by: Rev. Cheryl Hauer, Associate Editor
Many cities around the world are dearly loved by those who live in them. Poetry has been written, songs composed, and movies produced about cities, large and small, by those whose identity is intertwined with the places they call home. But few, if any, engender the kind of passion as does Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem Covenant, drafted on the 25th anniversary of the city’s reunification, says it well:
We love you, O Jerusalem, with eternal love, with unbounded love, under siege and when liberated from the yoke of oppressors. We have been martyred for you; we have yearned for you, we have clung to you. Our faithfulness to you we shall bequeath to our children after us. Forevermore our home shall be within you.
Never has a people group, except the Jews, been separated from their homeland for millennia and then miraculously returned to live within those ancient borders once again, or been dispersed to virtually every part of the globe while maintaining their customs, language and religious identity. Never has a people group, except the Jews, so longed for their homeland that they left a corner of their new homes unfinished and smashed a glass at weddings in order to remember the destruction of their beloved city.
For thousands of years, the heart cry of Jewish people in all the nations of their dispersion has been, “Next year in Jerusalem.” Generation after generation wept as they read the words, “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem…” and clung fervently to the promises of the God of Heaven. He had given His Word that He would restore the nation of Israel and return His people to their Land from the four corners of the earth. And the faithful never doubted that when He did, Jerusalem would reign as Israel’s capital once again.
According to the Bible, King David established Jerusalem as the capital of the united Kingdom of Israel around 1000 BC, making the city the cultural and economic center of the nation. With the building of the Temple, his son Solomon solidified it as the religious and spiritual center as well. However, it was to be a stumbling block to the nations and peace would prove elusive. Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, attacked over 50 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times. It was conquered by Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Romans, Greeks and Muslims and occupied by foreign armies. The Jewish people were driven from the city, only to be restored and then driven out again. Through it all, the inexplicable, eternal connection between the Jewish people and the City of their God could not be broken. Jerusalem was a lot of things throughout her history, but she was never the capital city or center of national life for anyone but the Jewish people.
Jerusalem was declared the capital of the modern state of Israel in 1949, one year after the creation of the state. The United Nations objected on the basis that the Partition Plan of 1947 established Jerusalem as an international city that did not fall under Jewish sovereignty. Prime Minister David Ben Gurion made the following remarks in response:
We do not judge the UN which did nothing when nations, which were members of the UN, declared war on its resolution of 29 November 1947, trying to prevent the establishment of Israel by force, to annihilate the Jewish population and destroy Jerusalem…Had we not been able to withstand the aggressors who rebelled against the UN, Jewish Jerusalem would have been wiped off the face of the earth, the Jewish population would have been eradicated and the State of Israel would not have arisen. Thus, we are no longer morally bound by the UN resolution of November 29 since the UN was unable to implement it. In our opinion the decision of 29 November regarding Jerusalem is null and void.
Still, the city remained divided until Israel’s victory in the Six Day War in 1967. Finally, after thousands of years of separation, the Jewish people regained sovereignty over a united Jerusalem. Shortly thereafter, it was declared the eternal, undivided capital of the State of Israel.
Prior to 1967, Islamic claims to Jerusalem were seldom, if ever, asserted. Mecca and Medina were the recognized holy cities for Muslims; and Jerusalem, which was home only to Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, paled in comparison. Jerusalem had never played a significant role in the political or religious lives of Muslims, never served as a capital city or as a government or religious center. Jerusalem as an Islamic holy city is a very recent development, yet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has referred to Jerusalem as the “eternal and undivided capital of the state of Palestine.” The Muslim world, in a massive propaganda campaign which began in 1967, has rewritten their own history to include a previously nonexistent connection to the Holy City, while writing Jewish Jerusalem and the Holy Temple completely out of the picture.
The final status of the city was a major point of contention in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and remains an explosive issue. Palestinian chutzpah claims that the presence of two minor holy sites gives them legitimate rights to half, if not all Jerusalem, while the United Nations continues to deny Israel’s right to sovereignty over an undivided city. And even though the offices for all three branches of Israel’s government are housed in Jerusalem, the world refuses to acknowledge it as the legitimate capital.
Perhaps in the final analysis, it doesn’t really matter what the United Nations believes, or what the Palestinians are demanding, or how the rest of the world is behaving. What matters is that the God of the Universe has promised to restore His people to the City of the Great King, never to be uprooted again. His Word makes it clear it is His city and a very fitting capital for the people who are the apple of His eye.
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