Jerusalem Exists, but Where?

Where else in any of the 200 countries of the world does the U.S. weigh in on which city should be that nation’s capital?

Larry Gordon,

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Larry Gordon

It speaks in the most maximalist and extreme terms about the intellectual dishonesty of a world with a continuing problem. And that problem is the Jews and Israel. Two weeks ago, that global issue manifested itself with a U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled it was not the purview of Congress or the courts, but rather that of the executive branch of government, to determine foreign-policy issues. The issue this time in a carefully watched case was whether passport documents issued by the U.S. can list Jerusalem as being in the state of Israel.

The court ruling was tantamount to rejecting not only that geographic reality but a biblical certainty that anyone with even limited knowledge of the history of the world cannot deny. To further exacerbate the matter, the three Jewish justices voted with the majority, effectively allowing the president to insist that Jerusalem exists and is somewhere, just not in Israel. Conceivably they would have been more comfortable if the case were about Jerusalem being located in Palestine.

It is doubtful that anyone thought for a moment that the vote would go any other way. Deciding that those who were born in Jerusalem have a right for it to be listed as Israel on their passports would have been the right and honest thing for the court to do.

In fairness to the Supreme Court justices, they were not specifically asked to decide whether Jerusalem is in Israel. What they did deliberate upon and issue a decision about was whether policies that impact foreign policy of the U.S. are the sole decision of the president. At the same time, they knew well that this was about the volatile issue of this country taking a definitive stand about the matter of the holy city of Jerusalem and the fact that it is the capital city of Israel. They knew what was at stake and they disappointed us.

But what could we have expected from Breyer, Kagan, and Ginsburg? They did not want to be responsible for igniting a holy war.
Whatever the Supreme Court of the United States or even the president decides does not alter the indisputable reality of the relationship between Jerusalem, Jews, and Jerusalem. Where else in any of the 200 countries of the world does the U.S. weigh in on which city should be that nation’s capital?

There were two sides to the decision-making process that had to be considered. Taking current matters into consideration, had SCOTUS made a decision resulting in the recognition of Jerusalem as part of Israel, the share of the Arab world that is not already up in flames would have been alighted with rioting and all its violent accouterments. So let’s say for the moment that the case was not about whether Menachem Zivotofsky’s passport could list his birthplace as Jerusalem, Israel, but about war and peace.

This, however, is not an open-and-shut case, nor is it only what it seems to be cosmetically on the surface. This was pointed out quite brilliantly in the weekly Torah commentary by Rabbi Nachman Kahane, the rav of the Young Israel of the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem (and the brother of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, ob’m), whose articles appear on Arutz Sheva.

Rabbi Kahane is a Torah scholar and a blistering critic of Diaspora Jewry. In his writing, he consistently chastises those who insist, especially in this day and age, to expend energy as well as substantive resources in building and fortifying Torah institutions anyplace in the world other than EretzYisrael. Residing here in the Diaspora with the opportunity to seize EretzYisrael as our birthright and ancestral home, it is difficult to argue or disagree with him. But we stay here, make lives for ourselves, and continue to build while at the same time not having an adequate response to his challenge about what it is that we are doing.

Nachman Kahane is a lover of Israel, of Torah, of the Jewish people, and of Jerusalem. In his weekly communiqué last Friday, he wrote the following: “This week the U.S. Supreme Court passed a decision which bluntly and blatantly states that not only does the U.S. not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but Jerusalem is not even a part of the state of Israel. The immediate implication being that one who is born in Jerusalem is considered by the U.S. as not being born in Israel. Hence one may not write in any official U.S. document that his country of birth is Israel.”

And he continues: “The immediate reaction of Israelis to this decision was one of disgust and revulsion at this brazen act of betrayal by the U.S., even though this has been U.S. policy since 1947.”

The 6–3 court decision demonstrates the fact that the justices, for better or for worse, do not want to become entangled at this time in the agenda-driven and prejudicial formulas that are the ingredients of Barack Obama’s failed foreign policy. As Israel’s former ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, wrote in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, Mr. Obama had never missed an opportunity to blame or condemn Israel in some fashion when things were not headed in an unsafe direction for Israel. Ambassador Oren wrote that when it came to U.S. policy on Israel, Obama willingly and even eagerly violated standard axioms and aspects of the U.S.–Israel relationship. Obama, he said, consistently supported Palestinian positions in negotiations and was committed to seeing to it that there was “daylight,” or differences between the United States’ and Israel’s positions.

But Rabbi Nachman Kahane points out that the events that transpired at the U.S. Supreme Court last week contained within them not only good news for Israel but possibly words of prophecy as well.

Rabbi Kahane wrote that SCOTUS has joined the ranks of Pharaoh, Job, and Gechazi, among others, who made a claim but did not realize or have a clue of the deeper truth they were projecting. He says that it was a repeat of the Bil’am episode that will be part of the weekly Torah reading shortly. Just as Bil’am intended to disparage and hurt the Jewish nation, the aim was the same here. In each case, the intended curses turned into blessings for the nation.

And this is Rabbi Kahane’s point—Jerusalem is not the capital of the state of Israel. “Jerusalem is indeed not part of the state of Israel. The holy city is not part of this world,” he writes. “Jerusalem hovers over the mantle of the planet somewhere between this and the next world.” So if the justices decided that Jerusalem is not or cannot be Israel’s capital city, they were right on target.

This is a difficult position to diplomatically sell to anyone. But those of us who can appreciate the words of the prophet Bil’am and his contract with the biblical Balak to curse and admonish the Jews as they prepared to enter EretzYisrael for the first time can well appreciate the stance displayed last week by the Supreme Court justices.

Additionally, it cannot be lost on us that three of the nine justices are Jewish and the three voted with the majority in an attempt to dislodge and build a schism in the world’s mind between Jews, Israel, and Jerusalem. But what could we have expected from Breyer, Kagan, and Ginsburg? They did not want to be responsible for igniting a holy war.

It is certain that President Obama and his State Department believe they scored somewhat of a victory on the Jerusalem question. It is a fact on the ground that Jerusalem continues to function as the capital of Israel and as the everlasting capital for Jews everywhere, regardless of where we live. Even here in New York.