Paratroopers at the Kotel in 1967

By Larry Gordon

Next week, we will mark the 50th anniversary of the city of Jerusalem’s reunification as a result of the Six Day War. It was a miraculous time for Klal Yisrael as G‑d was tapping us on the shoulder, so to speak, and showing us a glimpse of what is possible . . . if only.

We will be in Eretz Yisrael next week on a long-planned trip that originally was set up so we could be there on this momentous occasion. At the time, we had no idea that President Trump was planning to be there at the same time. We are traveling there with a group headed by Dr. Joe and Karen Frager, energetic activists with whom we have traveled in the past. They have always set up a series of events, receptions, and trips to important areas of the Old City of Jerusalem and parts of Judea and Samaria that are the heart and soul of today’s Eretz Yisrael. Former presidential candidate and governor Mike Huckabee will be traveling with us and there will be several dinners and other events through next week as various groups host a number of special occasions marking this spectacular anniversary.

So how has the Trump trip planned for next week impacted on our itinerary? This might be one of the most exciting weeks in the 69-year-old history of the modern state of Israel. It’s the golden anniversary of the great 1967 victory; a new U.S. ambassador–a native of the Five Towns–presented his credentials to President Rivlin; and President Trump and an entourage of 900 people are arriving for a visit of about 36 hours.

Because of the number of people accompanying the president, three hotels had to cancel reservations to make room for the presidential party. Guests were told they had to make arrangements for alternate accommodations. Several bar mitzvahs that were planned at the hotel for this week had to be moved elsewhere as well. And amongst the groups that were told they would have to move elsewhere was our group of Frager, Huckabee, and company.

I received an e‑mail from the general manager of the King David asking if I needed assistance finding another hotel. I responded that Dr. Frager was taking care of that, but, by the way, I inquired, what type of change of venue are you suggesting? He said that he could offer me the Dan Tel-Aviv as an alternative. I thought that the recommendation was a little odd, considering that Jerusalem is the place to be next week.

We found other accommodations nearby and hope to be able to experience, absorb, and communicate to our readers what it is like to be in Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh next week–both with and without the president (that is, once he leaves).

I was in elementary school when the Six Day War broke out. My recollections are vague and essentially based on observing my parents’ reaction to events in Israel. But I vividly recall my rebbe in yeshiva bringing a radio to class so that we were all able to listen to new reports emanating from the region.

We heard that the Israeli Air Force knocked out and disabled the Egyptian Air Force before their planes had a chance to leave their base. We also heard that Israeli fighter jets had a perfect record shooting Syrian jets out of the sky over the Golan Heights.

Most of the kids in class cheered, but we did not possess an understanding about what was taking place. Things were happening much faster than anyone expected. The Arab countries that vowed to wipe Israel off the map were knocked off course and suffered a stunning defeat that shocked the world. In yeshiva, we did not articulate it, but somehow in our young minds we knew that we were living through a miracle.

I woke up earlier than usual on that bright and sunny June morning when the war began. The radio on my father’s night table, where he usually listened to the morning news, was blaring unusually loud. Earlier that morning, he called the overseas operator to put a call through to his two cousins who lived in Tel-Aviv and Kfar Saba. The operator said that it would take a few days to connect, and exactly three days later our phone rang early in the morning with the operator informing my father, “Tel-Aviv is on the line.”

Today, with the passage of a half-century since those great days, several things are quite startling. Well, perhaps the first thing is that so much time has passed. Another issue is that somewhere out there a large number of people are still dreaming and talking about creating a Palestinian state with at least a part of Jerusalem as its capital city.

It would seem that anyone with any sense would understand that this type of talk is nothing more than a rhetorical indulgence with nothing practical or pragmatic attached to it. The Arabs consider areas like Har Homa, Gilo, French Hill, Ramat Shlomo, and other nearby areas as part of East Jerusalem that, according to their wild fantasies, needs to be emptied of its Jews as part of any peace formula.

The odd thing is that at some point, possibly 20 or so years ago, those representing Israel at peace negotiations actually discussed accomplishing this objective. Today, however, we are literally talking about as many as half a million people being moved in order to apply this wild stipulation for peace.

This is where I believe the Donald Trump team can play a vital role. That is on the matter of getting real about the definitions and parameters of any future peace. The idea of Trump simply coasting into office and assuming Israel’s most right-leaning positions was something that the right in Israel were hoping and pushing for. In the long run, however, the better idea just might be to redefine the vocabulary of peace instead of shocking the players in this century-long drama with incendiary, counterproductive rhetoric that can lead to more senseless violence.

And this is the most reasonable and solid idea to hope for. Don’t announce that you are moving the embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem. Just have the new ambassador work out of Jerusalem, and over the short term it will be clear where the embassy is truly functioning and therefore located.

Additionally, there is no need to proclaim that Jerusalem is the undivided capital of Israel. That is just going to force Arab leaders like King Abdullah of Jordan into a difficult and uncomfortable corner. Is there any doubt anywhere that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital? Do the people of Israel need Angela Merkel of Germany or Emmanuel Macron of France to recognize this long de facto matter? Let’s be smart; whatever they say matters little and changes nothing.

We are looking forward to the big parade down Jaffa Road next week that will celebrate the unification of Jerusalem on this 50th anniversary. It’s big and important and certainly something special to celebrate up close with the president of the United States and his entourage.

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