Seeking the Peace of Jerusalem—or a Piece of Jerusalem?
There is no end of controversy about Jerusalem, old and new. Archeology has become a full-fledged battlefield in the dispute over who has the superior claim to the city, Jews or Muslims. The Israeli government has just created new controversy with the largest construction surge in decades in East Jerusalem. Jews often dismiss Muslim claims to Jerusalem by noting that there is no explicit reference to Jerusalem in the Qur'an—but that is not surprising, since Muhammad died in 632 C.E., while Muslims conquered Jerusalem only in 636. There is, similarly, no explicit reference to Jerusalem in the Torah, and this absence hardly undermines Jewish claims to the city, as it would be illogical to expect a reference to Jerusalem in a Jewish text written long before Jerusalem was settled by Jews. It is true that there are hundreds of references to Jerusalem in post-Torah canonical Jewish literature, such as Prophets and Scriptures; but there are also innumerable references to the city in later Islamic canonical literature, such as the Qur'anic commentaries and Hadith.
Thus, the history of the Muslim association with Jerusalem deserves a serious account.
Popular Muslim convention—at least of Sunni Muslims—accords Jerusalem the status of the third holiest site of Islam. (In Shi’ite tradition, this status is conferred on the Great Mosque of Kufa in Iraq.) Though Jerusalem is not mentioned explicitly in the Qur’an, it is believed to be the place described in the following passage:
Glory to Him who did take His servant [Muhammad] . . . from the sacred mosque to the farthest mosque, whose precincts We did bless, in order that We might show him some of Our Signs . . . .(Sura 17:1)
Since there was no mosque in Jerusalem in Muhammad’s lifetime, the verse has been traditionally interpreted to allude to the Temple on Mount Moriah. This interpretation inspired the name of the mosque later built atop the southern portion of the Temple Mount: Masjid al-Aqsa’, the “farthest mosque.” It should be remembered that according to the Talmud (BT Hullin 91b), the patriarch Jacob took a similar journey, being miraculously transported from Haran to Beit-el—implicitly, the site of the future Temple on Mount Moriah—where, according to a Midrashic source (Sifrei Korah 119), he saw the Temple and a service there.
It was the presence of the Al-Aqsa’ mosque in Jerusalem, along with the older Qubbat al-Sakhra, or Dome of the Rock, that conferred on Jerusalem a stature in Islam similar to that of Mecca and Medinah. The timing and circumstances of its elevation, however, are contested. The great 19th century Islamist Ignacz (Yitzhak) Goldziher maintained that the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik (685-705) erected the Dome in order to divert the haj, the pilgrimage, to Jerusalem and away from Mecca, which was governed by his arch-rival, Abdullah bin Zubayr. The modern doyen of Genizah studies, Shelomo Dov Goitein, wrote that there is no contemporary evidence for Goldziher’s claim; but there is evidence that the Dome was built to rival Christian churches—hence its atypical domed roof. Goitein also noted that the Qur'anic verses adorning the Dome conduct an anti-Christian polemic.
Goitein argued that the earliest Muslim enthusiasts of Jerusalem were the Sufi mystics; many Sufi masters took up residence in the city, where they may be presumed to “have been in close contact with congenial Jewish circles.” In contrast, Orthodox Islam was not patently supportive of Jerusalem until later, when the Crusaders threatened and then conquered the city. They killed many of its inhabitants, forbade Muslim residence therein, and interrupted pilgrimages to Mecca. It was this provocation that led to a declaration of jihad against Christendom. The rulers of Syria and, later, Saladin, made the sanctity of Jerusalem the center of their propaganda.
Regardless of whether Muhammad was ever in Jerusalem, physically or spiritually, he was well aware of the city’s importance to Jews and Christians. Consistent with his avowed desire to convert them to Islam, Muhammad named Jerusalem the qiblah, the direction to be faced by Muslims in prayer. This designation lasted some 17 months, until, after a subsequent avowed revelation—perhaps prompted by continuing Jewish resistance to his initial message—he replaced it with Mecca. But Muslim tradition still refers to Jerusalem as ’awwal al-qiblatayn, the “first of the two directions” in prayer.
In 636 C.E., Jerusalem—then known as Aelia Capitolina, for the temple of Jupiter reportedly constructed on the Temple Mount by the Emperor Hadrian in 131 C.E.—was conquered by the Muslims under the leadership of the second Calpih, ’Umar Ibn al-Khatab. ’Umar celebrated his victory with a prayer service on the Temple Mount, thus announcing that its prior Jewish and Christian associations had been superseded.
