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Calling Jerusalem the Capital of the “Jewish People” Is an “Assault on My Religion,” Says Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
April 2018

President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the “capital of Jewish people,” declares Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro, is “an assault on my religion.” Rabbi Shapiro, an expert on Jewish history and law who serves an Orthodox synagogue in Queens, New York, writes that, “There is absolutely no political relationship between the Jewish people and Jerusalem, it is merely a holy city … The Jewish people don’t have a capital. We have never had a capital. Countries have capitals. The Jewish people are not a country or a region. The Jewish people are a religious community. We pray towards Jerusalem, but we relate to Jerusalem only as a holy city and not as a political capital of the Jewish people. And because it is a holy city, it doesn’t matter who has sovereignty over it. Jerusalem is just as holy and just as much Jerusalem whether it is under the auspices of the Turks or the Romans or the British or whatever.” (Tikkun, Jan. 4, 2018)  
The notion of Jerusalem as “capital of the Jewish people” is an idea first initiated by Zionism. Rabbi Shapiro notes that, “The Zionists are the ones that started this business of the capital of the Jewish people, and it’s an idea that directly conflicts with the teachings of Judaism … The Jewish people aren’t a people because of a land … or a language, or a culture … When we accepted the religion, given to us by God, that’s when we became the Jewish people. We had no land, we had no territories, no capital city … Some commentators say that the reason God gave Jews the law in the desert before they went into the holy land was to show Jewishness has nothing to do with land. Jewishness comes from accepting the religion.”  
Of Zionist leaders in Israel, Rabbi Shapiro provides this assessment: “These are not religious Jews running the country, they are atheists. And yet the Israeli prime ministers from Ben-Gurion to Netanyahu use the bible as an excuse for ownership of the land. Ben-Gurion didn’t believe God spoke to the prophets. He doesn’t believe it at all. Neither does Netanyahu at all. … Zionist claims are an assault on the Jewish religion because Benjamin Netanyahu has no right to claim that he is the leader of the Jewish people and that his state is mine. I was born in America. My father is Polish and my mother is British. We have nothing to do with Israel. We are Jews, we are observant Jews, we are religious Jews. Israel is not my nation-state in the slightest. This is a unilateral claim of the Israelis, of the Zionists, and it’s an assault on my religion.”  
So, too, concludes Rabbi Shapiro, with regard to the claim “that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people, because it transforms the Jewish people from a religious identity to a national or political identity. It’s an assault on my religion when he said that because Jerusalem is connected to the Jewish people, therefore it must be part of Israel. Jerusalem’s holiness has nothing to do with who owns it. It certainly has no reason to be part of the State of Israel.” •

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