Although it seems like ages ago, it has been only a week since I attended the opening of the American Embassy in Jerusalem. What I thought would be a day of excitement and joy turned into a day of great emotion. My day started with a reception for American leaders that had come to Israel for the Embassy opening, Israeli cabinet and Knesset members and elected officials from Judea and Samaria. Last Monday wasn’t only the Embassy opening; it was the fifty first anniversary of Israel’s taking control of Judea and Samaria; the disputed territory the world calls the West Bank.
Boarding the shuttle bus to the soon to be renamed Embassy, it became apparent that the crowd on the bus was very eclectic. There was a former Congresswoman, Mega-Church Pastors, a leading American Rabbi, a Hi-tech guru, and…well I’ve made my point. The one thing we all had in common was how excited we were to witness history being made. As our buses pulled near the Embassy the diverse group began singing “Oseh Shalom Bimromav” with the Christians among us singing the original Hebrew the loudest.
Each of us was given a hat, (your choice red or blue) a plastic wristband marking your seating section and a commemorative coin. We then waited four hours for the ceremony to begin but hardly anyone complained. We knew that we were there for a once in a lifetime opportunity and this was well worth the wait.
As the star spangled banner started off the ceremony, we sat and heard from Ambassador Friedman, President Trump, Jared Kushner, President Rivlin, Prime Minister Netanyahu and others. The speeches hit their mark, recognizing the historic nature of the day, and imploring those of there in person and those watching, to remember the day.
Between speeches, singer Hagit Yaso sang “Hallelujah.” While I anxiously awaited the speeches to resume, I closed my eyes and thought about where I was, what was occurring around me and what it took to get here. A wave of emotion overwhelmed me and I lost control.
I began thinking of the millions who died in the fight for Jerusalem, and the many millions more to whom Jerusalem was just a dream. I began to cry, and thought about Cain and Abel giving their offerings in Jerusalem and having their murderous fight there as well. Noah’s Ark landed in Jerusalem, and Noah gave the first sacrifices since the flood in Jerusalem. Abraham’s great act of faith, bringing Isaac up to be offered to God, took place in Jerusalem as well. While Moses and King David’s dreams of building Jerusalem were denied, King Solomon built the first glorious Temple and Ezra built the second.
I thought of the two Temples destroyed, and the millions that died in our first Holocausts in Jerusalem. I recalled the story of Avner Getz tz”l, our neighbor’s brother, who was killed in the Six Day War as his unit entered Jerusalem. Avner never enjoyed his friends’ victory that week. As I sat on the bleachers in Jerusalem, so unworthy to enjoy such blessings and to live during this time, I just cried and cried.
Jerusalem is a city of peace and war. It is a city of cycles, circular in its eternal struggle. After the ceremony a friend told me that we must always remember how good today felt, because soon there will be a time where things won’t be well. We have to remember the good, so that when the bad happens, we can remember the good and know where to aim. The Embassy ceremony was more than just an opening of a building; it was the next stage in the rebuilding of Jerusalem. I was blessed to witness the next stage firsthand.