Jerusalem the city of peace or conflict? Let’s find out

Jerusalem The City Of Peace Or Conflict? Let’S Find Out

With a history of over 4,400 years or even longer, Jerusalem has been attacked 52 times, captured and recaptured 44 times, besieged 23 times, and destroyed twice.

Over centuries of its existence the three Abrahamic religions that are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have fought for its control. They view Abraham as a common forefather, a patriarch who is mentioned in all three of their holy books: the Torah, the Bible, and the Quran. Jews and Christians trace their roots to Abraham’s second son Isaac. Muslims trace their roots to his elder son Ishmael. Their belief in ancestry divides them but Jerusalem has been that one unifying force.

In Hebrew, it’s called Yerushalayim the spiritual homeland of the Jewish people. Temple Mount in Jerusalem is where two biblical Jewish temples stood thousands of years ago. The western wall within the temple mount is said to be the last remnant of those temples. Today it is considered to be the holiest site in Judaism. When Jews pray they face the western wall in Jerusalem just like Muslims face the Kaaba in Mecca. Jerusalem is also holy for Muslims. In Arabic, it is known as al-Quds the holy sanctuary, home to the al-Aqsa mosque the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Madina, and on top of temple mounts, it’s the dome of the rock this is where Muslims say prophet Muhammad ascended to the heavens and lastly in Christianity, Jerusalem is mentioned as Salim in the bible an ancient Hebrew name that was preserved in its current name Jerusalem. For Christians this city is home to the church of the holy sepulcher this is where Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected. So for all of these three: Christians Muslims and Jews, Jerusalem holds a sacred and important place but who owns it? This is where things get complicated.

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Jerusalem belongs to everyone and yet no one. Every religion has marked this city and almost every major empire has controlled it but in the words of Winston Churchill, “it is the jews that made Jerusalem famous.” How did they do it? To understand this we would have to go back into history to 135 CE to be exact. The time when the Romans drove jews out of Jerusalem and renamed their kingdom Judea to Palestina a greek name meant to break the Jewish connection to this land. All Jews were barred from setting foot in Jerusalem. So where did the Jews go after their exodus from Judea?

They got scattered across the roman empire which is present in Europe but they were persecuted wherever they went. In the 11th century, the Jews were slaughtered by the crusaders who considered them to be the killers of Jesus Christ. In the 14th century, they were scapegoated as the cause of black death accused of poisoning the wells of Christians and slaughtering in the rhine and rhone region. Their persecution went on till the 19thcentury and this is when some Jews joined forces to protect their identity they launched what is called Zionism a religious-political and ideological movement, which had two aims one was to put an end to the centuries of persecution and two to take jews back to their ancient homeland.

The zionist believed that Judaism was as much a religion as it was a nationality that the Jews deserved their own state. The same way the french deserved France or the Chinese deserve china. This movement is what brought Jews back to Israel. Today Zionism is Israel’s national ideology. Towards the end of the 19th century, Zionism led to massive Jewish immigration to Palestine. By 1903 at least 30,000 had reestablished themselves in Palestine. By 1914, 40,000 more jews had resettled.

Then came the first world war, the ottoman empire collapsed the British and French empires carved up west Asia with the British taking control of the region under the British mandate for Palestine. At first, they allowed Jewish immigration but as more jews arrived tensions between Jews and Arabs grew. Both sides committed acts of violence both claiming to be the victims. So by the 1930s, the British began limiting Jewish immigration. Things changed again after the rise of nazi Germany. 6 million Jews were killed in the holocaust the remaining fled to the US and Palestine in large numbers. By 1944 the Jewish population in Palestine had increased to 33 percent of the total. This galvanized much of the western world in support of a Jewish state with much of the Arab world against it.

In 1947 a sectarian violence between the Arabs and the jews grew. The united nations approved a plan to divide British Palestine into two separate states one for jews called Israel and one for Arabs called Palestine. The city of Jerusalem was to become a special international zone since it housed the holy sites of both religions. This plan was a colossal failure. The British first failed to prevent the violence and then wash their hands of all responsibility.

After partition, the Jews accepted the United Nations plan on 14th may 1948 they proclaimed independence they formed a new state. The Palestinians viewed this as theft. They accused jews of stealing their land. What followed was decades of endless animosity between the Jews and the Arabs.

In the last 70 years, there have been eight recognized wars, two Palestinian intifadas or uprisings, and a series of armed conflicts. Israel treated them as do-or-die battles and with each conflict, it gained more control of Palestine.

Let’s look at the following map to understand this.

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Image source: Scene Arabia

From 1947 to 2020, the Israel map changed drastically with east Jerusalem under Israeli control and Palestinian territories reduced to small ghettos.

Now in 2021, the Israel-Palestine conflict has resurfaced. Jerusalem has once again become a city under siege. In Gaza, buildings are shaking, streets are crawling with troops, and flashbangs are flying overhead. It’s been called the most intense hostility in years. The heaviest offensive since the 2014 Gaza War.

What explains these killings? like always it’s a piece of land. This time it’s sheikhjaraa predominantly Palestinian neighborhood in east Jerusalem.

Let’s take a quick look at the history of Sheikhjaraa as well. In 1967, Israel took control of this neighborhood. Settler groups launched legal bids. They staked a claim on Jewish properties. Properties, which they said had been lost in the 1948 Arab Israeli war. Israel passed a law to back these claims to justify the takeovers but only if the claimants could furnish proof of their ownership. The latest case sought to remove four more families from this contested neighborhood the verdict of which was expected to be delivered this week, but even before the verdict, some Israelis had already started moving in. Watch this clip to get a better understanding of the issue at hand.

The woman in the video is saying, “you are stealing my house” and the man replies, “if I don’t steal it someone else is going to steal it.”

This is by far the biggest catalyst in the ongoing conflict. It mobilized Palestinians who were already complaining of unwarranted restrictions on them during Ramazan. Hamas a Palestinian militant group and the de facto governing authority of the Gaza strip sensed an opportunity to push the Palestinian struggle back on center stage. It launched rocket attacks on Israel, Israel responded in kind. It’s been more than a week since the violence has not stopped!

What will it take to end this violence? what will it take for peace to be restored in Jerusalem? five peace deals could not settle this dispute, eight wars could not bury the differences. The Palestinians say if they drop the weapons they will lose more land, Israelis say if they drop the weapons there will be no Israel. Hamas shoots rockets and Israel bombs Gaza as Jerusalem the city of peace struggles to live up to its name.


Written by Prakriti S

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