Jerusalem the Eternal Capital of the Jewish People
The Jews have only Jerusalem, and only the Jews have made it their capital.
That is why it has so much deeper a meaning for them (the Jews) than for anybody else.
Jerusalem throughout its long and turbulent history, Jerusalem, more than any other city, has evoked the emotions, aspirations, yearnings and religious fervor of civilized Jewish mankind. Yet this homage of the world cannot overshadow the consuming and single-minded passion of one particular attachment: that of the Jewish people. For that people, as no other, Jerusalem is not just its one and only religious centre and source of spiritual life; from time immemorial it has been and, still is, the very heart and core of the people – the tangible embodiment of its nationhood, the lodestar in its wanderings, the theme of its prayers each day, the fulfillment of its dreams for the Return unto Zion and indeed the cornerstone of its continuity.
Many thousand of years ago, it was in Jerusalem that the priests would offer up daily sacrifices in the Temple on Mount Moriah. It was there in the Temple that the Sanhedrin, the great court of 71 Jewish sages, would sit in judgment. And three times a year on the harvest holy-days of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles, the entire Jewish nation would make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It is in the direction of Jerusalem that Jews face when they pray three times daily.
The Jewish prayers themselves contain numerous references toJerusalem and Zion. In the Amidah, the Silent Devotion, God is praised as the Builder of Jerusalem. In many other places the prayers echo the messianic belief that God will restore the Jewish people to His holy city. On Passover and the Day of Atonement Jews conclude services with the fervent hope: “Next year may we be inJerusalem!”
The Jewish connection to Jerusalem harks back to Biblical times. Jacob, encountering the site where the Temple would stand centuries later said: “How awe-inspiring is this place! It is the House of God! It is the gate to heaven!” (Gen. 28:17). Jerusalem was “the site that the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes, as a place established in His name. It is there that you shall go to seek His presence” (Deut. 12:3).
Jerusalem began to fulfill the function of a spiritual and national capital when King David conquered the city in the 10th century BCE.
King David made it his seat of judgment and brought the Ark of the Covenant to rest there. It was also David who conceived the idea of building a permanent house of God, a Temple, a plan eventually fulfilled by his son Solomon. DESTRUCTION & REBIRTH The story of the Jewish people and Jerusalem has been one of exile, destruction and rebirth.
Jerusalem in its 3000 years of history the city was destroyed 17 times and 18 times reborn.
There always remained a Jewish presence in the city of Jerusalem, and the Jewish people as a whole always dreamt of returning en mass to Jerusalem and rebuilding their city.
When the Babylonians destroyed the city in 586 BCE, the Jewish exiles pledged that they would never forget their beloved Jerusalem: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, and we wept, when we remembered Zion. Upon the willows in its midst we hanged up our harps. For there they that led us captive asked of us words of song, and our tormentors asked of us in mirth: ‘Sing us one of the songs ofZion.’ How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember thee not; if I set not Jerusalemabove my chiefest joy” (Psalms 137:1-6).
The Jewish exiles did not forget their beloved city of Jerusalem. They were to return there and rebuild the Temple under the guidance of Ezra and Nehemiah. When the Seleucids took control over the Land of Israel and placed Greek idols in the Temple, the Jewish Maccabees revolted. They succeeded in recapturingJerusalem and re-dedicating the Temple in 165 BCE.
The Romans destroyed the Temple in 70 CE. When the Emperor Hadrian began planning to replace it with a shrine to Jupiter, a Jewish revolt known as the Bar Kochba Rebellion broke out.
For the last 2000 years, on the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av, Jews everywhere have commemorated the destruction of their city and Temple with a 25-hour fast. They sit on low stools in their synagogues and recite Jeremiah’s Lamentations. They recite elegies for the city which is “scorned without her glory”.
During the periods of exile Jews throughout the world would be linked as they prayed together in their Hebrew tongue all facing in the same direction, maintaining their affinity with their eternalJerusalem. Today Jerusalem flourishes once again as the heart and soul of Judaism. It boasts a full range of rebuilt and new synagogues, Talmudic academies and institutes of Jewish research. It is home to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel which administers the life cycle events of the nation’s Jewish citizens. All varieties of Judaism are represented there. Nowhere else is the spiritual element of the Jewish people so visible as in this “place that the Lord has chosen”.
Jerusalem the Jewish NATIONAL CAPITAL for eternity; Jerusalemwas never the capital city of any of its conquerors.
The Jewish claim to Jerusalem is rooted in more than 3,000 years of history. Jerusalem has been at the center of Jewish consciousness for over 3,000 years, even before King David made it the capital of his kingdom in 1004 BCE. Abraham's binding of Isaac and the dream of Jacob's ladder took place in Jerusalem, according to the Bible. No other city has played such a prominent role in the history, culture, and religion of a people, as has Jerusalem for the Jews.
* Throughout the Jewish Diaspora, Jerusalem has always remained foremost in the thoughts of the Jewish people as they turn to Jerusalem three times a day in prayer. No wedding or other celebration is without references to the Jewish people for their ancient capital. Jerusalem is mentioned in everyday prayers and on holidays and festivals. At the end of the Passover Seder and the Yom Kippur Services, Jews proclaim, "Next Year in Jerusalem."
