At a campaign rally on Monday afternoon at an airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, President Trump made a remarkable statement.
“And we moved the capital of Israel to Jerusalem,” Trump said at the rally. “That’s for the evangelicals.”
The president was, of course, referring to his historic decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv in Jerusalem. Having promised during his campaign to do so, he recognized Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel in December 2017. His decision was widely criticized by the Democratic party, foreign leaders, the European Union, and the UN Security Council. The Palestinian Authority cut off its relations with the US in response and held violent riots.
The US embassy was officially opened in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018, coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the Israeli Declaration of Independence.
“You know, it’s amazing with that — the evangelicals are more excited by that than Jewish people,” he said at the rally. “That’s right, it’s incredible.”
He also noted other pro-Israel achievements of his administration.
“Golan Heights,” the president declared. “Don’t forget. Golan Heights, we did Golan Heights. So, we’ve done a lot.”
The president’s statement was clearly accurate. The Embassy move cemented the already-close relationship between his administration and the government of Prime Minister Netanyahu and was widely praised by American Evangelicals. Religious American Jews are a small but enthusiastically faithful group owing to their close connection to Israel. But despite his promise to move the embassy, only 24% of US Jews voted for Trump in 2016. In a recent survey, more than two-thirds of Jewish voters say they will vote for any generic Democratic candidate over President Trump in the 2020 general election. This compares to 69% of Jews who voted for Obama in his second run for office despite his policies that were harmful to Israel.
Rabbis weigh in
Rabbi Yehudah Glick, a former member of Knesset and head of the Shalom Jerusalem Foundation responded saying: “First of all, it wasn’t Trump who decided to move the embassy,” Rabbi Glick said. “Hashem (God, literally ‘the name’) decided it was time to move the embassy and Trump was the means through which God accomplished this.”
Rabbi Glick cited a verse in Proverbs.
Like channeled water is the mind of the king in Hashem‘s hand; He directs it to whatever He wishes. Proverbs 21:1
“Hashem can use Trump, He can use the Evangelicals, or He can use the Jews to accomplish His purpose.”
“I can totally understand Trump’s frustration,” Rabbi Glick said. “He understood that Jerusalem should unite all the Jews. He was shocked that after he announced that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel, the American Jews turned their backs on him. Some even criticized him for moving the embassy. I can understand his frustration.”
Rabbi Glick noted that moving the embassy was only one of many policies Trump enacted that had a positive impact on the Jews as well as Israel such as his executive order requiring that federal money be withheld from educational institutions that fail to combat anti-Semitism.
“It was reasonable for Trump to expect some acknowledgment or gratitude,” Rabbi Glick said. “Trump stated that he would not tolerate any terrorism. This affected Jews and non-Jews as well as Israel. This is something that liberals should support and praise.”
Rabbi Nachman Kahana
Rabbi Kahana founder of the Center for Kohanim related the statement to a verse in Psalms:
Our mouths shall be filled with laughter, our tongues, with songs of joy. Then shall they say among the nations, “Hashem has done great things for them!” Hashem will do great things for us and we shall rejoice. Psalms 126:2-3
“So many times, the non-Jews point out the amazing things Hashem does for us that we don’t even realize,” said, noting another verse in Psalms.
Praise Hashem, all you nations; extol Him, all you peoples, for great is His steadfast love toward us; the faithfulness of Hashem endures forever. Hallelujah. Psalms 117:1-2
“This is what we are seeing in the US right now,” Rabbi Kahana said.”The non-Jews are happy that God is acting towards the Jews with love.”
But the rabbi noted a negative aspect of this process.
“The Jewish people suffer from amnesia,” Rabbi Kahana said. “We forget who we are. This comes from sadness because we have no pride left. But we have an important job in the world: to bring the Torah and to bring Geula (redemption). The time has come for Geulah. But some Jews, especially the ones who stayed behind in exile, run away because they are ashamed of being Jews. ”
“Even in Israel, we allow rockets to fall on us.”
The rabbi emphasized that this fault, lack of pride, affected even the leaders of the Jews.
“What the president said was sadly true. When Trump announced that he was moving the embassy, where were the rabbis?” Rabbi Kahana said. “They should have been standing up to tell the people to take the next step; to go up to the Temple Mount. Where are the rabbis who should be yelling night and day for the Jews to repent, for the Jews to come home to Israel?”
It should be noted that moving the embassy was not initiated by Trump. The Jerusalem Embassy Act was enacted by both the Senate and the House in 1995. The Act recognized Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel and called for Jerusalem to remain an undivided city. It set aside funds for the relocation of the Embassy of the United States in Israel to Jerusalem, by May 31, 1999. Despite passage, the law allowed the President to invoke a six-month waiver of the application of the law, and reissue the waiver every six months on “national security” grounds. The waiver was repeatedly renewed by Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama. President Donald Trump signed a waiver in June 2017. On June 5, 2017, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution commemorating the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem by 90-0. The resolution reaffirmed the Jerusalem Embassy Act and called upon the President and all United States officials to abide by its provisions.