Photo Credit: Jewish Press
Then-Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat putting up a sign for the US Embassy in Jerusalem.

Arnona is a southern neighborhood of Jerusalem, a relatively new upscale onethat came of age in the 1990’s overlooking the biblical River Arnon (Wadi Mujib). Its bordered by the tayelet, the Haas Promenade that commands a panoramic view of Jerusalem, the area where Avraham Avinu first viewed the Temple Mount and where he offered his son Yitzchak for a sacrifice. In recent years, Arnona has seen stabbings, shootings and terrorist attacks carried out by neighboring Arab villagers, yet it has witnessed triumph and joy at the American Consulate where the United States inaugurated the U.S. Embassy.

Barbed wire fences surrounded the high mountainous barren area in 1949 when the agreement with Jordan placed the cease-fire line separating the Jordanian and Israeli armies at the eastern border of Arnona. The trees and flowers, wide paved roads and charming walkways surrounding the neighborhood today are in sharp contrast to personal memories of once-upon-a-time Arnona.

Letter from Gil Sherman U.S. Consul

Consulates in Jerusalem embellish many neighborhoods. While the U.S. Embassy is now in Arnona, the American Consulate serving part of Jerusalem is still on Agron Street. The old stone-walled compound used to serve as the official residence of the Consul General in Jerusalem. All Fourth of July receptions were held in the gardens attached to the Consulate and were attended by Jews and Arabs, religious and secular, Americans, Israelis and, later, in the 1990s, by so-called “Palestinians.”

Our family’s travel office served the U.S. Consulate for many years, and developed personal contacts and friendships with consular staff that fostered invitations to local receptions. We also received invitations to the Belgian Consulate at the circle of Balfour and Jabotinsky Streets in the Talbieh neighborhood of Jerusalem. The Belgian Consulate is surely the stateliest consulate building in the city. Our sages taught us, “Al tistakel bakankan…” Do not be fooled by the exterior, don’t judge a book by its cover. Like Brussels, the capital of Belgium and the seat of the European Parliament, the building is a kankan, an eye-catching shell, the interior less impressive.

Dayan Moshe was not a judge (dayan) in a Jewish court of law, he was a General, appointed Defense Minister to replace Levi Eshkol as the nation readied for the Six-Day War. Confidence in then Prime Minister Eshkol, who also held the Defense portfolio, was diminished after a major radio address to the nation in which he momentarily stuttered, losing sight of his place on the sheet of paper that he was reading from. It was a confusing moment, perhaps a senior moment. Eshkol caused panic among anxious listeners that led to a demand that Dayan be granted the Defense portfolio. Eshkol’s inability to make important decisions, and his habit of hesitating over critical assessments is the basis for his mediocre legacy. Dayan’s reckless act in June 1967, handing the keys of the Temple Mount to the Islamic Waqf, is remembered as his mark of Cain.

Embassies of the United States of America, Guatemala, and Paraguay broke the historic seventy year ban on recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. On May 13, 2018, America was first to assign Embassy status at the Consulate in Jerusalem.

Friedman David, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel is an observant, politically affiliated right-wing Jew. Previous Jewish ambassadors were anti-Israel apologists, anti-Jewish settlements on the West Bank, and openly in favor of a Palestinian State.

Goldberg Michelle’s New York Times op-ed on May 14, 2018, a day after the U.S. Embassy’s inaugural ceremony in Jerusalem, was titled “Grotesque Spectacle in Jerusalem.”

In it she comments on Hagee John. “One of America’s most prominent end-time preachers once said that Hitler was sent by God to drive the Jews to their ancestral homeland. Hagee gave the closing benediction at the grotesque spectacle.

Unlike Goldberg, most Israelis saw the inauguration as a dramatic, yet modest affair, fulfillment of America’s promise as per the U.S. Congressional law passed in 1995.

Israel the homeland of the Jewish people, the country where I have been living and loving for nearly six decades. The land where my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren were born, land of the brave where almost nothing is free. We pay arnona, municipal property taxes, we pay physically, emotionally, and with our lives; Israelis pay with sons and grandsons, daughters and granddaughters, who serve in the IDF. We also, with our deeds, pay G-d, who has given us all that we have.

