ABOVE: The dedication of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018.
Sheryl Silver Special to the Jewish News
20+ years after Congress passed Jerusalem Embassy Act, U.S. Embassy opens.
May 14 will never be the same for many of us. Just as May 14, 1948, was a historic day for Israelis and Jews worldwide when Israel declared its independence as a sovereign state, for those who attended this month’s inaugural ceremony of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem — as well as for millions of us who watched it via television and livestream — May 14, 2018, will never be forgotten.
As David Friedman, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, said in his opening remarks at the embassy event, “On this exact day 70 years ago, at almost this exact time, David Ben-Gurion declared Israel’s independence. Just 11 minutes later, President Harry Truman caused the United States to be the first nation to recognize the reborn state of Israel.”
Now, “70 years since that memorable event — almost to the minute — the United States finally takes the next step: a step that has been awaited, voted upon, litigated and prayed for — for all these years. Today we open the United States Embassy in Jerusalem, Israel. Again, the United States leads the way as the first nation to do so.”
After acknowledging by name the many Israeli dignitaries and members of the U.S. government and Congress among the invited guests at the outdoor ceremony, Friedman pointed to another critical historical fact. “In 1995, the Jerusalem Embassy Act became law, voted in favor overwhelmingly by both Houses of Congress and led by a former senator who is here today: Sen. Joseph Lieberman. That law, which was reaffirmed just last year by a vote of 90-0 in the Senate, declared Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel and mandated the move of the embassy,” he explained.
“Today, we keep our promise to the American people and we extend to Israel the same right we extend to every other nation: the right to designate its capital city,” he continued. “A capital city, I should add, which houses all three seats of government with a 3,000-year-old history dating back to the time when King David made Jerusalem the capital of ancient Israel.”
President Rivlin’s Remarks
Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, introduced by Friedman as a “seventh-generation Jerusalemite,” also invoked the historic nature of Jerusalem in his remarks.
“Jerusalem, whose faith we swore to keep. Jerusalem, who we never forgot and never will forget. For 3,000 years, the Jewish people kept their faith in Jerusalem. For 3,000 years, we prayed for Jerusalem, and since the establishment of the State of Israel 70 years ago, Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel,” Rivlin said. “Jerusalem is the heart of sovereignty of the state of Israel. Jerusalem is home to the presidents of Israel. Jerusalem is home to the government of Israel. Jerusalem is home to the Knesset, the parliament of Israel. Jerusalem is home to the Supreme Court of Israel.”
Moreover, “the state of Israel’s commitment to Jerusalem is not only a commitment to the history of the Jewish people, but it is also a commitment to all residents of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a microcosm of our ability as Jews and Arabs to live together. The unity of Jerusalem is also seen in that all living in the city are equal.”
Then, thanking President Donald Trump for bringing the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, Rivlin said to Ivanka Trump, seated in the front row next to her husband, Jared Kushner, “Please tell your father the Israeli people thank you for keeping your word, for your courage, for your determination and for your firm, unwavering stand alongside the state of Israel.”
Expressing his hope that other nations would also move their embassies to Jerusalem, he ended with this promise: “We will continue to safeguard Jerusalem as the city of peace, as a city home to all those of faith, a city of all its residents and citizens, of all religions and communities, who share together one city, which is so greatly loved.”
Nearly an hour into the inaugural Embassy ceremony, and after remarks by Friedman, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, President Trump by video, Rivlin and Jared Kushner, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took to the podium.
“Remember this moment,” he said. “This is history. President Trump, by recognizing history you have made history.”
He noted, “For our people, it evokes profound collective memories of the greatest moments we have known on this City on a Hill. In Jerusalem, Abraham passed the greatest test of faith and the right to be the father of our nation. In Jerusalem, King David established our capital 3,000 years ago. In Jerusalem, King Solomon built our Temple, which stood for many centuries. In Jerusalem, Jewish exiles from Babylon rebuilt the Temple … In Jerusalem, the Maccabees rededicated that Temple and restored Jewish sovereignty in this land.
“And it was here in Jerusalem some 2,000 later that the soldiers of Israel spoke three immortal words, ‘Har ha’bayit be’yadeinu,’ ‘The Temple Mount is in our hands,’ — words that lifted the spirit of the entire nation.”
He concluded by thanking Trump for “making the alliance between America and Israel stronger than ever.”
Transitioning to the topic of peace, Netanuyahu then said, “My friends, this is a great day for Israel. It’s a great day for America … [and] for our fantastic partnership. But I believe it’s also a great day for peace … Truth and peace are interconnected. A peace that is built on lies will crash on the rocks of Middle Eastern reality. You can only build peace on truth, and the truth is that Jerusalem has been and will always be the capital of the Jewish people, the capital of the Jewish state.
“May the opening of this embassy in this city spread the truth far and wide, and may the truth advance a lasting peace between Israel and all our neighbors. God bless the United States of America and God bless Jerusalem, the eternal, undivided capital of Israel.”
Sheryl Silver is a former national secretary of ZOA and a lifelong Temple Israel member.