’Umar then invited the Jewish community to reestablish a presence in the city. Two Genizah texts reflect this invitation. One, a letter from the time of the Gaonate of Daniel ben Azaryah (1051-62), relates the events:
. . . God granted us favor in the eyes of the Ishmaelite kingdom when they conquered the Holy Land from the Christians and came to Jerusalem. There were among them Jews who showed them the site of the Temple. They have dwelt there among them until this day. They imposed on them conditions: to respect the Temple from any contamination, and to pray at its gates without interference. They also purchased the Mount of Olives on which the Presence stood. . . .
The second Genizah source on the subject describes the arrangement engineered by ’Umar under which 70 Jewish families relocated to Jerusalem from Tiberias, where there had been continuous Jewish settlement throughout the Byzantine period.
’Umar’s invitation did not mark the first time (nor would it be the last) when Jews were invited to reestablish their presence in Jerusalem. The first ruler to make such an offer was Cyrus, King of Persia, with this proclamation:
All kingdoms of the earth did the Lord, god of heaven, give to me and he has commanded me to build him a house in Jerusalem of Judea. Whosoever among you, his people, may the Lord his god be with him and may he ascend. . . .” (the very last verse in the Bible: 2 Chronicles 36:23)
When Jews were allowed a presence in Jerusalem, it was always accompanied by the aspiration to rebuild the Temple and renew its service. The Roman Emperor Julian (361-363 C.E.), known as the Apostate because of his opposition to Christianity, invited the Jews to rebuild the Temple in order to recognize the significance they attached to it—and to counter the importance that Christianity attached to its ruin. In a style reminiscent of Cyrus, he wrote a letter to the “Community of Jews:”
This you ought to do, in order that, when I have successfully concluded the war in Persia, I may rebuild by my own efforts the sacred city of Jerusalem, which for so many years you have longed to see inhabited, and may bring settlers there, and, together with you, may glorify the Most High God therein.
After ’Umar’s invitation, the theme of rebuilding recurs, yet again, nearly a millennium later. Sultan Suleiman “the Magnificent,” who ruled the Ottoman Empire from 1520 until his death in 1566, oversaw the restoration of the present walls and gates of the Old City of Jerusalem and particularly of the Dome of the Rock. A local folktale describes his relation to the site in terms that are borrowed—shamelessly—from the narrative of ’Umar. Unquestionably, the coincidence of the Sultan’s proper name with that of Solomon, builder of the original temple, lent credence to the legend and contributed to its propagation.
This theme of rebuilding is not difficult to trace to a more modern and even contemporary period and to extend it, first, to the Balfour Declaration and, later, the activities of the Ne’emanei Har Ha-Bayit, the Temple Mount Faithful, as well.
While Islam acknowledges Jerusalem’s singularity, as does Christianity in its own way, only Judaism has lamented its decline as well as celebrating its renovation. The customary shattering of a glass under the Jewish wedding canopy in memory of the destruction of Jerusalem (zekher lahurban)—accompanied by shouts of mazal tov!—epitomizes our unique attachment to this city and embodies the prophet Isaiah’s charge: “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all that love her; all that mourn for her, rejoice for joy with her.” (Isaiah 66:10)
Moshe Sokolow, professor of Jewish education at the Azrieli Graduate School of Yeshiva University, is the author of Studies in the Weekly Parashah Based on the Lessons of Nehama Leibowitz (2008).
Moshe Gil, the outstanding authority on that period, writes that the Muslim-Arab conquest of Jerusalem took place in 638, not in the year that Sokolow supplies. Moshe Gil and Moshe Sharon, another authority on the period, both say that the building of al-Aqsa mosque [= "the furthest place of worship"] took place about 690 for reasons that Sokolow is aware of. The word masjid [= mosque] simply meant place of worship. But there was no Muslim place of worship on the Temple Mount before the emergence of Islam, as should be obvious. Most non-Muslim scholars of early Islam agree that al-Aqsa ["the furthest"] was not built till about 690. There is no evidence that I know of that "al-masjid al-aqsa" in the Quran was interpreted as referring to the Temple Mount before approx. 690. Moreover, the Quran and Muslim tradition do say that Muhammad at first told his followers to pray in the direction [qibla] of Jerusalem until the Jews in Medina/Yathrib rejected his claim to be a prophet and rejected his religion. He then changed the prayer direction [qibla] to Mecca. So Muhammad in his lifetime switched the qibla away from Jerusalem to Mecca. Methinks that Sokolow's theory is weak. I think it was Prof Lazarus-Yafeh who explained that Muslims only saw Jerusalem as important when it was held by non-Muslims.
