By Dan Lieberman
Three huge granite stones rest comfortably on the top of Midbar Sinai Street, in Givat Havatzim, Jerusalemâ€™s northernmost district. Cut to specification, the imposing stones represent one of several preparations by the Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful Movement to erect a Third Temple on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. Since the Islamic Wafq owns and controls all the property on the Haram al-Sharif, these stones cannot be legally transferred to the Temple Mount nor can a Temple be constructed there? The provocation, represented by the stones, which the Israel government refuses to curtail, lead to a belief that an eventual Muslim reaction to the increasing provocations will give Israel an excuse to seize total control of the Holy Basin â€“ the ultimate of the properties that Israel intends to incorporate into a greater Jerusalem.
For decades, Israeli authorities have spoken of a united Jerusalem – suggesting a spiritual quality to its message â€“ as if Israel wants the home for the three monotheistic faiths to be solid and stable. By being guided from one central authority, a united Jerusale m also offers a preservation of a common and ancient heritage. However, Israel disguises the lack of a sufficiently supporting and verifiable historical narrative that could bolster its thrust to incorporate all of an artificially created greater Jerusalem into its boundaries. Coupled with inconsistencies and contradictions, Israelâ€™s eagerness to create a greater Jerusalem under its total control becomes suspect. The intensive concentration on a â€˜unitedâ€™ Jerusalem reveals a hidden agenda that debases Jerusalemâ€™s religious ingathering and heightens division, hatred and strife.
Examine the Holy Basin. The Holy Basin contains well marked Christian and Muslim institutions and holy places that have had historical placement for millenniums. Although people of the Jewish faith had major presence in Jerusalem during the centuries of Biblical Jerusalem, which included rule by King Hezekiah and control by the Hasmonean dynasties, their control and presence were interrupted for two millennia. Extensive commentary has enabled the two thousand years of lack of control and presence to seem as if it never happened and that today is only a short interval from the ancient years of Hezekiah. Almost one thousand years of Christian and Crusader rule and more than one thousand years of Muslim rule are politely ignored, while their tremendous constructions and creation are not credited. Almost everything becomes nothing and a minor something becomes everything. Myth replaces reality. Spiritual quality replaces actual presence.
Some remains of Jewish dwellings and ritual baths can be found, but few if any major Jewish monuments, buildings or institutions from the Biblical era exist in the â€œOld Cityâ€ of todayâ€™s Jerusalem. The often cited Western Wall is the supporting wall for Herodâ€™s platform and is not directly related to the Second Temple. No remains of the Jewish Temple have been located in Jerusalem.
According to Karen Armstrong, in her book Jerusalem, Jews did not pray at the Western Wall until the Mamluks in the 15th century allowed them to move their congregations from a dangerous Mount of Olives and pray daily at the Wall. At that time she estimates that there may have been no more than 70 Jewish families in Jerusalem. After the Ottomans replaced the Mamluks, Suleiman the Magnificent issued a formal edict in the 16th century that permitted Jews to have a place of prayer at the Western Wall.
The only remaining major symbol of Jewish presence in Jerusalemâ€™s Holy City is the Jewish quarter, which Israel cleared of Arabs and rebuilt after 1967. During its clearing operations, Israel demolished the Maghribi Quarter adjacent to the Western Wall, destroyed the al-Buraq Mosque and the Tomb of the Sheikh al-Afdhaliyyah, and displaced about 175 Arab families. Although the Jewish population in previous centuries comprised a large segment of the Old City (estimates have 7000 Jews during the mid-19th century), the Jews gradually left the Old City and migrated to new neighborhoods in West Jerusalem, leaving only about 2000 Jews in the Old City. Jordanian control after the 1948 war reduced the number to nil. By 2009, the population of the Jewish quarter in the Old City had grown to 3000, or nine percent of the Old City population. The Christian, Armenian and Muslim populations are the principal constituents and their quarters contain almost the entire Old City commerce.
In an attempt to attach ancient Israel to present day Jerusalem, Israeli authorities continue the attachment of spurious labels to Holy Basin landmarks, while claiming the falsification is due to the Byzantines, who got it all wrong.
King Davidâ€™s Towerâ€™s earliest remains were constructed several hundred years after the Bible dates Davidâ€™s reign. It is a now an obvious Islamic minaret.
King Davidâ€™s Citadel earliest remains are from the Hasmonean period (200 B.C.). The Citadel was entirely rebuilt by the Ottomans between 1537 and 1541.
