I don’t want to get into whether it is a good idea or bad idea to move the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Judaism has become such an insane, mean, ugly place that there is literally no room anymore, no safe space anymore to calmly, civilly, Jewishly discuss hot topics in which different Jews can have very opposing, but equally valid, points of view.
In a world in which what matters is who can come up with cleverest, nastiest retort on twitter, Judaism, with roots in the Talmud where debate was the order of the day with each side of an argument understanding that all were expressing their opinions in the service of G-d, has forgotten how to argue while respecting at the same time.
So I don’t want to discuss if the move is in Israel’s best interests or not. What I would like to discuss is the ceremony at which the new Jerusalem embassy was opened.
Where to begin. How about with the fact that no Democrats, not one, were part of the delegation from Congress who attended the ceremony. There were about 40 members of the House and Senate who were there, but not one of them was a Democrat, all were Republicans because Republicans were the only ones the White House chose to invite.
I am old enough to remember a time when Israel was a bipartisan issue in Washington. Democrats and Republicans might disagree about everything else, be opposites on every issue, but the one thing that crossed party lines was support for Israel.
Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress supported Israel, supported aid to Israel. All votes involving Israel won by huge margins, with virtually all members of both parties voting for them. Israel was always seen as above and beyond politics.
And Israel benefited greatly from that. But just as Trump seems to care not about how and why things have traditionally been done, so Bibi seemed to care not about the bipartisan support Israel enjoyed when he colluded with the Republicans to go behind President Obama’s back to arrange for Bibi to address a joint session of Congress for the express purpose of trashing a policy of the president of the United States.
I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I do so again because it is hard to overstate how outrageous that was, how destructive that was, how wrong that was. With that one maneuver, with that one speech, almost 70 years of bipartisan support for Israel in Congress was shattered.
Imagine if Obama had gone behind Bibi’s back and worked with the Labor Party in Israel to get Obama invited to address the Knesset for the purpose of trashing Bibi’s settlements policy. Can you imagine the outrage among the right wing? How dare he, how dare the leader of another country come to our country, to our parliament, to attack our prime minister. How dare he interfere in our internal matters, stick his nose in our domestic debates. Outrageous.
And yet that’s exactly what Bibi did. And that did so much to destroy the bipartisan nature of support for Israel.
And so here we come to the inauguration of the American embassy in Jerusalem. Might be a good time to include both Democrats and Republicans in the Congressional delegation invited to the event, right? Might help restore some of the bipartisanship. Would certainly give the whole occasion a feeling of this being something that transcended party lines.
And yet not one Democrat was invited. Not Chuck Schumer or Dianne Feinstein or Ben Cardin or any of the eight Democratic Jewish senators. Not Jerry Nadler or Jan Schakowsky or Brad Schneider or any of the 20 Jewish Democrats in the House.
But as bad as that was, and as bad as it was that truly creepy Jews like Sheldon Adelson and Alan Dershowitz and Rabbi Marvin Hier were invited — Sheldon because he’s a billionaire and so no matter that he has done so much to destroy a free press in Israel and that he said publicly that it wouldn’t bother him if Israel stopped being a democracy; Dershowitz because he’s on TV a lot kissing Trump’s tushie and so no matter that he says it is impossible for Trump to obstruct justice since he’s in charge of the Justice Department; and Hier because he debased himself to speak at Trump’s inauguration and no matter that he chose to honor Harvey Weinstein and to this very minute refuses to rescind that honor — what was really really bad, impossible to believe is who were chosen to give the opening blessing and the closing benediction at the event.
Now considering that it was Israel and all, considering that it was Jerusalem and all, you might have thought it would have been a distinguished American rabbi. What I would have liked to see were three American rabbis, one Conservative, one Orthodox and one Reform, thus representing and embracing all of American Jews, giving American Jews the feeling that they all had a voice at this auspicious occasion. What a lovely message of unity that would have sent, of the beautiful diversity that is America and American Jewry.
But no. The opening blessing was delivered by Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and the closing benediction was given by John Hagee, who leads a mega church in San Antonio.
