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‘Trump’s a crazy man, but I like it’ — the view from Jerusalem

US Politics
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While the world may think that Jewish Israelis are raucously celebrating Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Jerusalem’s Jewish community appears split on their feelings towards not only the announcement, but also the US president himself.

Meah Shearim is an ultra- Orthodox area of Jerusalem, and one of the oldest Jewish areas of the holy city. The residents are mainly Haredi Jews, who follow a strict adherence to Jewish tradition and religious practice. On getting out of her parked car, Jerusalem-born Batsheva Shamama is covering up the trousers she is wearing with a long jacket. “You have to be careful here, people don’t like women wearing pants,” Shamama comments on the traditional long skirts and stockings women must wear.

Batsheva Shamama

“I think he is a crazy man,” Shamama remarks on Trump. “He doesn’t think about what he says and what he’s doing. His decision is good for me [as a Jew], but I’m not sure it’s a good system,” Shamama continues, between organising with her sister on the phone where they’re meeting for lunch.

Further down the street, 50-year-old Ronit Levi agrees on the crazy aspect. “He has a lot of passion. Trump’s a crazy man, but I like it. I think he does things others are afraid to do,” Levi said.

Avi Samat, 39, a kitchen worker and Orthodox Jew, is a clear supporter of Trump. “He’s good for the Jewish, very good, because he supports Israel, not like Obama. He thinks like [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu,” Samat explained. “Obama never gave money to Israel. He said we weren’t allowed to build in [occupied East] Jerusalem because it’s not legal, but Trump allows us.”

Amid the bustle of Mahane Yehuda Market in West Jerusalem, 25-year-old Yarin Ariv talks between serving customers in a bar. “I don’t know him personally but yes [I like him], I think the world needs a strong leader,” Ariv said.

Twenty-four year-old Eden, working in a delicatessen, straight up said she doesn’t like Trump. “When you think of a president or leader you’re meant to look up to them. I don’t see him as someone to trust,” Eden said, adding she didn’t like his attitude towards women.

Eden, 24, at Mahane Yedhuda market

A recent survey by the American Jewish Committee found the majority of American Jews don’t like Trump, even though he seems to support what they term Jewish interests. The results showed 77% of American Jews have an ‘unfavorable’ view of Trump, while only 21% had a ‘favorable’ opinion. The pool of participants showed 57% of American Jews were Democrats compared with 15% who were Republican, in 2017. Interestingly, the majority of those surveyed said they didn’t like the way Trump handled national security and terrorism.

Back in Meah Shearim, 65-year-old Nehenia Ashkenzy’s reasoning on the opinion of Trump is somewhat in line with the survey. “No, I think they like Trump!,” Ashkenzy said initially in defence. “Or maybe all the Jews in America are Democrats,” he continued.

Samat had his own explanation: “I know why, because 60 or 50% of American Jews are very liberal. They think Palestinians have nothing and they need to support them. [Seeing as] Israel is a rich country, they don’t need their support.”

Nehenia Ashkenazy

Eden suggested the American Jews who support Trump are like the Israelis who support Netanyahu. “They have the same ideas and views. I don’t support Netanhayu,” Eden said laughing. “So many friends don’t agree with his ways of making peace, we want change.” Out the front of a Sufganiyah (a filled donut eaten during Hannukah) store, 32-year-old Smadar Regev said she believed Jews in Israel are more Orthodox and politically conservative. “Most Jews in America are more liberal than what Trump represents.”

On the day of interviewing, a large portion of people approached were actually American born and had immigrated to Israel, or were studying the Torah in Jerusalem for three months. One of them, a 23-year-old Yeshiva student, originally from California, who didn’t want to provide his name, said polls misrepresented American Jewish opinion on Trump. “As you can tell from the polls pre election, before Trump won, polls are false,” the student said.

The survey, released in September, also touched on the possible move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. 16% of American Jews wanted to ‘move the embassy to Jerusalem immediately’ compared to 44% saying it shouldn’t be moved at all. Once again, the Israeli Jewish reactions are mixed.

David, working at Mahane Yehuda market

David, who wouldn’t provide his last name, is American born but has lived in Jerusalem for ten years. Still holding his voting rights in America, he voted for Trump in the last election. David said he had no problem with the embassy move. “I don’t think it will do much. At the end of the day the Arabs don’t need another reason to be violent. Whether he moves it or doesn’t, says it’s the capital or not, they’re still going to be violent, there’s still going to be riots and violence,” David said, as he worked at Mahane Yehuda Market.

