Israel is getting ready to host one of the largest international gathering of dignitaries this week, welcoming leaders from nearly 50 countries. Some are drawing parallels to the funerals of Prime Ministers Shimon Peres in 2016, or of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.
Despite memories of past funerals and the delegations that came to Israel then, people who live in Israel, particularly in and around Jerusalem, are bracing for the largest logistical mess of road closures, traffic jams, and suspension of public transportation. Simply, average Israelis are being told if you don’t need to be in Jerusalem this week to stay away.
What is bringing these dozens of world leaders to Jerusalem now? This week we mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and symbolically the end of the Holocaust, even though death marches, and death camp and other mass murders, continued for months, in some cases with pogroms murdering surviving Jews taking place well after the end of Nazi occupation.
It’s not to be overlooked or taken for granted that all these world leaders are coming to Jerusalem. Though the U.S. has led the world by being the first country to restore its embassy to Jerusalem and recognize it as Israel’s sovereign capital, with a few others who have and will follow suit, there’s no shortage of other countries not represented that not only don’t recognize Jerusalem as part of Israel, but that don’t recognize any Jewish connection to Jerusalem, ever.
This is embodied in Temple Denial Syndrome that claims there was never a Temple in Jerusalem, not the First and not the Second. So, bravo to those who are coming to Jerusalem this week, even if their embassies are still in Tel Aviv and even if they refuse to go to “eastern Jerusalem” under the misguided myth that Israel “occupies” the ancient Old City, City of David, Temple Mount, Mount of Olives, and other places that are indisputably, biblically, part of Israel and connected to the Jewish people for millennia.
My problem with this gathering is that it takes the 75th anniversary of an event that’s known for the calamity of the murder of 6 million Jews to bring these leaders to Israel, some of whom have never come to Israel at all, or in any official capacity, before because of the “controversy” in doing so as they appease Arab and Islamic leaders, or even their own citizens. For some, it takes mourning dead Jews to make coming to Jerusalem acceptable.
Traffic notwithstanding, part of me wishes that these people wouldn’t come here at all this week. Or that if they do so, that it at least be the catalyst for them to come back and be part of celebrating what we have built in the last seven decades, the restoration of Jewish sovereignty to the Land of Israel, Israel’s contributions to technology, medicine, culture, agriculture, and more. I wish these world leaders would come back to participate with us in being a light unto the nations, and not only be here when we commemorate the darkness that befell us by other nations.
At a time that Israel celebrates another consecutive year of record tourism, let these leaders come back with delegations from each of their countries to partner with us and see why that's been the case.
Notably absent from this week’s dignitaries are any Arab or Moslem states. Poland, in whose territory the majority of the Jews of Europe were murdered, also will shamefully be missing.
It seems that there are multiple levels of dispute that caused the Polish president to back out of participating including a difference with Russia as to how and when WWII started, that Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to speak, and the Polish president wanted to (on behalf of the victims). Poland’s position is that most of the victims at Auschwitz were Poles, but the fact is that most of the victims were Jews, murdered because they were Jews, not because of where they lived before they were deported to the death camps.
Poland apparently also believes that marking the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz should be done in Poland. Sadly, despite claiming to want to represent the victims, the Polish president doesn’t want to put aside differences to come to Jerusalem.
So welcome to the senior delegations from the US, France, Austria, Australia, Russia, Great Britain, Netherlands, Spain, Ukraine, Italy, Slovenia, Germany, Hungary, Greece, Sweden, Iceland, Cyprus, Lithuania, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Portugal, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Albania, Armenia, Georgia, Latvia, Moldova, Monaco, Belarus, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Montenegro, and the Vatican.
I pray that this is a meaningful visit, that you learn a lot and take home with you the imperative to end the continued plague of anti-Semitism not only in your countries but especially in those not represented. Be shocked, rightly, that anti-Semitism has become so acceptable again at all, much less in the lifetime of those who still bare the tattoos to prove the evil happened. When you realize you’re cold because of the weather this week, pause for a minute and think about the Jews imprisoned in Auschwitz and other death camps who had nothing more than a thin inmates’ uniform between them and the elements.
But please come back, not to mourn or even think you need to help us make peace, but to be part of the extraordinary society and vibrant democracy we have built, not because of the Holocaust but despite it.