Capital significance

“All roads in our part of the world,” Jordan’s King Abdullah warned last year, “all the conflicts, lead to Jerusalem.”

By
August 30, 2011 22:39
3 minute read.
AN AERIAL shot of Jerusalem taken for the 3D film.

jerusalem 3d 311. (photo credit: Highlight Films Footage)

 
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In 1981, undeterred by the fact that no Muslim empire or dynasty had made Jerusalem its capital – even a regional or provincial capital – the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini declared the last Friday of the month of Ramadan to be al-Quds Day, an occasion to call for Muslim rule of the city.

This last Friday, Muslims from Indonesia to Gaza marked al-Quds Day with typically fierce fanfare. Speaking at a mass rally at Tehran University, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared that “the goal of all believers and seekers of justice should be the disappearance of the Zionist regime.”

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Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah meanwhile addressed crowds via a large screen in the southern Lebanese town of Maroun al-Ras.

“Al-Quds and Palestine are part of our religion, culture, fast in Ramadan, prayers and Jihad,” he said.

In Gaza City, PFLP-General Command politburo member Adel Al-Hakim condemned Israeli efforts to “Judaize” Jerusalem. In Afghanistan, thousands rallied in support of the Palestinian struggle at Shah-e Doh Shamshira mosque in Kabul and in the northern Balkh Province. Balkh Governor Atta Mohammad Nur called on the Taliban and al- Qaida to fight against the Israeli occupiers rather than carry out suicide attacks in Afghanistan.

Demonstrators burned Israeli flags in Malkiya, Bahrain and outside the Israeli embassy in Cairo. They shouted anti-Israel slogans at Mtoro mosque in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, as well as in Trafalgar Square, London.

In the Muslim imagination, Jerusalem was the place where Abraham stood ready to sacrifice his son Ishmael, and it was here the angel Gabriel accompanied Mohammed from Mecca before ascending through the heavens. According to one hadith, or prophetic saying, at the end of days the Kaaba shrine will be transferred from Mecca to Jerusalem.



Palestinians, insisting on their historic ties to the city, continue to claim that no “final-status” agreement is possible unless Jerusalem is “shared” (a euphemism for “divided”).

Most Israelis, however, remain intellectually illequipped to defend their own rights to Jerusalem. Too few realize that since the days of King David, the only nation of which Jerusalem has been the capital is the Jewish nation; that there has been an unbroken Jewish presence here since the fifth century; that only under full Israeli sovereignty over the united city has there been freedom of worship for all faiths.

Needless to say, the role Jerusalem occupies in Jewish consciousness, longing and prayer cannot be overstated.

Jewish literature itself embraced a style of beautiful exaggeration to describe the Chosen City.

“Because of the fragrance of incense,” boasts the Talmud, “brides in Jerusalem did not have to perfume themselves.” Like a lover bestowing terms of endearment on the beloved, Jewish literature has given Jerusalem seventy names, including Zion, Salem, Moriah, Ariel, Neve Zedek (habitation of justice), Bethel (the house of God), Harel (the divine mountain), and simply Ha-Maqom (the Place).

To fully fathom the centrality of Jerusalem to the Jewish people is to reject not only the Muslim extremists roused on al-Quds Day, but the Israeli ideologues who seem eager to accept the division of the city as a price of peace with the Palestinians. The prospects of a repartition of the city, after all, leave little room for complacency. The very same circumstances which led to Israel’s relinquishment of the West Bank – the pressures of world opinion, the lures of “peace” – today apply to Jerusalem.

In 1799, during his sweep through the Middle East, Napoleon issued a “Proclamation to the Jews” from his headquarters a couple of dozen miles west of Jerusalem: “Bonaparte, Commander in Chief of the armies of the French Republic in Africa and Asia, to the rightful heirs of Palestine – the unique nation of Jews who have been deprived of the land of your fathers by thousands of years of lust for conquest and tyranny. Arise then with gladness, ye exiled, and take unto yourself Israel’s patrimony.”

Turned back by the Ottoman warlord Ahmet Jazzar, the Frenchman beat a retreat to Egypt before he could deliver any such gladness, but two centuries later it is high time we took his advice and reaffirmed our patrimony.

“All roads in our part of the world,” Jordan’s King Abdullah warned last year, “all the conflicts, lead to Jerusalem.”

We cannot afford to pretend otherwise.

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