Jun 27, 2008

Does Israel Have A Rightful Claim To Jerusalem?

By Yechiel Eckstein

Jerusalem has again been in the news recently. After U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice criticized Israel’s building of Jewish homes in East Jerusalem, which has a predominantly Arab population, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reaffirmed Israel’s right to build there. Jerusalem’s mayor stated flatly, “Jerusalem is not a settlement and construction in the capital will continue.”

Ultimately, the Israeli government will have to make the decision on Jerusalem that it decides is in its own best interest. This is a decision only Israel can make. But the rest of us can refute the false claims about Jerusalem that are routinely circulated by Israel’s enemies, who maintain the Israel does not have a rightful claim to the Holy City.

The Palestinian viewpoint says that Israel’s claims to Jerusalem are illegitimate. But Jews made Jerusalem their Holy City three thousand ago and have been living there ever since. They have been the largest single group of inhabitants there since the mid-1800’s. Jews face Jerusalem when they pray, and mention it constantly in their prayers.

Still, Palestinians hold to their radical claim – a claim echoed even by the so-called “moderate” Palestinian leaders. Just a few weeks ago, Rafiq Al Husseini, chief of staff for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, stated, “Jerusalem is Muslim. The blessed Al Aqsa mosque and Harem Al Sharif [Temple Mount] is 100 percent Muslim.” And yet, despite Husseini’s claim, Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Muslim holy book, the Koran. It never served as a capital under Muslim rule, nor was it a Muslim cultural center. In fact, in any discussion of cities holy to Muslims, Jerusalem places a distant third to Mecca and Medina, both in Saudi Arabia.

Here are the inescapable facts: Jerusalem has been the spiritual center of Jewish life since the time of King David. The ancient, eternal connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem is reaffirmed time and again in Holy Scripture. There has been a continuous Jewish presence in Jerusalem for thousands of years, and the city has never been claimed by any other nation or people. These facts expose the denial of the Jewish connection to Jerusalem for what it really is – a shoddy attempt to rewrite history.

Perhaps the most eloquent words written about the Jewish connection to Jerusalem are the words of the Psalmist: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.’” (Psalm 122:6-7) Today, let us indeed say a prayer for this city, holy to Jews and Christians alike. And let us recommit ourselves to fighting the misinformation Israel’s foes spread about her, wherever it occurs.