Palm Beach County religious leaders react to President's Jerusalem announcement

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - People around Palm Beach County are feeling the gain or loss of Jerusalem as their religious capital, following President Donald Trump’s announcement Wednesday.

“I was very glad to hear it,” said Stan Barag, kosher supervisor of Pita Grille. “It’s long overdue.”

"[Palestinians] would feel that it’s a symbolic loss of a very holy and blessed place for them," said Imam Mohamed Ismail, of the Muslim Community of Palm Beach County.

Jerusalem is significant in the history of three monotheistic religions.

"This mosque, like all others, faces Mecca, but initially, the mosque of the prophet used to face toward Jerusalem,” Ismail said.

Restaurant staff at Pita Grille in Palm Beach Gardens serve up kosher food now knowing Jerusalem is the capital of Israel in the United State’s eyes.

“In our prayers, we acknowledge Jerusalem," said Eric Sikes, who does business development for the restaurant. "We pray and say Jerusalem in the Torah, in our mitzvahs.”

"When we received the ten commandments and we became a nation, a treasured nation under god, that’s when we became one and that’s when Jerusalem became our homeland," said Rabbi Dovid Vigler, of Chabad of Palm Beach Gardens.

But thousands of miles away, violence has erupted over the president's announcement.

“No human life should ever be sacrificed for a political decision," Vigler said.

"We condemn it and so does religion," Ismail said.

Ismail said this is all part of the lengthy, ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine.

“The inequality of the rights of Palestinians as opposed to Israeli citizens, these types of issues are just compounded by the announcement," he said.

Rabbi Barry Silver, of Congregation L’Dor Va-Dorof, agrees with the president on the significance of Jerusalem for the Jewish people, but he believes the city can still be shared.

“This would’ve been right if it also recognized the Palestinian goal of having a city in Jerusalem as their capital as well," he said. "Once they renounce violence and want to make peace with Israel, I think that should happen."

Silver said he also believes the messenger for this announcement has increased tensions among Palestinians because of President Trump's anti-muslim rhetoric and policies in the past.

"The problem with this recognition is who it’s coming from," he said. "It’s coming from a president who has issued, stated two years today that he wanted to have a complete and utter ban on all Muslims."

“I think it’s more symbolic than anything else," Douglas Johansen said.

“No matter what Israel does, it’s going to be not the political thing to do and [Palestinians] are going to be very upset, but I feel the world overall is going to stand behind President Trump," Steven Rubin said.

Print this article Back to Top