On the history of Jerusalem

On the history of Jerusalem

Two Nov. 19 letters regarding the status of Jerusalem rely heavily upon myth and legend and less upon historical fact.

The first states (correctly) that during the first seven years of his reign King David occupied Hebron as his capital – but then adds that he did so “while Jerusalem was built,” the connotation being that it was David who was doing the building. This is not so, as even the account in Second Samuel acknowledges – Jerusalem had already existed, was built by the Jebusites, and acquired from them by David. Well-established historical accounts point out that his motives for doing so were not religious,- but rather political and geographical. Hebron was the capital of the majority tribe of Judah, to which David belonged, and he wished to cement the loyalties of the less numerous northern tribes by placing his capital on neutral territory, which also happened to be centrally located with ample water supplies and would permit greater defense against the incursions of the Philistines.

The second letter makes a completely insupportable claim: that Jerusalem was a Jewish capital for thousands of years. This contention ignores the numerous and prolonged interruptions of Jewish sovereignty by foreign invaders: Babylonians, Persians, Macedeonians, Antiochus, and the Romans during the period before the Common Era.

Thereafter, a Muslim army captured the city in 637 C.E. and yielded it to the Crusaders in 1099. In 1187 Saladin retook the city, which thereafter became a part of the Ottoman Empire until its capture by the British in 1917. Arabs have been residents of the city for almost1,400 years and not merely since 1948, as the writer contends.

As a wise American statesman has pointed out, everyone is entitled to one’s own opinion, but not one’s own facts.