Has a city ever evoked so much emotion or contention? A city on the Fertile Crescent, one of the main trading routes between Egypt and the east. This city has been ruled by Jews, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Egyptians, Syrian Seleucids, Romans, Byzantines, Mameluks, Ottoman Turks, British and Israelis.
Throughout all this time the Jews considered Jerusalem “their” capital city whilst to all the others it was just “a” city to be ruled and exploited like any other that had been captured.
To the Jews Jerusalem has always been special. When God created the earth He saw that it was good - Genesis 1:10. In Genesis 12:1 The Lord had said to Abram. “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go the land I will show you”. And in Genesis 13:14-15 “Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.” In Ezekiel 16: 3.8 “This is what the Sovereign Lord says to Jerusalem…………..I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine.”
It was here that Abraham and Isaac offered sacrifice to God about four thousand years ago. King David made this his capital city about three thousand years ago, for a United Kingdom of Israel. King Solomon dedicated his Temple to God here. Ever since it has had this special place in the hearts of Jews everywhere - whether living there, in exile or in the hope of returning to Jerusalem from other countries.
Jerusalem was invaded by the Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar and the famous Temple of Solomonwas destroyed but even in exile the Jews never forgot Jerusalem and still claimed it as their city. When King Cyrus of Persia made an edict for the Jew to return and rebuild their temple many did so to join those who remained and the temple and city walls were rebuilt.
Alexander the Great defeated the Persians in 332 and captured Jerusalem and the Greek influence began.After Alexander’s death, his general Ptolemy I captured Jerusalem and the Egyptians ruled until the Syrian Seleucids took over in 198BC, culminating in Antiochus IV Epiphanes outlawing Judaism which led to the Maccabean revolt. In 164 BC Judah Maccabee recaptured Jerusalem for the Jews, and restored the temple.
In 63BC General Pompey captured Jerusalem and although the Hasmoneans still ruled, it was under the protection of Rome. Approximately 30 Ad, while Pontius Pilate was the Roman Procurator, Jesus Christ, after living and teaching there, was crucified and raised from the dead in Jerusalem. The city began to have significance for the Christians. Many sites have become places of pilgrimage for various Christian groups.
The Dome of the Rock was completed in 691 as a shrine for pilgrims, believed to be the place where the Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam, ascended into heaven. This is the same spot at which Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac at God’s command and believed to be the site of Solomon’s Temple. Both Christians and Muslims in the middle ages believed the Dome to be the Temple of Solomon and the Knights Templar were quartered there during the Crusades.
In Jerusalem there are many places of major importance to both Muslims and Christians but to neither is the whole city of Jerusalem of significance. Whilst to the Jews the City itself is important culturally and historically, and is uniquely holy.
After the peaceful takeover by the Ottoman Turks, Suleiman the Magnificent rebuilt the city walls including the present day 7 gates and the “Tower of David”.During these times of different cultures there have always been Jews living in Jerusalem and at various times many rabbis returned to Jerusalem and opened different synagogues.
Since 1844 the majority of the population of the city have been Jews. In 1838 the British opened their first consulate, and The Balfour Declaration was made in 1917 declaring the British Government in favour of the establishment of a National Home for the Jewish people. The League of Nations awarded the Mandate toBritain in 1922. This continued till 14th May 1948 when the State of Israel was proclaimed. HoweverJerusalem was divided into two by the Israel-TransJordan Armistice Agreement in April 1949 and it wasn’t till23rd June 1967, during the Six day War, that the Israeli troops captured the Old City and reunited the city ofJerusalem.
Jerusalem has never been the capital of any Arab state. Even when the area has been controlled by Arab nations they have ruled from other cities. It has only been since 1967 that the Palestinian Arabs have laid a claim for Jerusalem as their political capital. In 1980 Jerusalem Basic Law was enacted declaring United Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel.
History by definition is a record of what has happened. Much of Jerusalem’s “history” was recorded in the Bible before it had happened. So much is still to come.