Charles M. Abelsohn – Letter from Israel – Jerusalem Part I
Hi again from Israel,
Unless you live in Mars or Venus, you will be aware that the ancient capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem has been in the news again. Actually, if at any time during the past three thousand years, you had opened a radio, watched television, read a newspaper or followed social media, Jerusalem would almost certainly have been mentioned together with a mention of its unbreakable link with, and as the capital of, the Jewish people.
In this Letter, I do not intend to provide an exhaustive detailed history of Jerusalem. There are hundreds if not thousands of books and articles dealing with macro and/or micro Jerusalem. Rather, I will highlight some limited facts evidencing the deeply emotional and faith-based relationship between Jerusalem and the Jewish people which may be of interest and assist the debate of “whose Jerusalem”. I set out my conclusion in the last paragraph which may be distributed further as a “stand alone”.
As usual, you are welcome to distribute all or part of this letter to your friends and family.
As always, shalom from Israel together with my warm wishes for a chag Pesach kasher ve`sameach, a festive and kosher Passover and a happy Easter.
Charles M. Abelsohn
Truth be Told
Jerusalem in the Bible.
Since 1004 BCE, when King David established Jerusalem as the capital of his kingdom, there has been a continuous Jewish presence in Jerusalem, the holiest city in Judaism. This presence, which precedes both Christianity and Islam, is reflected in the Bible.
In the Jewish Bible, Jerusalem is mentioned 669 times and Zion (which means the Land of Israel) 154 times, or 823 references to Jerusalem/Zion (basically identical). The Christian Bible mentions Jerusalem 154 times and Zion 7 times.
Jerusalem is not mentioned once in the Koran, let`s repeat: not even once. Mohamed never visited Jerusalem or the Land of Israel.
Jerusalem is also not mentioned in the two Palestinian Covenants of 1964 and 1968. From the days of Abraham, Zionism is about 4,000 years old give or take a 1,000 years each way and Jerusalem about 3,000 years old. Yet as recently as 1964 and even 1968, when issuing the Palestinian Covenant, Jerusalem was not regarded as being important or even worth a mention by the Palestinian Arabs. The earliest claim to Jerusalem as their “eternal capital” by the Palestinians appears to be the Palestinian Independence Declaration of 1988.
As I will show later in this letter, the Palestinian Covenant of
1964 specifically renounced any claim to the West Bank which included that part of Jerusalem which in 1964 was located in the West Bank and today is referred to as Eastern Jerusalem.
A Thumbnail Sketch of Jerusalem`s History
Jerusalem has been captured and recaptured at least 20 times. It’s been claimed by about as many countries and empires, and by three of the world’s major religions. But only the Jews ever claimed Jerusalem as their capital.
Here’s a brief history of how a humble village on a scrubby hilltop became the location of Holy Sites that provoked centuries of dispute:
3,000 to 2,500 B.C.E. The city on the hills separating the fertile Mediterranean coastline of present-day Israel from the arid deserts of Arabia was first settled by pagan tribes in what was later known as the land of Canaan. The Bible says the last Canaanites to rule the city were the Jebusites.
1,000 B.C.E. — According to archaeological evidence, King David conquered the city. He named his conquest The City of David and made it the capital of his new realm.
960 B.C.E. — David’s son Solomon built the first Jewish temple. The Bible says the Israelites also fought many wars against another Canaanite tribe called the Philistines, a non- Arab people originating in Crete, who lived along the southern coastline.
721 B.C.E. — Assyrians conquered part of the land of Israel called Samaria, and Jewish refugees fled to Jerusalem, causing the city to expand.
701 B.C.E. — Assyrian ruler Sennacherib laid siege to
586 B.C.E. — Babylonian troops occupied the city, destroying the temple and exiling many Jews.
539 B.C.E. — Persian King Cyrus the Great conquered the
Babylonian empire, including Jerusalem.
516 B.C.E. — King Cyrus allowed Jews to return to
Jerusalem to rebuild. The Jews built the Second Temple.
445-425 B.C.E. — Nehemiah the Prophet rebuilt the walls of the city.
332 B.C.E. — Alexander the Great of Macedonia took control. After his death, his empire was divided into four, including the Seleucid Empire that contained the land of Israel and their ancient enemies, the Philistines.
160-167 B.C.E. — The Jews’ Maccabean revolt, launched against the Seleucid Empire and Greek influence, eventually returned the city to Jewish control. The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah celebrates the purification of the Second Temple after the Maccabees reconquered Jerusalem.
141 B.C.E. — The Hasmonean dynasty of Jewish rulers began, and the city grew.
63 B.C.E. — Roman General Pompey captured Jerusalem.
37 B.C.E. — Roman client King Herod renovated the Second Temple and added retaining walls, one of which remains today and is called the Western Wall, often referred to as the Wailing Wall.
30 A.D. — Jesus was crucified by the Roman soldiers.
70 — During another Jewish revolt, the Romans destroy the
Temple and exiled many Jews.
135 — The Romans rebuild Jerusalem as a city of their own.
335 — Roman Emperor Constantine built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre over the spot where Jesus was said to have been buried and to have risen from the dead.
614 — The Persians capture Jerusalem.
629 — Byzantine Christians recapture Jerusalem.
632 — Muhammed, the prophet of Islam, died and was said to ascend to heaven from a rock in the centre of the Land of Israel where the Jewish Temple used to be.
