Jerusalem: City With a Soul

Near the road running from Jerusalem to Bethlehem is a field that has stood empty since the late 1980s. The United States designated it as the site for the U.S. Embassy.

Since the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act was signed into law, resolutions by the U.S. Congress to relocate the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem have been sidelined by presidents who have imposed successive six-month delays on the move.

The current administration is said to be questioning whether Jerusalem is a part of Israel at all and claims the city’s status will only be determined during future negotiations. The delay, in large measure, is meant to mollify Israel’s Arab enemies who declare almost daily their determination never to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or Israel as a Jewish nation.

Exacerbating the issue is the burgeoning anti-Zionist contention in the West that Israelis are land-grabbing, occupying interlopers who must be brought to heel by international enforcers who dictate where lines are drawn and who will get what scraps of land.

Missing is any semblance of truth and justice. A fair settlement demands a choice between embracing revisionist, political gerrymandering or unimpeachable, historical fact.

For starters, the contention that Muslims predated the Jews in the region and that Jewish people never inhabited Jerusalem before modern times is preposterous. Claiming the Jewish patriarchs were Islamic and Jesus was a Palestinian freedom fighter would have been embarrassing in a more rational era.

In fact, Islam’s claim to Jerusalem is an afterthought based on a legend, with no supporting historical documentation. And though Muslims revere the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa shrines on the Temple Mount, Jerusalem is not the center of the Islamic religious world. That honor resides in Medina and Mecca in Saudi Arabia. It is the Kaaba stone in Mecca to which Muslims annually flock by the millions, not the Western Wall or Temple Mount in Jerusalem—which, incidentally, an imposed two-state settlement would cede to Palestinian control.

Thus, when Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, on Jerusalem Day in May 2014 publicly urged Congress to move the embassy, he had facts and justice on his side. It is “finally” time Dermer said, for the United States to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided” capital and to relocate the U.S. embassy there.

Dermer’s plea goes far beyond diplomatic gamesmanship. It reflects an essence embodied by no other city on the face of the earth. Long ago, Hebrew writer and Zionist Elhanan Leib Lewinsky declared, “Without Jerusalem, the land of Israel is as a body without a soul.” It’s true.

Other national capitals may be things of beauty, bastions of power, centers of commerce and government. But only Jerusalem represents the soul of a nation. For more than 3,000 years, since King David purchased what is now the Temple Mount (Moriah) and established Jerusalem as the enduring capital of the Jewish people, every significant page of history—biblical and secular—is stamped with authentication of Jewish ownership.

Perhaps most remarkable is that Jerusalem, subjugated and reduced to rubble time and again, has never been ejected from the collective anatomy of Jewry. By the rivers of faraway Babylon, exiled Jews mourned over Jerusalem with the same longing as modern generations in the Diaspora:

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion. We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst of it. For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song, and those who plundered us requested mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How shall we sing the Lᴏʀᴅ’s song in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill! If I do not remember you, . . . if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy (Ps. 137:1–6).

Nor are Christians immune to the lure of love for Jerusalem. It is the birthplace of the church and the origin of more than 2,000 years of the gospel’s proclamation of peace and reconciliation with God.

An undivided Jerusalem, in a country (Israel) granting full rights and privileges of citizenship to Jews, Arabs, and Christians alike, is not an obstacle but a solution. To ignore the obvious and return to a divided city that severs Jewish people from their birthright will benefit no one, make matters worse, and endure as one of the great blunders of history.

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