Trump and the stones of remembrance

Much has been written about President Trump and his relationship with Jews and Israel.  A few critical issues have been overlooked.

It is true he moved the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, when many other presidential nominees promised but did not deliver once elected.  It is also true that through his spectacular ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, he has singularly pushed back ferociously against the Israel-bashing predominant at that organization for decades.

But he has done far more service than that to global Jewry.  By these acts, President Trump has unilaterally enhanced Israel's legitimacy and status in the mosh pit of global opinion.  He has ratified Israel's founding documents that proclaim that Israel is both a Jewish state and a democracy.  He has allowed Jews, born in Jerusalem, to once again be identified as Israeli – an identity Obama disallowed.  He has confirmed that Israel has the right to defend itself.  He has also silenced the lie that Palestinians want peace by drastically ending funding to groups who pay lip service to peace while granting huge financial benefits to Palestinian martyrs who murder unarmed Israeli civilians.

One of his most moving and poignant acts has been the placing of stones on the symbolic Star of David markers erected outside of the synagogue where eleven Jews were murdered last week.

Why stones?  There are many theories stemming from ancient times: it is a holdover from a cascade of rocks denoting ancient gravesites; it keeps the departed soul bound to the earth; they stand as a warning to Kohanim (priestly caste) to stay away, as the ancient priests were not permitted near the dead; to the more modern interpretation, that the permanence of stones is a long-term reminder that someone has visited.

Actually, its meaning is irrelevant.  What is heart-rendingly essential is that President Trump understood and channeled the ancient tradition. 

I was in Troy, New York this morning at the cemetery owned by the Orthodox synagogue, Beth Tephilah, now on the national registry of historical places, which was co-founded by my maternal grandparents Frank and Sarah Schwebel (z'l).  For more years than one wants to remember, I have placed special stones on their and other family members' tombstones – from Israel, especially.  As I placed stones today, I said a prayer for those murdered in Pittsburgh.  And I thanked and blessed President Trump for the stones he placed in Pittsburgh in the highest manner possible of honoring them.

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