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A Loss, But Not a Defeat

Ari Z. Zivotofsky

This Monday, 12-year-old Menachem Zivotofsky lost his longstanding battle. In a tensely awaited ruling, the Supreme Court affirmed the executive branch’s exclusive right to grant formal recognition to a foreign sovereign. For Menachem, this means his American passport will still list his place of birth as “Jerusalem” — but not “Israel.” For millions of Jews, it means a troubling refusal on the part of the American executive to recognize the eternal link between Jerusalem, the Holy Land, and its people.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Yerushalayim. We face it during prayer and invoke its name several times a day. On Yom Kippur and Pesach, we explicitly state our dreams of gathering there for holy convocations. It has been the heart and soul of the Jewish People for 3,000 years, ever since King David established it as our eternal Holy City. Since 1967, we have had the privilege, not enjoyed by Jews for millennia, to call Jerusalem the capital of a Jewish state. While the special status of Jerusalem to the Jewish People is clear to most readers of Mishpacha, it seems that much of the world doesn’t agree with us. Four years ago, our efforts to have the word “Israel” appear instead of “Jerusalem” on our son’s US passport reached the United States Supreme Court. The case has been part of our family now for 12 years, sometimes more on the front burner, more often than not on the back one. For the last several months, while awaiting this final decision of the court, it has been front and center, however, as everyone we met inquired how the case was progressing. The decision was quite “overdue” as cases argued even months after ours had already been decided. So together with the court watchers, we have been anxiously monitoring the media every Monday, when the court issues its decisions. And now the Justices have issued their opinions. We lost, but we don’t feel defeated. In a 6-3 decision, the justices determined that the president of the United States has the exclusive power to recognize foreign nations, including how Jerusalem is listed in the passports of every American born in Jerusalem. Even though the court has ruled, there is still hope. Congress can still help us fight this battle, and in the months and years to come, we hope that they will.  In addition, public pressure can be exerted on the president, to use his authority to right a longstanding wrong. Passport Control Throughout this process we gained quite an education about the legal and political systems and the points of contact between them.   

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