* Jewish independence in the land of Israel, which ended in 70 CE and was renewed in 1948, marks the longest period of sovereignty over Jerusalem by any nation. No other nation can claim such a long political existence in the recorded history of this unique city. Jerusalem was never the capital of any other state.
* Throughout all the periods of foreign rule over Jerusalem (Roman, 70CE 324; Byzantine, 324 614; Persian, 614 640; Arab 640 1099; Crusader, 1099 1291; Mamluk, 1291 1516; and Ottoman Turk, 1516 1918) Jews were persecuted, massacred, and subject to exile. Even so, the Jewish presence in Jerusalem remained constant and enduring.
* Jews have always chosen to settle in Jerusalem. Since 1840, Jews constituted the largest ethnic group in this city and have held an uninterrupted majority in Jerusalem since the 1860s.
* No other nation or state which gained political sovereignty over the area had ever made Jerusalem a capital city. Both the Arab and Mamluk empires chose to rule from Damascus, while the Ottoman ruler resided in Constantinople. None of these empires even granted Jerusalem the status of district capital. When Israel reunited the city in 1967, she found Jerusalem in a state of ruin and destruction, badly neglected by those who formerly had jurisdiction over Jerusalem.
* The liberation and reunification of Jerusalem occurred in 1967 during the Six Day War. The only time the city was divided was between the years of 1948 and 1967, the result of unprovoked attack followed by unrecognized annexation by Jordan: - On May 14, 1948, upon the termination of the British Mandate, Israel proclaimed its independence. Immediately, the surrounding Arab countries attacked the fledgling state and besieged the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City. - On May 28, 1948, the Arab Legion overran the Jewish Quarter in eastern Jerusalem while Israel held onto the Jewish populated western neighborhoods of the city. Jerusalem was divided for the first time in its history. - In 1950, Transjordan annexed the West Bank and Jerusalem in an act which was neither recognized by the world community nor by the Arab states.
* On June 5, 1967, an unprovoked Arab attack was launched on the Jewish-populated western neighborhoods of Jerusalem. Indiscriminate artillery bombardment damaged religious sites, hospitals, and schools across the 1949 armistice line. The UN headquarters south of Jerusalem was seized, and enemy troops began to enter nearby Jewish neighborhoods.
* On June 7, the IDF retook the Old City, reuniting Jerusalem. The barbed wire and concrete barriers which had divided Jerusalem were finally torn down, and Israeli law, jurisdiction, and administration was extended to the eastern neighborhoods of the city.
* Jerusalem is and has always been an undivided city except for this 19-year period. There is no justification for this short period to be viewed as a factor in determining the future of this city and to negate over 3,000 years of unity.
* There is no basis in international law for the position supporting the status of the separate entity for the city of Jerusalem. This concept originated in a proposal contained in the UN General Assembly resolution 181 of November 1947, which dealt with the partition of the British Mandate of Palestine. This was a non- binding proposal and never materialized. It was rendered irrelevant when the Arab states rejected the UN resolution and invaded Israel.
* Immediately following the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967, Jerusalem's Arab residents were offered full Israeli citizenship, though most declined to accept it. Those who chose not to accept it still retain the rights to participate in municipal elections and enjoy all economic, cultural, and social benefits afforded Israeli citizens including health benefits, and social security, among others.
* In 1949, Prime Minister David Ben Gurion acted to reconstitute the seat of government in Jerusalem and the Knesset was reconvened in the city in December of that year.
* Following the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967, together with the extension of Israeli jurisdiction and administration over East Jerusalem, the Knesset passed the `Preservation of the Holy Places Law of 1967', which ensured protection and freedom of access to all holy sites of the city to members of all faiths.
* In 1980, the Knesset legislated `Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel' which restates the position that "Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel" and the seat of its main governing bodies. This law reiterates Israel's commitment to protecting the holy places and to developing the city.
* There has always been a national consensus in Israel on the status of Jerusalem. Since the reunification of the city in 1967, all Israeli governments had declared their policy that united Jerusalem, Israel's eternal capital, is one indivisible city under Israeli sovereignty.
* On May 28, 1995, then Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin stated, "In 1980, the Knesset passed the Jerusalem law. All the governments of Israel, including the present government, have been fully confident that what was determined in 1967, what was legislated in 1980 transforming Jerusalem into a unified city under Israeli sovereignty, the capital of Israel, the heart of the Jewish people these are facts that will endure for eternity."
Book review excerpt of Mark Twain's The Innocents Abroad; or, The New Pilgrims' Progress, from The Mirriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature, April 1, 1995:
"A humorous travel narrative by Mark Twain, published in 1869 and based on Twain's letters to newspapers about his 1867 steamship voyage to Europe, Egypt, and the Holy Land. The Innocents Abroad sharply satirized tourists who learn what they should see and feel by reading guidebooks. Assuming the role of a keen-eyed, shrewd Westerner, Twain was refreshingly honest and vivid in describing foreign scenes and his reactions to them. He alternated serious passages--history, statistics, description, explanation, argumentation--with risible ones. The humor itself was varied, sometimes in the vein of the Southwestern yarn spinners, sometimes in that of contemporaneous humorists such as Artemus Ward and Josh Billings, who chiefly used burlesque and parody and other verbal devices."