I am one of those who applauds Pres. Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It is so right for a number of reasons: it reflects the reality ‘on the ground’; it’s a sovereign nation’s right to choose the location of its capital; it fulfills a pledge made by previous American presidents; and so on. But it’s also right for a reason that isn’t getting much, if any, attention in the media. Trump’s move stands in opposition to those would-be historical revisionists who have cast the Jewish state as an ‘illegal Occupier’ with no historic ties, and therefore, no legitimate claim, to the city.
The attempt by Israel’s foes to rewrite history has taken the form of temple denial. It began with Yasser Arafat in 2000, in the closing days of the Camp David Summit, when Arafat told a shocked Pres. Clinton that the Jewish Temple never existed in Jerusalem. Arafat’s successor, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, continued to sow doubt as to the Temple’s existence in Jerusalem. In a speech he gave to the Arab League in Qatar in 2012, Abbas referred to “the alleged Temple.”
In their attempts to deny any historic connection between Jerusalem and the Jews, the historical revisionists have found a willing partner in the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). On 2 May of this year, Israel’s Independence Day–the very day when Israelis celebrate the founding of the modern state of Israel in 1948–UNESCO passed a resolution claiming that Israel had no legal or historical rights anywhere in Jerusalem.
Two months later, on 4 July, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee passed a resolution that referred to Israel as “the Occupying Power” and deemed all legislative and administrative measures enacted by Israel’s government in Jerusalem therefore to be “null and void.” To anyone who has ever been to Jerusalem, this statement must appear truly absurd.
I was in Jerusalem on Independence Day three years ago. I headed over to West Jerusalem that day to where the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, is located. Since it was a national holiday, the Knesset was closed (to my disappointment) and there was no access to the grounds.
(This is a photo of the Knesset taken that day.)
I spent the rest of the day in the nearby museums which were awesome.
(This is a photo of the exterior of the Shrine of the Book taken by my husband that day. The Shrine of the Book is where the renowned Dead Sea Scrolls are located. As worthwhile as the Dead Sea Scrolls were to see, I particularly enjoyed viewing the oldest biblical manuscripts in existence. An absolutely captivating museum!!!)
(outside the Israel Museum was a model of the Jerusalem Temple.)
In a further attempt to erase all historic connection of the Jews to Jerusalem, UNESCO has issued documents which refer to the Temple Mount solely as al-Aqsa mosque/al-Haram al-Sharif and to the Western Wall as Buraq plaza (April 2016). Most non-Muslims don’t even recognize the name ‘Buraq’. The name al-Buraq meaning ‘lightning’ was the name given to the ‘heavenly steed’, the white donkey-like, winged creature that Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad rode when he travelled between Mecca and Jerusalem on his night journey (isra) and when he travelled up into heaven (miraj).
I have always wondered why Christian leaders don’t take a more vocal and forceful stand against the Temple-deniers, since Palestinian revisionism not only attempts to erase any Jewish presence in Jerusalem, but also attacks the veracity of the New Testament record. In two days time, it will be Hanukkah when the Jewish people celebrate the purification and rededication of their Temple in 165 BC after it had been defiled by the pagan Seleucid general Antiochus Epiphanes. The celebration is known by various names: the Feast of Dedication (hanukkah means ‘dedication’), as well as the Festival of Lights. On that night back in 165 BC when the Jews were rededicating the Temple, they tried to light a 7-pronged menorah, but found that there was only enough oil to last one day. Nevertheless, that small amount of oil, it was reported, lasted the full eight days.
The Gospel of John records that Jesus was in Jerusalem, in the Temple area, during one Hanukkah celebration (Jn 10:22-39). John tells us that Jesus was walking in Solomon’s Colonnade where he engaged in conversation with some Jews. Solomon’s Colonnade was a covered porch of cedar held up by rows of columns 27 ft (8 m) high. Such porches were located on all four sides and faced in towards the sanctuary. Solomon’s Colonnade, the porch on the east side, was believed to date from Solomon’s time (erroneously) and hence its name. Porches such as these, a common feature of Greek buildings, were used as places for teaching. The Jews clustered around Jesus in the eastern porch wanted to know if Jesus was the Christ or Messiah (v. 24). Judas Maccabeus had freed them from the tyranny of the Greek Seleucids. Could Jesus, then, be the messiah who would deliver them from Rome? Why would John specify that Jesus was in a certain porch in the Temple area if there was no Temple there? Clearly, Temple denial affects Christians, too.
Let’s hope that Trump’s move sends a much-needed message that the Jewish people do have a right to Jerusalem, not least of which is an historic reason.