Ariv said he thought the embassy move was important. “Israeli’s say Jerusalem is our capital. USA is our best friend in the world, so if they recognise it too, it’s great.”

According to the American Jewish Committee survey, 36% said they wanted the embassy move, though ‘at a later date, in conjunction with Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.’ You can feel people lean more towards this option in Jerusalem as well and are somewhat afraid of what such a drastic decision could do in a fragile city.

Even though Levi believes Jerusalem is the capital, as written in the bible, she feels Trump should have waited for a peace deal to come to fruition. “I think we need to do this step by step, not rush, it doesn’t need to be a big noise.” Eden also agreed on the larger front: the embassy move is a good thing.

“But firstly it’s making problems. Everything is so tense, [people are worried the Palestinians] might bomb everything. All the peace we had in the last few months, now it’s gone.” Finishing with a Sufganiyah, Regev said she isn’t happy with the announcement. “We have enough tension in Jerusalem, this is going to make a lot of fire, so it’s not good for us.”

About Rhiannon F.

Rhiannon F. is a freelance journalist and photographer based in Ramallah.

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24 Responses

  1. eljay
    December 18, 2017, 2:03 pm

    … Further down the street, 50-year-old Ronit Levi agrees on the crazy aspect. “He has a lot of passion. Trump’s a crazy man, but I like it. I think he does things others are afraid to do,” Levi said. …

    I would be wary of cheering on crazy men who do things others are afraid to do.

    … Avi Samat, 39, a kitchen worker and Orthodox Jew, is a clear supporter of Trump. “He’s good for the Jewish …

    “Good for the Jewish”? Why, it’s like this guy has “special grammar in order to refrain from saying ‘Jews’, apparently for fear of defining the Jews as a collective entity”.

    Isn’t that right, Nathan?

    • eljay
      December 18, 2017, 2:20 pm

      A recent survey by the American Jewish Committee …

      “American Jewish Committee” instead of “American Committee of the Jews”? That’s weird. Let’s see what AJC CEO David Harris has to say:

      … “Particularly striking in our new survey is the fact that attitudes toward the president, both pro and con, have remained largely static since Election Day, and within the Jewish community the discrepancy between the Orthodox and other Jewish denominations on most questions is pronounced,” said AJC CEO David Harris. …

      “Jewish community” instead of “community of the Jews”
      “Jewish denominations” instead of “denominations of the Jews”

      What on Earth is going on here?! Jews everywhere seem to be afraid of “defining the Jews as a collective entity”!

      • Stephen Shenfield
        December 18, 2017, 6:23 pm

        I too have noticed the tendency to prefer the adjective to the noun. Two suggestions:

        1) “Jew” has a harsh sound, the suffix “ish” has a softening effect.

        2) “Jewish” may be preferred because “Jew” on its own is felt to exaggerate the importance of being a Jew for a person’s identity. “Jewish” implies that it is just one attribute among others of comparable importance (e.g. American). But for traditional Orthodox Jews being a Jew is the most important thing, so they are glad to be called simply Jews.

      • Mooser
        December 19, 2017, 2:37 pm

        “Jews everywhere seem to be afraid of “defining the Jews as a collective entity”

        You may have to re-calibrate your meter to pick up the distinction.
        From individual to collective is a current which alternates very fast, in the megaHerzl-per-second range.

      • LHunter
        December 22, 2017, 1:45 am

        Stephen Shenfield — 2) “Jewish” may be preferred because “Jew” on its own is felt to exaggerate the importance of being a Jew for a person’s identity. “Jewish” implies that it is just one attribute among others of comparable importance (e.g. American).

        Ya – I always tell people I’m Catholic-ish. I also dont want to exaggerate the importance of being a Catholic.

    • Maghlawatan
      December 18, 2017, 2:46 pm

      Good for the Jewish means good for gefilte fish and good for having a son who becomes a dentist.

      • Emory Riddle
        December 25, 2017, 8:25 am

        “At the end of the day the Arabs don’t need another reason to be violent. ”

        Jesus these people are deluded racists.

  2. Maghlawatan
    December 18, 2017, 2:51 pm

    “Meah Shearim is an ultra- Orthodox area of Jerusalem, and one of the oldest Jewish areas of the holy city”

    It is beyond the old city so it must be Zionist ie post 1880.
    The Jewish quarter is much older.

