“If I forget thee O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her
cunning, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth”
Jerusalem has been Israel’s capital since the days of the Bible and Jews have prayed to remember Jerusalem for 3,000 years. It was King David who, at the sound of the trumpet, brought the Ark of the Covenant to a tabernacle in Jerusalem.
Today it is also the capital of Israel. Much as I cringe at the idea of agreeing with Trump on anything, he just accidentally happens to be right. The Knesset (Parliament) is there. So is the Prime Minister’s Office as is the U.S. Consulate. In 1995 the Congress of the United States passed a bill calling for the U.S. Embassy to be moved to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Successive presidents did not act on this bill for fear of offending the Arab Community.
Jerusalem’s name means City of Peace. It is sacred to the three great religions. To the Jews it is the site of the original Temple. For the Christians it is the city of the Crucifixion. It is also the third most sacred city of Islam after Mecca and Medina.
But instead of peace, it has known bloodshed, strife and conflict and all the crimes mankind commits in the name of religion. For centuries Israel has striven to regain its statehood (lost in many conflicts) and the day finally arrived after more than 1000 years, when the United Nations recognized the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. What followed was an immediate invasion of the country by the armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. In July 1949, after Israel defeated the combined attack, an armistice was signed, and Jerusalem was divided between Jordan and Israel. Henceforth Jews were not allowed on their sacred Temple Mount. It was only after the Six-Day War in June 1967 that Israel, in a stunning victory, captured the Sinai Peninsula (which it has now returned to Egypt) the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip (which Egypt did not want to take back), the West Bank of the Jordan and the whole of Jerusalem which it has administered ever since.
There have been many aborted negotiations about the creation of two states, the status of Jerusalem and the problem of the refugees who fled or were chased out during the wars. No solution has been reached. Neither the West Bank nor the Gaza Strip wants to recognize the state of Israel. Israel cannot incorporate them into a bi-national state for fear of losing its Jewish identity, with the Jews becoming a minority in their own country.
Israel is also determined never to let go of Jerusalem again. Its administration of (mostly Arab) East Jerusalem has been called neglectful (another contentious topic). The situation is complicated by the fact that Benjamin Netanyahu’s regime is plagued by corruption and he may be replaced in the near future. Add to that the Saudi-Iranian rivalry and jockeying for power in the region and you have a very volatile mix And now our blindfolded, lumbering President has blundered into this shaky terrain where an avalanche could happen at the slightest misstep. Hold on tight for 2018.