Apparently, yes. Or at least the Minister of Transportation, Israel Katz, has lost his marbles.

 
Katz got five minutes of news by announcing that the projected terminal alongside the Western Wall of the still-building rapid rail service from Tel Aviv will be named for US President Donald Trump.
 
For a man who likes to see his name on everything, the Western Wall (or at least the nearby railroad station) may be just another landmark.
 
No doubt there'll be some Americans and Israelis cheering, but unless there's a great change in presidential behavior and accomplishment before the station is actually built (if it ever is), we can expect the jeers to be louder.
 
For Israelis, it will be the height of shameful sycophantic behavior, substantially beyond the erection of seldom visited memorials to John F. Kennedy and 9-11, both at impressive sites in the Judean Mountains which might have been better left natural or used for projects more appropriate.
 
Leaving aside Israel's duty to thank the US, Germany, Evangelicals, British, French, Danes, Russians, Czechs and others for various kinds of assistance, the JFK and 9-11 Memorials came less from Israelis than from well-to-do and politically active American Jews, seemingly expressing a dual sense of patriotism.
 
For sometime in the 1970s, the JFK Memorial was a routine stop on the route of tour groups. There was a kiosk nearby, selling soft drinks, candy, and ice cream.
 
Then tour buses went elsewhere, maintenance ceased, the kiosk fell into ruin, and the Memorial itself was locked and vandalized.
 
Years later the main floor was cleaned up, but still locked.The building found its purpose with its lower level becoming clerical offices for the Israel National Fund.
 
The 9-11 Memorial fared even worse. Except for a visit by dignitaries at its completion, it seemed to pass into near instant oblivion. In that it joined many other memorials in a country with too many events and people to remember. 
 
John Kennedy wasn't all that much of a President and not all that much of a friend of Israel. The Cuban Missile Crisis and Alliance for Progress deserve some mention in the books, but so does the Bay of Pigs. The manner of his death marked the height of his career, and made him deserving of ceremonies, school and other site namings in the US, at least until his sexual quirks became known to the public.
 
9-11 was a significant event in the US, but does not rank among the tragedies suffered in the history of Jews or the State of Israel.
 
A Trump Rail Road Station threatens to outdo Israel's follies in memorializing American personalities and events. Citing Trump for a presidential visit to the Western Wall and recognizing Israel's right to consider Jerusalem its capital may be due some thanks. But a Railroad Station alongside the Western Wall? Much better to stick with the designation of Kotel, the traditional Hebrew name for a site that is as central as anything in Jewish faith and history.
 
Among other things, the announcement may lessen the chances of Israel Katz among the replacements for Benjamin Netanyahu, whenever our long serving Prime Minister finds himself indicted, pushed out by party colleagues embarrassed by revelations too many, or when he decides to leave office, ostensibly at his own volition, perhaps in a no-jail deal for himself and the missus.
 
There's been no groundswell of rage at Katz's decision, but that may reflect nothing more than the unknown number of years until the extension of the rail line to the Old City becomes a reality, and ample opportunity to give the station a more appropriate name. 
 
We may be saved by arguments among professionals below the level of Minister Katz. There is already a light rail in place that passes by three of the Gates to the Old City. from what'll be the Central Railroad station elsewhere in Jerusalem, planned to open within a year. Katz's Trump Station will require a three kilometer tunnel under a large swath of western Jerusalem as well as ancient, sacred, and sensitive sites alongside and within the Old City. And it may have trouble competing with another grandiose idea coming out of the Jerusalem Municipality: a cable car that will begin in the German Colony neighborhood, pass over the Valley of Hinnom where ancient Judaens sacrificed children to one or another god, and terminate alongside the Dung Gate near the Western Wall.  
 
There's already a mini groundswell against both problematic ideas..
 
Some may see the Western Wall as an appropriate focus for treating Jerusalem's landmarks as something more spectacular than Disneyland. For others, it is the most sacred symbol of a faith and a people that have withstood threats for 3,000 years. And it is also a tinderbox where misjudgment can produce yet another threat of unknown, but dire consequences.
 
Protest if you wish, but it's too early to make the signs and schedule a demonstration.
 
Comments welcome


-- 
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem 

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