A View From Israel: An unbreakable bond

Jerusalem has always been the focal point of one religion only, and that’s Judaism.

Jerusalem skyline 370  (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Jerusalem skyline 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Ever since King David declared it the capital of Israel around 1000 BCE, Jerusalem has remained the focus of the Jewish people.
For years, 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 for Jews.
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 once.”
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 their prayers.”
They faced Jerusalem when they prayed, but not a mosque.
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 mosque.”
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 mosque.”
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 years.
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.