With the exception of a seven year period in the sixth century when the Persians restored Jewish sovereignty, the Jewish people were denied a homeland from 70 C.E. until 1948. During that time the Jewish people suffered pogroms, expulsions, mass murder, persecution, and assorted other forms of denial of basic human rights. Throughout that time the Jewish people prayed for one thing consistently: "Next year in Jerusalem." It's part of the Passover seder, the ceremonial feast, which the world's Jewish population will celebrate in two weeks time.
Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem, is a Zionist prayer in song, a prayer for a Jewish home in the land of Zion and Jerusalem. Jerusalem is stressed and is in the refrain, the only part of the anthem which is repeated. Here is a translation of the lyrics:
As long as in the heart, within,
A Jewish soul still yearns,
And onward, towards the ends of the east,
An eye still gazes toward Zion;
Our hope is not yet lost,
The hope of two thousand years,
To be a free people in our land,
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.
These words, taken from a poem and set to music in 1888, are the essence of Zionism. More, they are the essence of Jewish national and cultural identity.
In recent days some have said that Prime Minister Netanyahu, and indeed the nation of Israel as a whole, will eventually have to make a choice between concessions which amount to surrendering sovereignty over much of Jerusalem or the friendship between Israel and the United States. Actually, that is no choice at all. Jews simply will not surrender sovereignty over Jerusalem. Those, particularly in the United States, who argue that we should include Jews who have somehow become divorced from their traditions, culture, their very identity as Jews. If we have to say goodbye to those people and say goodbye to support from the White House then that is what we will do.
Notice that I have made this argument without even once referring to Jewish and Christian religious beliefs. Of course it is religion which makes Jerusalem holy to Jews, just as Mecca is holy to Muslims and the Vatican is holy to Catholics. These beliefs, which the majority of Americans happen to share, are also being challenged by the White House. That has never been a recipe for much political support.
During Israel's 1948-49 War of Independence my father fought to lift the siege of Jerusalem. To him a Jewish state and the city of Jerusalem was worth fighting for. I can't say my views are any different. Israel survived against what seemed like impossible odds without any American help then. If need be it will do so again.
Anyone who insists that Israel should offer sovereignty as a concession prior to any negotiations for peace, with nothing in return, is asking Israel to surrender. What is the point of a Jewish state if not to maintain Jewish identity and hold on to what is precious to the Jewish people? Anyone who demands such a thing is no friend of Israel or the Jewish people, even if they can claim to be Jewish by birth. Oh, and yes, that includes the Obama Administration and anyone within the administration who insists that Israel not build in Ramat Shlomo or anywhere else in our holy city and capital.