Whose Jerusalem ?

Whose Jerusalem ?

Whose Land ?

Moshe Kohn - Jerusalem in the Sources

THE Jewish sources preserve no tradition about the location of the mountain called Sinai, at which, according to the Torah, God declared His Ten Utterances (erroneously called The Ten Commandments) and from where Moses brought down the Tablets of the Covenant.

Neither does the Torah name Shavuot, which traditionally marks the Time of the Giving of Our Torah, as the date of that seminal event. It is the talmudic Sages who ruled that the Torah was given on that day, Sivan 6, after a discussion in which one Sage maintained that it happened on Sivan 7. (See Talmud Shabbat 6b and Pessahim 68b.)

But if the Jewish Bible doesn't tell us exactly where and when the Torah was given, it and the Talmud and Midrash clearly tell us, numerous times, from where its message is to be broadcast and its light to be radiated. The best known statement, chanted every time the Torah is to be removed from the Ark for reading during the synagogue service, is: "For out of Zion shall come forth the Torah, and the word of God from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:1 and Micah 4:2). These are just two of the 821 times that Jerusalem and Zion appear in the Tanach - Jerusalem 667 times and Zion, usually synonymous with Jerusalem though sometimes referring to Eretz Yisrael as a whole, 154 times.

In the Christian New Testament, Jerusalem appears 154 times and Zion seven. This is natural, considering that the protagonist and most of the other personae were Jews, and that some of the central events, including the culminating event. took place in Jerusalem/Zion. In the Moslem Koran, on the other hand, Jerusalem and Zion appear as frequently as they do in the Hindu Bhagavad Gita, the Taoist Tao-Te Ching, the Buddhist Dhamapada and the Zoroastrian Zend Avesta. This, too, is only natural, since nothing of Islamic significance happened in Jerusalem/Zion before the Arab conquest in 638, and, of course, nothing of Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist or Zoroastrian significance ever happened here. It was only after that conquest that the Arabs invented an Islamic history for the city.

Indeed, until the tenth century the Moslems called Jerusalem "Ilya." This was an Arabic abridgment and corruption of "Aelia Capitolina," the name the Roman emperor Hadrian Publius Aelius gave it. He renamed the city after the Roman God Jupiter Capitolinus after crushing the Bar-Kochba Revolt in 135 CE. He razed Jewish Jerusalem, installed a shrine to Jupiter on the ruins of the Temples Holy of Holies, and in general strove to erase from Jerusalem every Jewish vestige. (And except for the idolatrous touch, the Jordanians under kings Abdullah I and Hussein treated the city similarly between 1948 and 1967.) >From the tenth century on the Moslems called the city by names of Jewish origin: Beit al-Makdis, the Arabic version of the Hebrew name for the Temple, Beit Hamikdash/House of the Sanctuary; Al-Kuds, Arabic for the (Ir) Hakodesh/(City of) Holiness; and even Siyyun, Arabic for the Hebrew Tziyon/Zion. (See Whose Jerusalem? by Eliyahu Tal, Jerusalem/Tel Aviv 1994; and Avraham Even-Shoshan's Konkordantzia Hadasha Letanach, Jerusalem, Kiryat Sepher, 1977-1980.)

IT IS instructive to note how a Christian (Catholic) and a Moslem monarch once expressed themselves regarding this city over whose sanctity representatives of those two faiths have initiated the shedding of so much blood and spokesmen of both have perpetrated so much verbal violence.

On February 18, 1229, the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II of the House of Hohenstauffen, who led the Sixth Crusade, concluded a treaty with the Egyptian Sultan al-Kamil that gave him Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Lod and several other places in Eretz Yisrael and beyond, and ten years of peace. Pope Gregory IX denounced Frederick for acquiring Jerusalem in this fashion, saying that Moslems are to be fought, not negotiated with. Frederick, who had earlier crowned himself King of Jerusalem, said: "If I did not fear to lose my prestige in the eyes of the Franks, I should not have sought to impose all this on the sultan."

Al-Kamil, for his part, said: "I have ceded nothing but churches and ruins." Jerusalem, Islam's "third holiest city" nothing to a Moslem ruler, "nothing but churches and ruins." (See Dr. Gershon Mamlak's "Jerusalem City of Three Religions?" in Midstream magazine, August/September 1980, and Encyclopedia Britannica, 1972 edition.) In 1244 the Moslems retook Jerusalem. "Now the city lapsed into obscurity, and the Moslem shrines on the Temple Mount were abandoned and became dilapidated," Daniel Pipes, publisher and editor of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Quarterly, has written ("If I Forget Thee: Does Jerusalem really matter to Islam?" in The New Republic, April 29, 1997).

