A general view of Jerusalem shows the Dome of the Rock, located in Jerusalem's Old City on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount December 6, 2017..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Today, marks Jerusalem Day and 51 years of a unified Israeli capital. On Monday, the United States will be the first country to move its embassy to the city, in a sequence of events that demonstrates not only the significance of Jerusalem as the epicenter of the Jewish people, but also of Israel’s growing diplomatic gravitas across the globe.
Ever since Donald Trump announced five months ago that the US would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a select group of additional countries have followed suit. In the coming weeks, Guatemala, Paraguay and possibly others will follow in America’s footsteps and move their embassies to Jerusalem as well.
This a correction of a historic injustice. No other country has the location of its capital dictated to it by the world. The sole exception has been Israel, for the last 51 years. Even now, after Trump made his decision, the countries of Europe prefer to stick to a fallacy that they know is wrong.
When the president of France comes to Israel, he comes to Jerusalem. When the prime minister of Belgium comes to Israel, he comes to Jerusalem. So why are their embassies in Tel Aviv? It’s due to some fantasy that if they keep them in Tel Aviv, they remain neutral. They need to realize that is doing so, they are taking a stand, and it is the wrong one.
The Palestinians needs to digest this as well. Their continued intransigence is not working. The world is not turning against Israel. On the contrary – it is standing with the Jewish state. Mahmoud Abbas’s strategy of ignoring Israel and hoping the world will solve the conflict for him, is not working. The moving of the US Embassy to Jerusalem is proof of that.
And while this week is a time to celebrate Jerusalem, we cannot ignore its challenges. It has a growing population coming under the poverty line as well as constituencies of haredim and Arabs who already today make up 50% of children starting first grade in the city.
In addition, there is a need – no matter who the mayor will be after the October 30 local elections – to upgrade municipal services and police enforcement throughout the eastern parts of the city. After more than half a century since Israel liberated its capital, it needs to genuinely unify it, not just with slogans and politics, but also in the way it manages the city on a day-to-day basis.
In the arc of Jewish history, what is happening this week is a small blip on a timeline that stretches back for thousands of years. Ever since King David established Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish people, the city has been in the hearts and minds of Jews everywhere, no matter and at what time in history they lived.
It is difficult to ignore the fact that just 75 years ago, Jews were dreaming of Jerusalem as they were being marched into gas chambers in Europe, and how tomorrow, the US Treasury secretary, alongside senators and congressmen, will inaugurate the US Embassy in the hills of west Jerusalem.
Israel as a country has come a long way. In 70 years of existence, it has built a model state that serves as a beacon, a shining example of how democracies are meant to operate in dark regions like the Middle East. Events of the past week are just further demonstration of how volatile the reality is along Israel’s borders and how remarkable it is that the country manages to maintain freedom for all its citizens.
As a city, Jerusalem has also come a long way.
From the days when wagons were knocking loose rocks along its dirt roads to the light rail system, the highways, the hi-tech sector, the artistic and cultural sites and the festivals that never stop. Visitors can walk on the same stones that the prophets once tread, and then drive autonomous cars being developed just around the corner.
This is Jerusalem.