Was it a coincidence? We all know that there are no coincidences. Was it inept planning? Politicians and their helpers (almost) never err. Was it intended? But who did they want to deceive? We’ll simply leave it at the following assumption: The G7 Summit had been fixed for May 26 and 27 long before Trump was elected, and the NATO Summit in Brussels had been fixed for May 25 months ago. In between, Pope Francisco had barely one hour left early on the morning of May 24 for a brief talk.
Consequently Donald J. Trump’s first visit to Israel had to take place on May 22 and 23. He personally probably couldn’t have cared less. But for diplomats, politicians and logisticians the date was a challenge.
First of all, there was the program as planned, which, however, did not remain unchanged at any point. Parts of it were simply cancelled, others were amended or newly added. There were also some incomprehensible decisions. For example, Marine One, the presidential helicopter, has the dimensions of a middle-sized tour bus. This should not have been an impediment for landing on the plaza in front of the Knesset. But instead, they chose a parking space next to Jerusalem’s old train station, in the middle of a residential area.
So that on a large scale, for two days, for one day, for a few hours, with or without breaks, Jerusalem was closed to all traffic. There were busses, but it was not clear when and where they would be going. People who could afford it, stayed home on Monday and Tuesday.
Israel is well known for the fact that often only few hours separate two consecutive celebrations. This was the case on May 23. In the evening, only a few hours after Trump’s visit to the Wailing Wall, Jerusalem Day was formally opened. While on the day before the whole area had been spic and span, as well as empty, and even the LifeCam’s were turned off, now once again it was tightly packed with chairs and large screens.
Immediately after Trump flew away in the direction of Ben Gurion Airport from which he flew on to Rome, Jerusalem was back to normal.
Never before had the program of a working visit by a president been planned more parsimoniously. Only thirty hours remained for him and his entourage to have talks, make speeches, learn something about the City and its proven Jewish history at each of the sites visited, and to make politics.
It certainly was something special that he was there one day before Jerusalem Day. In every speech, he stressed the fact that Jerusalem and Judaism belong together and are inseparable from each other – as opposed to the opinion so vehemently and wrongly represented by UNESCO on behalf of Islamic countries.
Jerusalem is a less than pinhead sized point on the map of the world, a city of 800,000 inhabitants, i.e. not exactly one of the world’s metropolises. The city of which it is said: „God gave ten measures of beauty to the world, nine of them to Jerusalem“. The city is beautiful and rough, attacked again and again, but it always succeeds in getting up and redesigning itself.
Here follows a short outline of Jerusalem’s history:
Around 3500 BCE the first known settlement
Around 1400 BCE first mention of Jerusalem as „Urusalim“ and Beth Shalem“ in the Armana letters
Around 1200 BCE the Canaanites (Jebusites) conquer the city
1000 BCE King David conquers Jerusalem and makes it into the capital of the United Jewish Kingdom
960 BCE King Salomon erects the first Jewish Temple on Mount Moriah, the Temple Mount.
586 BCE Babylonians destroy Jerusalem and the First Temple, the first Exile
539 to 516 BCE the Babylonian Kingdom, Jerusalem included, is governed by King Cyrus II
516 BCE Return from Exile, construction of the Second Temple
332 BCE Alexander the Great conquers Judaea and Jerusalem
Until 164 BCE supremacy of Ptolemy and the Seleucids in the Jewish theocratic Jerusalem, though religious rites are forbidden
164 BCE Revolt of the Maccabees, re-consecration of the Temple. This event is commemorated to this day by the Chanukah Holiday
129 BCE Final collapse of Ptolemy and the Seleucid Kingdom, Jewish territories regain their autonomy.
63 BCE the Roman general Pompey conquers Jerusalem
70 CE Destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple, Second Exile
135 CE Jerusalem becomes a Roman City by the name of Aelia Capitolina
614 CE the Persians conquer Jerusalem
629 CE Byzantine Christians conquer Jerusalem
638 CE Calif Omar conquers Jerusalem
661 – 974 CE Jerusalem is ruled by Arab clans who feel they are Mohammed’s heirs.