"The Jewish political revival in Jerusalem in our century, spurred by the Zionist movement, and the British Mandatory control of the city galvanized Moslem passion for Jerusalem," Pipes continued. "But when Jordan occupied eastern Jerusalem in 1948, the Moslem's quickly lost interest. Jordan's Hashemite rulers had little affection for Jerusalem, and they made a concerted effort to diminish the holy citys importance in favor of their capital, Amman.... No foreign Arab leader came to Jerusalem between 1948 and 196, and even king Hussein visited only rarely."

As for Yasser Arafat and Jerusalem - the Palestinian National Covenant, the PLOs notorious founding document, never mentions the city.

MANY cities are referred to by terms that embrace their peripheries, which may include autonomous localities for example, Metropolitan New York or "Greater Tel Aviv." Similarly, we often speak of the "Jerusalem metropolitan area," or "Greater Jerusalem," embracing such nearby autonomous localities as Betar, Givat Zeev, Abu Dis, Eizariya, Isawiya, even the Etzion Bloc and Maaleh Adumim.

On January 18, 1995 prime minister Yitzhak Rabin agreed to a demand by the Labor-led government's Meretz partners that the government commit itself to proclaiming that there is no Greater Jerusalem or Jerusalem Metropolitan Area. That same day foreign minister Shimon Peres told reporters: "There is no such thing as Greater Jerusalem. It is a literary, not a political, term." Lately, Prime Minister Ehud Barak has declared that when our ancestors prayed for the Jewish people's return to Jerusalem, they were not praying to return to Abu-Dis or Eizariya.

But once the concept Jerusalem embraced considerably more territory than Abu Dis, the Etzion Bloc, and Maaleh Adumim - it covered an area of 1,600 square miles. The tenth- century Moslem traveler/geographer Shams-ad-Din Abu Abdullah Mohammed ibn Ahmed al-Bashari, better known as al-Mukaddasi, who was, as his cognomen indicates, a Jerusalemite, wrote: "The territory of the Holy City is counted as all the country that lies within a radius of 40 miles from Jerusalem, and includes many villages. For twelve miles the frontier follows the shore [of the Dead Sea]... then for five miles it lies through the desert and into the districts toward the south, even to the country that lies beyond al- Kseifah [east of Beersheba] and the land that is over against it. On the north the frontier reaches to the limits of Nablus..." Mukaddasi notes that Syria, "which is of glorious renown, the Land of the Prophets, is divided into six districts, of which the fifth is Filastin."

Among "Filastin's" localities, in addition to Jerusalem, Jericho, Nablus etc., Mukaddasi lists Amman, today's capital of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. As for Jerusalem, Mukaddasi writes, "everywhere the Christians and Jews have the upper hand." (See Description of the Province of Syria, Including Palestine, translated from the Arabic by Guy le Strange, London, Palestine Pilgrim's Text Society.)

About a thousand years before Mukaddasi, the Talmud (Mishna Maaser Sheni 5:2) notes: "Jerusalem's precincts comprise the areas within one day's walk in each direction: to the south as far as Eilat [at that time apparently designating a locality in the Greater Hebron area, perhaps Beit Govrin]; to the north Akravat [Akraba]; to the west, Lod; to the east, the Jordan River.

JEWISH tradition speaks of the "seventy names" by which Jerusalem is referred to in the classical Jewish sources. These include Ariel/Lion of God (Isaiah 29:1); Kirya Neemana/Faithful City ( Isaiah 1:25); Ir Ha'emet/City of Truth (Zechariah 8:3); Klilat Yofi/Paragon of Beauty (Lamentations 2:15); Yefay Nof/Beautiful of Panorama (Psalms 48:3); Hanetzah/Eternity (Rabbi Akiva's comment in Sanhedrin 58a on I Chronicles 29:11).

An Israeli artist, Yaacov Boussidan, has come up with a list of 236 names for Jerusalem, listed in a book designed and illuminated by him. These include names and epithets by which Jerusalem is referred to in later Jewish sources, including contemporary poems, and in non-Jewish sources since classical antiquity. Among these are Pliny the Elder's "most celebrated city;" Avraham Shlonsky's most beautiful of lands;" and Zelda's "place of fire."

Moshe and Barbara Kohn
E-Mail: moshbarb@netvision.net.il
Address: POB 9275
91092 Jerusalem
Telephone: 02-6418340


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