637 — Caliph Omar entered the city to accept the surrender of its Byzantine ruler, the Patriarch Sophronius.
691 — The Muslim shrine known as Haram al Sharif, or the Dome of the Rock, was built around that spot where Mohamed was said to have risen to heaven, and remains there today.
1033 – the original AL Aqsa Mosque built in about 750 is destroyed by earthquake before 1033 and is rebuilt.
1099-1187 — Christian Crusaders occupied Jerusalem, claiming it as a major religious site.
1187 — Salladin captures Jerusalem from the Crusaders.
1229-1244 — Crusaders recapture Jerusalem twice.
1250 — Muslim rulers dismantle the walls of the city.
1517 — The Ottoman Empire captures Jerusalem and
Suleiman the Magnificent rebuilds the walls from 1538 to
1700 – Judah he-Hasid Segal ha-Levi, known as Judah the
Pious, and 1,000 followers settle in Jerusalem.
1820 – Jews constitute a relative majority in Jerusalem.
1873–75 Mea Shearim is built.
1882 – The First Aliyah results in 35,000 Jewish immigrants entering the Palestine region
1901–14: The Second Aliyah results in 40,000 Jewish immigrants entering the Palestine region
1917 – November 2. The Balfour Declaration is issued at a time that Jerusalem is still held by the Ottomans (Turkey).
1917 – December 9. The British capture Jerusalem in World
1948 May 15 — The State of Israel is established.
1948–49 Trans-Jordan illegally occupies the Old City with its Jewish population. All Jewish residents of the occupied eastern part of the city were expelled by Arab forces and the entire Jewish Quarter was destroyed, including 58 synagogues, libraries and centers of religious study. The ancient Jewish cemetery on Mount of Olives was desecrated, and the tombstones there were used for construction and paving roads. Israelis of all religions and Jews were not allowed into East Jerusalem. Transjordan changes its name to Jordan.
1949 April 2 – Cease Fire Agreement between Jordan and Israel is signed. Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Jerusalem was divided. The Western half of the New City became part of the newly formed state of Israel, while the eastern half, including the Old City, was occupied by Jordan.
The formal surrender of Jerusalem. Handwritten caption: “The Mayor of Jerusalem Hussein Effendi El Husseini meeting with Sergeants Sedwick and Hurcomb [of the] London Regiment under the White Flag of Surrender, December 9,
1949 April 24 – Jordan formally annexed the areas illegally occupied by it and renamed Judea and Samaria as the West Bank.
1950 January 23 – the Knesset passed a resolution that stated Jerusalem was the capital of Israel
1967 — Israel captures East Jerusalem and immediately annexed it, granting Arab (Palestinian) residents who had meanwhile acquired Jordanian citizenship, permanent resident status, but not citizenship. The Six-Day War results in East Jerusalem, including the Old City, being captured by Israel. Israel declares Jerusalem unified under one Municipality and announces free access to holy sites of all
religions. Jews are 75% of the population of unified
Before proceeding further, for a better understanding of the location and history of the holy sites, let`s have a look at the holy sites claimed by Jews, Christians and Moslems. The “history lesson” below was prepared by an unknown author for presentation to the United Nations. It will be seen that the two Jewish Temples were built first, followed by the construction of two Christian Churches and only about one thousand five hundred years after the Jewish Temples and several hundred years after the Christian Churches were built, were the Moslem mosques built. During the Umayyad rule from 661 to 750 CE, the Dome of the Rock and the original Al Aqsa Mosque were built on the site where the Jewish Temples had once stood. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built by Constantine the Great in 333AD. It is not shown below but the Church is to the left of the red sign below.
The Earliest Synagogue Inscription in Jerusale
The earliest synagogue inscription in Jerusalem uncovered to date is in Greek and dates to the first century BCE or about
“Theodotos, son of Vettenos the priest and synagogue leader [archisynagogos], son of a synagogue leader and grandson of a synagogue leader, built the synagogue for the reading of the Torah and studying of the commandments, and as a hostel with chambers and water installations to provide for the needs of itinerants from abroad, which his fathers, the elders, and Simonides founded.”
Earliest Non-biblical Mention of Jerusalem in
The Israel Antiquities Authority has in its possession an ancient papyrus scroll dating from the seventh century BCE, the First Temple period, in which the name “Jerusalem” clearly appears in ancient Hebrew script.
According to the Authority, the papyrus document represents the oldest external source found to date that cites Jerusalem.
The document details a shipment to be delivered to the king. Two lines of Hebrew script are extant and feature the words “wine,” “king,” and “[to] Jerusalem.”
The document specifies the status of the sender of the shipment [the king’s maidservant]; the name of the settlement from which the shipment was dispatched [Naharata]; the contents of the vessels [wine]; their number or amount [jars] and their destination [Jerusalem]”.
Naharata, which is mentioned in the text, is the same Naharata that is referred to in the description of the border between Ephraim and Benjamin in Joshua 16:7: ‘And it went down from Janohah to Ataroth, and to Naharata, and came to Jericho, and went out at Jordan’.
The document represents extremely rare testimony of the existence of orderly management in the kingdom of Judea. The document specifies the status of the sender of the shipment [the king’s maidservant]; the name of the settlement from which the shipment was dispatched [Naharata]; the contents of the vessels [wine]; their number or amount [jars] and their destination [Jerusalem].
The document highlights the centrality of Jerusalem as the kingdom’s economic capital as long ago as the 7th century BCE.
To be Continued!