I was sitting in a Jerusalem café the other day catching up with my husband when I heard the customers next to us discussing the announcement by President Trump to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Now, just to be clear, I don’t usually try to eavesdrop on other people's conversations, but in a city where space is at a premium, the tables can end up awkwardly close together so I really couldn’t help but hear what the two were saying. After discussing the same things everyone else here in Jerusalem is talking about – like what the effects of the announcement might have on Israeli-Arab relations and speculation about where such an embassy might be located, one of the men ended with the following comment: “Really, he didn’t do anything.”
“He” in that statement is President Trump. The man was referring to the fact that right after Trump made his historic announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital and promising to move the embassy there, he signed the waiver which allowed the Embassy to remain in Tel Aviv. For the last 22 years, every six months the American President has had to sign this waiver in order to block the 1995 congressional decision – called the Jerusalem Embassy Act – to move the embassy to the Holy City. Failure to sign the waiver would result in the immediate legal obligation to move the embassy out of Tel Aviv and to Jerusalem. The man in the café was simply saying that in spite of the exciting speech delivered by Trump, nothing had actually changed.
And he was right. But also very, very wrong.
The most obvious reason why President Trump signed the waiver was simple – there is no building ready to house the American Embassy. As he stated in his speech, the process of moving the embassy would begin immediately. That means sourcing architects and builders, finding land, and working on all the other elements that will go into creating a building that will undoubtedly take years to complete. Trump will have to sign that waiver several more times at the very least. The nay-sayers will have us believe that Trump will be out of office before the building is even complete, in actuality leaving the decision to move the embassy completely reversible.
But even if that were the case, Trump has still done something. Love him or loathe him, President Trump has done something momentous. Something that will be remembered. He made history.
On May 14th 1948, President Truman was the first to recognize the newly declared state of Israel. And on December 6th, 2017, President Trump was the first world leader to officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
When the ancient Israelites of the Book of Exodus came out of Egypt by way of miracles from God, they were invincible. No one wanted to touch the nation of slaves that defeated the greatest empire of its time with supernatural aid. That all changed when “The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim” (Exodus 17:8). The children of Israel won that battle but the Jewish sages explain the effect of the attack as follows: Until Amalek challenged the Israelites, they were untouchable – like a pot of boiling water. Yet, once Amalek attacked the Israelites, while they may have gotten scalded, they also “cooled the waters,” making the children of Israel susceptible to attacks from other nations. They paved the way.
This was the negative effect of a foreign nation being the first in regards to something having to do with the nation of Israel. What President Trump did was a positive form of “cooling the waters.” Even if the President’s words were just that – words without action – they blazed a path that others will follow.
Shortly after America’s decision to move their embassy to Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, the nation of Guatemala stepped up and pledged to do the same. As of now, there are at least ten other countries expected to make the same move. Who knows how many more will follow suit?
President Trump has turned the tide and made it possible for nations to do what everyone said was impossible. Trump will be remembered, at least in Israel, as a hero. In fact, a decision was just announced to name the train stop at the Western Wall after President Trump.
The Jews have a very long memory. God’s memory is even longer.
We will not forget this brave act. We will not lose sight of its significance. And while we have always known that Jerusalem is our eternal capital, we are deeply grateful that someone else has reminded the world of that fact – a reality that will never change. My hope is that once reality is acknowledged and accepted, we might actually have a solid foundation on which to build a structure for lasting peace.