|THE GOLDEN STRING
by Avi Davis
|"I give you the end of a golden string
Only wind it into a ball
It will lead you in at heaven's gate
Built in Jerusalem's walls."
(by William Blake)
One of my earliest memories is of my grandfather, pouring over a map of Israel. On that map he would guide me through the country, showing me where he had lived and worked during the 1920's in the hardscrabble landscape known then as Palestine.
But there was a smudge on the portion of the map where Jerusalem was supposed to be. Only the letters J......EM poked out beyond the greyish smear, as if the city had been erased. It was only years later that I realized that the name had not been erased
at all. It had been fingered and rubbed for so many years that the Judean Hills section of the map had simply worn away.
The fascination with Jerusalem did not just belong to my family or even with the Jewish people. Poets, essayists and songwriters have for centuries extolled Jerusalem as a platform to Heaven. William Blake, one of world literature's finest poets, wrote an entire book titled Jerusalem which portrayed the opening of a new golden age unfolding from within the city. The earliest Americans - the Pilgrims, saw their settlement as 'a new shining Jerusalem' and the earliest writings are threaded with references to the colonies as embodying Jerusalem's spirit on the shores of the Atlantic. In fact throughout American history, presidents, senators, artists, writers and clergymen have invoked Jerusalem as a symbol of a reborn society.
All of which makes it perplexing why, when the real Jerusalem has been rebuilt and restored, the president of the United States
still refuses to allow America's diplomatic representatives to reside on Jerusalem soil. The U.S. embassy's location in Tel Aviv actually presents the United States with one of its most embarrassing anomalies; that of the 154 countries where the United States maintains representation, its embassy in Israel is the only one not to be located in the host country's capital.
This situation may come as no surprise to long time Washington observers. Since 1949, many U.S. presidents have declared
the need to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and have promised it during their election campaigns. Not one has fulfilled that promise. George W. Bush made this a central platform of his Middle East policy, as did Bill Clinton before him. Ronald Reagan assured us he would do it and so did Richard Nixon.
For years, the reasons offered for keeping the embassy where it is, centered on the need to avoid the ire of Arab governments.
The U.S. was anxious not to forfeit any peace-making role it might one day play between the belligerents. But this reasoning has always been suspect. After all, no one has ever talked about moving the embassy to the middle of a Muslim neighborhood
situated on a fiercely disputed hillside. The new U.S. Embassy would be located on a two and a half acre parcel of undeveloped land that the Embassy leased years ago in Talpiot, an outlying suburb in Western Jerusalem. Talpiot is not, and has never been claimed by any Arab group or government as rightful Arab territory. In fact, the area was ownerless for centuries, existing as a wind-whipped stretch of semi-desert until Jewish development began outside the walls of Jerusalem's Old City in the late 1800's.
However since September 11, 2001, the basis for U.S. policy on this issue has been weakened beyond reprieve. No American
who witnessed the horrific terrorist attacks on the United States on that day should now doubt where U.S. strategic interests in
the Middle East lie. No one should doubt that after 12 months of an armed rebellion that has revealed unfettered Palestinian depravity, that there is really any further role for the U.S. as an even-handed broker. No one who witnessed television footage from the streets of Beirut, the Lebanese refugee camps, from Nablus, Gaza and Cairo with Palestinian adults and children cheering and dancing as thousands of Americans died, can now question where American sympathies will settle.
But it goes far deeper than even this. Until this day the United States has never acknowledged Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem. This absurd situation exists despite the fact that all major Israeli government institutions -- its seat of government, its high court,
its finance and defense ministries, are in Jerusalem. It exists despite the fact that never in its history has Jerusalem been such an open city -- with free access for all religions to their many holy sites. It exists despite 1995 legislation mandating the removal of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, even if allowing the president an annual waiver in the interests of national security.
That waiver has been invoked by the president every year since 1996, invoked, for the same political reasons that evaporated
into the dust of the destroyed World Trade Center in New York City.
It is time for the United States government to do now what Congress, the people of Israel and the momentum of history all demand: recognize Israel's sovereignty in Jerusalem and move the United States embassy there. What better gesture to honor the values of tolerance, openness and freedom? What better signal to express solidarity with a country whose political and military plight have now become its own? What better way to recognize that the golden string continues to stretch from the White House directly into the heart of a country whose own struggles for freedom and liberty mirror the hope, determination and heroic journey of the American people themselves?
|Avi Davis is a senior fellow at the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies and the senior editorial columnist for Jewsweek.com <http://www.Jewsweek.com>|