by: Joshua Spurlock, The Mideast Update
In May this year, the United States made history by becoming the first major world power to place its embassy to Israel in Jerusalem. While this was certainly a momentous move, the City of Gold was shining long before US President Donald Trump recognized it as Israel’s capital. In fact, President Trump himself said the move finally acknowledged “the obvious.” There are many facets of Jerusalem that make it famous, impressive, historic and the most appropriate place to house embassies. Here are some of the highlights.
Shortly after President Trump announced the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pointed out the historical and current reality—Jerusalem has been and continues to be Israel’s functioning capital. “Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for the last 70 years,” said Netanyahu in comments released by his office last December. “Peace is based on recognizing reality, and I think the fact that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital is clearly evident to all of you who visit Israel.”
Netanyahu went on to list the Israeli government institutions that are located in Jerusalem. The city is home to the Israeli parliament building, also known as the Knesset. Like the Congress in the US or the Parliament in England, the Knesset is the national legislature for Israel. The home of the Israeli prime minister and his office are located in Jerusalem, as is the Israeli Supreme Court building. In short, all three national branches of government—legislative, executive and judicial—are hosted in Jerusalem.
While Jerusalem was formally declared the capital of the modern State of Israel in a Knesset vote on January 23, 1950, it was understood to be the capital long before then. The Knesset website records that on December 5, 1949, then-Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion called Jerusalem Israel’s “eternal capital” in a statement.
The US believes Israel should be allowed to choose her own capital city. An unnamed US State Department official said in email comments to The Mideast Update, “Israel is a sovereign nation, and like every other sovereign nation, it has the right to determine its own capital.” The official noted that the US Congress had previously called for the embassy move, yet “notwithstanding the best of intentions… for 70 years we neglected to extend this basic courtesy to Israel that we extend to other countries. It is time to change that and show that America will always stand with Israel.”
Ben-Gurion’s labeling of Jerusalem as the eternal capital is not only forward-looking it’s historical too. For nearly all of Israel’s existence as a state, starting in the days of King David some 3,000 years ago, Jerusalem has been the capital. Even when Israel was divided into northern and southern kingdoms, Jerusalem remained the capital of the Kingdom of Judah. Moreover, according to biblical prophecy, the city will also be a central player in the Israeli nation in the future. In fact, biblical history is another factor that sets Jerusalem apart.
No other city on earth is as critical to major world religions as Jerusalem. It is the home of Judaism’s two Temples and the direction in which Jews pray today. For Christians, it is the location where Jesus (Yeshua) was crucified, buried and resurrected. Muslims also believe that the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem is a sacred shrine. That’s just the religious significance; the historical and archaeological record stands out as well.
Today, the City of David archaeological site shows where biblical Jerusalem was based in the period before, during and after King David’s reign. The Western Wall and the Davidson Center or Jerusalem Archaeological Park are the remnants of Israel’s two Temples, including the very steps used by pilgrims coming to the holy site for the three major biblical festivals of Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles).
A casual stroll through Jerusalem’s Old City will take visitors by a section of wall built by King Hezekiah more than 2,500 years ago and religious tourists regularly visit the Via Dolorosa and the Church of Holy Sepulchre, believed by Catholics to be the site of Jesus’s march to the cross and His death and burial places.
And if the historical record isn’t enough, Jerusalem’s present and future is pretty bright too.
In recent years, Jerusalem has been upgrading its public transportation to catch up with other major world capitals. In addition to an army of buses, a light rail that links outlaying neighborhoods with the center of the city now runs regularly. A high-speed train linking Tel Aviv with Jerusalem in less than half an hour is expected to take its first trip later this year. The train will allow visitors to Israel to literally walk out of the airport and onto a train that will take them to the Western Wall and Jerusalem’s center.
In addition, more of those international visitors will now be calling Jerusalem their temporary home. The nations of Paraguay and Guatemala have also moved their embassies to the capital, with a few others considering the transfer. The US State Department official in comments to The Mideast Update, said US President Trump and his administration would “continue to engage with our international partners on this issue.” The official continued, “Recognizing Jerusalem as the capital or relocating embassies is a decision for other countries to take, but the United States encourages other countries to consider the move.”
Israel certainly wants the embassies to come home to Jerusalem. It has been the capital, it is the capital and it will be an even better capital city in the future. But for now, Jerusalem has a simple message for those who are recognizing the city’s significance: Welcome!
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