Symbols are mighty that they can unite people as well as turn them into impulsive mob. Sometimes symbols get attached to places and cities that are considered ‘sacred’, some cities wash away sins, some are the birthplaces of Gods and some serve as the headquarters of a religion for Judaism, for Christianity and for Islam. They call it the “City of Peace” yet Jerusalem today and has been throughout history of a city of conflict. It has been destroyed twice, fought over 16 times besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times and traded hands on many more occasions. Jerusalem is a ‘Holy land’ for them but divided people in terms of religion.
What makes this city so special yet so complex?
Jerusalem is old 440 years or perhaps longer, over the centuries of its existence three major religions have fought for its control. They are Judaism, Christianity and Islam- the Abrahamic religions that view Abraham as common forefather, a patriarch who is mentioned in all three of their holy books- the Tanakh, the Bible and the Qur’an. Jews and Christians trace their roots to Abraham’s second son Issac, Muslims trace their roots to his elder son Ismael. Jerusalem has been the one that unites them when their ancestral belief divides them. In Hebrew it is 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 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 Kaaba in Mecca. Jerusalem is also holy for Muslims, in Arabic it is known as Al-Quds, The Holy Sanctuary. On the top of Temple Mounts, it is the Dome of the Rock, this is where Muslims say Prophet Muhammad ascended to the heavens and lastly in Christianity, Jerusalem is mentioned as Salem in the Bible, an Hebrew name that was preserved in its current name- Jerusalem for Christians.
This city is home to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, this is where Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. For all of these three- Christians, Muslims and Jews Jerusalem holds a sacred and important place but who owns it? Jerusalem belongs to everyone and 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.
Some Jews formed a group called Zionist, to protect their identity. The movement has religious, political and ideological aim. It was to put an end to the centuries of persecution and to get back their home land from other people. They believed that they belong to their homeland and no one can force them to move out. This movement brought Jews back to Israel. Today Israel’s national identity is Zionism and towards the end of the 19th century Zionism led to a huge immigration of Jews into Palestine.
The war started and till now its continuing, the violence has not been stopped. Five peace deals could not settle this dispute, eight wars could not bury the difference the 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 upto its name, its symbolism lost in its reality.