These were the guys chosen to represent religion at the ceremony celebrating the new American embassy in Jerusalem. Jeffress, who once said that the Jewish people are going to hell, and Hagee who has claimed that Hitler was part of G-d’s plan to return Jews to Israel.
See that’s because Hagee, like Jeffress, is so pro-Israel, so much wants all Jews to be in Israel, not because he’s a Jew lover or an ardent Zionist, but because, as Michelle Goldberg put it in the New York Times, he thinks that “the return of Jews to Israel will usher in the apocalypse and the return of Christ, after which Jews who don’t convert will burn forever.”
Call me crazy, but I really don’t see people like that as friends of ours. They are simply using us to achieve their ends, which as they see it, means either forcing us to be like them or killing us all.
It has always amazed me how many right wing Jews are so quick to embrace these end-times preachers, consider them our buddies simply because they so support Israel, without stopping to think why they support Israel, how they really feel about Jews and Judaism.
But as bad as supporting them is, to invite them to give the blessings at the new American embassy in Jerusalem is beyond obscene, beyond disgusting. And yet there they were. Jeffress, who has said that “You can’t be saved being a Jew. You know who said that, by the way? The three greatest Jews in the New Testament: Peter, Paul and Jesus Christ. They all said Judaism won’t do it. It’s faith in Jesus Christ.” He has also said of Judaism that it not only “leads people away from the true god but leads people to an eternity of separation from god in hell.” As for Hagee, he has said “while Jews do not believe in Jesus as their savior, they will accept him when he appears and they will weep as one weeps for his only son.”
So not only were no Democrats invited to attend, but no rabbis were asked to give the blessings. No, that honor was given to two pastors who have said what they have said about Jews. Indeed, just how Christian this whole ceremony was is that even the prime minister of Israel, one Bibi, quoted Zechariah 8:3, in which G-d promises “to return to Zion and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem.” The Book of Zechariah happens to be a favorite of those Christians whose support for the State of Israel is based on a belief that the Hebrew Bible prophesizes that when Jesus returns to earth, it will be in Jerusalem.
Please remember that not only are there Jews in the United States, not just Christians, but that to this day the vast majority of American Jews do not support Trump. More than 70 percent did not vote for him in 2016 and about that same 70 percent today are opposed to him. And yet no effort was made to include as a speaker someone representing that majority of American Jews. No, not to bash Trump, but to hold high American and Jewish values. This was an American ceremony, not a campaign rally, this is an embassy representing the United States of America not only Trump voters.
And yet there prominently was Ivanka, who the New York Times’ Goldberg aptly labeled a ‘Zionist Marie Antoinette,’ unveiling the plaque at the entrance to the embassy in her dainty, phony way, wearing her extremely expensive white dress, thus supposedly representing all Americans. But to me, the greater obscenity was having as one of the very few speakers at the event the arrogant, ignorant little pisher Jared Kushner. A guy who reminds people of ‘Fredo’ from the Godfather movies who keeps telling people how smart he is, ‘not dumb like everyone says’ and whose sole accomplishment in life was to be born into a wealthy real estate family and to marry into a wealthy real estate family.
I can think of ten thousand people more qualified, more suited to have given a speech at this event than pisher Jared. It made sense to have deputy secretary of state John Sullivan speak because the embassy is under the State Department. It made sense to have David Friedman speak because he is our ambassador to Israel. It made no sense to have Jared squeak.
Give me one good reason why Jared, this 36 year old know-nothing who absurdly has been put in charge of bringing peace to the Middle East, was chosen to speak. The only reason is that he is the son in law of the president. That’s not how the United States works. Nepotism has no place in our government. Someone of no accomplishment, with nothing of value to say does not deserve to be given the honor of being one of a handful chosen to speak at such an occasion. We are a democracy not a monarchy; if Trump wasn’t there, you don’t give the job to Prince Jared as the Queen would to Prince Charles.
To quote the New York Times’ Goldberg one more time, the whole show was “a grotesque spectacle in Jerusalem.” And so it was with no Democrats, no rabbis, no Jews who aren’t Trumpists, freak Jews like Adelson, entitled Jews like Jared, and worst of all, blessings from pastors who say Jews are going to hell.
Whether it’s a good idea or not to move the embassy, it most certainly was a disgusting way to do it.