The city of Jerusalem, located in modern-day Israel, is considered by many as one of the holiest places on earth. Jerusalem is a place of major significance and importance to the world’s three largest monotheistic religions: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, and so both the nations of Israel and Palestine have laid claim to Jerusalem as their capital city. Due to these powerful, age-old relations, a lot of bloody wars to control the city and sacred sites within it have been waged, over and over, for thousands of years.
EARLY HISTORY OF JERUSALEM
According to scholars, the first known human settlements in Jerusalem occurred during the Early Bronze Age, which is about 3500 B.C.
Much later, in the year 1000 B.C., after a long campaign, Judah’s King David conquered the city of Jerusalem and made it the capital of the United Jewish kingdom. It was King David that had the bright idea of building a Holy Temple of worship in Jerusalem, but due to so many wars, never did. However, it was his son and successor, King Solomon, who actually accomplished the project of building the first Holy Temple in Jerusalem about 40 years later.
The armies of the Babylonian Empires invaded and occupied Jerusalem in 586 B.C., destroyed that Temple, and carried the Jews off into exile in their Empire. And then 50 years on, the Persian King Cyrus came to power and permitted the Jews to leave Babylon and return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple of worship to God.
The next major visitor to Jerusalem was Alexander the Great and he took control of the city in 332 B.C. At the death of Alexander, the rule of Jerusalem, passed on to one of his top Generals, as a province of the Roman Empire.
Over the nearly 3,000 years followed, the city of Jerusalem was attacked, conquered and ruled over by different groups, including the Persians, Arabs, Fatimids, Crusaders, Seljuk Turks, Egyptians, the Mamelukes, the Islamists and, lastly the British from whom Israel gained final independence as a nation after World War 2.
Major Events Of Religious Significance That Took Place In Jerusalem All Through This Period Include:
- The complete restructuration of the second Temple and the addition of retaining walls to it by King Harold in 37 B.C.
- The crucifixion of Jesus the Christ in the city of Jerusalem in the year 30 A.D.
- In 70 A.D., just thirty years after the death of Christ, the Romans laid waste to the second Temple.
- About six hundred years on, in 632 A.D., Prophet Muhammad, the founder of the Islamic religion, died and allegedly ascended to heaven from the very spot the temple supposedly stood in Jerusalem.
- In the 1st century A.D., thousands of European Christians began pilgrimages to Jerusalem. From about 1099 to 1187, after Jerusalem had been repeatedly invaded and captured by Muslim civilizations, Christian crusaders occupied the city and declared it a major religious site.
THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE ARRIVES
The Ottoman Empire ruled Jerusalem and much of the Middle East from about 1516 to 1917.
After the first world war, Great Britain took over control of Jerusalem, which was then part of Palestine. The British controlled the city of Jerusalem and its surrounding region until Israel attained independence in 1948.
The British then divided Jerusalem during the first 20 years of Israel’s existence. Israel had control of the Western part of the city, while Jordan controlled the eastern sector.
After the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel seized all of Jerusalem and never relinquished power over it till date.
THE TEMPLE MOUNT
Most people haven’t even heard of it and yet it is the real reason for all the wars and bloodbath in Jerusalem. The Temple Mount is a large compound located on a central hill in Jerusalem. That compound encompasses about 35 acres of land and contains religious structures of different kinds, such as the Western Wall (popularly called the Wailing Wall), the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque.
|An ariel view of the Temple Mount
This ancient landmark is actually the holiest site in Judaism. References to this particular place date back to Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his only son Isaac in the Jewish scriptures. This place is also the location of both the first and second Holy Temples. Additionally, it’s the spot where many of the Jewish prophets taught.
To Islamists, The Temple Mount is believed to be the third holiest place in Islam, right after the holy city of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammad ascended directly to heaven there.
Christians in their own right, believe this place is significant to their faith after a fashion. It is a place that the holy prophets mention repeatedly in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible, a place visited directly by Jesus Christ according to the New Testament.
Due to these historical and religious implications, occupation and control of the Temple Mount have been the cause of so many bitter conflicts over the centuries, especially between the Jews and the Muslims who live within the area.
During the famous Six-Day War, Israel gained full control of the Temple Mount. But today, the Islamic Waqf governs all that happens within the compound, while Israeli military forces control external security.
The DOME OF THE ROCK
The Dome of the Rock is a large gold-domed Islamic shrine that was built on the site of the ruins of the Jewish Temples in Jerusalem in the year 691 A.D..
|The Golden Dome Of the Rock
The golden Dome is located on the Temple Mount and was built by Caliph Abd al-Malik.at the very site where Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. The Dome is the oldest surviving Islamic building on earth.
