If you have heard me speak of Jerusalem, you may know that I hold a love for it that is deep and not entirely rational. You may have heard me tell stories of encounters I’ve had there with Palestinians losing their homes to unjust Israeli policies. You may have heard me tell stories of the joy I felt during my sabbatical there to see my children experience Jewish holidays and Shabbat as part of the mainstream culture around them.
I love Jerusalem with the love of generations of my ancestors who have dreamed of returning there. AND – I am not blind to the ways my people have misused their newfound power. I have worried for my own safety and the safety of my children as I’ve lived in Israel during waves of terror and warfare, and I have seen with my own eyes Israeli forces violating the human rights of Palestinians.
When I heard President Trump’s announcement, validating the Jewish narrative of that place, asserting a hope for peace – some small part of me nodded and smiled. But most of me shook with fear as I wondered whether a lighted match had just been thrown into a pile of oily rags (the metaphor my teachers once used to explain the events leading up to the first and second World Wars.)
After a year of constant assaults on the rule of law, the free press, the integrity of public service, the environment, the rights and dignity of every vulnerable group in our great and diverse nation, this President is the last man on earth I would trust to make a risky international move “because it’s the right thing to do,” as he claimed was his motivation yesterday.
In the coming weeks, as the Muslim and Arab communities world-wide react to this inflammatory move, I pray that they contain their outrage and refrain from violence. I pray that they finally see the wisdom and power of a non-violent response. But if they don’t, (which seems likely), I pray that in our country, Israel, and the Middle East, this moment does not become the opening to a new chapter of terrorism, crackdowns, Islamaphobia, war, and all of the other plagues that follow on the heels of the politics of fear and hate.
Whatever satisfaction I felt at hearing the President of the United States recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, (something I hope and pray for in the right time for the right reasons), I could not celebrate yesterday’s announcement. Even as it appears to bring Jews closer to fulfilling ancient and powerful dreams, those dreams will mean little if we awake every morning to a reality of violence, injustice, and fear. So thank you, but no thank you, Mr. President. You have not won over this rabbi by pretending to champion the cause of my people while you damage the prospects for peace.