(January 23, 2018 / JNS) In the tradition of giving a special blessing to foreigners who come to Jerusalem and acknowledge the Jewish roots of the city, Vice President Mike Pence has certainly earned such a benediction.
His historic speech to the Knesset on Jan. 22, 2018, showed a deep and compassionate understanding of the despair and triumph of our people from their dispersion from the city in 70 A.D. by the Romans to the reunification of the city in 1967.
Few world leaders have had the courage to acknowledge Jewish history in this way and to embrace the Jewish future of Jerusalem by understanding it as inextricably bound to our past.
In 1871, Abraham Lincoln’s former secretary of state, William H. Seward, attended services in Jerusalem’s new Hurva Synagogue. Toward the end of the service, the rabbi and three of his students chanted the special benediction for Seward.
It would be eminently appropriate for such a blessing to take place not only in Jerusalem, but wherever a minyan of Jews gather.
Of course, as a realist, I understand in an America where President Donald Trump ironically is treated by liberal rabbis as an anti-Semite and where Jews sit as acolytes at the feet of sharia-endorsing and Zionist-hating Linda Sarsour, that is not going to happen.
Liberal rabbis probably sided with the sign-waving, ill-mannered Arab Members of the Knesset who tried to drown out Pence’s right to speak and everyone else’s right to hear him.
To paraphrase Michelle Obama, for the first time in eight years I was proud to see an American administration that acknowledged that Israel was not the source of the continuing conflict with the Palestinians, but the solution.
It should be remembered that when the Arabs occupied Jerusalem, Jews were denied access to their holy sites; and all but one of the synagogues in Arab Jerusalem, including the historic Hurva Synagogue, were turned to rubble.
To this day, no Jew can live in Jordan. No Arab, in the so-called West Bank, can sell land to a Jew without facing the death penalty. Who then is the creator of the “apartheid” that the Arabs and their Western progressive anti-Semitic allies love to invoke?
Pence did something else the Obama administration would never have done. He acknowledged the plight of the millions of Middle East and African Christians that have been slaughtered, mutilated, raped and forced to flee their homes by the rise of fundamentalist Islam.
Many Christian refugees will not enter U.N. refugee camps for fear of being set upon by the Muslims that dominate the camps. In Jordan, they live outside the camps in abject squalor.
Not being in the camps, means they are not considered by the U.N. as refugees and, consequently, encounter a catch-22 that prohibits them from being resettled in the Christian West, unlike the Muslims who persecute them.
It was most appropriate for Pence to stand in Jerusalem to announce concern for the displaced Christians of the Middle East because before radical Muslims began their ethnic cleansing of Christians, the Mizrahi Jews of the Middle East, numbering some 800,000, were similarly uprooted from their homes by Muslim governments.
Only in Israel do Middle East Christians freely practice their faith without government interference and with government protection.
Pence brings a new and sobering reality to the Arab-Israeli conflict. He has told Jordan’s King Abdullah that America is Israel’s ally and Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel. He deserves the blessings of the Jewish people. The eight-year nightmare of the Obama administration is finally at an end. The opportunities for a real peace based on historic and political realities have never been greater.
In his address to the Knesset, Pence recited the “Shehecheyanu” prayer, thanking God for granting us life, sustaining us and enabling us to reach this occasion—only he said it in Hebrew.
Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati, and a distinguished fellow with the Haym Salomon Center. Follow him on Twitter: @salomoncenter.