  3. jon s
    December 18, 2017, 3:54 pm

    Meah Shearim was founded in 1874 and most of the residents would object to being called Zionists.
    My father, of blessed memory, was born there.

  4. Citizen
    December 18, 2017, 4:40 pm

    Samat explained. “Obama never gave money to Israel. He said we weren’t allowed to build in [occupied East] Jerusalem because it’s not legal, but Trump allows us.”

    So the latest $38 billion Obama gave to Israel is 0? Further, he allowed the Israelis to expand their settlements during his entire eight years as POTUS, though at the end he abstained from the UN SC vote declaring such activity illegal.

    • eljay
      December 20, 2017, 2:17 pm

      || Citizen: … So the latest $38 billion Obama gave to Israel is 0? Further, he allowed the Israelis to expand their settlements during his entire eight years as POTUS, though at the end he abstained from the UN SC vote declaring such activity illegal. ||

      Yeah, but what has he done for the “Jewish State” lately?

  5. Mooser
    December 18, 2017, 6:03 pm

    “My father, of blessed memory, was born there.”

    And, hey, you were born in West Hartford! Conn.

  6. biggerjake
    December 19, 2017, 9:40 am

    Mooser, you continue to impress and amaze me.

    You remembered jon s was born in West Hartford from a post in 2014?

    Bravo my friend!

    When you write your book, I will buy it and read it over and over…

    • Mooser
      December 19, 2017, 12:28 pm

      “When you write your book, I will buy it and read it over and over…”

      You don’t need to do that. I’d be happy if you laughed from the moment you picked the book up until you put it down.

    • Mooser
      December 19, 2017, 12:33 pm

      “You remembered jon s was born in West Hartford from a post in 2014?”

      And now he’s trying to set himself up as some sort of pre-Zionist Jewish aristocracy in Palestine. Whatta buncha crap.

      • catalan
        December 19, 2017, 1:52 pm

        “And now he’s trying to set himself up as some sort of pre-Zionist Jewish aristocracy in Palestine. Whatta buncha crap.”
        The audacity of Jon to want to live elsewhere from where he was born. The lady that cuts my hair was born in Chihuahua, and I was born in Sofia. How dare we primitives live here among the Pueblos and act like aristocracy. In Mooser’s world, everybody stays where they were born.

      • eljay
        December 19, 2017, 2:09 pm

        || catalan: … The audacity of Jon to want to live elsewhere from where he was born. … I was born in Sofia. … In Mooser’s world, everybody stays where they were born. ||

        I get that you were using Mooser’s comment as an excuse to talk about yourself (again), but he didn’t say or even imply that jon s should not “want to live elsewhere from where he was born”.

      • Kaisa of Finland
        December 19, 2017, 2:15 pm

        “In Mooser’s world, everybody stays where they were born..”

        Well, Mooser may correct me if I am wrong, but I asume in his world the one’s who move to another country, should be the one’s who respect the local people and adapt to their way of life, instead of throwing them out of their houses and treating them like some 2nd class citizens.

      • Mooser
        December 19, 2017, 2:28 pm

        “catalan”, you were born in Sofia?
        That must be why you’re so sofiasticated!

      • jon s
        December 20, 2017, 4:22 pm

        Kaisa of Finland, I respect all cultures and religions and all decent people and don’t want to throw anyone out and would like to see all citizens treated equally.

  7. CigarGod
    December 19, 2017, 10:04 am

    “…Arabs don’t need another reason to be violent.”

    The Skin Head has that correct.
    The jack boot on their neck cutting off the air supply is all Palestinian’s need to fight back.

  8. Marnie
    December 20, 2017, 12:12 pm

    “He has a lot of passion. Trump’s a crazy man, but I like it. I think he does things others are afraid to do,” Like staring at the sun? He’s your boy.

    What is mistaken for passion is most likely acid reflux. He’s stupid and crazy like boobie (throws a grenade in a room full of people, what could go wrong). He does things others show the self-control not to do. It’s good to know for a fact what he’s all about though. There’ll be no more pulling the yarmulke over the eyes of palestinians about the u.s. – it simply doesn’t give a shit about them and will continue to do the bidding of the zionist state. Oh that and fight it’s wars.

  9. LHunter
    December 22, 2017, 1:10 am

    What’s not to like about Trump if you’re a Zionist?

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