691 CE Construction of the Temple of the Rock
1099 CE the first Crusaders conquer the City
1187 CE Saladin succeeds in re-conquering it
1229 to 1244 alternate rule by Crusaders and Arabs
1250 CE Muslim Caliphs destroy the doomed city’s wall
1517 CE Jerusalem is integrated into the Ottoman Empire
1538 CE Suleiman reconstructs the city walls
1917 During World War I Jerusalem is placed under British Rule
1948 The end of the British Mandate
May 15, 1948 Foundation of the State of Israel. On the same night the War of Independence began, triggered by Egypt, Saudi-Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria. 15 months later the war was over. Israel was able to keep its national territory. Jordan occupied East Jerusalem and the territories of Judea and Samaria, later (1950) annexing East Jerusalem. The ceasefire line determined between Israel and each of the Arab States is nowadays called the „Green Line“. A requirement repeatedly made by Arabs during the so-called peace talks as if by rote, is that Israel retreat behind this border. This requirement will not be satisfied in this manner. The definite border will be subject to negotiations in the course of peace talks. De facto however, this border was in existence until the end of the Six Days War.
1967 The Six Days War ended with the Liberation of East Jerusalem from Jordanian occupation, as well as the territories of Judea and Samaria, the Golan Heights, Sinai and Gaza. Shortly thereafter, East Jerusalem was annexed, but the status of the Golan as well as of Judea and Samaria are still disputed. The concept „Occupied Territories“, for which there is no basis in international law, is most certainly incorrect. The Sinai was returned following peace talks between Egypt and Israel, and Israel completely pulled out of the Gaza Strip in 2005 – with the well-known disastrous consequences for Israel.
On June 10, 1967 Jerusalem was reunified. That was the end of the last foreign rule of our capital. Let us hope that it will be forever!
For the 50th commemoration of the liberation we were given two wonderful gifts.
The Parliament of the Czech Republic recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, while at the same time sharply condemning the latest anti-Israel resolutions of UNESCO. Russia also recognized West Jerusalem as our capital.
But let us return to President Trump. I wish I had written my blog earlier and that I did not have to see the pictures which were shown on the screens in endless loops during the other visits of President Trump and his family in Europe.
I would have liked to only remember the pictures we saw during his visit here. However stiff the greetings upon arrival, all the heartier the farewell. It was almost as if the Netanyahu family was making a date to meet the Trump family on their next weekend trip.
But the most moving picture was that of Melania taking President Rivlin’s seriously ill wife Nechama by the hand to help her walk. To Nechama’s credit it must be said that despite the fact that the visit was not an official State visit, but only a working visit, she spared no effort in welcoming them.
So what remains of her husband, the President? Some wonderful speeches with great words, parts of which I would like to quote.
Today we confirm the indestructible bond of friendship between Israel and the United States – a friendship built on a mutual love for peace, our common belief in human dignity and our mutual hope for a durable peace for Israel. We want Israel to live in peace.
Peace can never occur in an environment in which violence is tolerated, supported and rewarded. We must resolutely and with a common voice condemn such deeds. Peace is a choice we must make daily – and the United States are here in order to help realize this dream for young Jews, Christians and Muslims and for all the children of the region. We shall then be able to enjoy a secure and shining future, in a secure and shining world.
„Jerusalem is a holy city. Its beauty, its splendor and its heritage are like no other place in this world. And what a heritage, what a heritage. The bond between the Jewish Nation and this Holy Land is ancient and eternal. It looks back thousands of years to King David’s Kingdom. And now, his shield, the Star of David, is proudly waving on Israel’s blue and white flag“.
Time and again Israelis have experienced the hate and terror of brutal violence. Israelis being murdered by knife-waving terrorists and by bombs. Hamas and Hezbollah shoot rockets on Israeli communities, where school children are trained to run to shelters, in panic but still as fast as possible, as soon as they hear the sirens. ISIS is aiming at Jewish neighborhoods, synagogues and stores. Iranian leaders routinely call for Israel’s destruction. But not with Donald J. Trump, believe me
This place and the whole nation are a testament to the unbreakable spirit of the Jewish people and the hope that light is shining on the way out of darkness. Persecutions, oppression, death and destruction – the Jewish People survived them all. It has become successful. It is extraordinarily successful in so many fields. And it enriches the world. The State of Israel is a strong and growing reminder of the solemn promise we are herewith repeating and confirming: never again! From the depth of suffering the Jewish People has created a mighty nation, and the Star of David waves proudly over the country.
Those are big words and strong commitments. Trump is only at the beginning of his term, and there has never been such a polarizing president. Admittedly, it is not easy for people to like him.
Regrettably he did not offer us the biggest gift of all, as we hoped. The US Embassy will probably remain in Tel Aviv, although the Ambassador himself will have his office in Jerusalem. Maybe the time is really not yet ripe for it.
© esther scheiner, Israel
© translated by Translations International, Herzliya, Israel