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Trump’s new Heights of popularity in Israel

Even the Israeli left knows naming a new town for the US president is a smart move -- may it bring blessings of prosperity
Dedication Ceremony of Trump Heights. Photo credit: Times of Israel

It is safe to say that most Israelis are (at least grudgingly) appreciative of the special friendship between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Donald Trump.

If any head of state in any other developed country was to establish a new town today and name it after President Donald Trump, left-wing political leaders and activists would immediately hit the streets and organize mass demonstrations condemning such a move. Nonetheless, when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu cut the ribbon of “Trump Heights” yesterday, a new town on the Golan Heights in the far north of Israel, no angry mob showed up, no infuriated demagogues gave speeches, no one attempted to capitalize on free media, or build a political career based on Trump hatred.

Israel is oddly becoming the only democratic country in the world where Donald Trump is not a polarizing personality. In fact, President Trump’s policies and actions thus far, with regards to Israel, have enjoyed a very broad consensus across the Israeli political spectrum. Virtually no Israeli political leader, or even journalist for that matter, strongly condemned the US government’s official recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the moving of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, or the US government’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Not even the Druze communities living in the Golan Heights, which used to identify as proud Syrian citizens, showed up at Trump Heights to demonstrate. Of course, with tons of grenades and missiles flying once again across the Syrian skyline, and with Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil threatening to send back three-quarters of Lebanon’s Syrian refugees, quietly acquiescing to Israeli sovereignty over the Golan is the wisest choice for Druze residents living there.

Humble Beginnings

The location designated for the new Trump Heights town is on the site of a former temporary settlement named Baruchim, which in Hebrew means “blessed”.  The Hebrew concept of being blessed is a humbling reminder that it is not our “own strength that brought this prosperity” (Deut. 8:17). Acknowledging blessing is an expression of our dependence on the Creator, and that He is the source from which goodness comes. This concept is reflected by the fact that the word for blessing in Hebrew, bracha, shares a root with the word berech, meaning “knee.” When a bracha is recited in a synagogue, those praying bend their knees, expressing humble appreciation for divine kindness.

Trump Heights is exceptionally humble. Although it is a Trump-branded piece of real estate, it lacks any elaborate structure, skyscraper, golf-course, casino, helicopter landing pad, golden door knobs or crystal chandeliers. No asphalt. No marble. No neon lights. No bar. No swimming pool. There is really nothing on this, seemingly G-d forsaken, site except for a modest sign in English and Hebrew which says “Trump Heights”, and that will probably be the case for the foreseeable future. Creating, planning, approving, financing, and constructing new towns in Israel can take a very, very long time.

In fact, the only criticism lobbed towards yesterday’s ceremony at Trump Heights, from Prime Minister Netanyahu’s political rivals, was skepticism that anything will actually ever be built there. MK Zvi Hauser, a former aide to Netanyahu, and current political rival condemned yesterday’s ceremony as nothing more than a PR stunt. “Anyone who reads the fine print in this ‘historic’ decision will understand that this is nothing more than a nonbinding, fake policy,” MK Hauser said. “There is no budgeting, no planning, no location for a settlement, and there is no binding decision to implement the project. But at least they insisted on a name for the settlement.”

Such criticism coming from Prime Minister Netanyahu’s strongest political opposition, is essentially a back-handed compliment. Knowing that the establishment of Trump Heights is actually a brilliant diplomatic move, MK Hauser’s only option for criticizing the Prime Minister Netanyahu is to imply that he could have done it better.

We can only hope that regardless of its humble beginnings, Trump Heights, like the name it shares with extravagant real estate properties worldwide, will bring a blessing of economic development and prosperity to its provincial settings.

About the Author
Calev Michael Myers is the Deputy President of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists (IAJLJ) and the President and Executive Chairman of ARISE - Alliance to Reinforce Israel's Security and Economy (ARISE). He is also a Senior Partner at Yehuda Raveh & Co. Law Offices (YR&Co.). The opinions expressed in Calev's blogs may not necessarily reflect the opinions of the IAJLJ, ARISE or YR&Co.
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