Most Improbable Capital
By Nachum L Rabinovitch
is the most improbable capital in the world. Perched high
up and surrounded by steep cliffs, it is a mountain fastness
more suitable as a protected holdout for a small community
of hermits seeking isolation and solitude than for the administration
of a country. Moreover. it has no agricultural hinterland
capable of feeding and sustaining a large population. Even
today, with dual-lane highways blasted through the most difficult
natural obstacles, access to Jerusalem is still not easy.
most of recorded history, getting in and out of Jerusalem
was a challenging undertaking. The caravans and the armies
that plodded endlessly between the fertile crescent of Mesopotamia
and Egypt since time immemorial moved along the western Coastal
Plain or eastwards through trans-Jordan skirting the mountainous
backbone of the country.
Jerusalem became not only the capital of kings of flesh and
blood, but also came to be almost universally looked upon
as the symbol of Divine Kingship. As a real city of marble
and stone, it became already in antiquity one of the major
world centers. In Second Temple times, Jerusalem's fame spread
westwards through Europe and reached as far as Indochina in
the east. Its population then is estimated at 300,000- 400,000
- a very large city in those days.
idea and a concept, Jerusalem became the spiritual home of
millions. In the first mention of the city in the Bible it
is called "Shalem" - the City of Peace. Then Abraham, the
first Jew, called it Yireh - "God will see." Thus it became
the handicaps of geography and economics, Jerusalem became
at some point in history "the perfection of beauty, the joy
of ail the earth (Lamentations 2:15). The constraints of terrain
and location did make their influence felt over long periods
of time. As one foreign conqueror succeeded another. Jerusalem
retreated into the desert, where by all natural accounts it
belongs. It was only when Jews were able to settle in the
Holy City that it grew and prospered.
ruler ever made Jerusalem his capital, for the obvious reasons
described above. Some European kings took for themselves the
honorific title "King of Jerusalem," but even the short-lived
Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem was nothing more than a military
the Turks, early in the 19th century, the population of Jerusalem
was less than 10,000. As soon as Jews were allowed in. they
quickly became the majority. By the end of the century, Jerusalem
counted 75.000 per- sons, two thirds of them Jews.
history of Jerusalem is testament to its unique character
as the embodiment of the Jewish spirit. No mere material considerations
could impede its growth and development when Jews built Jerusalem.
Nor, when the Jews were absent, could any other factors prevent
its decline. This was demonstrated once more during the 19-year
Arab occupation of part of Jerusalem - the walled Old City
and its eastern environs - after the 1948 War of Independence.
western Jerusalem flourished, the Old City languished. Not
only did the latter become judenrein, but the population as
a whole decreased. The process was reversed only with the
reunification of the city in the miraculous events of the
1967 Six Day War.
population figures are again indeed, have surpassed - those
of 2,000 years ago.
AGAIN rejoice .with Jerusalem on the day of its deliverance
25 years ago. there is much to gladden our hearts even as
we contemplate the progress made since last Jerusalem Day
only one year ago.
new buildings projects are underway that were talked about
for a decade but which only now are becoming reality. In the
streets that always resounded with many languages. Russian
and Russian-accented Hebrew are heard more and more as new
waves of olim come to build Jerusalem. New industrial developments
are promising a sound economic infrastructure for the capital's
thoughts force themselves on our attention. The vision of
Jerusalem as the City of Peace seems no nearer. Not only are
many Arabs unwilling to join in the responsibilities of good
citizenship, but some Jews, too, perhaps in a misguided conception
of peace, argue for a kind of reverse apartheid. When Arab
terrorists seek to exclude Jews from certain areas, some Jewish
voices are always raised in support. As if justice to the
Arab minority in our midst requires us to accept the kind
of subjugation they force upon us in Arab lands.
heart of Jerusalem stands the Temple Mount, the place where
our ancestor Abraham said: "God will see."
stood the First and Second Temples. Of that Holy Place it
is written: "My House shall be called a house of prayer for
all peoples" (Isaiah 56:7). There, too, Moslems worship in
El Aksa Mosque. Yet, not only do they control their own place
of worship, which is right and just, but they also refuse
Jews access to pray on other parts of the Mount that is holy
acquiesce for the sake of peace.
gathered at the foot of the Mount at the Western Wall last
Succot, a hail of stones from above resulted in a UN decision
to investigate not the crimes of Arab terrorism or exclusiveness,
but the alleged responsibility of the Jews. And one cannot
help but wonder whether our acquiescence to exclusive Mos-
lem control - rather than serving peace, en- courages hatred
and war. Surely "God will see."