Things that are “historic” are generally relegated to the history books. And yet, in our very own generation, in just two short weeks from now, we of this generation – today’s Jewish people in its entirety – will be privileged to share in an incredibly historic milestone: The 50th anniversary of the liberation and reunification of Yerushalayim under Israeli sovereignty.
Who could have dreamt, on June 1, 1967, that such a thing might actually occur? Over 450,000 Egyptian, Syrian and other Arab troops were amassed along Israel’s borders; Arab leaders promised “total war… annihilation… extermination of the Zionist existence…”; and Egypt had choked Israel by closing the Straits of Tiran to all ships to and from Eilat.
And yet, within a week, Israel had wiped out the threats, tripled its size, and liberated its holiest sites: the Temple Mount; the Western Wall; the Machpelah Cave; the Tombs of Rachel, Joseph, and Joshua; the roads traveled by Abraham, Jacob, and David; and much more.
Nevertheless, Israel’s enemies have not given up, continuing to fight on various fronts. Their latest foray on the diplomatic front occurred last week, on Israel’s 69th Independence Day, when UNESCO passed a resolution entitled “Occupied Palestine.” The resolution denies Israel any sovereign claim to its own capital city and speaks of the “cultural heritage of Palestine and the distinctive character of East Jerusalem.”
Falsely terming Israel Jerusalem’s “occupying power,” the resolution states that “all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel [that] have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and in particular the ‘basic law’ on Jerusalem, are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith.”
In sum: UNESCO, the UN’s prestigious Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, has decided that 3,000 years of Jewish history and religion in Jerusalem are null and void, while the Johnny-come-lately, on-again off-again Muslim claim to the Holy City should be uncritically accepted.
As we have explained in these columns in the past, Jerusalem and Islam are very scantily bonded. Only a small minority of informed observers can recite in their sleep the fact that Jerusalem is mentioned not even once in the Koran; most of the world still does not know this. And how many people, not including readers of this column and their immediate social circles, know that praying Muslims turn their back on the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem in order to kneel toward the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca?
Consider also these facts:
- The Supreme Moslem Council (i.e., the Waqf, which has overseen Temple Mount activities on behalf of Islam for hundreds of years) has itself boasted proudly that the site is none other than that of King Solomon’s Temple. On page 4 of ‘A Brief Guide to the Haram Al-Sharif’n –a booklet it disseminated from the 1920s through the ‘50s – the Waqf states that the Mount’s “identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute.” It then quotes the biblical book of Samuel II indicating that it is also the spot, “according to universal belief, on which ‘David built there an altar unto the Lord…’ ”
- During Jordan’s illegal annexation and rule of eastern Jerusalem (1948-67), Amman remained Jordan’s national capital, while Jerusalem was relegated to second-rate status, with little investment in infrastructures such as water supply and sewerage. No Arab ruler other than Jordan’s King Hussein ever visited the Holy City.
- The PLO was founded in 1964, yet its charter did not even mention Jerusalem. Neither did the Fatah Constitution, drafted during Jordanian rule.
Historically, the Mosque of Omar in Jerusalem was not even built until 74 years after Muhammad’s death. Even then, its construction had nothing to do with sanctity or spirituality, but rather because the builder wished to detract from Mecca’s centrality in Islam. When Muslims later conquered the Holy Land, they ignored Jerusalem and established their capital in Ramle.
Jerusalem was, of course, not known as Al-Quds (City of the Sanctuary) during Muhammad’s times. When Islam finally did get around to calling Jerusalem by that name, it was because of the Holy Temple, our Beit HaMikdash. The Muslim name for what is supposedly their third-holiest city – Al-Quds – is actually an abbreviation of the Arabic term for the Holy Temple, Bet Al-maKDeS. How ironic is it that the name the Arabs use for Jerusalem for the purpose of “Arabizing” it is actually one that perpetuates its Jewishness?
But back to UNESCO: It is important to note, as Prime Minister Netanyahu has emphasized, that the resolution’s passage should not be regarded as merely a diplomatic setback. In fact, the relatively narrow margin by which it passed is “a tremendous diplomatic achievement,” according to Carmel Shama-HaCohen, Israel’s representative in UNESCO.
“Support for Israel almost doubled,” the former Likud MK said. “Our diplomatic efforts have borne fruit, and we have support now even in Africa, South America, and eastern Europe. Just a few years ago, only the U.S. supported Israel [on similar votes]. Those who initiated this vote against us came away shocked. They thought the European Union was in their pocket, only to find five countries that voted against them for the first time.”
Nearly 50 years have passed, and the miracle of united and Jewish Jerusalem is well entrenched. Yet as in anything of value, we must not rest on our laurels; the challenges are great and we must meet them with our best efforts. We wish to invite our readers, both in Israel and abroad, to make a special effort to visit Jerusalem during the week of the 24th of May (28 Iyar) and share in the momentous anniversary celebrations. For information on KeepJerusalem’s tours and events that week, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.