In the second century A.D., Jewish rebels who had stunned the Romans and liberated a portion of Judea overstruck imperial coins with images and a message of their own, “Year One of the Redemption of Jerusalem.”
The leader of the Jewish rebellion, Bar Kokhba, was fired by a vision of a united Israel with Jerusalem as its capital, which had been the exception during the prior millennium, thanks to the depredations of the Assyrians and Babylonians, among others. But such was the power of the national idea — and his messianic zeal — that Bar Kokhba ventured all on regaining it.
And lost. Not for nearly another 2,000 years would the vision come to fruition. At a ceremony in 1982 burying bones of some of those long-ago rebels with military honors, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin declared: “Israel and Judea are reborn. We have redeemed Jerusalem.”
King David conquered the city in 1000 B.C. and made it the capital of the kingdom of Israel. His son Solomon built the First Temple. But Jerusalem would repeatedly be captured and the Temple destroyed (first by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar and then by the Roman Emperor Titus).
The Jewish people never forgot. In one of the miracles of our age, after long centuries of exile punctuated by genocide at the hands of the Nazis, they re-established Israel in 1948, and then gained control of all of Jerusalem in 1967 (prior to that, when Jordan held East Jerusalem, Jews couldn’t visit the Western Wall).
The notion that the City of David isn’t the capital of Israel was an impolite fiction, honored by the United States and the West for fear of provoking Arabs hostile to the very idea of the Jewish state. Its prime minister, parliament and highest court are based there, and it’s unimaginable that Israel would ever agree to any peace deal that didn’t recognize it as the capital.
The tired, conventional arguments against it haven’t held up well in the wake of President Donald Trump’s decision to move our embassy. The Arab street hasn’t exploded. The West Bank has been relatively quiet. Arab capitals haven’t erupted in outrage. The flashpoint has been in Gaza, the terror statelet ruled by Hamas. Israel pulled out of Gaza more than a decade ago and has been rewarded with constant attacks emanating from a territory where the infrastructure of mayhem and destruction — rockets, tunnels and the like — is the only growth industry.
Hamas has goaded rioters to storm the Israeli border, defended by Israeli soldiers who fire on them if necessary to protect local communities (more than 50 were killed on a recent Monday). This isn’t “the caravan” that arrived at the U.S. border with peaceful migrants seeking asylum, but a violent provocation that is a function of Hamas’ commitment to Israel’s destruction.
For now, that poisonous ambition looks more fantastical than ever. Trump’s move is an acknowledgment of reality. It is also a symbolic statement of permanence, that Menachem Begin was correct when he said at the ceremony for the Bar Kokhba rebels 36 years ago, “Glorious fathers, we are back and we will not budge from here.”
(Rich Lowry is editor of the National Review.)
© 2018 by King Features Synd., Inc.