King Davidâ€™s tomb, located in the Dormition Abbey, is a cloth-covered cenotaph (no remains) that honors King David. It has not been verified that the casket relates to David.
The Pools of Solomon, located in a village near Bethlehem, are considered to be part of a Roman construction during the reign of Herod the Great. The pools supplied water to an aqueduct that carried water to Bethlehem and to Jerusalem.
The Stables of Solomon, under the Temple Mount, are more likely a construction of vaults that King Herod built in order to extend the Temple Mount platform.
Absalomâ€™s Tomb is an obvious Greek sculptured edifice and therefore cannot be the tomb of Davidâ€™s son.
The City of David contains artifacts that date before and during king Davidâ€™s time. Some archaeologists maintain there is an insufficient number of artifacts to conclude any Israelite presence before David. In any case any Israelite presence must have been in a small and unfortified settlement.
The Jerusalem Archaeological Park within the Old City, together with the Davidson Exhibition and Virtual Reconstruction Center also tell the story. Promising to reveal much of a Hebrew civilization, the museums shed little light on its subject. The Davidson Center highlights a coin exhibition, Jerusalem bowls and stone vessels. The Archeological Park in the Old City contains among many artifacts, Herodian structures, ritual baths, a floor of an Umayyad palace, a Roman road, Ottoman gates, and the faÃ§ade of what is termed Robinsonâ€™s arch, an assumed Herodian entryway to the Temple Mount.. The exhibitions donâ€™t reveal many, if any, ancient Hebrew structures or institutions of special significance.
Well known archaeologists, after examining excavations that contain pottery shards and buildings, concluded that finds donâ€™t substantiate the biblical history of Jerusalem and its importance during the eras of a united Jewish kingdom under David and Solomon.
Margaret Steiner in an article titled Itâ€™s Not There: Archaeology Proves a Negative in the Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August, 1998, states
â€œ…from the tenth century B.C.E. there is no archaeological evidence that many people actually lived in Jerusalem, only that it was some kind of public administrative center…We are left with nothing that indicates a city was here during their supposed reigns (of David and Solomon)…It seems unlikely, however, that this Jerusalem was the capital of a large state, the United monarchy, as described in Biblical texts.â€
West Jerusalem is another matter. With banditry prolific and Old City gates being closed before nightfall, living outside the city gates did not appeal to the population. Philanthropist Moses Montefiore wanted to attract the Jewish population to new surroundings and constructed the first Jewish community outside of the Old City. Yemin Mosheâ€™s first houses were completed in 1860. From that time Jewish presence played a critical role in creating a West Jerusalem. Other institutions, Greek Orthodox, Catholic, Russian Orthodox and Muslim soon ventured forth and acquired much property in the evolving West Jerusalem.
In 1948, After the Israeli army seized absolute control of West Jerusalem, the new Israeli government confiscated all West Jerusalem property owned by Muslim institutions. Reason â€“ enemy property. Few Muslims and no mosques remain in todayâ€™s West Jerusalem.
One contradiction. By attacking and ethnically cleansing the Christian Arab communities of Deir Yassin and Ein Kerem, Israeli forces characterized Christian Palestinians as an enemy. Nevertheless, Israel did not confiscate all Christian properties, many of which are apparent in West Jerusalem. The Greek Orthodox Church owns extensive properties in West Jerusalem, many marked by its Tau + Phi symbol, which translates to â€˜Sepulchre.â€™
Another contradiction. Israel has cared for the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives and expanded it as a heritage site. Part of the famous Muslim Mamilla cemetery in West Jerusalem has been classified as refugee property and is being prepared to be demolished for the new Museum of Tolerance.
East Jerusalem reveals more contradictions. The desire to incorporate East Jerusalem into Israel contradicts the repeated warning by Israeli leaders that co-existence is not feasible and that it is necessary to separate the Jewish and Palestinian communities. Incorporation means accepting somewhere between 160,000 and 225,000 Palestinians into a Jewish state. Or does it? Whereas the older historical Jewish neighborhoods in West Jerusalem have their characters maintained or are rebuilt in their original style, the older Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem are entirely neglected (all of Arab East Jerusalem is neglected) or destroyed. How much deterioration and destruction can Palestinians absorb before they decide to leave?
