Whose Jerusalem ?

Whose Jerusalem ?

Whose Land ?

Knesset

Jerusalem

The Capitol of Israel

0 Jerusalem, builded as a city that is compact together:
(Psalms 122:3)

In June 1967, the concrete walls and barbed-wire fences that had split Jerusalem in half for 19 years were joyfully demolished, reuniting the city and making the Capitol of Israel whole once more.

Historical Background

The history of Jerusalem goes back more than 3,000 years, entering the recorded annals of man around 1,000 BCE when David moved the Capitol of his kingdom there. Since then, Jerusalem has remained the focus of the Jewish people's national and spiritual existence. Symbol of the unflagging hope for the restoration of the Jewish nation in its Land, Jerusalem was praised by the Prophets, enshrined in literature and liturgy and sung about by Hebrew poets, near and far, down through the generations.

Despite numerous conquests and reconquests over the centuries - by Byzantines, Persians, Arabs, Crusaders, Turks and others - and the persecution that often accompanied these events, the Jews tenaciously maintained their existence in Jerusalem. But although Jerusalem has always been the heart and soul of Judaism and the Jewish nation, the city's numerous foreign conquerors generally treated it as nothing more than a provincial backwater.

With the re-establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Jerusalem once again became the Capitol of a sovereign Jewish state.

Jerusalem Divided

In May 1948 the Arab Legion attacked and conquered the Old City of Jerusalem; the inhabitants of the Jewish Quarter were either killed or expelled. For the next two decades Jerusalem was divided by barbed wire and concrete walls.

Reunification

In June 1967, Jordan - despite Israeli attempts to prevent war - crossed the armistice line and opened fire on western Jerusalem. During the resultant fighting, the Old City and the entire Jordanian-held area west of the Jordan River (Judea-Samaria) came under Israeli control.

Within a few days the nineteen-year-old barriers dividing the city were removed, and Jerusalem was whole again. Jews, Moslems and Christians, mixing freely in all parts of the city, flocked to the Holy Places from which they had been barred for nearly two decades.

To assure the protection of the Holy Places of all religions, the Knesset passed a special law, on 27 June 1967, guaranteeing free access to everyone and determining punishment for desecration or denial of entry. The Holy Places themselves are administered by their respective religious communities. Thus the Moslem Wakf Administration is responsible for the Mosque of EI-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock, as well as for all other mosques, Moslem cemeteries and other Islamic institutions in the city. Similarly, the Christian Holy Places are administered by those denominations whose rights and possessions were defined by the status quo agreement reached in the 19th century under the Ottoman regime; and a special section of the Ministry of Religious Affairs is in charge of the Western Wall and other Jewish sacred sites.

Legal Aspects

Contrary to numerous United Nations resolutions condemning Israel for actions which "alter the status of Jerusalem," the fact is that the "status of Jerusalem" - with only a very few exceptions over the centuries - has been that of an integral part of Palestine and the Land of Israel.

The suggestion that the city be internationalized and separated from the remainder of the country was first proposed in 1937 by the Palestine Royal Commission, headed by Lord Peel, and later adopted by the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), which incorporated it in its recommendation to partition Palestine into independent Jewish and Arab states. On 29 November 1947, the UN General Assembly adopted both recommendations - to partition Palestine and to turn Jerusalem into an internationalized enclave within the Arab state.

The UN partition plan was accepted, albeit reluctantly, by the Jewish community of Palestine, on the understanding that it would pave the way to a peaceful solution. The plan was, however, unanimously rejected by the Arab states, which tried to overturn it - and to destroy the new Jewish state established in its wake - by force of arms. The Security Council declared the Arab states' invasion of Israel to be an act of aggression and twice arranged a temporary truce in the fighting. Other than that, the UN did virtually nothing to prevent the destruction of the state founded under its aegis or of Jerusalem, which was under siege for more than half a year. Israel and Jerusalem were saved by the efforts - and the sacrifices - of their Jewish defenders.

The city's "status" once again became the object of the UN's obsession on this score with the restoration of eastern Jerusalem to Israel in 1967 - despite the fact that the Jordanian attack on 5 June 1967 was a "material breach" of the Israel-Jordan General Armistice Agreement, that Israel's response was a lawful exercise of its inherent right of self-defence, and that no state can make a legal and just claim to the city equal to that of Israel's. Moreover, Israel's record in allowing full and free access to the Holy Places and in turning over their administration to the appropriate communities reflects the original intent of the United Nations to protect the sanctity of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Today

Reunification has given tremendous impetus to all aspects of Jerusalem's development.

Jerusalem Law 1980

On 30 July 1980 the Knesset passed the "Basic Law: Jerusalem," which states that reunited Jerusalem is the Capitol of Israel; that it is the seat of the President of the State, the Knesset, the Government and the Supreme Court; that the Holy Places of all religions shall be inviolable and that free access to them shall be protected; and that the Government shall diligently persist in the development and prosperity of Jerusalem and the well-being of its inhabitants.

The law neither adds to nor changes the existing status of Jerusalem. It simply reaffirms previously passed laws and regulations and restates Israel's rights and obligations regarding Jerusalem, the reunited Capitol of Israel.

The Future

History - both recent and ancient - has shown that, under an indigenous government, Jerusalem has flourished and its citizens have prospered. The future of the city - like its present and most recent past - must be that of a united city: a city in which all citizens are treated equally and whose Holy Places are accessible to all; a city where each community can preserve and develop its own culture and traditions; a city in which Jews and Arabs - who have lived together within its walls for centuries - can continue to work towards peaceful coexistence, and a better way of life for themselves and for future generations.

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