by: Rebecca J. Brimmer, Editor in Chief
On US Election Day in November 2016, I was leading a Solidarity Mission. The audience was full of Christians who love Israel. Many were from the US and were anxiously checking their smart phones for early election results. The air was electric with expectation as it became clearer that Donald Trump had a good chance of winning. Rabbi Tuly Weisz arrived just after we realized that Donald Trump had won. He immediately asked us to join him in prayer for the president-elect of the US. As Christians and Jews, we joined our hearts as one to pray for him.
The prayer is an Orthodox prayer for leaders: “He who grants salvation to kings and dominion to rulers, whose kingdom is a kingdom spanning all eternity, who releases David his servant from the evil sword, who places a road in the sea and a path in the mighty waters, may he bless the President, the Vice President, and all the Constituted Officers of Government of this Land. The King who reigns over Kings in his mercy may he protect them from every trouble, woe, and injury, may he rescue them and put into their hearts and into the hearts of all their councilors compassion to do good with us and with all Israel, our brethren. In their days and in ours, may Judah be saved and may Israel dwell securely, and may the Redeemer come to Zion. So may it be his will, and let us say: Amen.”
I hope that all of us are praying for those God has put in leadership. “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Tim. 2:1–2).
In the pre-election process, Donald Trump had pledged undying support for Israel. He promised to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, and always spoke warmly of Israel.
In a recent poll, according to the Jerusalem Post, 61% of Israelis view the Trump administration as pro-Israel, despite the fact that just days before he had signed the waiver putting off the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, for an additional six months. Only 3% of respondents viewed his administration as more pro-Palestinian.
It was of great significance in the eyes of Israel that President Trump chose to visit Israel as part of his first trip abroad. American and Israeli flags were everywhere.
When the president chose to visit the Western Wall with his family, he was the first sitting president to do so. This action endeared the Jewish public to him. Videos show Trump, wearing a black kippa (skullcap) approach the wall slowly. He immediately placed his hand on the ancient stones and began to sway slightly. He gently tapped the wall three times, his lips moving in prayer. He then took a note and put it deep into a crevice of the wall. When leaving he walked backwards a few steps in accordance with Jewish custom of not turning one’s back to the wall.
He later said of his visit to Judaism’s holiest site, “This is a land filled with beauty, wonder and the Spirit of God… I was deeply moved today by my visit to the Western Wall; words fail to capture the experience; it will leave an impression on me forever.”
To many Jewish people it was viewed as acknowledgment of Israeli sovereignty over the site, a retaining wall of the ancient Temple, and considered holy to the Jewish faith. Coming on the eve of Jerusalem Day and the celebration of the 50-year anniversary since the city was liberated from the Jordanians, the visit was highly symbolic, and some would say charged with political implications.
After an initial positive meeting with Abbas the second visit, in Bethlehem was quite different. According to Israel’s Channel 2, an angry Trump took a shocked Abbas to task during their talks for the PA president’s role in spurring his people on to violence against the Jewish state. “You tricked me in DC!” Trump allegedly shouted at the PA president. “You talked about your commitment to peace, but the Israelis showed me your involvement in incitement [against Israel].”
During the joint press conference that followed, the US president said, “Peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded and even rewarded. We must be resolute in condemning such acts in a single unified voice.”
The meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were described as warm, friendly and cooperative. From the moment Trump descended the steps of Air Force One, till his departure, every encounter was described as extremely positive.
In a joint press conference, Bibi Netanyahu said, “I appreciate the fact that you are the first acting president to visit the Western Wall and the people of Israel thank you. I want to thank you especially today for your commitment to Israel and its security. I look forward to working closely with you.” Referring to Trump’s meeting with leaders from Saudi Arabia prior to the trip to Israel, Netanyahu stated, “For the first time in many years, I see a real hope for change. The Arab leaders you met yesterday could help change the atmosphere and they could create the environment for a real peace.”
Speaking next, Trump hailed the relationship between Israel and the US as “a friendship built on our shared love of freedom, human dignity and our shared hope for an Israel at lasting peace. We have so many opportunities in front of us, but we must seize them together.”
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