Choosing Between The Chosen People

It is vitally important that the Jewish people accept President Trump as an ally in the fight against anti-Semitism rather than an enemy.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Cover Image
By Alisa Chen

Art: Jewish star drawn with half as the Israeli flag and half as the American flag

It’s a typical day in Tel Aviv. The weather is sunny and warm, the salty air is blowing, and the hustle and bustle of Israel’s commercial capital is as it always is. Then suddenly, a sound goes off, a terrifying sound that has become a common occurrence here. It’s the sound of the bomb siren, and instantly, the warm, inviting Tel Aviv that was there only a few moments before disappears. People on the streets rush to the nearest bomb shelters. People in their homes run to the specially built room every Israeli house has. People in their cars get down on the road and cover their heads with their hands. The city is silent as everyone anguishes over where the bomb will land this time.

This is a daily reality for citizens of Israel and has been since Israel’s inception in 1948. Israel has been working to fight these threats, but a tiny country surrounded by threats can only do so much. Israel has long relied on American aid to combat threats to their security. But now, when President Trump is taking action after action to help the Israeli, the divide between Israeli Jews and American Jews is growing ever wider. Though American Jews question the motives for Trump’s actions and view his comments as controversial, Trump’s actions speak for themselves and prove that he is indeed a great friend and supporter of Israel.

The general viewpoint of Israeli Jews is that President Trump is a valuable ally to Judaism and Israel. In fact, according to a 2018 Politico survey, 59 percent of Israelis support him. This has much to do with the Trump Administration’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Jerusalem has great historical significance to the Jewish people, as it is a Jewish capital and the location of the Western Wall. The Western Wall is the only remaining portion of the Second Temple, which was destroyed by the Romans in the Great Revolt of 70 CE. Moving the embassy from the commercial capital of Tel Aviv to the sacred city of Jerusalem showed a lot of Israelis—including me and my family—that Trump was on our side. It demonstrated that he understood the importance of the history of the Jewish people and was willing to put the United States on the side of the Jewish people.

Another reason for Israeli approval of Trump is his decision to withdraw from the Iran Nuclear Deal. In a 2018 speech, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed that in February 2017, the Israeli government had “obtained over 100,000 documents and videos that had been stashed in vaults in an innocent-looking building in the heart of Tehran. This clearly indicated that Iran had been planning to build nuclear weapons. Even after Israel reported these documents to the five permanent members of the Security Council, no action was taken to prevent the Iranian government from building nuclear weaponry. This caused the Israeli government to fear greatly for its security and push for the U.S. to withdraw from the deal. When Trump made the decision to withdraw, he gained a lot of support from Israeli Jews.

Across the Atlantic Ocean, many American Jews view some of Trump’s comments as anti-Semitic and question his motives in his apparent alliance with the Israeli government. One controversial comment was his vague statement after the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville that culminated in the killing of a protestor on August 12, 2017. After the attack, Trump stated, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides." Many Americans felt that Trump insinuated that the actions of the neo-Nazis and protestors were morally equivalent—that he supported the rally. Another more recent instance of a questionable comment from Trump was his rhetoric after the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh when he said that “If [the synagogue] had [sic] protection inside, the results would have been far better.” This was seen by many as extremely insensitive victim-blaming―in fact, over 35,000 people signed an open letter asking the president not to come to the memorial services because he had not denounced the white supremacy and anti-Semitism which had motivated the attack.

However, Trump’s actions are much more important than his comments. Though it is true that his comments may come off as anti-Semitic or insensitive, they are in fact not, as evidenced by his constant action to improve the lives of Israelis and Jews worldwide. Regarding his statement after the situation in Charlottesville, it is important to note that there was much violence on the opposite end of the political spectrum. At the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, about 20 members of the alt-left organization known as the Redneck Revolt carried rifles and made a perimeter around Justice Park. According to Washington Post reporter Joe Heim, “Counter-protesters fought back...swinging sticks, punching, and spraying chemicals. Others threw balloons filled with paint or ink at the white nationalists.” Though it may not have been the best statement to make at such a time of grieving and mourning for the victims of the attack, President Trump was correct that there was in fact violence on both sides.

As for his comment about the lack of protection at the Tree of Life Synagogue, though it may have been insensitive during a period of mourning, he was not wrong. Personally, I feel much safer at my synagogue knowing that there are three fully armed police officers standing outside who check bags and even pat people down before they are allowed to enter the synagogue. Security has drastically increased after the Pittsburgh attack, and I walked to my synagogue the Saturday after the attack to find seven police cars and 10 officers standing outside of it. Though extra security would perhaps not have been able to prevent the attack, there is a higher likelihood of an attack being thwarted with extra security outside.

American Jews simply do not understand the danger that Israeli Jews face every day. They do not understand what it is like being so connected to and living in a country that faces an existential threat. They don’t understand what it’s like to be talking to one’s grandmother over the phone and hearing the bomb alarm go off, leaving the phone line silent save for your anxious breathing. They don’t understand what it’s like to be sitting at the kitchen table and hearing your mother reading out the news of all the people who have been killed today or the day before, people who could have been any member of your family. They don’t know what it is like to hear your parents talking about the gas masks that they used to wear when hiding in the bomb shelters. And most of all, they don’t understand what it’s like to live with these threats every single day.

The Jewish people have disagreed in the past before, yet they have managed to remain united. And when they haven’t, such as during the Great Revolt of 70 C.E., the results have been disastrous. But if the fracture between the American and Israeli Jews becomes a chasm―if we can’t agree on something that will have an extremely large political effect on Israel―we will not be able to present a united front against the growing trend of anti-Semitism we are currently facing. It is of vital importance that the Israeli and American Jews recognize every ally that they have in this troubling time. President Trump is not anti-Semitic. After the shooting in Pittsburgh, he stated, “In the aftermath of that wicked assault, we reaffirmed [sic] our solemn duty to confront anti-Semitism everywhere it occurs. We must stamp out this vile hatred from the world.” It is clear that President Trump means no harm to the Jewish people, and we must recognize his attempts to help our nation if we want to continue the Jewish traditions we have been passing down for thousands of years.