Dear Friend of Israel,
The U.S. just made history by announcing that it recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
It was a bold, courageous move that is long overdue, and is especially significant coming from Israel’s closest ally. But it was also deeply controversial. Though Israel declared Jerusalem its capital in 1948, for most of the world, the city’s status 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 states – to undermine Israel’s claims to the city.
The announcement has caused a violent and hostile reaction by Arab leaders. King Abdullah of Jordan spoke of “a dangerous impact on the security and stability of the Middle East.” Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan warned the U.S. against recognizing Jerusalem. A spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called the move an “unacceptable action.” Meanwhile, a call went out for “days of rage” to protest the announcement, and even now Israel is experiencing an eruption of violence.
Would the Arab world at this point in history accept Jerusalem as Israel’s capital under any circumstances? Sadly, experience, and this harsh rhetoric calling for upheaval and violence, suggests it would not.
Still, in the words of American President and Founding Father John Adams, “Facts are stubborn things.” And the facts remain: 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. No wonder, then, that when the modern state of Israel was formed, Jerusalem was chosen as capital.
The psalmist said, “If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill” (Psalm 137:5). Even as we rejoice in this news, let us also pray that peace will reign throughout the region, that violence will subside, and that Israel’s people and all who defend them will be protected. And let us again resolve, like the psalmist, never to forget this ancient, holy city, sacred to Jews and Christians alike – the capital of Jewish life and culture for more than 3,000 years.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President