Jordan and Jerusalem
Though Jordan has apparently given up its claims to eastern Jerusalem – which it ruled and governed illegally for 19 years until the Six Day War – it continues to intrude on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. Last week the culture ministers of Jordan and the PA signed an agreement for a three-year program of cultural cooperation between the two. The Jordanian minister stated that one month of the program will be devoted to Jerusalem, which he called “the Capital of Arab Culture.” This was not his own idea; the PA gave this title to Jerusalem back in 2009, and sought to commemorate it with official ceremonies.
Not only is such a concept illegal – the Israel-PA agreements specifically prohibit the PA from organizing events in Israeli territory, and no official PA bodies are permitted to operate within Israel – it is laughable. As detailed in this column in the past, whatever historic and cultural connections ever existed between Jerusalem and Islam were artificially manufactured for a specific, time-restricted, narrow political purpose.
To underline this point, let us note yet again that while Yerushalayim is mentioned directly in the Bible approximately 650 times, it is not mentioned even once in the Koran – and Muslims actually turn their backs on Jerusalem when they pray! It is ironic that the Muslim name for the holy city is Al-Quds, an abbreviation of a previous Arabic name of the city, “Bet Al-maKDeS,” referring to none other than the Beit HaMikdash, our holy Temple. Thus, the name the Arabs use for Jerusalem for the purpose of “Arab-izing” it is actually one that marks its Jewishness.
Today, when the Muslim word is once again thinking “Caliphate” and worldwide dominion, we must remain alert: The awakening of supposed Muslim ties to Jerusalem means that Islam wants to conquer Jerusalem for political, nationalistic, or military reasons. This phenomenon first occurred in Muhammad’s own lifetime: Seeking to win over the Jews living near his hometown of Medina, he announced that prayers would from then on be directed toward Jerusalem. As soon as he was rebuffed, however, he re-directed Muslim prayers toward Mecca. When the Muslims later conquered the Holy Land, they totally ignored Jerusalem and established their capital in Ramle.
Later centuries saw this pattern repeated at least twice more: Around the year 700, Caliph Abdel Malik, seeking to save face after the capture of Mecca and Medina by a rival Muslim leader, came up with the idea of renewing Jerusalem as “top holy city.” And some five centuries later, Salah a-Din needed to inflame his Moslem warriors against the Christian Crusaders – and suddenly, Jerusalem briefly became the focus of jihad and religious longing. For centuries thereafter, Jerusalem remained way in the background for the Muslim world, overshadowed by the cities of Mecca and Medina.
Today, once again, the Muslim world has taken to claiming Jerusalem as a pinnacle of its religious aspirations – even though as recently as 1964, when the PLO was founded, its original charter did not mention Jerusalem. It has no religious links with Jerusalem; its goal is rather quite simple: to rid the Middle East of Israel.
When Jerusalem is championed as “the Capital of Arab Culture,” it is not only foolhardy to believe this, it is dangerous.
About the Author: Chaim Silberstein is president of Keep Jerusalem-Im Eshkachech and the Jerusalem Capital Development Fund. He was formerly a senior adviser to Israel's minister of tourism. Hillel Fendel, past senior editor at Israel National News/Arutz-7, is a veteran writer on Jerusalem affairs. Both have lived in Jerusalem and now live in Beit El.
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