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From Israel: A Love Affair!!

By Arlene Kushner

May 17, 2023


An extraordinary love affair between the Jewish People and the eternal city of Jerusalem.


If you love Jerusalem, please share this far and wide. It tells a story everyone should know.


Today we celebrated Yom Yerushalayim – a perfect time for sharing this.


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We begin with the ancient roots of this love affair.


More than 3,000 years ago, King David chose Jerusalem as his capital because it was associated neither with Judea (the southern kingdom) nor Israel (the northern kingdom) and would serve all of the people equally. From Jerusalem, he ruled a united kingdom, for 30 years.


From that point in time—3,000 years ago—the tie between the Jewish people and Jerusalem was established.


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While David strengthened his kingdom, the sacred task of building a temple fell to his son, Solomon, who succeeded him. Solomon ruled from Jerusalem for 40 years.


The Temple was built on Mount Moriah (which we now call the Temple Mount, or Har Habayit in Hebrew—more on this below), a high point over the City of David, the original core of ancient Jerusalem.


Jerusalem then became both the political and the spiritual capital of the Jewish people.


Today the City of David is an amazing archeological site – a National Park – next to the Temple Mount. Its excavations attest to its ancient history.


City of David Foundation

Regularly, there are new discoveries. It is possible to visit: Take a tour and see for yourself.


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Solomon’s Temple stood for roughly 400 years, and was destroyed by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, when he conquered Jerusalem in 586 BCE. Many of the Jews of Judah were forcibly brought to Babylon.


Psalm 137 tells of the longing of the Jews for Jerusalem: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion…If I forget Thee Oh Jerusalem let my right hand forget its cunning.” This powerful lament of longing for beloved Jerusalem echoes to this day.


Within 50 years, the Persians had conquered Babylon and the Persian King Cyrus gave permission for those Jews who wished to, to return to Jerusalem. Those who returned built a Second Temple.


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Hundreds of years later – just decades before the Common Era – this Temple was enlarged by King Herod. In order to be able to accomplish this, he considerably expanded the Mount on which the Temple was to stand. You see it here, present day:

The Tower

To make the enlargement possible, he built a retaining wall around the Mount. The Kotel, the Western Wall, is a portion of that original retaining wall. It is often said that this is the holiest place in the world for Jews. But, while it has great sanctity, this is not so. The holiest place is the Mount itself, where the Temples stood, above that wall.

Hadassah

In the year 70 CE, the Romans conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the Second Temple. The Jews were taken into forced captivity in Rome. For a period of time, the Romans banned all Jews from Jerusalem (although there are historians who refute this, saying there was always a miniscule Jewish presence); in due course some remnant of the Jewish community returned.


Other than this time, there has always been some Jewish presence in the city.


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The extended period of time between the destruction of the Temple and the founding of the modern State of Israel was a period in which most Jews were separated from Jerusalem.


Two thousand years of Diaspora. This period most poignantly tells of the love of the people for Jerusalem. There is no other story like this, in which the devotion of the people remained strong. They refused to forget Jerusalem.


After the Pesach seder and after the prayers of Yom Kippur, Jews cry, “Next year in Jerusalem!” At every traditional Jewish wedding, in the midst of celebration, the groom breaks a glass, symbolizing the pain of the Temple destroyed. No matter where they are, when praying, Jews face towards Jerusalem.


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A Byzantine period – in which Christianity dominated – followed the Roman control of Jerusalem.


And here we come to an exceedingly important point. Islam was not founded until the beginning of the Seventh Century. Muslims had no role, no presence, in what I have described to this point.


After the establishment of Islam, there were a series of Muslim/Arab conquests of Jerusalem, with control by the Rashidun, Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates, followed by the Fatimids (with a period of Crusader control) and the Seljuks, the Ayyubids, the Mamluks. The Ottomans were the last of the Muslim occupiers. Some of these groups were more tolerant of the Jewish presence than others.


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It is a Muslim belief that Islam supersedes earlier religions. As an expression of this belief, mosques and shrines are frequently constructed on the site of former synagogues and churches.


Late in the Seventh Century, during the reign of an Ummayad caliph, the Dome of the Rock was constructed on the Temple Mount as a shrine (although it is now used as a mosque). Archeologists and scholars identify this site as being where the Temples stood. This is a mark of profound disrespect for the holiest of all places in the world for Jews.

