May 17, 2017
Dear Friend of Israel,
On May 22, President Trump is scheduled to arrive in Israel on his first visit as U.S. President. His trip falls right before Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, when Israel will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Holy City’s reunification under Israeli rule following the Six-Day War.
During his trip, the President will address the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and may speak on a particularly divisive, controversial issue: the status of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
It may seem hard to believe that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a subject of controversy. But, in fact, currently no countries recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Many wonder why, considering the millennia-long connection of the Jewish people to the Holy City, and the fact that Israel chose Jerusalem as its seat of government in 1950.
The primary reason is that Jerusalem’s status, in the eyes of the world, remains disputed. Palestinians claim it as their capital, and have continually tried – often working through the U.N. with the support of Arab states and other nations – to undermine Israel’s claims to the city.
The U.S. has been reluctant to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem for fear of inciting violence. So, for more than 20 years, U.S. presidents, both Republican and Democrat, have signed a waiver every six months delaying the implementation of a 1995 bill calling for the U.S. to recognize Jerusalem. Some have publicly declared that the U.S. embassy should be moved but, in practice, have maintained the status quo.
Fellowship supporters, both Christians and Jews, know Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital. And yet, we live in a world where interactions between nations are fraught with complexity and political decisions have real-world consequences. In this imperfect world, we recognize that the political order does not always reflect the ideal.
I’m reminded of Psalm 22:28, which tells us that “Dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations.” This fact bears constant repeating: Political systems rise and fall like all works of man, but true freedom is found in acting in faith, trusting in God, and acknowledging His sovereignty and dominion over our lives – and over our world.
The psalmist said, “If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill” (137:5). Today, as Israel prepares to celebrate 50 years of a unified Jerusalem, let us resolve not to forget this city that is sacred to Jews and Christians alike – the capital of Jewish life and culture for over 3,000 years.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President