According to the Bible, Jerusalem was first settled under the legendary iron-Age chief who became known as King David around 1000 BC. And that is how it became a part of ancient Israel’s history.
The fact that Renaissance artist, Michaelangelo’s statue, David is so well known, attests to how much the West has been influenced by this city. Perhaps only Rome holds as much historic and cultural value to the West.
David’s son, Solomon the wise, built the First Temple on top of a limestone mountain – which is site of today’s “Temple Mount.” alas the topic of much controversy. The original Temple even had statues of Cherubim (a class of angels), which answers the question of idols, something theologians and sects have debated and killed over for millennia since (Kings 6:23 – 6:35).
In 701 BC the Babylonians invaded and destroyed the first Temple.
The historic site was subsequently rebuilt in 515 BC after Jews returned, after having been enslaved by the Babylonians. Many are familiar with the Bob Marley song ‘By the rivers of Babylon,’ again highlighting this spots significance in history.
The site was renovated and expanded by King Herod (estimated 20-10BC), but again destroyed by Romans in 70 AD.
Then came several Islamic conquests following the Romans, the Umayyad Emperor Abu Malik built the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock around 689-71 AD.
The plaza today is comprised of three monumental structures from the early Umayyad period: the al-Aqsa Mosque, the Dome of the Rock and the Dome of the Chain, as well as four minarets. Herodian walls and gates. The city itself, has a population of a little over a million,
The site has changed hands and been struck by earthquakes and disasters, the Temple and subsequent Mosque has been rebuilt multiple times since.
Muslims believe that it is the site where the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven.
In between Islamic rule, European Crusaders captured it in 1099 AD and held onto it until Saladin retook it in 1119.
The Crusaders anachronistically propagated a myth that the Dome of the Rock was Solomon’s original temple itself (which is misleading because the building today is a new structure on top of it) and many pilgrims from Europe would come visit during Crusader control.
Jews were not treated well by crusaders in Jerusalem.
Of note, the alleged oldest pub in the world ‘Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem’ in England attests to the significance of this site to this period of history.
Arabs and Turks were the 2 Muslim groups to physically hold supreme authority over the place, although it did have a Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Druze presence throughout this period. Today, it is home to Arabs, Jews, Armenians, Circassian and other groups who deem it a holy place.
The British captured Jerusalem in 1918 after they beat the Ottoman Empire in World War I – with Arab dissident help, including the Hashemites – today’s Jordanian royal family. This was the first time it had fallen to non-Muslim hands since the crusades. The Arabs were subject to the British as were the Jews (bo and hostilities ensued.
When Israel got independence in 1948, Jerusalem went to Jordan and the Jewish population which had remained there and not the diaspora got expelled – into the newly independent state. It is estimated that 100 000 Jews were expelled from Jordan into Israel.
This story refutes the ‘Jews are European invaders’ argument, among other fallacies.
Most of these Jews spoke Arabic as a first language by now – they used Hebrew only for prayer.
There was much debate as to whether or not to have a Jewish state without Jerusalem. In fact, many Jewish grandmas and grandpas will tell you how they used to say “Next year in Jerusalem,” for centuries. Still, the state was established without Jerusalem. In fact, Israel’s national anthem ‘Hatikvah’ which was composed in 1877 by , long before the state’s establishment, mentions Jerusalem in its original form by Naftali Imber.
The Dome of the Rock which is featured so prominently in gold was actually covered in blackened lead until 1959, until the Jordanians replaced it with the gold lead that you see today. Every Islamic dynasty did some degree of repair and renovation.
In 1967, when Israel was at war with Syria and Egypt, they begged Jordan not to attack but the Royal family did not heed the request and Jerusalem subsequently was recaptured by Jews after almost 2000 years.
As one soldier said “It was as if we were writing a chapter in the Bible.”
Christians and Jews both have a religious claim to it through the historical fact that both religions emerged from the Abrahamic tradition, the fact remains that Jews as an ethno-religious group have a stronger claim by virtue of the fact that they are the same people as King David and Solomon.
For example would say a Chinese person who has embraced British Druidism have as much claim to Stonehenge as a British person whose ancestors built the site?
After all, a child inherits his parents property, not his parent’s employees.
By that default, other smaller Abraham’s faiths like Baha’i, Druze etc. can also lay claim by citing theology alone.
Also, in all its history, as it passed through Umayyad, Abassid, Fatimid, Ayubbid, Ottoman and British hands, it was never a capital of an Islamic Empire or Kingdom and it has been the third holiest site according to most Muslim scholars – of both Sunni and Shia sects. For Jews however, it is the holiest site. Any Islamic Empire, Arab or Turk could easily have named Jerusalem their capital, it would have been unopposed.
There was no Palestinian identity as such under the several Arab and Turkish dynasties. There were Arab identities including Bedouin vs sedentary Arab and several tribes and clans, but no Palestinian identity as such in the entire history of this city. But that’s another story.
Today, the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa are on Israeli controlled land even if the Palestinians claim it.
The Western Wall or Wailing wall is all that remains of the second Temple and many Jews, religious and secular view it as sacred and siginificant to their history and religion. Many Jews pray here today amid criticism because of separate prayer areas for men and women.
Despite constant protest that it is under Israeli “occupation” (not the inverted commas), the Jordanian Waqf (a Muslim authority) controls the actual Mosque that stands on top today. And while many Islamic kingdoms in history have demolished synagogues, Israel has been reluctant to demolish the Mosque that stands on top of their old Temple. The state of Israel does not even entertain Jewish groups who propose this.
Jewish people are permitted to enter Temple Mount, but prayer is not allowed, and religious artifacts cannot be brought. Non-Muslims cannot Visit the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa.
Also of importance, while many Islamic sites have fallen into ruin and disrepair by corrupt or war torn nations, Israel has preserved something that Muslims hold holy.
For example, Saudi has demolished many historic sites associated with Islam’s ancient history, ISIS and other terror groups have destroyed Shia holy sites in Syria and Iraq as sectarian feuds rage on and multiple old Mosques fall into ruin out of neglect/corruption in Asia and Africa.
Anyone of any religion can visit Jerusalem itself.
When President Trump announced that he was moving the US embassy to Jerusalem in 2017, it was met with much criticism from the Arab/Muslim and neo-liberal world.
However, for all Zionists, it was a moment of biblical proportions as Israeli PM Netanyahu addressed the 200 nations of the UN, channeling the spirits of David and Solomon and while the old warrior was pitched against a hundred Goliaths, he told them to “Read the Bible” and see for themselves that the holy book which billions of kids read in school is the Jews own deed to the land and Jerusalem.
Like the Babylonians and Romans who are no more, they were faced with a message from history – to realize that Israel will emerge victorious out of the ashes of anything that they throw with Jerusalem as its capital.
And today, Christians worldwide can visit the land which they talk of every Sunday in church, as can anyone of any group..
Israel has done what is fair to all groups by respecting them, allowing them to visit and pray at the site which they first deemed holy. They have also shown respect and acknowledged that the Muslims held onto it for thousands of years and have gone out of their way to see that the other religions that now call their country home were not excluded, no matter what theological or historic claim they have.
Moreover, their claim is strengthened by their states respect and recognition of all other’s sentiments.