Another old ZOA staple was to refer to Jerusalem as the "eternal" capital of the Jewish people. Which is bogus. Jerusalem is not known as the "City of David" for nothing- it is known as that because it was NOT the city of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, nor Moses, nor Joshua, nor the Judges, nor even the first King of Israel, Saul.
On a religious basis, there is a much smaller problem between Jews and Muslims than the political problem. It is illustrated how archaeology has become a "weapon" in the hands of the two sides with governmental offices playing up every possible discovery as evidence that the Jews were in Jerusalem from early days. Concomitantly, the Waqf doing excavations under the Mosque of Omar are apparently discarding artifactual material found dating back to the first Temple, according the the charges made by Jewish officials and archaeologists.
These charges and counter-charges will continue until the political problems are resolved in a peaceful fashion. Certainly archaeological findings are important, but living in peace is even more important.
The Chumash refers to the Pentateuch, the Five Book of Moses, period. It has no other meaning. It concludes with Moses' death.
The conquest of the land begins with Joshua. David does not show up until I Samuel.
If S W spent any time in shul, he would know that during hagbayh, when the congregation roars "this is the Torah which Moses..." they are pointing to the Torah scroll, consisting of the First Five Books of the Bible, NOT a copy of the Tanach, let alone any collection of the Oral (Talmud) and Written (Bible) Law .
S W owes Seymour (and Tom) an apology.
---The term "Torah" is used in the general sense to include both rabbinic Judaism's written law and oral law, serving to encompass the entire spectrum of authoritative Jewish religious teachings throughout history, including the Mishnah, the Talmud, the Midrash and more, and the inaccurate rendering of "Torah" as "Law" may be an obstacle to understanding the ideal that is summed up in the term talmud torah (תלמוד תורה, "study of Torah").--
One also notes that "City of David" still predates the advent of Islam by centuries, so this is not a ZOA political stance, so much as simple dates and numbers.
Some various early printed copies of the five books alone also include other commentaries as a historical oddity, perhaps, but nonetheless this is so. One may grumble about many things as regards the use of language, but my comment was to note the term "agitprop" in complaining about my comment.
Shall we source "agitprop" by linguistic origin and use with the same passions as has Mr. Kaplan my comment? There is a Wiki entry of it as well.
Now, the facts about Jerusalem.
As noted in a previous blog posting on this thread, Jerusalem is known as the "City of David" for good reason: it was NOT the city of Abraham (Hebron was), nor Isaac, nor Jacob, nor Moses, nor Aaron, nor Miriam, nor the Judges (male and female), nor Samuel, nor even of Saul, the anointed (mashiach) first King of Israel.
It was not part of the Promised Land- i.e., was not contained in the original allotment meted out to the tribes in the conquest of Canaan.
Precisely because it was, therefore, neutral territory, David captured it and made it his capital, as an act of political - NOT religious- acumen driven by strategic and tactical necessity.
The word "Jerusalem" never, ever appears in the Pentateuch (the Five Books of Moses), and it is the Pentateuch which serves as the only valid Scriptural source for Jewish law (halacha), as noted by a prior poster.
Moreover, the acreage of Jerusalem in the Biblical period was a great deal smaller than its sprawling dimensions of today. Thus, on theological grounds, it should be kosher to retain the ancient 'city of David' under Jewish control while, if needed, relinquishing the rest of present-day Jerusalem to the Palestinians.
Let's get real and stop making an idol of geography. It is NOT Jerusalem which constitutes, as Elie Wiesel once put it, “the heart of our heart, the soul of our soul” but God and His gift of Torah, which took place in the Sinai desert: terrain without borders.
This is not to say that Jerusalem is not important; just that it is not the be-all and end-all, and that its significance lies in a happenstance of history and politics, and not beyond them; and thus it is time to dispose of exaggerated and false - and disconfirmable- claims made on its behalf.
Moreover even Rav Soloveitchik, z"l - have you heard of him, S W ? -once opined that people come before property; Judaism is not about nostalgia for shrines; and no real estate is worth a single needless Jewish death.
