Ignorance is NOT blissTime to stop pretending you don't know or understand the situation here in Israel. Jerusalem is making daily headlines all over the world. To put it bluntly, the city is on the international and regional "chopping block." The outcome of this renewed vigor to split the city into two entities has repercussions for everyone across the world. Revisionist history, agenda driven politicians and intentional misrepresentation of facts by media may in part be responsible for policy makers and civilians alike to be misinformed about the city of Jerusalem. Literally thousands and thousands of articles, papers and books have been written about this great urban area. The following summarizes some of the major past and current events that have contributed to one's perception of Jerusalem. By no means does this writer dismiss the quantity of information available to all people. Rather, the intention is to offer authentic, valid, documented and reliable information that serves as an explanation for keeping Jerusalem as one city under the auspices of Israel.
Were you aware that
- The city was never the capital of any Muslim entity
- It was not even the capital of the Palestinian region after the Muslim conquest in the seventh century.
- The regional capital then was Ramlah.
- Mohammed, the prophet of Islam, sought to attract to his religion three Jewish tribes living in the oasis of Kheibar near the city of Medina.
- Toward that end he determined that the Muslim community would pray northwards in the direction of Jerusalem, just like the Jews
- The Jews said no thanks
- After Mohammed became convinced that the Jews were not adopting Islam he annihilated them cruelly and turned the direction of prayer south towards the city of Mecca-where they pray to this day
- He subsequently conquered Mecca, and Jerusalem was abandoned and forgotten1
- During Mohammed's adult life, he had supporters in the town of Ta'if, which is two days' walking distance from Mecca
- He would travel back and forth from Ta'if. Mohammed would spend the night in the village of Al-gi'ranah, which Muslim tradition holds had two mosques, the "the closer mosque" (al-masjid al-adana) and "the further mosque" (al-masjid al-aqsa).
- The Koran (17, 1) states that one night a miracle occurred to Mohammed. G-d took him to the further mosque to demonstrate His miracles. The Koran does not say Jerusalem, it only indicates the furthest mosque aka al-masjid al-aqsa.1
- Mohammed's colleagues of the day understood the verse literally. They knew it was not Jerusalem.
- Fact is that Mohamed (who died in 632) NEVER visited Jerusalem
- Twenty-five years after Mohammed's death the capital of the Muslim empire was transferred from Mecca to Damascus. Those loyal to him and to the tradition of Islam at the time, were not happy-at all.
- During the subsequent two decades or so, Damascus, thanks to the plunder and material goods looted in Persia, Byzantium and many other places, became a wealthy and sinful city.
- The absence of moral standards persuaded those faithful to Mohammed's tradition to declare the inhabitants of Damascus heretics.
- In 682 they organized under the command of Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr, rebelled against the caliph and prevented the residents of Damascus from making the Hajj to Mecca.1
- For 8 long years this battle continued. The men of Damascus, wanting to continue observing the fundamental commandment of going on the Hajj, searched for another place to travel to that had an aura of holiness.
- The sitting caliph decided that Jerusalem would be the place for such a pilgrimage but he also needed support from Islamic scripture. So what happened? Change the night flight story!
- The caliph took a verse from the Koran that speaks of the miracle of the night journey to the further mosque. The caliph took this verse and presented a new interpretation that spoke of the Al-Aqsa Mosque located in Jerusalem. This became the adopted "truth."
- The story now told was that Mohammed was transported there in the evening and ascended to the seventh heaven.
- The story also indicated that on the way he was joined by the prophets of the previous religions, Judaism and Christianity. in the heavens they prayed behind Mohammed and accepted upon themselves his suzerainty.1
- It became politically advantageous to promote this story-so, the repetition of something, often enough, even if it isn't true, comes to be believed as fact.
Without reviewing or reporting the Jewish historical presence in Jerusalem, tens of thousands of papers, articles, research reports and books have written of their presence hundreds of years before Mohammed even thought about creating the region of Islam. The Jewish presence in Jerusalem predates the Christian religion's entry into the city and its subsequent religious evolution within the walls of the Old City. My point is simple. People argue (fight and kill others) that Jerusalem is their holy city because of the duration they have been "within" Jerusalem- they stand by their claim. Pardon me, if you use time inhabited, the Jews win hands down. I also believe that it is time for all to detail what holy means and why then Jerusalem is holy to their religion. I am not asking for the religious explanation; rather I am asking that the dots be connected. Am I to accept that because you say the city is holy that you are entitled to claim it politically thus stating you should/must have control over it? Exactly what logic is being used with this kind of response?
