Donate to RNS

The new American embassy’s messianic moment

Zechariah has his day in Jerusalem.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, delivers his speech as U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman listens during the opening ceremony of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018. Amid deadly clashes along the Israeli-Palestinian border, President Trump's top aides and supporters on Monday celebrated the opening of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem as a campaign promise fulfilled. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

The only Jewish clergyman to speak at the opening of the new American embassy-to-be in Jerusalem Monday was a member of the quasi-messianic Chabad/Lubavich sect. As Israel’s two chief rabbis looked on from the audience, Rabbi Zalman Wolowik, an old friend and Torah study partner of U.S. Ambassador David Friedman, declared, “Peace is ingrained in the marrow of Jerusalem, but, the Prophet Zechariah said ‘You must love truth and peace.'”

“Truth” in this context signifies “my way or the highway.” Calling Jerusalem “the eternal undivided capital of Israel,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu likewise quoted the Lord via Zechariah: “I will return to Zion and I will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem and Jerusalem will be called the city of truth.”

Zechariah prophesied at the end of the sixth century B.C.E., after King Cyrus the Great of Persia had allowed the Jews to return from their Babylonian captivity to rebuild Jerusalem and construct the Second Temple. It’s the small American consulate in West Jerusalem that will be rebuilt into a giant embassy complex over the next six years, ending the Tel Avivian captivity of  our diplomats thanks to that latter-day Cyrus (as the evangelicals call him), Donald Trump.

But Zechariah is not just about construction projects. His vision is messianic:

And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be.

And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one.

Speaking of evangelicals, they had the rabbi outnumbered two-to-one. First off was Rev. Robert Jeffress, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, who began by invoking “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” and ended by declaring that “Israel has blessed this world by pointing us to You, the one true God, through the message of her prophets, the Scriptures, and the Messiah.”

In what Israel’s secular Zionist founders would have considered rather a slap in the face, Jeffress credited God with having “re-gathered Your people in this promised land.” And,  in what must have caused a bit of agita in the assembly, he wrapped up with: “We pray in the name and spirit of the Prince of Peace, Jesus our Lord. Amen.”

The benediction fell to Rev. John Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel, who has evolved so far as to forswear “replacement” theology, the idea that the Christian covenant has rendered the Jews’ older deal obsolete. “Jerusalem,” he prayed, “is where Messiah will come and establish a kingdom that will never end.”

Again and again, from the lips of Friedman, Netanyahu, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, and the three clerics, came the claim that moving the embassy to Jerusalem would serve the cause of peace. It was enough to put one in mind of Ezekiel 13:10-11:

Because, even because they have seduced my people, saying, Peace; and there was no peace; and one built up a wall, and, lo, others daubed it with untempered morter:

Say unto them which daub it with untempered morter, that it shall fall: there shall be an overflowing shower; and ye, O great hailstones, shall fall; and a stormy wind shall rend it.

Yea, shall it be, in the day of Trump, stormy.