To Move or Not to Move: History Behind the US Embassy in Tel Aviv

As noted yesterday, President Trump makes an historic visit to Jerusalem later this month.  There is speculation regarding whether or not he will make the “big announcement” to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

But wait…if Israel’s seat of government is in Jerusalem, why is the embassy in Tel Aviv?  Great question, and that’s what we’ll examine today.

After Jews were dispersed all over the world following the Roman destruction of Temple Mount and Jerusalem in 70 AD, Israel became a wasteland.  Though a parade of ruling kingdoms came and went, none “stuck,” and ultimately the land was so barren and useless, no one wanted it.

Ironically, there were a few Jews who remained in the land throughout those years, making Israel continually inhabited by only one group of people: the Jews.  Neither the Arabs nor anyone else showed any interest in the land until Jews began returning in the 1800’s, draining swampland, turning sand dunes to thriving cities, planting trees and becoming prosperous.  Suddenly, Arabs became interested in the land.

In Jerusalem and other parts of Israel, Jews and Arabs lived side-by-side.  Following World War I, the British ruled the land, but prepared to hand the land over.  The UN formulated a Partition Plan in 1947 that would divide the land between Jews and Arabs.  Though much more favorable to Arabs than to Jews, the Jews agreed to the Partition Plan, but the Arabs (wanting control of all the land) rejected it.

When the British pulled out, Israel realized the need to declare statehood or perhaps forever lose the opportunity.  They did so on May 14, 1948, and were immediately attacked by 5 Arab nations.  Israel won a decisive victory, but armistice lines were drawn, including right through the middle of the Old City of Jerusalem.  Israel controlled the western part, Jordan controlled the eastern part, including the Western Wall (Judaism’s holiest site).

For 19 years, Jews were prohibited from visiting the Western Wall.  But, in 1967, the Six Day War broke out, due to military threats once more from Arabs enemies.  Again, Israel was decisive in victory and took back the Western Wall.  Jerusalem was reunited and there was great celebration in Jerusalem.

A result of the Six Day War was that Israel offered full citizenship to Arabs, and for 50 years, not only has Jerusalem thrived under Israeli governance, but Arabs living in Israel have it better than Arabs living in any other predominate Arab country.

In 1980, Israel declared Jerusalem its eternal capital, creating a firestorm throughout the world.  The United Nations refused to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and urged all nations with an embassy in Jerusalem to move it to Tel Aviv.  (The US did not yet have an embassy in Jerusalem, but once one was established, it was in Tel Aviv, where it remains.)

Following the 1993 Oslo Accords, Yasser Arafat began referring to Israeli Arabs as “Palestinians,” launched intifadas, and initiated the push for Palestinian statehood, including naming Jerusalem the capital.  To this day, the UN and Arab nations are squarely behind the effort, making Jerusalem a very controversial place…just as Scripture predicted:

“Behold, I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of staggering to all the surrounding peoples. The siege of Jerusalem will also be against Judah. On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples. All who lift it will surely hurt themselves. And all the nations of the earth will gather against it.”
~Zechariah 12:2-3

Given the history, one can see why moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem is risky business!  Tomorrow I’ll share some final thoughts about an embassy in Jerusalem that may leave you thinking more deeply about the issue!  See you then!

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