Next year in Jerusalem. That’s the last prayer at the Passover seder. For over 2,000 years Jews globally have been saying "Next year in Jerusalem." Now it is at hand. Try to imagine a world that tries to separate Catholicism from the Vatican or Islam from Mecca. That is the world the Jewish community lives in.
No matter how many people read the Bible the Jews could not have a homeland with Jerusalem as its capital. Then came the Holocaust. The unspeakable horrors of unstoppable anti-Semitism meant the world could look away no longer. Almost half the Jewish population was murdered for the crime of being Jewish.
After the war hundreds of thousands of surviving Jews made their way to what was then called Palestine — and is now known as Israel. The state of Israel was declared on May 8, 1948. Immediately, President Truman recognized it on behalf of the United States.
There were a few "buts" in that recognition. Jerusalem was not regarded as Israel’s capital. The American Embassy was built in Tel Aviv. And the U.S. would not sell arms to Israel even though Israel was attacked the day it declared itself a nation. Wars were fought, in 1948, 1967 and 1973, 1973. America has become Israel’s most reliable ally and its number one arms supplier. Israel built a world class military and continues to successfully defend itself.
But what about Jerusalem?
In 1995, with overwhelming bipartisan support, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution requiring that the American Embassy would be moved to Jerusalem. However, as foreign affairs is generally an executive branch domain, the resolution gave the president the option of deferring the move for another six months That is what President Clinton did. He blamed it on the "peace process."
George W. Bush's election in 2000 raised hopes. Republicans had become very strong friends of Israel and less mindful of a U.N. that wore its antisemitism on its sleeve. Four years of Bush, no embassy in Jerusalem. Then it got personal. George Bush’s reelection in 2004 coincided with the end of my first two year term as chairman of the Republican Party of Palm Beach County. The Bush campaign manager was a fellow named Ken Mehlman, not only Jewish but a cousin of one of our local party’s most active members.
Mr. Mehlman got a post election appointment as the chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC). He also keynoted one of our annual Lincoln Day fund raising dinners.
The stars were aligned. In early 2005 I got a call from Ken Mehlman’s office asking if I would participate in a local meeting of Jewish Republican leaders with Ken. That was a no-brainer. Approximately 15 of us met around a hotel room conference table with Ken Mehlman at the head. We all knew each other. Ken opened the meeting by asking, "What can President Bush do for you?" What an honor to be asked. The 15 of us were of one mind. No one asked for tax cuts or immigration reform. We spoke as one when we said, "Move the embassy."
What a proud moment for all of us to have an opportunity to influence a decision which, for the Jewish Community, was truly of Biblical proportions. I remained an enthusiastic Bush supporter. But it was clear he lacked the vision and the courage to answer our prayers.
President Barack Obama came next and American-Israeli relations fell off a cliff. President Obama’s dislike for Israel was so intense that on his way out of office he ended 50 years of American support for Israel in the United Nations. "Next year in Jerusalem" seemed very far away.
Donald Trump, like Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Barack Obama also campaigned on "moving the embassy." Would he? The first six month marker came and went. President Trump said he wanted to give the peace process a little time. In late 2016, after the election, I told my Chabad rabbi that Esther (my wife) and I would sponsor a Sabbath Kiddish (breaking of bread, drinking of wine after Saturday morning services) when President Trump announced the moving of the embassy.
In December of 2017 it happened. President Trump made the announcement.
I called my rabbi. And then I accepted an invite to spend Christmas Eve at Mar-a-Lago, where I personally went up and thanked President Trump for this great act. On Jan. 6, 2018 the little Chabad of Palm Beach Gardens had its biggest, most glorious Kiddish in its brief history. The rabbi, his wife, Esther (daughter of Holocaust survivors) and I spoke. It was not a political, pro-Trump event. It was a spiritual pro-Israel event. We invoked the memory of our ancestors and we spoke of our own personal pride in sponsoring this event.
Change the prayer books. "This year in Jerusalem."
Sid Dinerstein is a former chairman of the Palm Beach County Republican Party. He founded JBS Associates, a 600-person financial service company, and currently combines politics and business with Niger Innis in Inclusive Elections LLC, a firm that brings urban electorate voters to the GOP. He is the author of "Adults Only: For Those Who Love Their Country More Than Their Party." For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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