IN PLAIN LANGUAGE: Jerusalem’s day has come

Ma nishtana? Why is this Jerusalem Day different from all other Jerusalem Days? For 50 years – since 1968, when it was first declared by the government as a holiday – we have been celebrating the liberation of our eternal capital, and with it, the free and unrestricted access to our holy places, most noticeably the Western Wall. For 19 years, from 1948 to 1967, Jerusalem’s Old City was Judenrein , declared off limits to Jews by Jordan’s illegal occupation (apparently, “occupation” was not such a dirty word back then, only taking on its negative connotation when Israel regained its rightful place on the other side of the wall).

But during this last half-century, the Holy City, both old and new sections, has been transformed into one of the world’s most visited places, a culturally diverse, stunningly beautiful, spiritually buoyant metropolis that captivates the world’s attention on a daily basis and enthralls three main religions.

Be the first to know –

But this year is qualitatively different from the rest. For this year, immediately following Sunday’s celebrations, the United States will plant its national flag in Jerusalem and officially begin the city’s tenure as host of the American Embassy.

We will be exuberantly waving our respective flags, in grateful appreciation of President Donald Trump’s bold decision to stop waiving the 1995 act of Congress, the one that first mandated the placing of the embassy in our capital. For 23 years, successive US presidents bowed to State Department and international pressure to avoid declaring what we Jews have known for 2,000 years: that Jerusalem, Judaism and the Jewish people are inextricably bound together in an eternal partnership.

Trump’s courageous act comes at a particularly auspicious moment in our history. First, it follows on the heels of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s latest vile, antisemitic tirade, which – in addition to repeating classic blood libels against Jews – sought to deny the Jewish connection to Jerusalem. This is not just your typical mix of defamation and historical revisionism; this is an essential component of the Palestinian doctrine. For by claiming that there never was a King David or Solomon, never a Temple or a sovereign Jewish state here, the Palestinians can claim we are strangers in an Arab land, foreign interlopers with no purpose or provenance.

And so, having the leader of the free world – no matter how controversial he may be – declare that we are here not by chance, not by virtue of the Shoah, but by destiny and design, to rightfully reclaim our ancient heritage, carries a lot of weight. Just as God wanted Pharaoh to declare slavery a cruel and immoral act, so as to positively influence the world at large, so the strong voice of an international figure on our behalf, particularly that of a non-Jew, has immense and pervasive influence.

Secondly, this comes at a time when Iran is once again threatening the safety and stability of Israel. Regardless of the outcome of the nuclear deal, it is vital that the United States displays its unwavering support for Israel in the face of Iranian hostility.

Iran, for many years, has used the issue of Jerusalem to incite against Israel and to rally its people into subscribing to a genocidal war against the Jewish state. In addition to holding an annual Holocaust-denial festival, Iran sponsors al-Quds Day, wherein massive rallies are held, with speeches vowing to the frenzied crowds that the day is soon approaching when they will march en masse to wipe Israel off the map.

Affirming Israel’s control of Jerusalem is thus a particularly potent slap in the face to the ayatollahs and a warning that they cannot act with impunity.

FINALLY, THE public declaration and accompanying concrete demonstration that Jerusalem indeed is ours help to put a merciful end to the long-standing dream – “nightmare” would be a better term – that Jerusalem would become an international city, under no one country’s overall control.

This was the original intent of the United Nations Partition Plan, and it was the oft-stated position of the Vatican, one of the main reasons that the papacy waited 45 years to establish diplomatic relations with Israel.

But we refused, absolutely, to hear of it. Jerusalem, for all practical purposes, already is an international city; Israel has diligently and honorably protected the rights and privileges of the many factions within its borders. The moment control is taken out of our hands, and we are subject to the whims of another master, we will return to the bad old days when simply living here cannot be taken for granted.

And so, Sunday will be a glorious day, a more than worthy occasion to recite the Hallel prayers and thank God – and all His many messengers – for the gift that is Jerusalem.

Its symbol is a lion, a fitting reminder that we must forever be fearless and ferocious in our stewardship of this prize. We have returned to Jerusalem, never to leave it again.

The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra’anana; jocmtv.il