American Jewish and Christian leaders meeting with Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales. (Credit: World Jewish Congress.)
In the wake of Guatemala’s decision to relocate its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem following President Donald Trump’s historic announcement of the same policy decision in early December, a large delegation of Jewish and Christian leaders traveled to Guatemala last week to thank President Jimmy Morales for the move and offer support for the Central American nation.
During their visit to Guatemala, the delegates convened for a dinner and private meeting with Morales. Also attending the dinner were other Guatemalan officials such as Vice President Jafeth Cabrera, Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel and Ambassador to the U.S. Manuel Espina, as well as Israeli Ambassador to Guatemala Matanya Cohen, members of the local Jewish community and Christian leaders.
According to the Latino Coalition for Israel (LCI), which organized a visiting group of more than 20 Christian leaders—including former U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Center—that joined a broader delegation of 70 Christian and Jewish leaders in Guatemala, the purpose of the mission was to “personally express their gratitude and support for his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and for his decision to move Guatemala’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.”
“Christian and Jewish leaders gathered in Guatemala, united as one, to proudly applaud President Morales’s decision to move Guatemala’s Embassy from Tel Aviv to its rightful place in Jerusalem, a city that has represented the importance of the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people for thousands of years,” said Pastor Mario Bramnick, president of LCI.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, who joined the delegation to Guatemala, told JNS that the visit was an important way to “show [the Guatemalans] that we are there for them and that we support them.”
“It is a courageous act on their part and we don’t take them or it for granted,” he said.
Hoenlein said Morales gave a “stirring and appreciative speech” about their visit, in which the Guatemalan leader conveyed that moving the embassy was “deeply personal” for him.
“We felt this was an important way to show the appreciation of the American Jewish community and we hope this will set a pattern for additional countries,” stated Hoenlein.
Betty Ehrenberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress in North America, told JNS that Morales “took a very courageous step” in his decisions to recognize Jerusalem as the capital, move the embassy there and vote against a U.N. General Assembly resolution condemning Trump’s decision.
“Simply put, President Morales stood up for what is right, despite criticism from many corners,” Ehrenberg said, adding that Morales’s decision is “another milestone” in Guatemala’s friendship with Israel and the U.S.
A devout evangelical Christian, Morales has prioritized reaching out to the country’s small Jewish community—about 900 Jews as of 2012, according to Jewish Virtual Library—as well as strengthening ties to Israel. Shortly after taking office in January 2016, Morales traveled to the country’s main synagogue in Guatemala City, where he announced his intention to visit Israel, which he did later in 2016.
“I believe he [made the decision to move the embassy] because he is a believing Christian and it is very much in his belief structure. Guatemala was the second country to recognize Israel in 1947, and the current leadership really believes that this is the way to protect Jerusalem,” Hoenlein said.
Despite being a small and largely impoverished Central American country, Guatemala has long represented an important partner for Israel. In 1947, as Israel struggled to gain international support for the U.N. Partition Plan for British Palestine, Guatemala became one of the first countries to voice support for the Jewish state’s creation.
Ehrenberg said that Guatemala “has been a true friend of Israel from the outset—it supported Israel in 1946 as a member of UNSCOP (U.N. Special Committee on Palestine), when the Guatemalan ambassador to the U.N., Jorge Garcia Granados, recommended the formation of the state of Israel, even before the declaration in 1948.”
In 1956, Guatemala became one of the first Latin American countries to open an embassy in Jerusalem, but later relocated the mission in 1978 to the Tel Aviv suburb of Herzliya.
Today, as Israel is attempting to build non-traditional allies around the world, Guatemala has expressed an interest in bolstering agriculture, science, technology and security ties with the Israelis.
Hoenlein said that the visiting Jewish and Christian leaders “are committed to helping with the followup and getting the message to Washington and encouraging businesspeople to look at Guatemala.”
Recruiting more Latino support for Jerusalem
In addition to showing support for Guatemala, a delegation of Christian leaders from LCI also visited Honduras, where they thanked President Juan Orlando Hernandez for his country’s vote against the recent U.N. General Assembly resolution condemning Trump’s Jerusalem moves, according to LCI’s Bramnick.
“We thanked President Hernandez of Honduras and his vote in the U.N. and encouraged him to move the embassy. He invited us to bring a Jewish-Christian delegation to Honduras to further discuss the issue,” said Bramnick.
Reports have suggested that Honduras, which also has close ties with Israel and borders Guatemala, is also considering moving its embassy to Jerusalem.
“Both Guatemala and Honduras are very strong Christian nations,” Bramnick told JNS, noting that he is launching an initiative called the Latin American Jerusalem Task Force to encourage Honduras as well as other countries in the region such as Costa Rica and Chile to also consider embassy moves.
“The church is very much supportive of this move and very active and is a positive influence on the leadership,” he said. “Both presidents are Christians and understand personally the religious significance as well as the geopolitical considerations of a move. Thirdly, these two countries are very pro-conservative values, pro-President Trump and pro-Israel in nature.”
“These two nations in particular,” Bramnick added, “understand the importance of such a move and have close ties with Israel and the U.S.”