Construction of Jewish homes in East Jerusalem Arab neighborhoods proceeds and destruction of Arab homes, ei ther declared illegally constructed or illegally purchased, continues. On 44 dunums of lands that previously belonged to Palestinian families, a private company has constructed the gated community of Nof Zion and conveniently separated Palestinian Jabal Al Mukabir from other parts of East Jerusalem. No Arabs need apply. The million dollar condominiums are advertised for American investors.
The Israeli ministry of Interior has approved a plan to demolish a kindergarten and wholesale market in East Jerusalemâ€™s Wadi Joz neighborhood in order to construct a new hotel close to the Old City and near the Rockefeller Museum. The result will be the destruction of an Arab neighborhood and its replacement by Jewish interests, which will one day join with other Jewish interests.
These are only two examples of a master plan to replace the centuries old Arab presence in East Jerusalem with a modern Jewish presence. The ancient Arab presence in an ancient land is further divided by the Separation Wall, which runs through the East Jerusalem landscape and detaches East Jerusalem from the West Bank, making it unlikely for a Palestinian state to have its capital in East Jerusalem. The master plan extends the boundaries of Jerusalem to include the large Israeli settlement (city) of Maale Adumim. Between Maale Adumim and East Jerusalem, Israel proposes to construct the E1 corridor, which joins settlements in a ring and adds to the separation of East Jerusalem from the West Bank. The E1 corridor will divide the northern and southern West Bank and will impede direct transit between Palestine Bethlehem, which is south of E1 and Palestine Ramallah, which is north of E1. Construction of the E1 corridor, portions of which are owned by Palestinians, could prevent the formation of a viable Palestinian state.
So, if Israel is destroying Jerusalemâ€™s heritage and subjugating its spiritual meaning, why does Israel want to unify Jerusalem?
Israel is a physically small and relatively new country with an eager population and big ambitions. It needs more prestige and wants to be viewed as a power broker on the world stage. To gain those perspectives Israel needs a capital city that commands respect, contains ancient traditions and is recognized as one of the worldâ€™s most important and leading cities. Almost all of the worldâ€™s principal nations, from Egypt to Germany to Great Britain, have capitals that are great cities of the world. To assure its objectives, Israel wants an oversized Jerusalem that contains the Holy City. Thatâ€™s not all.
Jerusalem has significant tourism that can be expanded and provide new commercial opportunities as an entry to all of the Mid-East. An indivisible Jerusalem under Israeli control is worth a lot of shekels.
Israel competes with the United States as the focus of the Jewish people. It needs a unique Jerusalem to gain recognition as the home of Judaism.
By controlling all of the holy sites, Israel commands attention from Moslem and Christian leaders. These leaders will be forced to talk with Israel and Israel will have a bargaining advantage in disputes.
Whatever Israel gains the Palestinians are denied. Even if Israel agrees to the establishment of a Palestinian state, it will direct its policies to limit the effectiveness of that state. Since East Jerusalem and its holy sites greatly benefit a Palestinian economy and increase Palestine legitimacy, Israel will do everything to prevent East Jerusalem being ceded to the new state of Palestine.
West Jerusalem only gives Israel a North/South capital. An indivisible Jerusalem gives Israel a forward look towards an East/West capital or a centralized capital of the land of previous biblical Jewish tribes.
The Zionist socialist ideals and the cooperative Kibbutzim received support and sympathy from idealistic world peoples for many years. Israelâ€™s attachment to the Holocaust tragedy extended that sympathy and support to more of the world. With the end of the Zionist dream, the decline of kibbutz life and the over-popularizing of the Holocaust, Israel needs a new symbol of identity that captures world attention.
If Israel has legitimate claims to Jerusalem, then those claims should be heard and discussed in a proper forum. However, that is not the process forthcoming. The Israeli government is using illegal and illegitimate procedures, as well as deceitful and hypocritical methods to force its agenda . Israel is not presenting its case but is exerting its powers to trample all legal, moral and historical considerations.
The Museum of the Citadel of David has an inscription: The land of Israel is in the center of the world and Jerusalem is the center of the land of Israel.
This self praise was echoed at a West Jerusalem coffee house in a conversation with several Israelis, A youthful Israeli abruptly sat at the table and entered the conversation with the words: â€œAll the world looks to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the center of the world and Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Everyone needs Jerusalem and they will need to talk with Israel.â€™
And that is why Israel desperately wants its greater Jerusalem.
Dan Lieberman is the editor of Alternative Insight, a monthly web based newsletter. Dan has written many articles on the Middle East conflict, which have circulated on websites and media throughout the world.