View of Temple Mount from Arnona

Jerusalem is not my birth city, Jerusalem is my home. A home for over 58 years, a home that has seen many changes in over half a century, historic prophetic changes of land development, population growth, border expansion, and rocky mountains that have evolved into cities. The border warnings around Jerusalem neighborhoods such as Meah Shearim, Mamilla, and Arnona have disappeared, as they are no longer besieged by Jordanian armed forces.

We danced for joy the day of reunification, the day 51 years ago when we heard General Motta Gur’s extraordinary announcement, the day the barbed wire fences and concrete walls fell. Yet today, although it is under Israel police protection, the Temple Mount is still not in our hands.

King Solomon’s Temple, the first Beit HaMikdash was destroyed by the Babylonians nearly 2,500 years ago. It was rebuilt again after King Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered Babylonia and permitted the Jews to return to Jerusalem. The second Beit HaMikdash stood for 420 years and was destroyed by the Romans. A small Jewish presence remained in Eretz Yisrael under foreign rule; the majority of survivors dispersed and remained in exile. Over the centuries some attempts to return and resettle were made by Jews, yet it would be only one hundred years ago that the Balfour Declaration once again opened the doors for Jews to return home.

Longing for Jerusalem has been the Jewish narrative for millennia. “If I forget thee O’ Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its cunning. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth…” How many times have those words been repeated under wedding canopies? How many tears have been shed, and ashes scattered over our loss? A thousand years of violin heartstrings, songs and prayers that beg for a rebuilt Jerusalem pledged annually by worshipers, “Next year in Jerusalem!”

Mourning the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple still begins on the 17th of Tammuz, a fast day, the day when the walls of Jerusalem were breached by the ancient Romans. Three weeks of mourning culminate in the fast of the Ninth of Av, the day both Temples were destroyed. Jews have never forgotten those national tragedies.

Every Tisha B’Av I remember the day 60 years ago, my first Tisha B’Av in Jerusalem. The image of four young American girls touring Israel never leaves me. We picked up a young fellow named Meir in Kibbutz Chafetz Chaim, or perhaps Meir picked us up? He had a passion for touring, and guiding, especially in Jerusalem, and he offered us time on Tisha B’Av, at noon. We met on a city corner and boarded a rickety “Hamekasher” bus line to the end of the route. We were ignorant of our whereabouts, the border area between Talpiot and Ramat Rachel, precisely where Arnona is situated today. Barbed wire fences stretched across a rubble strewn rocky road with a magnificent view of the Judean Desert, a view of a cluster of trees that Meir pointed out faced Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, and a view of Har Habayit, where the Temple once stood.

View Arnona and U.S. Embassy from Ramat Rachel

We sat on rocky ruins on the edge of the road. Meir read aloud from his copy of Megillat Eicha. The sun beat down on our bare heads, beads of sweat dotted our faces. We were fasting. Jerusalem seemed distant and disconnected from her essence, and I wondered about the verse our sages had taught, “One who mourns Jerusalem will merit to see it in its joy.”

Newsworthy items are primarily about Netanyahu, our longest serving Prime Minister. His most recent great day, somewhat like a performance of a prophetic vision, was the inaugural ceremony of the American Embassy.

On Tisha B’Av, in the summer of 2005, the country began preparing for the Disengagement from Gaza, leaving behind homes that were bulldozed, and 14 million dollars’ worth of flower and vegetable nurseries, which were then destroyed. The Gush was completely demolished; further justification for present-day mourning on Tisha B’Av.

Prophets played important roles in ancient Israel, warning against sinful behavior, warning about social justice, and predicting events, alluding to visions of good and bad. Players in the end game will include Persia, present-day Iran, and Netanyahu’s nemesis for over thirty years. Our PM has warned against Iran’s terrorist regime since the start of his political career.

