Israel’s Capital: Tel Aviv or Jerusalem?

At the beginning of December 2014, President Obama issued a memorandum postponing the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The memorandum suspended the implementation of the Jerusalem Embassy Act, approved by Congress in 1995, which had acknowledged that “the city of Jerusalem has been the capital of the State of Israel” since 1950. The reason cited for suspending the Act was “national security.”


In an amendment to its style guide in 2012, The Guardian apologized for calling Tel Aviv Israel’s capital. Interestingly, it also denied that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, since is not recognized as such by the international community. The style guide now declares that Jerusalem is the “seat of government,” while maintaining that Tel Aviv is the country’s “diplomatic and financial center.”


What, then, is the capital of Israel? Only Guatemala and El Salvador have officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. notes that all major encyclopedias and dictionaries list Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The CIA World Factbook states, “Israel proclaimed Jerusalem as its capital in 1950, but the U.S., like nearly all other countries, maintains its embassy Tel Aviv.”


The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 provided funds for the relocating the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It officially asserted that the policy of the United States is that an undivided Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel, and that the U.S. embassy should have been moved there within four years of its signing. However, at the last minute a waiver was slipped in which allowed to President to delay the move if he felt that it was a threat to national security. And so, to this day, the move has continued to be delayed by the White House, whether Democrat or Republican.


The almost universal cry of the Jewish people who have yearned to return to the Holy Land has been, for millennia, “Next year in Jerusalem!” Yet, Palestinian demonstrators shout, “We will sacrifice our blood and souls for you, Jerusalem,” and clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinians demonstrators have occurred almost every day in the past few months. Since July, people have been referring to the growing protests, ethnic tensions and violence as an intifada. Jerusalem has been called, appropriately, the most contentious piece of real estate on the planet.


After Republicans gained control of both the Senate and the House in Washington in the mid-term elections of 2014, some saw it as a perfect time to lobby for Jerusalem’s capital-city status in the new Congress, which will be seated in January.


Whatever may be accomplished as religious leaders and politicians wrangle over what they consider to be its importance on the world scene, the spiritual and eternal significance of Jerusalem is made very clear in the Bible.


1 Kings 11:36 identifies the location where Israel was commanded to seek the Lord, “…that My servant David may have a lamp always before Me in Jerusalem, the city where I have chosen for Myself to put My name.”


In Matthew 23:37, Jesus pronounced a serious judgment on Jerusalem for hosting pagan gods and killing the prophets sent to it, saying, “See, your house is left to you desolate.” He will not permanently forsake Jerusalem, however, and He will remember to re-establish David’s throne (Isaiah 62:4, Psalm 89:3-4).


Although it has often been the focal point of horrific violence for over 3,500 years, for many believing Jews and Christians Jerusalem is destined to become the global capital to which all nations on earth will come to worship.


By Rick Brinegar

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