Trump hails ‘big week’ for historic move; ‘Congratulations to all,’ he tweets ahead of May 14 opening
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman gives a first glimpse of the new US embassy in Jerusalem on May 11, 2018, ahead of its opening on May 14 (Screenshot)
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Friday gave a first glimpse of the new US embassy in Jerusalem, showing off workers erecting the official seal on the building and preparing for the opening ceremony.
“We are so excited,” Friedman said in a video posted on the embassy’s Facebook page. “We have the official seal of the United States embassy. We have the dedication plaque. They are covered right now, but on Monday they are going to be unveiled.”
‘Next time in Jerusalem,’ jubilant Barzilai yells after victory; ‘Toy’ marks Israel’s 4th win; hundreds jump in Rabin Square fountain to celebrate; PM calls her ‘best ambassador’
Netta Barzilai after winning the final of the 63rd edition of the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, on May 12, 2018. (AFP/ Francisco LEONG)
Israel won the Eurovision song contest for the first time in two decades Saturday as singer Netta Barzilai clucked and bucked her way to the top of the international song contest with women’s empowerment anthem “Toy.”
Backed up by three dancers, her trademark side buns featuring stripes of pink dyed hair to match her pink-and-black outfit, Barzilai busted her way through “Toy” on stage in Lisbon, Portugal, punctuating her singing with her trademark eye rolls and chicken dance moves
Quoted by US president one day, hosted by Russia’s president the next, PM is on a high, including in the polls. But will this encourage his more divisive tendencies?
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier after the Victory Parade marking the 73th anniversary of the defeat of the Nazis in World War II, in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
JTA — On Sunday, Benjamin Netanyahu began his week by meeting his Cypriot and Greek counterparts to finalize the commercial export to Europe of Israeli gas that he has pushed to exploit for about a decade.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from nuclear deal with Iran was widely seen as a coup for Israel’s prime minister, a fierce opponent of the deal.
The same day Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed that Israel seized Iran’s archive of its military nuclear program in Tehran and spirited it to Israel, a video was posted of IDF soldiers singing Soltane Ghalbha, a traditional Persian love song – in Persian.
Taken together, the two events demonstrate the purpose of Netanyahu’s presentation.
Netanyahu’s detractors in the US and Israel called his presentation as a dog and pony show. “He didn’t tell us anything we haven’t known for years,” they sniffed.
Moreover, they insisted, Netanyahu’s presentation was actually counterproductive because he couldn’t show evidence that Iran is in breach of the nuclear deal it concluded in 2015 and so did nothing to persuade the Europeans to abandon the deal.
While US policy-makers are trying desperately to stabilize Afghanistan, a shift is being orchestrated by China.
The Chinese evidently see their role in Afghanistan as the “good cop” versus the U.S. role as “bad cop.” Like Pakistan, China seems to view the Taliban as the political opposition, not as a terrorist organization, and has offered itself as an intermediary to negotiate the departure of the U.S. and, thereby, be in a position to reap the economic and geopolitical benefits of Afghanistan as a client state of the China-Pakistan alliance.
Reuters/Ipsos set a new standard this week when it condemned its own polling as unreliably favorable to the president.
“This week’s Reuters/Ipsos Core Political release presents something of an outlier of our trend,” stated a paragraph that appeared before the press release on its latest polling even began.
“Every series of polls has the occasional outlier, and in our opinion, this is one. So, while we are reporting the findings in the interest of transparency, we will not be announcing the start of a new trend until we have more data to validate this pattern.”
For the sixth Friday in a row, protestors from Gaza came to Israel’s border with intentions to penetrate it. They come with scissors to cut through the fence, with burning tires, Molotov cocktails, slingshots with rocks, and kites with firebombs attached to them to destroy Israeli farmlands and villages.
This is not some peaceful demonstration akin to Selma in the 1960s when blacks were simply trying to sit together with whites at a lunch counter. The usage of the word “demonstrators” is a misnomer; these are “rioters.”
What would happen if the world took Pope Francis’ advice (via a tweet)? “Do we really want peace? Then let’s ban all weapons so we don’t have to live in fear of war,” said the pontiff.
While on the surface, the disappearance of all weapons might suggest the inability to do violence, in reality, it would mean the certain annihilation of the West as a civilization.
When a Philadelphia Starbucks manager called the police after two black men refused to leave, the chain of events ended with the burnt taste of the overpriced coffee chain colluding with anti-Semitism.
Starbucks reacted to the brief arrest by blaming the police, but Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, who is African-American, initially said that his officers, “did absolutely nothing wrong”. But then he was forced to offer a bewildering apology to the arrested men, the officers and the entire city.
“It is me who in large part made most of the situation worse than it was,” he announced.
“Your threshing season will last until your grape harvest, and your grape harvest will last until the time you plant. You will have your fill of food, and you will dwell securely in your land” (Vayikra 26:5).
This blessing is promised to the People of Israel on condition that, as a unified nation, they observe the laws of the Torah and live by its spirit. Its promise is quite surprising. Not only will the Israelites have plenty to eat but, as the verse clearly indicates, the Jews will experience an overflow of food. The first season, when produce is brought to the threshing floor, will last until the days of the grape harvest, which in turn will continue into the planting season.