Ever since King David declared it the capital of Israel around 1000 BCE,
Jerusalem has remained the focus of the Jewish people.
numerous leaders attempted to erase any Jewish connection to the city. In 135
CE, Roman emperor Hadrian went so far as to ban Jews from the city and rename it
Aelia Capitolina to eliminate their connection to it.
But today, 3,000
years later, Jerusalem continues to have religious and political significance
The centrality of Jerusalem in Jewish religious life cannot be
ignored. A prayer to restore Jerusalem is recited three times a day. The phrase
“Next year in Jerusalem” is declared on two significant holidays: Passover and
Yom Kippur. Psalm 137, “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem,” is recited at
circumcision ceremonies and at weddings.
As Trude Weiss Rosmarin writes
in her book, Jerusalem, “The Jewish connection with Jerusalem is tangibly real
and unbroken since the time of David... It is an iron bond and a connection
embracing the totality of life... In Jerusalem, Jews wrote Jewish history with
the red ink of their blood in ages past and added a new chapter written with the
same medium and in the same color only yesterday... The Jewish attachment to
Jerusalem is the natural connection of a national tie as unbreakable as the bond
which links parents and children.”
In modern times, Jerusalem took on
further political importance after the League of Nations recognized the historic
connection of the Jewish people with Palestine.
Given the level of focus
on Jerusalem today within the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict, one could be
led to believe that Islam has an equal claim to the city, yet the opposite is
true. While Muslims do maintain Jerusalem is important to Islam, it is not
nearly as important as it is to Jews and Judaism.
Since their conquest,
the Jews had dominion over the land for 1,000 years while maintaining a
continuous presence for over 3,000 years.
The only Arab dominion since
the conquest in 635 lasted 22 years. During the Ottoman Empire, the land was
considered a backwater and Muslims made no effort to make it their homeland, nor
Jerusalem their capital.
Even when the Jordanians occupied Jerusalem,
they never sought to make it their capital, and prominent Arab leaders made no
effort to visit. Clearly, Jerusalem held little significance for them on either
a religious or political level.
Daniel Pipes makes the point clearly. He
writes, “Jerusalem appears in the Jewish Bible 669 times and Zion (which usually
means Jerusalem, sometimes the Land of Israel) 154 times, or 823 times in all.
The Christian Bible mentions Jerusalem 154 times and Zion 7 times. In contrast,
the columnist Moshe Kohn notes, Jerusalem and Zion appear as frequently in the
Qur’an ‘as they do in the Hindu Bhagavad-Gita, the Taoist Tao- Te Ching, the
Buddhist Dhamapada and the Zoroastrian Zend Avesta’ – which is to say, not
The only passage in the Koran that Muslims claim refers to
Jerusalem (17:1), describes the Prophet Muhammad’s Isra’ (night journey to
heaven): “Glory to He who took His servant by night from the Sacred Mosque to
the furthest mosque.”
Weiss Rosmarin writes, “The Mohammedan veneration
of Jerusalem is due to Mohammed’s great regard for it as the Mother city of the
true religions worshipping the Only God. While still in Mecca, Mohammed and his
followers turned their faces in the direction of Jerusalem when they offered up
They faced Jerusalem when they prayed, but not a
This is because there was no mosque in Jerusalem until the year
691, when the Dome of the Rock was built by Caliph Abd el Malik, approximately
70 years after Muhammad supposedly flew on his winged steed to the “furthest
The reference to a furthest mosque, then, refers to an idea –
not an actual place.
The Aksa mosque was built later by the Umayyads, in
705, in part to authenticate the idea of a physical “farthest
Yet, with all its supposed religious significance, Muslims turn
their backs on Jerusalem as they face Mecca to pray.
SO WHY do the Arabs
attach such great importance to Jerusalem today when it meant so little to them
in the past and appears to have little religious significance? Clearly, their
motives are political, not religious.
Pipes writes, “An historical survey
shows that the stature of the city, and the emotions surrounding it, inevitably
rises for Muslims when Jerusalem has political significance. Conversely, when
the utility of Jerusalem expires, so does its status and the passions about it.
This pattern first emerged during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad in the
early seventh century.
Since then, it has been repeated on five
occasions: in the late seventh century, in the twelfth century Counter-crusade,
in the thirteenth century Crusades, during the era of British rule (1917-48),
and since Israel took the city in 1967.”
In The ‘Al-Aksa is in danger’
libel: The history of a lie
, Nadav Shragai writes, “Jerusalem’s unification
under Israeli sovereignty in 1967 also immediately piqued Arab rulers’ interest
in the city in general and in Al- Haram al-Sharif with its pair of sacred
shrines in particular.
Arab leaders made sure to weave into their
speeches words of longing for the Temple Mount mosques, ‘which are being defiled
by the Jews,’ and to raise generous contributions for the renovation and
maintenance of the compound. Any involvement, even if symbolic, with the sacred
place was portrayed as assistance and devotion to the national struggle for
liberation of the occupied lands.”
New narratives offered today by Arab
leaders serve to aid their political motives and completely contradict what
Muslims themselves have documented in their writings over hundreds of
What is clear and undeniable always, and especially on Jerusalem
Day, is the centrality and importance of Jerusalem to the Jewish nation, and
that bond will never be broken.