OPINION: Next year in Jerusalem

Manolo Quezon — The Explainer

Posted at Dec 11 2017 03:10 PM

Recently, Donald Trump caused outrage in the Muslim world, when he announced that the United States was going to establish its embassy in Jerusalem, the first country to do so.

In the Forum in Rome, one of the triumphal arches is the Arch of Titus. 

One of the panels in the arch of Titus features a scene of captured treasures from Jerusalem being paraded during Titus' triumphal march in Rome, to mark his victory in the siege of Jerusalem in the year 70 AD. You can see the menorah, or seven-branched candlestick, that was one of the treasures of the Temple in Jerusalem built by Herod.

The second temple—the first was the one built by Solomon—we know from the Bible. In the year 66 AD, a revolt broke out over Roman taxation and the decision of the Roman Governor of Judea to plunder the Jewish Temple as payment for taxes. The revolt lasted seven years, ending with the siege of Jerusalem.

The general tasked with crushing the revolt was Vespasian, who became Emperor of Rome in 69 AD. Command of Roman forces was given to Vespasian's son, Titus. At the end of a seven-month siege, Jerusalem fell. The temple, where rebels had made their last stand, was demolished by the Romans.

All the Romans left were the foundations of the Temple, and it is to the Western Wall of these foundations that Jews, to this day, go to pray when they visit Jerusalem. Two more Jewish revolts would be crushed by the Romans, leading to the diaspora, or the exile of the Jews from their homeland. Jews the world over would cling to the promise of a restoration of their homeland the Temple. The Jewish Passover Seder, and the Feast of Yom Kippur, for example, often include the singing of the phrase, "Next year, in Jerusalem."

But Jerusalem, during the long interval of the Jewish diaspora, has come to be sacred to other faiths as well. It is sacred to Christians, and sacred to Muslims. On the site of the destroyed Second Temple stands the Dome of the Rock, where the Prophet Mohammed was believed to have begun his ascent to Heaven.

Christians and Muslims fought over Jerusalem, with the Crusaders capturing Jerusalem in 1099 AD and the Muslims recapturing it in 1291. It would remain under Muslim rule for centuries. After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, Palestine fell under the control of the British. In 1917, the British had promised support for the idea of creating a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

In 1947, the United Nations voted to partition Palestine into two countries: Israel, and Palestine. War broke out as Arab countries fought to prevent Israel from being established in 1948. Israel won that war. 

In 1967, alarmed by Egyptian moves in the Sinai peninsula, Israel launched a preemptive war against Egypt, Jordan and Syria.

Back in 1948, after the War for Israeli Independence ended, Jerusalem had been divided. Israel had Western Jerusalem. Jordan had East Jerusalem, including the Old City where the Wailing Wall and the Dome of the Rock are located. 

The 1967 Six-Day War led to the capture of all of Jerusalem by Israel. However, Moshe Dayan, the Israeli Defense Minister, told his troops to take down the Israeli flag that had been raised over the Dome of the Rock, and guaranteed the King of Jordan could continue to administer the Dome of the Rock itself.

Since then, Israel has announced that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and in 1980 passed a law stating that it is an undivided city. The Palestinians who are still trying to reestablish their homeland, and Muslims the world over, do not recognize this. Even as Israel has expanded the boundaries of Jerusalem, allies such as the United States decided to recognize Israel's claim to a certain extent. 

In 1980, the US Congress passed a law recognizing Jerusalem but stating that the US President can, every six months, hold off the implementation of the law. All US Presidents, from the time the law was passed, have done that. Except Donald Trump.

Palestinians consider East Jerusalem to be their capital. While Israel insists on keeping the status of the parts of Jerusalem it took over in 1967 in a legal grey area: by Israeli law, it is their capital, but Israel has never said it actually annexed Eastern Jerusalem: because to say so would make the Arab inhabitants of East Jerusalem Israeli citizens. 

By ordering the implementation of the law moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, the USA has endangered its claim to being a honest broker between Israel and the representatives of the Palestinians. This is what has Muslims around the world so upset. 

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.