This past October, with our children, my husband and I visited Israel, his homeland. We had been planning this trip since the conception of our relationship. It was one of the few non-negotiables of being in a relationship with him (kidding, but not). I was initially opposed to the idea because of the perception of constant unrest in the Middle East, but I was equally excited because I rarely turn down an opportunity to travel to a new place. We ended up journeying the length of the bite-sized country for three weeks; and upon my return, when anyone asked me what my favorite city was, I readily replied Jerusalem. More difficult, though, was coming up with the right words to describe exactly why I was so enthralled with the city. It was just “something” about it. The city simply had a pulse.
Therefore, when it was announced that Trump would be moving America’s Israeli embassy from the cosmopolitan Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, I got excited. I agreed with the move in all its controversy. Tel Aviv is the easy choice for the embassy. It’s as secular and hip as a New York or San Francisco, and it’s a tourist’s or visitor’s dream. However, easy choices completely defy everything about Israel. Jerusalem, with its masterful blend of the old and new, the sacred and profane, the religious prowess seeping from the pores of its stony streets and stucco buildings, is by all measures the capital of Israel. It is the spiritual tug-of-war that makes Israel what it is. And ironically, the place had a tone of peace.
Yes, the move would likely rock the boat – or ark. Yes, it may cause riots and protests. Yes, the Arab world will be gravely disappointed, and the rest of the world may sit on its heels, waiting for doomsday; but that won’t change the fact that Jerusalem is the true capital of Israel. Tel Aviv, a new and Westernized city pales in comparison to both the Old and New Cities of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the one city that made me feel that I had arrived in the Motherland. It was the only city that made me cry.
Outlining the historical details of why this move is a good decision could be a 400-page thesis, but I’d be remiss if I neglected one solid explanation as to why this Jerusalem decision is good.
In 1950, following the war of 1948, it was determined that Jerusalem was Israel’s capital city although it was a divided city up until 1967. In 1967, the Six Day war resulted in Israel seizing control of Jerusalem from Jordan. Fast forward to 1995, the United States Congress enacted the “Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995”, which had the specific purpose of relocating America’s Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, understanding that all U.S. embassies are in the capital cities of their respective countries. Simply put, Israel, which is, for all intents and purposes, a Jewish nation. Even though it is well-known that many faiths claim Jerusalem as theirs as well, Israeli’s fought and won for it and claimed victory. And just to be clear, a component of the 1995 Act states that, “Jerusalem has been administered as a unified city in which the rights of all faiths have been respected and protected”. Considering these facts, it should come as no surprise that the embassy is moving to the place where it was always supposed to be – despite the possibility of conflict arising as a result.
Biblically, the name Israel was the name given to the patriarch Jacob after struggling – and prevailing – with both God and men. The country bears this spiritual name and identity, and while Tel Aviv dons beautiful beaches and a lively night life, it is only right that it has a spiritual capital to solidify this identity – even if there is struggle in the wake. When one thinks of Israel, Jerusalem with its myriad of cultures somehow living in peace, should quickly come to mind. 22 years ago, the decision was made. It’s high time that it’s being honored.