Wednesday, February 20, 2019


It had been ten years since I’d been to the U.S. Consulate. And of course, that meant my 10-year passport had expired. This would be the first time I’d be visiting the new embassy, where we could now receive consular services, and I felt a little excited about that, as you do for any new and positive experience. And there could be no doubt that the longed for embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem had been a positive deed by Donald J. Trump that brought lots of joy to Israel.
How different than the last time I renewed my passport, at the old U.S. Consulate in “East” Jerusalem. How different, in fact, from any other time I had to visit that awful place. The consulate had been dingy and gloomy and gray. The wait was long. You felt afraid as one of the few Jews in a waiting room, surrounded by Arabs. The clerks, too, were Arabs. They were, in general, impersonal, patronizing, and unhelpful to the small number of expat American Jews there to receive consular services.
I had particular reason to be afraid when visiting the old consulate. Especially after what happened to me on a visit there during the early 80s.
I was 22 or so. The U.S. Consulate wasn’t a place a Jewish woman went to on her own. It was place with a significant Arab presence and a Jewish woman doesn’t go to a place filled with Arabs, on her own. Not then. Not now.
But my husband couldn’t go with me and I really had to go right then, on that day. So we decided I’d go by cab, and come back by cab. I’d literally step out of the cab straight into the entrance of the consulate, and then call a cab to do the same in reverse once my business was accomplished. I’d never be outside on the street in that all-Arab, therefore dangerous-for-Jews neighborhood. Neither my husband nor I were thrilled, but we really had no choice.
I called for the cab and made my way to the consulate. I paid the taxi driver, and stepped into the entrance of the consulate, as planned. But as I began to go through the security check, the guard decided it was time to take off for lunch. He asked the Arab gardener, who’d been pruning rosebushes in the consulate courtyard, to spell him while he took his break.
It happened so fast that I had no time to react or protest. I didn’t have time to process what this meant: to feel the shock and enormity of what had happened, the lax laziness of the U.S. Consulate security, the lack of caring for Jewish American citizens seeking services there in the early 1980s.
And then it got worse. Much worse.
The Arab gardener gestured to me to hold my arms up, indicating that he wanted to pat me down. This had certainly never been a part of going to the consulate, as scary as it always had been. And that’s when I got the hell out of there, my consular business be damned.
As luck would have it, a young Jewish man was leaving right as I was hurrying out of the building, my heart pounding, flushed and upset. Seeing my distress, this kind person offered his assistance. Because he was wearing a crocheted skullcap, and because of his kindness, I decided to trust him. Seeing how shaken and upset I was, he insisted on driving me all the way to my home.
I couldn’t avoid going back to the consulate, after that, no matter how frightening it was to go there. It was a necessary evil as a dual American Israeli citizen. But I never went there alone, again.
It wasn’t only women that were in danger at the old consulate. It was small children, too. We used to have to bring our children there, in person, in order to register them for social security numbers when they were born. Ditto for passports. Eventually, the consulate waived that requirement and we were able to do these things for our children by mail, but it was just a frightening place for Jews to be, in general.
What a difference, this time, going to the new U.S. Embassy. It is a bright, clean new building in a wide open part of Jerusalem. The security guard, an Israeli Jew, was friendly, and spoke to me in Hebrew. There were no long lines for services where I had to stand outside in a hostile neighborhood, or sit in a waiting room surrounded by hostile people who likely itched to kill me. The clerk who waited on me was polite and efficient, rather than patronizing and cold.
My business there took fewer than ten minutes and then I was outside once more, looking at the modest dedication plaque announcing the date of the embassy opening, and adorned with the names of the president, the vice president, and Israel’s U.S. ambassador.

I have never been a fan of Donald Trump. But looking at his name on the plaque at that moment, I thanked him in my heart for following through on this particular promise—the promise to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem—after the failed promises of so many presidents before him.
I feel I have to say this: the current political climate is so bad that you can’t say anything good about Trump or his administration in public without being misunderstood and viciously attacked. People say the worst sort of things about Trump. They say he’s responsible for what happened at Tree of Life. They say you can’t believe him when he says or does good things because of the bad things he has said and done. They say that even if he is good for Israel, we have to hate him because of all the bad stuff he has done.
But I don’t care about these vultures and the things they say. I don’t care about their vicious attacks on me, and I’m completely unaffected by the plethora of mainstream media articles that use any old thing to smear Trump—the silliest, most baseless accusations possible.
I don’t live in America, and I don’t have to play that game. I don’t have to be on this team or that. I can use my head and judge each action for what it is.
I can recognize that when Trump talks about grabbing women by the pussy or says there are good people on both sides, he’s being ugly, crude, loutish, and worse. I get that the pussy comment is abusive and exploitative of women. I get how wrong it is to suggest that there are good people among far right white supremacists, that he said what he did because these men are part of his voter base.
There is no doubt that Donald Trump’s vast wealth has corrupted him to a large degree. That he uses people for his own ends. I don’t even like everything he has done in regard to Israel.
But I don’t believe in damning the good.
Here is what I believe: all those in public office are corrupt to some degree. The only thing we can do then, is support their actions when they do, in fact, do good. Because if politicians want to stay in power, they must bend to the will of the people. And so it is in their best interests to fulfill that will, to do what we, the people, want them to do.
Since this is what I believe, deep down, I don’t care how many far left liberal Jews and non-Jews castigate me for speaking my mind. I will say it anyway: moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was a good and positive thing. I am grateful that I never have to go that scary place in “East” Jerusalem ever again, where I feared for my life and safety, every time I had to access the services I am entitled to receive as an American living in Israel.
What happened to me in the early 80’s should not have been the case. I should never have been made afraid to access my civil rights, then or on subsequent visits. No American should be scared to spend time in what is, essentially, a little piece of America. It made me feel ashamed of America for treating its citizens in such a shabby manner, for treating Israel like that, all those years.
It is a Jewish principle to have hakarat hatov, to recognize and acknowledge the good. It is a lot more important than the phony protestations of “tikkun olam” that leftist Jews and Jewish organizations bandy about, a complete misunderstanding of a kabbalistic term. They wrongly presume the term has something to do with social justice, which it most emphatically does not.
Hakarat hatov, is not a kabbalistic term. It is an everyday kind of thing, a part of your demeanor. You watch for, and actively acknowledge the good things in your life. It may be something God does for you, or just acknowledging the goodness of creation. It may be something good that a neighbor does for you, a small kindness. It’s a way of life. A watchfulness: always watching for and recognizing when something good happens.
I have hakarat hatov to Donald Trump for the embassy move and that is a very Jewish attitude to take.
We don’t have to hate everything Trump does because we hate some or even most of what he does. It’s fine to acknowledge the good, and there is good to acknowledge. It’s more than fine to acknowledge these things. It’s necessary. And it’s Jewish.
And so I thank you, Donald J. Trump, for moving the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, to a part of the city that is safe for all its citizens, Jews, Muslims, and Christians, alike.
This is the true spirit of America, and the true spirit of America’s greatest ally in the Middle East, Israel.
No one should fear to come to the embassy.
And now, no one ever will.


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