Given the social, political and economic importance of Jerusalem, to continue to view Jerusalem, as a "chip" in the discussion of regional peace needs reconsideration. When I dare mention this I am attacked by multiple sides-they use the "I'm offended by your ...' tactic hoping to shut down meaningful discussion. Offensive language can mean most anything to anybody. I notice that if one cannot provide a legitimate argument the individual throws out the "I'm offended" phrase and repeats it as a mantra-the result is no discussion, no freedom of your speech and retention of the status quo. Of course this is their intention! Why then do we worry ourselves with offending those who are most offensive?
Jerusalem is an important city. The criteria used to determine who controls the city or who controls parts of the city needs to be specifically presented by governmental leaders who have assumed the power to reconcile this ongoing situation. If the criteria are religious based, then we all know to whom the city belongs. Ultimately, the decisions regarding Jerusalem will be cloaked in religious overtones but decided upon for purely political reasons.
The current mainstream argument is that Jerusalem's Eastside is Arabic. I have even read that it has always been Arabic. There you go again misrepresenting the truth. Where shall I begin the population timeline? I offer the following: Jews have constituted the largest ethnic group in Jerusalem since 1820. Martin Gilbert reports that 6,000 Jews resided in Jerusalem in 1838 compared to 5,000 Muslims and 3,000 Christians. And others estimated the number of Jewish residents of Jerusalem at the time as even higher. Until about 1860, Jerusalem residents lived almost exclusively within the walls of the Old City, in East Jerusalem. Between 1860 and 1948, Jews lived in both eastern and western Jerusalem.2
East Jerusalem was not open to Jews from 1948-1967 due to Jordan"s illegal annexation of the "west bank and Jerusalem area. Arabs moved into a Jewish dominated area, and replaced them-the Jews were ethnically cleansed from that part of the city. They were literally thrown out of their neighborhoods during these years. However, after the 6-day war in 1967, Israel reclaimed Jerusalem. The demographics of Jerusalem changed again.
Yes, there are more Arabs in this part of the city and there are Jews and Christians who continue to live in this area -now you have some idea why. To self-righteously state that it was and does "belong" to the Arabs is a blatant lie and the continued abuse of this statement borders upon the absurd. Now you do not want to be absurd!
Most Westerners do not even know that when they visit the "Wailing Wall", Mount Olives, Church of the Holy Sepulchre or the room where Jesus was said to have had the "Last Supper", you are in East Jerusalem. Do not feel so bad; we have corrected the media's misrepresentation of this for many, many years. From CNN to BBC these organizations, to say nothing of the news print folks, have incorrectly presented to you the actual facts. No wonder people believe East Jerusalem is Arabic. Imagine what the Arab populations have been told in their native language and you begin to understand why so many of us are infuriated with the messages we hear today. Now that you know the facts, join us sharing them with the uninformed. If we don't the ongoing misrepresentation may lead to disastrous policy implementation.
The Arab propaganda influences the West and even certain Israeli leaders. Both groups take the easier way out, act politically correct so as not to offend, not to upset; this is the epitome of mistrust yet the West insists on such action. Under consideration this moment is the division of Jerusalem. Can I assume that you would allow this to happen in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Miami? Of course not, then do not force this kind of dogma upon us!
I close by suggesting that these same strategies are being employed in discussions regarding the fate of the so-called "West Bank." You have been led down the proverbial "primrose lane" as you are asked to accept that the "occupation" by Israel of this area is the root cause of all tensions between Israelis and Arabs. There you go once again, believing revisionist history and tainted "facts".
Time for the world community to stop allowing this refrain from being written, spoken and challenge this inane argument each and every time it is presented. Better yet, start writing, discussing and presenting correct history using proactive techniques. What stops most individuals from so engaging the world is having to deal with intolerant people. My simple advice: Stop tolerating the intolerant!
Notes1. Omedia, lecturers in the Department of Arabic Studies and is a researcher at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. This is part of Omedia's collaboration with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
2. Jerusalem Backgrounder, Camera, 2007