11 December 2017
Living in Jerusalem as a young child after the six-day war, I was able to wander the streets, walk through the old city, visit the Kotel (Western Wall) and go to the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament) with ease. I experienced a wondrous city that for the first time in many years appeared to be at peace. Little did I understand the larger challenges already at play and those that would develop over time. For me, there were no questions about Jerusalem and its meaning – it was my home, Judaism’s spiritual center and Israel’s capital.
Earlier this week, President Trump announced that the United States government would formally recognize Jerusalem as the national capital of Israel almost seventy years after the founding of the State. For decades, many in the American Jewish community have called on the U.S. government to undertake precisely this decision. At a time of increased efforts to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist and where some international bodies deny Jewish historical connections to Jerusalem, this recognition has become more important. Within such a context, the seemingly simple statement that the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel is a significant step towards righting a historical wrong.
At the same time, the tension and conflict surrounding this announcement highlights our collective need to work towards a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. This step by the U.S. government does not negate the need for peace negotiations, but rather demands a redoubling of efforts that would include discussions over the final status of Jerusalem. This is particularly important today, when the path to peace is increasingly unclear. I am concerned about the timing of the announcement and its potential to heighten tensions on the ground, as well as whether the timing may hamper progress towards a two-state solution and weaken the ability of the U.S. to lead such a process.
There is no questioning the fact that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and that it must be recognized as such internationally. The question is about the most effective way to bring about lasting peace. As we address one historical wrong, are we inadvertently creating new challenges?
As we look forward, we cannot predict the outcome of this week’s decision. It is my hope and prayer that one day soon, we will see Jerusalem, the City of Peace, to be a City at Peace – a city where people of all faiths can live together in a true reflection of its name.