Jerusalem, Al-Quds or Yerushalayim — Another Step for Peace
Last year, President Donald Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, reversing longstanding US policy. Trump said that it was long overdue to “acknowledge the obvious.” His announcement set in motion the moving of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May, coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the creation of the modern state of Israel. In my view, more than any president in our lifetime, Trump has supported Israel with both words and actions.
The Jerusalem recognition was overwhelmingly applauded by Jews and Jewish organizations around the world (except radical ones like J Street and the New Israel Fund), while the expected outcry from the Arab street and their capitals never materialized. What was unthinkable not long ago has now become almost commonplace, as more Arab leaders are publicly expressing support for Israel’s right to exist in peace, in a land of its own. This recently included Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the former prime minister of Qatar, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani.
In a counter-intuitive but logical way, Trump’s words and actions should bring the Middle East closer to peace. Why? Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer said it best: “The Palestinians try to deny any historical connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem, because to admit this connection is to admit that the Jewish people aren’t foreign colonialists in the Land of Israel; that Israel for the Jewish people is not India for the British, or Algeria for the French, or the Congo for the Belgians — but that this is the land of our ancestors.”
Dermer added that US recognition of Jerusalem destroys this Palestinian myth — and the fuel for its rejectionism. According to Dermer, the Jewish people are in Israel “not merely by might, but by right. … [D]ealing with this Palestinian rejectionism is critical if you are going to advance peace, and the rejectionism is strongest, and of course most absurd, when it comes to Jerusalem.”
The earth is moving under our feet. It behooves the US and Israel to build on this momentum, not only in words and deeds — but in thoughts, too. The UN and the family of nations need to understand — in the most visceral way — the reality that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.
How? Words are descriptive and can often convey deeper, subliminal meaning and intent. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of saintly memory — in giving support and encouragement to patients — would refer to a “hospital” not as Beit Cholim or house of the sick, but as Beit Refuah — a house of healing. Similarly, in George Orwell’s classic 1984, the populace’s thoughts were shaped, constrained and controlled through the elimination of many words in the official vocabulary.
Politics and language often collide. Major world cities like Peking and Bombay no longer exist in nomenclature, having been officially changed to Beijing (1979) and Mumbai (1995).
Israel must act and officially proclaim “Yerushalayim” as its capital — in Hebrew, English, Arabic and all tongues. Written in English, Russian, Chinese, Greek, it would all be pronounced the same: Yerushalayim — no longer Jerusalem, no longer Al-Quds. On government documents, commerce, postal service, road signs and in everyday official and unofficial use, it should be Yerushalayim, as written and compiled in Psalms by King David, who purchased it from the Jebusites over 3,000 years ago.
The Middle East is a dangerous place where strength is revered and weakness exploited. By recognizing Jerusalem and moving the embassy, the US sent a powerful message of strength to friends and foes alike. Israel should do likewise with Yerushalayim. It is through strength and only strength that true and lasting peace stand a chance.
Mitchell Kaye served five terms in the Georgia House of Representatives and lives in Marietta, Georgia.