Saturday, May 20, 2017

Jerusalem, Holy Site of Peace and Brotherhood

"How it affects one to be cheated in Jerusalem. [It] looked exactly like arid rocks, the desolation of the land."
"The colour of the whole city is grey and looks at you like a cold grey eye in a cold old man."
Herman Melville, American writer, 1856

"[Jerusalem has] become a pauper village. No landscape exists that is more tiresome to the eye than that which bounds the approaches to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is mournful, dreary, and lifeless. Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes."
"A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds ... a silent mournful expanse ... we never saw a human being on the whole route ... hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country."
"These unpeopled deserts, these rusty mounds of bareness that never, never, never, do shake the glare from their harsh outlines…; that melancholy ruin of Capernaum: this stupid village of Tiberias, slumbering under six funereal palms. … A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action. … We reached [Mount] Tabor safely. … We never saw a human being on the whole route."
Mark Twain, American writer, 1867
INSERT DESCRIPTIONA cartoon from American Publisher in 1872, showing Mark Twain on the trip to the Middle East described in his “Innocents Abroad.”

"The country is in a considerable degree empty of inhabitants."
British consul, 1857, Palestine

Three thousand years ago ancient Hebrews saw their leader, King Solomon, build a magnificent Temple in which to worship their god, as a monotheistic people. The City of Jerusalem, where the Temple of Solomon was built was Jewish, the city-seat of the nation of ancient Israel. There were two iterations of that Temple; the first destroyed by the Babylonians, the second by the Romans.Titus, who had led the Roman military in sacking Jerusalem and destroying the Temple, later became emperor inheriting the throne from his father, Emperor Vespasian.

As time went on and centuries passed, Jerusalem, through its connection to Jesus Christ, the Jewish man of gentle wisdom who preached a new faith, became a revered site of Christianity. The Emperor Constantine, (the Great) following his mother Helena's example, became a devout Christian. On his orders the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built in 326 A.D. to memorialize the site of Christ's tomb in Jerusalem, becoming the holiest place in Christendom. Jerusalem became renowned as a centre for Christian scholarship.

The Byzantine Empire defended Jerusalem from Arab Muslim conquest in 636 A.D. but was unable to halt the advance of militant Islam, and Jerusalem became an Arab/Muslim possession. The Crusades that followed succeeded in slaughtering more Jews living in Jerusalem as well as the Christian and Muslim combatants until Saladin, a Muslim Kurd, succeeded in vanquishing the last of the Christian Crusaders in 1187 and once again the Holy Land was consecrated to Islam.

In Islamic law, land once consecrated to Islam must never be permitted to fall into non-Muslim hands. Islam dictates that the European lands, most emphatically in Spain and elsewhere and certainly in the Middle East, where Israel now sits as it did historically, must be returned through combat, to Muslim rule. When the Crusaders were repelled it seemed as though the caliphs ruling from Constantinople became disinterested in Jerusalem and it fell into ruin; conquest and re-conquest established, but like a fertile field ignored, it fell fallow.

For the next thousand years the fabled city was in a state of disuse and decay. And this is how it appeared to Mark Twain one hundred and fifty years ago; a land sterile of people, abandoned and sere; unproductive. And while Muslims claim that Jerusalem represents the third holiest site to Islam there is no mention of Jerusalem whatever in the Koran. Under Muslim rule the city became mostly "grasse, mosse and Weedes" as a British tourist put it in an account dating from 1590.

The empire that reflected Muslim rule neglected Jerusalem entirely; it became a backnote to history of little interest to Islam. By the time Mark Twain visited Jerusalem, impoverished Jews were the main inhabitants of the ancient city. Jerusalem is made mention of 349 times in ancient Jewish scriptures while Zion is mentioned 198 times, whereas there is no mention whatever in the Koran of Jerusalem. The City of Jerusalem had no appearance in the 1964 Palestine Liberation Organization National Covenant.

After the Six-Day War in 1967 when the Israel Defence Forces won the battle to recapture the Old City and gained access to the Temple Mount, the PLO altered its covenant to mention Jerusalem, suddenly appearing politically relevant to its leaders. In an act of diplomatic sensitivity Israel, in the interests of moderation, agreed to allow Jordan to continue administering the Islamic affairs of the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque through the Waqf which it controls.

Despite UNESCO's re-writing of history alongside the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Jerusalem is Israel's undivided capital, the Temple Mount is the most sacred site in Judaism, and claims of ownership entitlement by Arabs and Muslims represents a sacrilegious re-writing of history to closely align with Islamic law declaring land once Islamic must always be Islamic, irrespective of it having been wrenched from other prior claims by Judaism and Christianity.

Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount during Sukkot, October 23, 2016. (Facebook Page: Students for the Temple Mount)

Israel, in the interests of broader cooperation, has agreed to the Waqf's demands that no Jews be permitted to pray on the Temple Mount, which Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary. Jews approaching the Temple Mount are often jeered by Muslims, have rocks thrown at them, and are otherwise harassed. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, speaks of Jewish presence 'defiling' the Noble Sanctuary. Muslims are incited to violence against Israeli Jews for daring to inflict their presence on what Muslims regard as their third holiest site, the first most sacred site in Judaism.

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