Jerusalem's History Gives Precedence to Jews

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), November 12, 2015 | Go to article overview

Jerusalem's History Gives Precedence to Jews


Byline: Arthur Mokin For The Register-Guard

At about the time she stepped down as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton declared that Jerusalem lay at the heart of the Israel-Palestinian dispute. The recent violence in and around the Holy City seems to affirm her conviction.

The secretary could have narrowed the focus of the dispute even further, to a third of an acre in East Jerusalem - an eminence variously known as the Temple Mount, the Noble Sanctuary, and the Dome of the Rock. Why are Israel and Islam so passionately invested in this bit of land? Proceeding chronologically, we begin with Israel: Sometime between 1900 and 1800 B.C., a few pastoral tribes known as Hebrews drifted from Mesopotamia (now Iraq) into Canaan, the land between the west bank of the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Thereafter the region became variously known as Judea, Israel, Palestine and the Holy Land.

Circa 993 B.C., David, king of Israel, chose Jerusalem as his capital, and it was on Jerusalem's Mount Moriah, where Abraham had been commanded to sacrifice his son Isaac, that King Solomon, David's son, built the first temple. Solomon's temple stood for almost 400 years until Babylon's Nebuchadnezzar, in 586 B.C., savaged Judea and destroyed the temple. Seventy years later, the Persians conquered the Babylonians, and the second temple was built over the ruins of the first.

The second temple stood for 600 years through war, conquest and re-conquest, until 70 A.D., when Jerusalem fell to the Romans.

Infuriated by the Jews' stubborn refusal to accept Roman rule and Roman gods, the Romans razed the second temple and slew, enslaved or banished much of the population, giving rise to the Diaspora.

Rome vengefully renamed Judea Palestine, derived from Philistine, mortal enemy of the Jews (Goliath was a Philistine), and as further humiliation, built a shrine to Jupiter on the site of the second temple, and forbade any Jew, on pain of death, to appear within sight of Jerusalem.

The remaining Jewish community's response was to turn inward with intensified devotion. The vacuum left in Israel by the departed Jews gradually was filled by settlers from surrounding nations and all over the Roman Empire; eventually, they became known as Palestinians. For Jews in the Diaspora, Jerusalem remains to this day the center of their spiritual and cultural tradition; Jews the world over pray facing the temple.

Around 570 A.D., some 1,600 years after King David had named Jerusalem his capital, the prophet Mohammed, founder of Islam, was born. …

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