I live in Arnona, a beautiful tree-lined neighborhood in southern Jerusalem. Up until a month ago, the U.S. Consulate building, located on the next street, was a quiet, unobtrusive building in the neighborhood. A small white sign pointing the way was the only hint that the consulate was here.
That is, until the consulate turned into the United States Embassy in Jerusalem and history was made.
When President Donald Trump first announced his plan to move the embassy to Jerusalem, people were skeptical. Israelis are very attuned to international politics and very aware that we are the only country in the world whose nationally declared capital is not recognized by other countries. We were doubtful of this recognition actually going from rhetoric to reality.
However, when President Trump set the date for the move, and that date was Israel’s 70th Independence Day, the buzz started building – and did not stop until the ceremony was over.
Weeks before the official May 14 ceremony inaugurating the embassy, the neighborhood was spruced up. The streets were cleaner, the grass was greener (there was more water allotted), and the garbage seemed to be collected more often.
Overnight, there were streams of American and Israeli flags flying on my street and those around me. Huge signs on lamp posts thanked President Trump for his support of Israel. The excitement was palpable as we waited for the actual day to come.
Then came the security. Suddenly heavily armed guards were posted in front of the consulate turned embassy, despite an already huge wall separating it from the street.
A quaint neighborhood hotel was turned into a U.S. Embassy building, with large black jeeps sporting diplomatic license plates parked in front, and a quickly erected gate surrounding the building.
One Shabbat (Sabbath), on our way to the synagogue, my husband and I saw a bunch of very strong-looking men with marine-style crew cuts jump out of a van and enter the premises. A friend of mine who lives across the street from this building says she certainly doesn’t have to worry about anyone breaking into her home!
On the day of the ceremony, we wondered how 800 people would arrive at the embassy. We imagined terrible traffic, closed streets, and police barricades. We saw the street closures throughout Jerusalem and wondered if we would be able to leave our homes, despite the ceremony taking place in late afternoon.
In reality, things went much smoother and calmer than we thought. At one point I returned home and could not get into my street by car. I then saw a group of protestors getting off a bus with huge anti-embassy signs. But even these protestors couldn’t mar the general feeling of jubilation in the air.
It felt like a big celebration. It was a big celebration. And in spite of the protests down south on the Gaza border, and Hamas’s efforts to change the conversation that day, the United States Embassy is here to stay. And we are proud to call them our neighbors.
-by Lisa Samin, a writer living in Jerusalem