the Eternal City of Israel

July 29, 1996

by Dr. Daniel Schur, Rabbi

These are trying times for the Jews and for Israel. Daily we find ourselves more and more isolated. With all our hopes for the peacemaking and justice-spreading potential of the United Nations, who could have foreseen that the U.N. would degenerate into the foremost anti-Semitic lobby in the world, an instrument in which Israel is condemned with bitter monotony, time and time again. Even the so-called freedom loving nations of the West have joined the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic pack in their insatiable thirst for Arab oil.

Now we might attempt to understand the motivation of those in the United Nations, those in Rome, and yes, even those here in Washington, D.C. who would deny Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel. They want to amputate the heart. They know that without a heart a body cannot function. So without Jerusalem, its heart, the state will wither, and without the state of Israel, they think, how long will Judaism and the Jewish people be able to survive?

Jerusalem has always been Jewish. If Jesus walked the streets of Jerusalem, it was only because he was a practicing Jew. Mohammed never stepped in Jerusalem while he lived; he was there only in the Moslem myth. On the day of his death, he was lifted over the miles to Jerusalem at night, when it was dark and nobody could see. From there, the myth states, he ascended to heaven from the spot where the Dome of the Rock now stands. However, during his natural life, he never entered Jerusalem. Jerusalem is Jewish. A thousand years before the birth of Christianity, we Jews had Jerusalem. Sixteen hundred years before the Arabs came into the area, we Jews had Jerusalem.

Three times Jerusalem was the capital of a Jewish commonwealth. Once, from 1000 BCE to 587 BCE. Again, from 515 BCE to 70 CE. And now, from 1948 until the end of time. The Arabs came to the area in the 17th century. They ruled the city for 480 years. Yet not once did they make Jerusalem the capital of an Arab state. When Jordan ruled Jerusalem for 19 years by conquest of arms, neither Hussein nor his grandfather ever designated Jerusalem their capital. The late king of Saudi Arabia never once visited Jerusalem the years that it was in Arab hands. He got the overwhelming desire to pray in Jerusalem only after the Jews liberated the city in the Six Day War.

So what is all this talk about an Arab Jerusalem? Jerusalem is of primary importance only to the Jews. To the Christians, there is first Bethlehem, then Nazareth, and only third Jerusalem. To some Christians, their focal point is Rome. To others, it's Constantinople. And still to others, it's Canterbury. And if they are Mormons, it is Salt Lake City, Utah. To the Moslems, their holiest metropolis is Mecca, and then Medina. Only third, Jerusalem. Only to us Jews is Jerusalem first. Only to us Jews is Jerusalem central. For us, Judaism without Jerusalem is Judaism without a heart.

If you remember your history, what was the first step Hadrian took in his effort to eradicate Judaism? He sought to erase Jerusalem from the map of the world. He had the city plowed over. He renamed it Aelia Capitalina and he decreed that Jerusalem should never rise again. That lovable little monarch, King Hussein of Jordan, was an apt pupil of the Roman emperor Hadrian. His grandfather took the Old City as one of the spoils of his war of aggression in 1948. When Hussein succeeded him, the grandson desecrated Jerusalem synagogues and uprooted the monuments of the sacred cemetery of Mt. Olives. With the great sense of decency for which he is noted, he used the synagogues as stables for his horses and the monuments as latrines for his troops. During the 19 years of Jordan's occupation of Old Jerusalem, no Jew could live or even enter its boundaries. Incidentally, Christians who lived in Israel were permitted to enter its boundaries. Incidentally, Christians who lived in Israel were permitted to enter the Old City only on Christmas and Easter. But Moslem Arabs dwelling in Israel were forbidden to enter the Old City at any time. It was only when the state of Israel liberated Eastern Jerusalem in 1967 that it became once again accessible to all religions, faiths, and creeds. The sacred shrines of all peoples were respected and protected.

We must teach our fellow Americans that there is no such thing as an Arab Jerusalem. Jerusalem, all of Jerusalem, has always been and will always be Jewish. True, Israel and the Jewish people are alone, isolated by their struggle for freedom and justice in the Holy Land. However, we are alone with God, and these odds are good enough for me. God did not bring the state of Israel into existence after close to 2000 years, only to have it destroyed a third time. For God is working in history. With God's help we will survive. With God's help we will triumph. With God's help we shall live. With God's help we shall flourish until eternity in Israel, with all of Jerusalem as its capital.