Lawrence resident and Cedarhurst attorney Shalom Maidenbaum has been to Israel more than 30 times, but when he and his wife, Iris, touch down on Monday for the opening of the United States Embassy in Jerusalem, it might be his most exciting visit ever.
The May 14 opening will take place on the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the modern Jewish state (on the secular calendar) and will highlight official American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital.
“For me it’s a culmination of a dream, the return to Zion,” Shalom said. “The Five Towns is excited and energized.”
The embassy will start operations in a building in Arnona, in southern Jerusalem, that now houses a U.S. consulate. The U.S. ambassador, Woodsburgh resident David Friedman, will have a small team of employees there, with the rest remaining in Tel Aviv until the end of 2019, when a new embassy annex is expected to open in the Arnona compound, the U.S. State Department announced in February. A search for a permanent site is underway.
“This is a long time coming, and this is to his credit,” Iris Maidenbaum said of President Trump, who in December announced plans to move the embassy. “We’re so thrilled to celebrate this historic event. We are honored.”
In December, Trump said, “This is a long-overdue step to advance the peace process and to work toward a lasting agreement. Israel is a sovereign nation with the right like every other sovereign nation to determine its own capital.”
The Maidenbaums — longtime friends of Friedman and his wife, Tammy — won’t be the only local leaders at the opening. Among others to attend will be Rabbi Zalman Wolowik, spiritual leader of Chabad of the Five Towns. “It’s reaffirming and just amazing,” said Rabbi Wolowik, who was ordained in Jerusalem in 1989. “We’re not allowing anti-Semitism to prevail.”
Israel was barely more than a year old when its first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, said, “There has always been and always will be one capital only — Jerusalem the eternal. Thus it was 3,000 years ago and thus it will be, we believe, until the end of time.”
Neither the Maidenbaums nor Rabbi Wolowik knew what was planned for the opening ceremony. All three credit Friedman with helping to make the move happen. Friedman’s father, Rabbi Morris Friedman, an early spiritual leader at Temple Hillel in North Woodmere, was an iconic figure in the Jewish community. Rabbi Friedman hosted President Ronald Reagan when he visited the Five Towns in 1984, at both his home and synagogue.
“We know that David was inspired by that experience,” Shalom Maidenbaum said, “and has deep roots in the American-Israel relationship.”