Quiet is what Israel seeks. Quiet on her borders, on the north with Lebanon and on the south with Gaza. Quiet from BDS and anti-Israel movements. Quiet to pursue affirmation and acceptance of Israel as the world’s only Jewish State, and the only homeland for Jews. We need a disciplined media to operate discreet diplomacy. We need Western Jews who believe in G-d, dreamers who feel a tug at the heart to wake them from slumber, to prepare for their return home, Jews like my grandfather who spent forty years in American exile quietly dreaming of the day he would make his home in G-d’s country. The day arrived when he boarded a plane, and kissed the ground on the tarmac where he landed, his dream fulfilled.

Russia, the former Soviet Union, stretches over a large expanse of Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. Cordial and cooperative relations have been established between our Prime Minister and Putin. The “free Soviet Jewry” movement is a memory that makes a video of the Israel army band playing in Red Square nothing short of miraculous.

Saudi Arabia is the largest Arab Kingdom. Russia and Saudi Arabia are both independent powers that our PM believes can be neutralized into maintaining civil and diplomatic ties with Israel. A common enemy, like Iran, can sometimes force opponents to unite.

Tanach is our source of insight into the nature and future of Israel. It is studied more today than at any other time in Jewish history. The more we delve into the prophecies and narratives presented in Tanach, the greater our appreciation of our heritage and culture that inspires our place and purpose in Israel today.

View of Jerusalem from Arnona

Unity among Jews in Israel and abroad, and tolerance for the complicated political and religious issues facing the State could give our discordant features a face-lift. In response to the horrific murder of three young boys in June 2014 their families inaugurated the Unity Prize which celebrates organizations that promote unity in Israel and abroad. The three families seek to perpetuate the unity of Am Yisrael which they experienced during the traumatic eighteen days after their sons were kidnapped.

Victory on the battlefront allows for spoils. But not in Israel where a hypocritical double standard is applied. Recognition of victor and vanquished is the paradigm we strive for.

Will that ever happen? It requires patience, faith in G-d, charity, and justice to pave the way for redemption. Over half a century since the Six-Day War, the world still demands we expel some half a million Jews who reside in Judea and Samaria in order to establish still another “Judenrein” Arab State.

X-ray vision is a modern concept that may explain the futuristic events determined by our prophets. Visions such as ingathering of the exiles, the aliyah that followed the Holocaust, of Jewish refugees who made their way to the new young State from the ashes of Europe, and from around the globe. The last 70 years have seen a variety of miraculous prophetic revelations in Israel.

Yeshayahu was the illustrious biblical prophet who perceived visions of the future glory of Israel with prophetic words as articulate as they are moving.

Nachamu Nachamu Ami (40:1) ”Comfort, comfort my people says your G-d. Speak unto the heart of Yerushalayim, and proclaim to her that her time of punishment is completed, that her guilt has been forgiven.

Three score and seven years ago, Shabbat Nachamu was the highlight of summer Shabbatot in Camp Bais Yaakov in Ferndale, N.Y. At four p.m. all the campers and counselors gathered on the front lawn and lined up holding hands. Rabbi Newhouse headed some 150 campers in a chain that led out of the camp grounds, down to the brook and back, singing Nachamu Nachamu Ami and songs of salvation and comfort. It was easy to dream that Moshiach would appear momentarily to escort us on our journey to Yerushalayim.

Zecharia, a biblical prophet who is celebrated for his modern-day picturesque vision: “Od yeshvu zekeinim uzkeinot… (Zecharia, 8:4), Old men and old women shall yet sit in Jerusalem, each man with his staff in hand because of old age, and boys and girls shall fill the streets playing.”

I lived Zecharia’s prophecy on many a summer afternoon sitting on a bench in Jerusalem with my 103 year old mother and 99 year old aunt, of blessed memory, observing neighborhood children laughing and playing at our feet.

Would it be that all who mourn Jerusalem, as I did six decades ago on a hilltop in Arnona, merit to see Jerusalem in her joy.


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Faigie Heiman is an accomplished short story and essay writer, author of a popular memoir “Girl For Sale,” formerly an Olam Yehudi columnist at The Jewish Press. Born and raised in Williamsburg, she made her home in Israel 63 years ago.