June 11, 2015
Dear Friend of Israel,
A recent Supreme Court ruling regarding Jerusalem has generated a lot of discussion in the Israeli press and among supporters of Israel. And while many are deeply concerned about the potential damage to U.S.-Israel relations, I would urge all to see this as a small part of a much larger problem.
The case originated in 2002 when the American parents of Menachem B. Zivotofsky, who was born in Jerusalem, sought to have his birthplace listed on his passport as Jerusalem, Israel, and then just Israel. Both requests were denied. Menachem’s parents filed suit against the State Department, citing the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, which Congress had passed just weeks before their son’s birth. The act states, “For purposes of the registration of birth, certification of nationality, or issuance of a passport of a United States citizen born in the city of Jerusalem, the Secretary shall, upon the request of the citizen or the citizen’s legal guardian, record the place of birth as Israel.” Why couldn’t this new ruling apply to them?
The problem was that this law conflicts with a long-held policy of the U.S.: that the status of Jerusalem should be resolved through negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian leadership. It was, in fact, President George W. Bush who signed the Foreign Relations Authorization Act into law, and upon doing so noted that “U.S. policy regarding Jerusalem has not changed.” Since this law was enacted, presidents of both parties have maintained that the status of Jerusalem ultimately lies with presidential negotiations rather than with an act of Congress. This decision essentially upholds the status quo – a decades-long limbo born of failed Middle East negotiations.
But for friends of Israel, that status quo is still disturbing. The thought that Jerusalem could be anything but Israeli is absurd. The Palestinian viewpoint says that Israel’s claims to Jerusalem are illegitimate. The simple fact is that Jews made Jerusalem their Holy City 3,000 years ago and have been living there ever since. They have been the largest single group of inhabitants there since the 1840s. Jews face Jerusalem when they pray, and mention it constantly in their prayers.
Here are the inescapable facts: Jerusalem has been the spiritual center of Jewish life since the time of King David. The ancient, eternal connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem is reaffirmed time and again in Holy Scripture. There has been a continuous Jewish presence in Jerusalem for thousands of years, and the city has never been claimed by any other nation or people. These facts expose the denial of the Jewish connection to Jerusalem for what it really is – a shoddy attempt to rewrite history.
Perhaps the most eloquent words written about the Jewish connection to Jerusalem are the words of the psalmist: “If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy” (Psalm 137:5-6).Inspired by these words, let us continue to fight the misinformation Israel’s foes spread about her and, most importantly, continue to pray for God’s most precious gift of shalom, peace.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President