By Stuart Kaufman—
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem,
Let my right hand forget her cunning.
Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,
If I remember thee not;
If I set not Jerusalem above my chiefest joy.
I am a Jew. I am a man of faith. I believe in the G-d* of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I believe in the Five Books of Moses, called by Jews “the Torah,” called by others the “Hebrew Bible” and by still others the “Old Testament.” I believe in my heart that G-d granted the land of Israel to the Jewish nation to be held for eternity. Finally, I believe that Jerusalem is and will always be the absolute and undivided capital of the state of Israel.
Every nation in the world is given the right to name its own capital … that is, every nation except Israel. The United States refuses to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the independent state of Israel. Instead, the American embassy is located in Tel Aviv, despite the enactment by Congress of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, which states that “Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the state of Israel and the … embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999.” Unfortunately, the act permits the president to waive the requirement every six months and the requirement has been repeatedly waived by Clinton, Bush and Obama.
Adding insult to injury, the president and the State Department refuse to recognize that the city of Jerusalem is even located in the nation of Israel. On every other American passport, the individual’s place of birth is designated by city and country — the passport of an American born in Tel Aviv or Haifa will show “Israel” as his country of birth. But the passport of someone born in Jerusalem says only “Jerusalem.”
Stop people randomly on the street and ask them where Jerusalem is and 99 out of 100 will answer “Israel.” It was in recognition of that reality that Congress passed a law mandating passports of American citizens born in Jerusalem show the nation of birth as Israel. But on June 8th, the Supreme Court held that Congress had overstepped its bounds: Under the Constitution, foreign policy is within the purview of the executive, and the legislature has no authority to interfere with this function. Note that the questions of what is Israel’s capital, or the location of the embassy were not issues before the court. All that was sought was recognition that Jerusalem is a city in Israel.
Now begins a brief history lesson. (I strongly urge you to do your own due diligence and check all that I say for yourself). In about 1000 B.C., King David captured Jerusalem from a group called the Jebusites and declared that it the capital of the united tribes of Israel. There David’s son Solomon built the Holy Temple, and from then on, Jews looked to Jerusalem and its Temple Mount as the center of their universe. In 586 B.C., the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem, destroyed Solomon’s temple, and sent the Jews into exile. 70 years thereafter, the Persians defeated the Babylonians and permitted the Jews to return to their land. Under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, the Jews reconstructed a shabby version of the temple and reinstated in Jerusalem the worship of G-d.
Skip ahead a few centuries. The Romans conquered the known world and established hegemony over what they called the province of Judea. While Jerusalem was under Roman rule, the Second Temple was built and its glory restored. Because of the vicissitudes over the centuries, as well as the growth of commerce within the Roman Empire, the Jews had spread all over the known world. But wherever they were, they still looked to Jerusalem (and the Temple) as the center of their universe. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. In 135 A.D., the Romans renamed the area “Syria Palestina” as an insult to the Jews and sent them into exile. Over the millennia, despite intense hardship, dispersal and persecution, there always existed a Jewish presence in what had been (and what is now) Israel, and Jerusalem has always been its geographical and emotional center. Every Jew, wherever he was, longed to see Jerusalem, and almost every Jew could recite Psalm 137 by heart.
I will go no further with ancient history, except to say that following the Crusades, the Ottoman Empire ultimately emerged as the absolute rulers of the entire Middle East, including the territory that is now the modern state of Israel. Following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire the First World War, Great Britain was given control of that territory, which was designated the “Palestinian Mandate.”
I strongly urge every one of you to become familiar with the Balfour Declaration, the San Remo Agreement and the Treaty of Sèvres. Suffice it to say that a Jewish homeland was promised, to include not only all the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, but also land that lay east of the Jordan River, in what is now Jordan. In 1948, the state of Israel was created and affirmed by the United Nations as the Jewish national homeland. Immediately thereafter, five Arab armies invaded Israel. Since that time and to this very day, Israel has been in a constant state of war waged against it by its neighbors. In June 1967, in the course of this continuing war, Israel found itself fighting all of its surrounding countries, and in what has come to be known as the Six Day War, captured Judea and Samaria and reunified the city of Jerusalem.
Skip to the 1960s, when Egyptian-born Yasser Arafat declared that his group of Arab murderers then known as “Fatah” was actually a theretofore unheard of national group that he was going to call “Palestinians.” It was at this point that Arafat (who in the opinion of many was the most gifted propagandist since Joseph Goebbels) began spreading the idea that the Jews have no history in what is now Israel. He went even further and said that any thought that Jews have a tie to the city of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount is a lie. This fiction was originally treated as laughable and absurd. But lies have a way of becoming “truths” when repeated enough times for the benefit of the ignorant. Thus, we have a growing number of fools who accept this fiction as “historical fact.”
Title to land can be transferred in several ways — by gift, through conquest and purchase and sale. By all of these measures, the Jews own all the land that is the state of Israel. The land was given to them, as recorded in the Hebrew Bible, as a gift from G-d to Abraham’s descendants for eternity (although, admittedly, gift from G-d is not usually recognized in American courts as a legitimate method of transfer). The land was given to them by a conclave of assembled nations in 1948. The land was conquered in a series of battles in which Israel’s enemies were decisively defeated (in what this particular Jew views as another gift from G-d, confirming his original gift). Also, much of the land was purchased from former owners, for cash. This practice continues to this very day. Arabs are selling their land to Jews who pay significant premiums. However, those who do so must immediately leave the region, because murderers sentence to death all who sell to Jews.
I have covered much ground (and 4,000 years) in this piece. I again urge you to do your own investigation and then spread the truth. Israel is the legitimate homeland of the Jewish people. The city of Jerusalem is a city within the boundaries of the state of Israel. An undivided Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel.
I have no realistic expectation that our current president will take any action with respect to recognizing Jerusalem. But I strongly hope that our next one, once and for all, ends this unfortunate policy of denial with respect to the status of Jerusalem, and recognizes it not only as a city within Israel, but its capital. Jerusalem has always been, and will continue to be, the heart of the Jewish state of Israel.
*I follow the widespread Jewish custom of writing the name of G-d with a hyphen, out of respect and reverence. I have included this explanation here because many consider this practice to be disrespectful, when the exact opposite is the case.
Stuart Kaufman is a retired lawyer, investment banker and businessman. He relocated from New York to Mount Pleasant in 2012. A friend recently told him that he has been a South Carolinian all of his life … but he just didn’t know it.