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.
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.
In Arab eyes, Jerusalem never ranked with Mecca or Medina, Damascus or Baghdad, in spiritual or
political importance. Only once - in the 7th century CE, during the reign of Abdul Malik, who built the Dome
of the Rock - was Jerusalem briefly the seat of a caliph, when a rival caliph controlled Mecca.
Under the Ottoman Turks, who ruled the country for exactly four centuries from 1517 to 1917, Jerusalem
was neglected and impoverished, its population dropping at one point to a mere 10,000 persons.
In the 19th century, with the growth of the Jewish national liberation movement - Zionism - and a
revitalized European interest in the Holy Land, the Jews returned to Jerusalem in greater numbers. Already
in 1844 they were the largest religious community in the city; some thirty years later, the Jews of Jerusalem
outnumbered the Moslems and Christians combined.
Although the Jews were a majority of the population, British Mandatory rule imposed an Arab mayor on
the city. During the 30 years of the Mandate, the Jewish community built and expanded the city, doubling its
population between 1922 and 1947.
With the re-establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Jerusalem once again became the Capitol of a sovereign Jewish state.
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.
No Jews were permitted on the Jordanian side.
Despite signed commitments, Jordan refused to allow Jews to pray at the Western Wall or at any of the other Holy Places under Jordanian control in Hebron and Bethlehem;
Israeli Christians and Moslems were also barred from their Holy Places.
Use of the Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus was prohibited, as was burial in the Mount of Olives Cemetery.
Jewish houses of worship and academies of learning were purposefully destroyed and desecrated; all but one of the ancient synagogues in the Old City were demolished and ravaged.
Priceless books were stolen or burned.
Three-quarters of the graves on the Mount of Olives were defaced or otherwise profaned; tombstones were used in the construction of bunkers and in footpaths leading to latrines.
No new churches were allowed to be built, and the Christian population dropped from 15 percent of the city's total to four percent.
During the Jordanian occupation, demonstrations and riots were suppressed by force throughout Jerusalem, and political activity was curtailed.
Large investments earmarked for the city's
development were never authorized.
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.
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.
Reunification has given tremendous impetus to all aspects of Jerusalem's development.
On Mount Scopus, the Hebrew University has rebuilt and expanded its original campus, and Hadassah has been opened as a modern 500-bed hospital serving both Jews and Arabs, as it did before 1948.
The Jewish Quarter of the Old City has been almost completely rebuilt. Synagogues and houses of learning
(yeshivot), destroyed or severely damaged during the Jordanian regime, have been restored; and round
them have sprung up homes, shops and artists' studios, as a revived Jewish Quarter is once again part of Jerusalem's Old City.
The infrastructure of the Old City, especially of the Moslem Quarter, is being completely overhauled, with
water, sewage, electricity and telephone systems laid underground.
A central television antenna is being
built and some 70 percent of the Old City's streets have been upgraded, including the Via Dolorosa which
has been resurfaced with giant paving stones, dating back to Herod's time, reinstalled as part of the ancient
Archaeological exploration in and around the Old City has uncovered sites from the Judean monarchy; the
Persian and Hellenistic periods; the Herodian, Roman and Byzantine periods; and the Early Islamic,
Crusader, Mamluk and Ottoman eras. Some of the most impressive finds are preserved in the new Ophel
Archaeological Park, which is part of the Jerusalem National Park surrounding the walls of the Old City.
In order to preserve these centuries-old walls, most of the parapet along their top has been renovated, the
upper parts of the ramparts have been paved and a walkway opened to the public. Jaffa and Damascus gates
have been restored;'the Old City market is being cleaned and painted; and the ancient Roman thoroughfare
bisecting the city - the colonnaded Cardo - has been excavated and recently reconstructed, its original
stalls once again displaying goods for sale.
Since 1967, in the eastern sector of Jerusalem, over 5,000 homes have been connected to the municipal
water system; 270 classrooms have been added, as have 65 kindergartens,12 elementary schools, four
vocational schools, three school dental clinics, two community centres, 12 adult and youth clubs, three
mother-and-child care centres and four libraries.
Jerusalem's non-Jewish population has nearly doubled since the city's reunification in 1967. And, in
recent years, more than a million tourists have been visiting Jerusalem annually - including nearly
200,000 people from Arab states which maintain no relations with Israel.
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.
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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