Given the recent headlines last November that Israel is building 1,000 homes in East Jerusalem, apparently lost on the rest of the world is that Israel is building in its own city...not disputed land, not the West Bank, not Palestinian territory.
Every time the Jews announce construction projects in Jerusalem they are met with the same opposition - "building on Palestinian land," "taking what isn’t theirs," - without any regard to the history of Jerusalem recent or past.
Jerusalem was reunified in 1967 but the world chooses to ignore that fact. Is there anybody out there that will stand with the Jews in their struggle to keep Jerusalem sovereign?
Over the centuries Palestine was the one place on Earth that Jews migrated to because they wanted to, not because they were forced out of somewhere else which has been a major part of the Jewish story for the last 1,000 years. And, most of those Jews settled in Jerusalem.
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The pull was so strong for Jews to “return” to Jerusalem that even during the worst of times they attempted to reach their city. S.D. Gotein, in researching the Gheniza documents, published a letter from a man stuck in Cairo in 1100, writing to his community in Spain. He couldn’t get to Jerusalem because “the Franks arrived and killed everyone in the city whether Ishmael or of Israel,” (The First Crusade, Edward Peters ed., pg. 269) referring to the massacres that occurred as a result of the siege of Jerusalem in the first Crusade in 1099.
Around 617, the Persians went to war against Byzantium. The Jews helped the Persians remove the Byzantines from the Levant, and with their blessing, became the rulers of Jerusalem and most of the surrounding area, which we know as ancient Judea.
A few years later the Byzantines countered and took it back. Ibn Ishaq, the earliest known chronicler of Islamic history, said that the Byzantine King Heracles thought seriously about driving out all the Jews in Palestine because he was not yet aware of Muhammad’s conquest which began in 622 and mistook a dream he had that warned him of a second Jewish uprising. Ibn Ishaq phrased it, he “saw a kingdom of a circumcised man victorious” (Life of Muhammad, A. Guillaume, pg. 654). Ibn Ishaq wrote this 80 years after Mohammed’s death so more than likely the king stopped short of driving the Jews out of the realm because his court realized their importance to the trade routes that were long established and the Jews’ major role in them all through the Levant.
As mentioned, Christian crusaders seized Jerusalem in 1099 and proceeded to slaughter Muslims, Jews and pagans indiscriminately. Those that could get out with their lives did and scattered in all directions. Another letter from Gotein’s scholarship from a woman who had fled to Tripoli, Lebanon, writing to her sister about the escape of her and her baby sometime after 1100 says “I witnessed much bloodshed and experienced everything terrible.” (The First Crusade, pg. 270)
Within a couple of decades, however, with Christian dominance in place, the Jews began to trickle back in. Described as “dangerous” to do so by Thomas Wright editing the “Early Travels in Palestine” published in 1848 but, the lure, connection, and history to the Jews would not keep them away.
Snow covers the Dome of the Rock at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound on December 12, 2013 in Jerusalem's old city, Israel. Uriel Sinai/Getty Images
Within a few decades they were once again thriving in the city, running businesses and coping with Christian cruelty which had become a way of life. There is no record of pagans or Muslims coming back in before the Jews. These groups only did so much later and in small numbers understanding that Jews were surviving under Christian persecution. Pilgrims from Eastern Europe, Spain, North Africa and all points east where Jews dwelled continued coming and settling with those that had been there for generations, building a sizeable Jewish population.
With the rise of the Ottomans, and the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, Jews once again flourished in Palestine and Jerusalem. A 16th century renewal project financed by the Ottoman court showed that they were confident enough in the Jewish success in the city that they invested in it for the future and the wealth it would bring their empire. The Jewish population again rose during the first two centuries of Ottoman rule.
By the 1842 Ottoman population census counted more Jews than Christians or Muslims constituting a majority in the city. And, this is at a time when anti-Semitism was on the rise in the Empire. But, with strength in numbers the Jews of Jerusalem were spared that kind of humiliation and worse. A Jewish majority has dominated the city for the last 173 years.
There is no reason to believe that even before 1842 going back at least 40 or 50 years that the population would have changed any. Even with Muslims vastly outnumbering Jews in population, there has always been a sizeable Jewish community in Jerusalem.
When the United Nations passed Resolution 181 in 1947, the partition of Palestine did not include Jerusalem as its capital. The Jews were upset about it but they accepted the deicision. After the War of Independence and the Jews held West Jerusalem and the Jordanians held the east, Israel’s leaders said they would work toward a future which would unify the capital of the Jewish people with their country.
That time came in 1967. Within two weeks of ending the war, the Jews annexed east Jerusalem, declaring it the capital. Now, 48 years after reunification, there is no way Jerusalem will be negotiated for in any settlement. It will stay unified, and under Jewish sovereignty.
The Palestinians will have to build their capital somewhere else.
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