An ode to US marines in Jerusalem

The 71-year charade, whether wittingly or not, impugning the legitimacy of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, had been put to rest.

US Marine in Afghanistan (photo credit: AP)
US Marine in Afghanistan
(photo credit: AP)
Sunday evening, November 10, was a truly historic day for Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. The 244th Birthday Ball of the US Marine Corps (USMC) was celebrated at the Orient Hotel. Close to 500 well-wishers came to the ball to honor the US marines. And what an “exalted dimension” it represented – 244, in Hebrew numerology, equals Reish-Mem-Dalet, RAMMAD.
As a commissioned US foreign officer, retired in Jerusalem since 1996 after 30 years of service, I attended the event as I had over the past several years – in gratitude to all the marine security guard detachments that had protected my colleagues and me at various US embassies across the globe.
But this year there was a truly historic difference. No longer was the ceremony that of marines posted to a US consul-general – “Jerusalem, Jerusalem” – but for the first time in history, one United Ball of two marine detachments: one posted to the US Embassy in Jerusalem, and the other assigned to the embassy’s Tel Aviv branch office.
The 71-year charade, whether wittingly or not, impugning the legitimacy of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, had been put to rest when the United States authorized the transfer of its embassy from Tel Aviv. And it was put to rest in and for peace (RIP) by removing any Arab claim that there was always something illegitimate about Israel itself – that even the Jewish state’s most trusted friend and ally never recognized Israel’s sovereignty in its very own capital. America had finally realized that only legitimate states, so recognized by each party, can make and secure peace between themselves.
When the US embassy plaque was originally affixed to its new headquarters in Jerusalem, too many naysayers opined that it was nothing more than wash for tired Israeli eyes; that even as a symbol it was lame. Sunday evening’s United Marines’ event in Jerusalem put the final lie to such ill-thinking.
With this in mind, the US marines presented the colors at their ball, cut the traditional birthday cake and showed a filmed chronicle of the USMC in action, over time and place.
The marines’ traditional guest of honor was US Ambassador to Israel David M. Friedman, who labors diligently for the best interests of America and the growing US-Israel alliance. The evening was especially honored to have as guest speaker, Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie (USMC), commander of the US Military’s Central Command.
More so, the IDF were also there, present and accounted for, by an extensive contingent of Israeli Air Force officers and other IDF brass, headed by none other than IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, at the head table with Gen. McKenzie. The common fates of Israel, America and the world hovered in the air that evening.
THE MARINES’ CEREMONY at the Orient Hotel on Jerusalem’s Emek Refaim Street was indeed symbolic in more ways than one.
The spirits of US marines, both living and departed, heroes all, were not the only ones in that great celebratory hall. Also present, as an extended band of brothers, were the spirits of the early Jewish Shomrim (Guardians) of a 100 years ago – and also the one-armed defender of that same time, whose dying words at Tel Hai, “If I am to die, let it be for our country,” have resounded over the century to the US marines today.
Also present in spirit were past generations of youth from the Betar Movement. With a hymn quivering on their lips, they struggled to retrieve Jewish honor, dignity and military valor from the ashes of the City of Slaughter.
They all fought, each in his or her own way, to defend the Holy City and the Land – Hagana, Irgun and Lehi – for all the inhabitants thereof, igniting a spark for those who follow in their footsteps today.
Other spirits, present and accounted for, hovered in that hall as well: the Jewish partisans who fought in the forests of Europe to redeem the image of God among us (Immanuel); the Prisoners of Zion in the Soviet Gulag, yearning to go West from that Communist Far East.
The spirits of all these sent forth sparks back and forth between the Americans and Israelis present that electrified the hall.
Such spiritual union thus engaged – first by recognition of Jerusalem and then affirmed by the embassy move – was celebrated and consummated that Sunday at the ball. It was as if the heavenly Jerusalem had descended fleetingly to place a soothing kiss on the troubled brow of this Earthly city. May this be a harbinger of unity and integrity for each land in our soul-searching treks into the future.
However all this may come to be, one thing is certain. That evening opened an additional page in US-Israel relations with the name “US Marines” now chiseled and sealed in Jerusalem stone forever. It is upon us now to work diligently to keep that stone polished.
The author is a retired US foreign service officer (1966-96) who served 15 years in Arab and other Muslim countries, as well as in Washington. American-born, he is a graduate of the Hebrew University (BA), the University of Paris (1st MA) and Johns Hopkins University (2nd MA). He was a co-founder of the Washington Committee for Soviet Jewry (1968). He is today on the board of the Israel Interfaith Association and founder of the non-sectarian Jewish Covenant Alliance, RA at which struggles worldwide against totalitarian idolatry seeking to place Man (Nazism; Communism) or Religion (Islamism) above God. He has been a resident of Jerusalem since 1996.