Fifty years ago, Israel liberated the eastern part of the city of Jerusalem and thereby reunified its capital. Finally ending the 19 years of Jordanian occupation of the city, from 1948 until 1967, where Jews were not allowed to enter the holy city, pray near the Western Wall or at other holy places in the old city of Jerusalem. Since the liberation and reunification of the city, people from all faiths, Christians, Muslims and Jews can visit holy places and practice their beliefs. Marking the first time people can exercise their right to freedom of religion in the Holy Land.
Since the time of King David 3,000 years ago, when Jerusalem was declared the capital of the Kingdom of Israel, until the present, the city has been a constant source of spiritual longing and inspiration. It remained the umbilical cord — the center of Jewish thought and attention as Jews dispersed around the world. The city is truly the beating heart of Jewish tradition.
Even before the modern Zionist movement started in the 19th century, the wish to return to Israel “Zion” was part of this fervor and faith. The Jewish prayer is held facing east, in the direction of Jerusalem, and the Passover Seder ceremony concludes with the words, “Next year in Jerusalem.” It states the unbreakable connection between the Jewish people and the city.
One of those countless emblematic ties is found in the poetry of Rabbi Yehudah Halevi, a 12th-century Spanish Jewish philosopher and poet, who said, “My heart is in the East, and I’m at the ends of the West.” The meaning of those words written almost a thousand years ago, represents the feeling that no matter where you are, your heart is in Jerusalem.
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In the past few years, we see an attempt by Palestinian diplomacy, with the support of many Muslim countries, to try to rewrite history and claim that the city of Jerusalem has no historical connection to the Jewish people. Such was the case of the recent UNESCO resolution that was adopted only a few weeks ago. Unfortunately two Western countries, Sweden and Brazil, decided to support this outrageous claim trying to erase millennia of history and connection between the Jewish people and the city of Jerusalem overlooking the fact that if you try to erase Jewish history from Jerusalem, you also erase with it Christian history.
This week President Donald Trump visited Israel and Jerusalem. He became the first sitting U.S. president to visit the Western Wall. He highlighted the ties of the Jewish people to the Holy Land as ancient and eternal, dating back thousands of years, including the reign of King David. Prior to his visit, there was a lot of talk whether he would use this historic visit to announce that the United States recognized Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel, and that the U.S. embassy would be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It would have been a nice gesture, but the truth is, Israel doesn’t need international recognition for Jerusalem to be our capital. It is our capital, and has been the capital of the modern state of Israel since the country was established 69 years ago, just as it has been the capital of the Jewish people for more than 3,000 years. Israelis and Jews know well where their capital is, and how it beats strongly in our hearts.
Lior Haiat is the consul general of Israel in Miami.