During the time of the Crusades, the Christians turned the entire compound into a church, but in 1187, the Muslims recaptured it and re-designed the Dome of the Rock into a shrine.
This time, a silver-domed mosque, called al-Aqsa, was built right next to the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount. Both structures stand today as holy places unto Muslims.
WESTERN WALL (The WAILING WALL)
The Western Wall or wailing wall is a section of ancient remnant wall from the ruins of the second Jewish Temple. It is located over on the western side of the Temple Mount and is occasionally referred to as the “Wailing Wall” due to the many Jews praying and weeping at the site of their destroyed Holy Temple.
|The Wailing Wall: visited by millions of Jews each year.
Every year, millions of Jews from all over the world visit the wailing wall. Because Muslims control the Temple Mount (the actual site of both ancient Temples), the Western Wall or Wailing Wall is considered the holiest place where Jews can pray.
THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher was built in the year 335 A.D. This is the part of Jerusalem Christians are currently concerned with. It is the site where Christians believe Jesus Christ was crucified, buried and eventually resurrected to ascend to heaven. The church is located in the Christian quarter of Jerusalem.
|The Church of the HOLY SEPULCHRE
Thousands of Christian pilgrims from all over the world flock to this church each year. Many view it as the holiest Christian site on Earth.
THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT OVER JERUSALEM
Ever since Israel’s independence in 1948, clashes between the Israelis and Palestinians over key territories in the city of Jerusalem have never ceased.
Despite the fact that Jewish law forbids Jews from praying within the Temple Mount, Israeli security forces allow hundreds of Jewish settlers enter the compound routinely. A situation which some top Palestinians fear may lead to an Israeli takeover.
In fact, the most important event relating to this issue occurred in 2000 and led to the Second Palestinian Intifada (the Palestinian uprising against the state of Israel). This happened when top Jewish leader Ariel Sharon, visited Jerusalem’s, Temple Mount. He later went on to become Israel’s Prime Minister.
In recent years, some prominent Israeli groups have announced plans to construct a third Jewish Temple right there on the Temple Mount. This proposal has sparked outrage among the Palestinians living in the region and Israel’s attempts to make Jerusalem its capital has not helped matters one bit.
Palestine wants the Temple Mount and Jerusalem as its capital as well and this has increased the tension within the region.
In 1980, against all odds and in direct contradiction of a long-standing UN peace project working on the idea of a split Israeli-Palestine rule of Jerusalem, Israel declared a unified Jerusalem as its capital. Amid the swift protest that rocked the Islamic world, the UN security council condemned the action vigorously, declaring it a violation of international law. In the aftermath of that declaration, no member of the international community recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In fact, the ones that already had Embassies in Jerusalem pulled out. In 2006 El Salvador and Costa Rica was the last country to move its embassy out of Jerusalem.
While most countries, including the US, France and Britain maintained a consulate in Jerusalem, their embassies were moved to Tel Aviv.
In May 2017, the Palestinian liberation group, Hamas, presented a document to the UN proposing the formation of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. However, the said group refused to recognize Israel as a state, and so the Israeli government immediately rejected the proposal.
MODERN-DAY RIVALITY IN JERUSALEM
Today, regardless of all attempts by international groups and other nations to bring peace to the region, tensions are still high in the city of Jerusalem. Constant clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians are so commonplace.
According to a prestigious institute in Jerusalem, of the more than 850 000 inhabitants of Jerusalem, 37% are Arabs while 67% are Jews. 95% of the Arabs living in Jerusalem are Muslims while the rest are Christians. Israel is a tiny nation surround by larger Arab nations who hate everything they stand for, particularly their occupation of Jerusalem.
The majority of the international community supports efforts to split the city of Jerusalem between Israeli and Palestinian. But, finding a plan everyone agrees on is presently impossible.
In July 2017, three Arab men shot two Israeli police officers at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. For security reasons, the Israeli forces cleared compound of visitors and shut down to Muslim Friday prayers for the first time in 17 years. The violent protests that followed were swift.
AMERICA TAKES A FIRM STAND ON JERUSALEM
The United States has never had an Embassy in Jerusalem, it just maintains a consulate there. The US embassy is in Tel Aviv, thirty minutes north of Jerusalem.
In 1989, the Israeli government started a 99-year lease of a plot of land in Jerusalem to the United States at a cost of $1. The land which was designated to be the spot of a new US embassy in Jerusalem has been left undeveloped until today.
In 1995, the US Congress passed a law requiring America to respect Israel’s wishes by moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Every US president since then has declined to make that move, citing National security issues. President Bush, Obama, etc., they all sign the presidential waiver every six months, keeping the US embassy in Tel Aviv. All presidents except Donald Trump.