Wikipedia

The al-Aqsa Mosque (which sometimes refers to the entire compound of the Temple Mount) was constructed just a few years after. Excavations beneath the mosque done in the 1930s for renovation purposes revealed a Byzantine mosaic that is believed to have been the floor of a church.

Wikipedia

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It is important to point out that not one of the various caliphates made Jerusalem a capital. The city was merely an appendage to other larger areas; Jerusalem was not central to Muslim concerns. By the mid-1800s, Jews had a plurality in the city, and by the early 1900s, a majority.


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In 1948, with the establishment of the modern State of Israel, Jews began to regain control of Jerusalem. But it was only partial control – of the western portion of the city. By the end of the War of Independence in 1949, Jordan had (illegally) occupied the eastern part. There is no separate entity known as “East Jerusalem.” The eastern part of the city is more heavily Arab because in its 19 years of control, Jordan rendered the area Judenrein and destroyed synagogues. The Old City and the Temple Mount are in eastern Jerusalem and Jews were blocked from visiting while it was in Jordanian hands.


On the third day of the Six Day War of June 1967, Israel regained control of eastern Jerusalem, reuniting the City. The day before, Jordan forces had been eliminated, making the entry into eastern Jerusalem by Israeli paratroopers possible. See the story here:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8i3uIz7hoYs&t=30s “When Heaven altered the course of history”


Very quickly after the war, Israel extended the border of Jerusalem to include the eastern part of the city. In July 1980, the Knesset passed The Jerusalem Law as part of Israel’s Basic Law, declaring united Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel.


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This past Monday, the very vile Mahmoud Abbas of the PA addressed a special session of the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (a vile committee, as well). He declared that there is no proof of a connection between the Jews and what he refers to as the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, that is, the Temple Mount (Har Habayit): “They dug everywhere, and they couldn’t find anything.”


credit: AFP

This brazen lying is par for the course for Palestinian Authority officials. What astounds me is how blithely the misrepresentations are accepted in places such as the UN. Surely, some, many, must know better, but they let it pass because it serves their purpose. And the lie morphs into accepted truth.


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Those of us who love Jerusalem, and also love truth, cannot let this pass. The lies must be vigorously contested. We have an obligation to ourselves, and to Jerusalem.


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The Palestinian Arabs may be inveterate liars, but they are not stupid. There is a reason why they focus on denying Israeli rights on the Temple Mount, and fostering the myth that Israel has no connection to it.


The goal of the Palestinian Arabs is ultimately elimination of Israel. The fact that we were here first and have a solid history in the Land and on the Mount, makes this goal more difficult to achieve. They believe that if they can convince the world that we were not here first, and have no connection to the Temple Mount, their goal would be more attainable.


The mere suggestion that there is no Jewish connection to the Temple Mount is ludicrous. Evidence for that connection, both textual and archeological, abounds. One example: Below you see enormous stones that had been thrown down at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple. They had been excavated from the ground immediately in front of the Western Wall, and artifacts associated with them made it possible to date them.

credit: Leen Ritmeyer

One stone that has been discovered has letters etched in Greek. Associated directly with the Second Temple, it is a warning to the ritually impure to not go past a certain delineation point.

The Israel Museum

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I allude above to renovation work done under the al-Aqsa Mosque in the 1930s. Beneath the mosaic floor was found a mikveh, a Jewish ritual bath. Writes biblical archeologist Leen Ritmeyer, “…this…proves the Jewish origin of the Temple Mount.”



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And then there is what the Palestinian Arabs themselves have said over time. Before modern Israel was founded they didn’t have the concerns they do now.


A nine-page English-language tourist guide entitled “A Brief Guide to al-Haram al-Sharif [the Temple Mount] was published by the Supreme Moslem Council in 1925. It states that the Temple Mount site “is one of the oldest in the world. Its sanctity dates from the earliest times. Its identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute.” (Emphasis added)



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Enough said. Today the Flag Parade was held in celebration of the unification of Jerusalem. It passed without incident in spite of Hamas threats. Prime Minister Netanyahu had made a point of saying that he was determined to see the Parade proceed precisely because of the threats.

credit: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP

May we protect our sacred heritage and have much reason to celebrate in the future.

 

This article was originally posted on Arlene from Israel blog and can be accessed here.

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