This feels “like a Synagogue outing in Woodmere,” quipped one of the guest’s invited to Monday’s ceremony marking the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem.
He was referring to what he said were at least a couple dozen guests invited to the ceremony who came from the Five Towns of Long Island, where US Ambassador David Friedman once lived. He was referring to the many kippot, and to the minyans for the afternoon services that formed – as if at a religious wedding – underneath the makeshift bleachers during the long wait, from the time the guests were told to arrive to the actual start of the ceremony.
Yes, for a while it did seem like a synagogue outing.
Until some 15 minutes in, when controversial Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress took the stage to deliver an opening prayer. “We want to pray what the psalmist prayed 3,000 years ago,” he said at the end of his brief benediction.
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, may those who love her prosper, may peace dwell in, and we pray this in the name and spirit of the Prince of Peace, Jesus our Lord. Amen.”
Nope, it didn’t feel like a synagogue outing after that.
Variously, the 80-minute ceremony, held on the embassy compound under a huge white tarp, felt like many different things.
The red Make America Great Again hats that dotted the audience made it seem at times like a campaign rally for US President Donald Trump, as it did when the crowd chanted “Trump, Trump, Trump” after Friedman said that the president is now owed an eternal debt of gratitude for the move.
At other times it felt like a sporting event, such as when Friedman listed the names of the senators and congressman in attendance – all Republican – and each name was followed by cheers, as if they were members of a basketball team being introduced before a game.
At times it felt like a revival meeting, such as when Pastor John Hagee – with impeccable rhythmic cadence – said: “Let the word go forth from Jerusalem today that Israel lives. Shout it from the housetops – that Israel lives. Let every Islamic terrorist hear this message – Israel lives. Let it be heard in the halls of the United Nations – Israel lives. Let it echo down the marble halls of the presidential palace in Iran – that Israel lives. Let it be known to all men – that Israel lives – because He that keepeth Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.”
The crowd responded, at Hagee’s request, with a resounding “Hallelujah.”
At times it felt like Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner’s coming-out event, as the Trump senior advisor – often mocked and belittled in the media – gave a strong, thoughtful and at times eloquent speech.
“The pursuit of peace is the most noble pursuit of humankind,” he said. “I believe peace is within reach if we dare to believe that the future can be different from the past; that we are not condemned to relive history; and that the way things were is not how they must forever be. It will not be an easy road and it will be filled with difficult moments and tough decisions, but if we dream big, if we lead with courage, we can change the trajectory for millions from hopeless to boundless.”
And, at times, the event felt, well, historic – because despite the over-use of this word, this event truly was history making.
Or, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put it: “What a glorious day. Remember this moment. This is history. President Trump, by recognizing history, you have made history.”