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Israel Update: New Terror Attacks, and a Legal Battle over Jerusalem

Israel Update: New Terror Attacks, and a Legal Battle over Jerusalem

The past two weeks have been scary ones for Israelis and Jerusalem residents, as three separate attacks on light rail stations have left three people dead and injured a dozen more. On October 23, a Palestinian man drove his car through a light rail station near Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem, killing a three-month-old infant who was also an American citizen, as well as an Ecuadorean woman. And just this Wednesday, a van rammed into another light rail station in Jerusalem, killing a border patrol agent and wounding two others. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack. Later that night, another van rammed into a three IDF soldiers in the West Bank, sending them to the hospital.

The attacks come in the wake of tensions over the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Temple Mount in East Jerusalem. Right-wing Israeli activist Yehuda Glick was shot there last week, prompting Israeli authorities to close Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, for a day. This in turn sparked riots near Al-Aqsa and the Temple Mount (which exists essentially on the same site), and has created diplomatic tension between Israel and Jordan.

The situation in Israel is unpredictable—it’s hard to know when the violence will end. We pray for the safety of our sisters and brothers in Jerusalem and across Israel, that they may soon take public transportation without fearing for their lives. We also pray that Israeli and Palestinian leaders exercise patience and goodwill during these tense times, with no tolerance for violence and hate.

On the American side of things, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments earlier this week in Zivotofsky v. Kerry, a case that challenges many complex, interrelated issues around the United States’ policy for the city of Jerusalem. As Amy Howe explains in SCOTUSblog, the case asks the question of whether Congress can compel the State Department to issue passports listing the birthplace of someone “Jerusalem, Israel,” since the United States currently does not recognize any country as sovereign over Jerusalem.

The case challenges the limits of executive and congressional power for setting foreign policy, and it questions whether a passport can be a diplomatic statement or not. The URJ and CCAR have filed an amicus brief with other Jewish organizations for the case, siding with the petitioner and against the government. Interestingly, the Court’s three Jews, all of whom are included in the Court’s liberal bloc, seemed to be sympathetic to the government’s position that a passport should not list someone’s birthplace as “Jerusalem, Israel.” It’s often a fool’s errand to predict how the Supreme Court will decide on an issue based on oral argument, but the decision looks to be a close one. We’ll be monitoring this case over the next few months with a close eye.

Published: 11/07/2014

Categories: Social Justice