On Wednesday 6th December 2017, in keeping with his election campaign promise, US president Donald Trump officially announced US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The announcement followed the imposition of travel bans on 8 Muslim nations and a beef up in US security levels by the State Department.
THE RAGE AND CONFLICTS FOLLOW
The announcement alone has drawn a swift response from the Arab world in the form of protests and calls for a new jihad ageist both Israel and the United States.
Jerusalem itself has not been at rest. In the five short days of this declaration, numerous conflicts between Israeli forces and Palestines have occurred within the city. In one case, protesters burned Israeli and US flags and stamped on Trump posters in displays of anger. Shooting erupted on 9th December along the Gaza strip (the Gaza-Israeli border), with Israeli forces forced to fire upon stone-throwing Palestinians. One was confirmed dead and over 200 injured.
|The Rage begins and many are hurt
||30 year Mohammed Ali was the first to die since the declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Isreal
On the West Bank, following a mass strike action, protesters torched piles of tyres, sending columns of thick black smoke rising high over the cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem.
The Arab and Muslim nations are angered by Donald Trump’s actions. They view it as a seismic policy shift on Jerusalem as an expression of blatant pro-Israel bias on one of the region’s most explosive political and religious disputes.
Palestinian political groups wasted little time in calling for massive demonstrations in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and over in east Jerusalem – the lands captured by Israeli forces in 1967 and annexed to Israel. This land is the same one sought for a capital of the Palestinian state.
The Gaza-based leader of the Islamic militant group Hamas has already called for a third uprising against Israel. A day later, the militant terror group al Qaida declared a holy war, urging its followers around the world to target vital interests of the United States, its Western allies and Israel.
Little wonder the United States made sure Trump’s travel ban on six Muslim countries was in full effect before its declaration.
Marches by protesters were staged in Iran, Iraq, Indonesia, Malaysia, Jordan and Pakistan. In the Jordanian capital of Amman, thousands of protesters chanted ‘Jerusalem is Arab’ and ‘America is the head of the snake’.
Over at The Temple Mount itself, thousands of worshippers at a prayer service heard their religious leader make a simple speech. “All we want from the Arab and Muslim leaders is action and not statements of denunciation,’ said Sheikh Yousef Abu Sneineh to approximately 27,000 worshippers gather before him. About 2,000 Arabs later came together in the plaza around the mosque, chanting: ‘With our soul and blood, we will defend Al Aqsa and Jerusalem.’
Who Really Does Own Jerusalem?
After decades of silence, the United States, one of the countries with the highest population of Jews in the world, has finally taken a bold step to end a religious conflict that has dragged on for thousands of years. This may end in another war or another devastation such the September 9/11 bombing of New York by terrorists, but there was no other way out since both parties have refused to come to an agreement with decades of talks.
On the issue of handing Jerusalem over to the Israel, many feel this is right since the Jews are the original owners and builders of the City while the Arabs were merely ancient conquerors who destroyed what was left of the Jewish Temple of worship (After the Romans had destroyed it hundreds of years before) and built their own place of worship right on top of it.
The Arabs don’t see things this way, though. It’s all their property and that’s final.
If anything is apparent here, it is that a group of people who lived in the past have played mankind a very bad trick. How else can the founder of one of the World’s major religions ascend into heaven at the holiest site of another religion? And in spirit form too, which ensures that no one can authentically claim to be a witness and yet the belief holds. Has anyone stopped to wonder what Mohammed, in spirit form or physical form, was even doing at the ruins of a Jewish temple in the first place? Or are we saying that God made some kind of huge mistake by calling Mohammed to Heaven in the wrongest place on earth, a situation that has led to perpetual bloodshed among successive generations?
Nothing makes sense and yet people are killing themselves over it, day after day, year after year, century after century.
There are opposing religious groups today that believe that the prophet Mohamed did not set foot (spiritually or otherwise) or ascend to heaven on the Mount. They argue that the whole idea must have just been a ploy by a mischievous group of people at that accent period, to place the founder of the Muslim religion at the same spiritual level with the founders of the Christain and Jewish religions, Jesus Christ and Moses, both of whom are believed to have ascended directly to heaven.
Whatever the case, it has resulted in the pinning of the holiest sites of two very distinct and powerful religions to a particular piece of land, ensuring that there can never be peace in the entire region forever because there can be no compromise in deep reaching spiritual and religious matters such as this.
We certainly cannot accuse God of doing something like this even by mistake. It is simply not possible. In fact, it is on record in the Christain holy book, the Bible, that God warned the Israelites repeatedly to completely destroy the nations all around them or they will forever be a thorn in their flesh. That prophecy is indeed come to pass now as Palestine and the rest of the Arab world are thorns in the flesh of Israel.
One thing is for sure. This conflict is getting hot again and it will never go cold for peace talks to hold. Not in a very long time.