: “To our Arab neighbors we extend, especially at this hour, the hand of peace. To members of the other religions, Christians and Muslims, I hereby promise faithfully that their full freedom and all their religious rights will be preserved. We did not come to Jerusalem to conquer the Holy Places of others.”

Israel has remained steadfast in this commitment, ensuring that the eternal capital of the Jewish people remains an open city for all people and for all time.

Within the Hebrew word Jerusalem, Yerushalayim, is the word for peace ― shalom. It is a reminder that Jerusalem, the City of Peace, should be a place where the children of Abraham are not doomed to live at war, but rather destined to live together in peace. The United States can reinforce this message by moving its embassy and recognizing Israel’s rightful capital.

About the Author
Aviva Klompas is a speechwriter, strategist, and public speaker. She currently serves as the Associate Vice President of Strategic Israel Engagement at Combined Jewish Philanthropies. Previously, she served as the Director of Speechwriting at the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations.
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