Jerusalem the Contested City

“And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it”
Zechariah 12: 3.

The Israeli/Hamas War is complex. It is a contest between two people and two religions. Here I propose to give an elementary overview of the center of the contest.

The Arab peoples surrounding Jerusalem have a passion for possessing the city that is not justified by history. Muslims claim Jerusalem as their third-holiest city, but Jerusalem is not mentioned once in the Koran. In addition, “During the centuries when Jerusalem was under complete Arab control, no Arab ruler or Islamic leader ever made it the object of a religious pilgrimage – again a strange indifference toward a city which is now considered to be the third-holiest religious site in Islam after Mecca and Medina”.

Jerusalem’s importance to Muslims comes from the belief that in the Dome of the Rock shrine there is a rock where two significant things happened – where Abraham intended to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, and where Mohammed allegedly ascended into heaven. Though this tradition is firmly in the Muslim mind, it is of recent origin. It was invented by Yasser Arafat’s uncle – Haj Amin el-Husseini, who was the past Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. He promoted this concept in the 1920’s and 1930’s to arouse Arab passions against the growing Jewish presence in Jerusalem.

The Dome of the Rock was built not because of the Koran, but because the Muslim ruler Abdal-Malik wanted to gain revenue from pilgrims and worshipers, and because he wanted to prevent the rebuilding of a Jewish Temple.

I have visited the Dome of the Rock many times having even been beneath the sacred stone into the Well of Souls which is no longer allowed. It is an impressive place.

That is the Arab side which I hope Muslims will agree is historically correct though the commentary is likely offensive.

Now the Jewish perspective. Jewish claim to the city is based on Scripture. The very fact that Jerusalem is mentioned more than 800 times in the Bible makes it worthy of special attention. This unique city is the only one upon which God has bestowed His distinctive blessing and protection (Ps 132:13-14), and the only city for whose peace we are commanded to pray (Ps 122:6). God says He has chosen Jerusalem as the place where He has put His name forever (2 Chr 6:6; 33:7; Ps 46:4; 48:1-8; 87:3).

After the Six Day War in which Jews conquered the Holy Mountain on which the Dome stands they gave it back to the Arabs in an effort to achieve peace. It is one place contested by two people. I have friends of both faiths. We are friends knowing our disagreement.

I have relied heavily on the commentary of David for some of these insights.