Emulating the wisdom of King David, may the current political leadership of Israel act similarly today, out of tactical and strategic necessity, in achieving the greater good of Jews everywhere and all of mankind, in striving for peace in the Middle East.
W.S. is correct in noting that the City of David (as I noted earlier, "David's life is estimated by scholars as dated c. 1040–970 BCE, centuries before Mohammed's") was "captured" and this is designated by W. S. as "political." Also "strategic" and "tactical." Nothing seems to have changed then. W. S. ends his comment with "Emulating the wisdom of King David...." Might one assume he does not mean capture for strategic and tactical reasons? Others would make the distinction between obligatory and voluntary.
And so one notes the distinction: "The wars waged by Joshua to conquer were obligatory in the opinion of all; the wars waged by the House of David for territorial expansion were voluntary in the opinion of all; where they differ is with regard to against heathens so that these should not march against them. One calls them commanded and the other voluntary, the practical issue being that one who is engaged in the performance of a commandment is exempt from the performance of another commandment." (Sotah 44b)
Thank you for asking if the name Soloveitchik is known to me. It is. As Wiki's article states he was "the pre-eminent leader of politically conscious pro-Zionist modern Orthodox Judaism." Given the earlier ad hominem aimed at me about "defending ZOA agitprop," it is important to note the good rabbi's reputation as a Zionist remains t this day. I suspect he would not have employed a Bolshevik expression in a debate. Nor accuse someone of being a pope.
One reads in another JID article: "Soloveitchik answered with a strong defense of both Diaspora Judaism and the Zionist project, which remains dominant in American Orthodoxy. Indeed, over time Soloveitchik's religious Zionism has become, both conceptually and demographically, the center of American Zionism as a whole." (Alex Joffe's "The Case of American Religious Zionism")
W. S. states "no real estate is worth a single needless Jewish death."
Given the number of wars fought for independence and continuation in which Jewish lives were lost, apparently there is a distinction being made between "Jewish death" and "needeless Jewish death." Perhaps "needless" becomes one of those words which is meant to obfuscate rather than clarify in order to serve a modern theology and its idol of "relinquishing the rest of present-day Jerusalem to the Palestinians."
I use the term, idol, for it is indeed an object of faux-worship to some, who would "relinquish" and withdraw to some biblical borders, as W. S. has suggested would be "kosher," without a full and abiding peace treaty with all the weight of law on its side.
Alas, it is the Palestinian authorities who demand "relinquishing" prior to agreeing to a treaty's terms. Therefore to propose this, as have all the prior two-state solutions for decades, is to worship at the idol of two states though they exist de facto and on the ground, when in fact both Hamas and the PA have openly stated that such a two-state solution would be a step towards ending the "occupation" of all of Israel.
"Striving for peace" is of course a Jewish tenet, but preparations for war while striving for peace is also a tenet. "Relinquishing the rest of present-day Jerusalem to the Palestinians" is not.
Sokolow ends his article with this statement about Jerusalem -- "only Judaism has lamented its decline." W. S. has given the phrase to round out said decline --"relinquishing the rest of present-day Jerusalem to the Palestinians."
Shall we attempt to avoid more ad hominem, or shall I be promoted beyond pope in a next comment?
B. Speaking of the Catholic Pope, in making the case that (legally protected) human life begins at conception – the Jewish/halachic position is that it begins at birth- the view expressed in the Gevaryahu January 21 posting is the sort of thing that the Catholic Church likes to invoke, in arguing that Jer 1:5 overrides Ex. 21:22.
C. I cannot speak for Mr. Kaplan, but I can see where he is coming from: A "y" is needed in "hagbayh" to show that the "a" is pronounced long; spelling it "hagba" would lead one to believe that it is short. And the "h" indicates that the "ay" combo does not indicate separate vowels.
D. If Rav Soloveitchik was such a big Zionist, how come, in life, he never made aliyah; and in death, he was buried in this country rather than having his remains transported to Israel for burial there?
Similarly, other people, out of ignorance grounded in bias, call the Tanach “the Old Testament” and this has also come into general usage. It is, for example, the norm in Germany, where S W lives.
This is what WIKIPEDIA has to say, upfront, about 'Chumash':" The Hebrew term Chumash (also Ḥumash) (Hebrew: חומש, pronounced [χuˈmaʃ] or pronounced [ħuˈmaʃ] or Yiddish: pronounced [ˈχʊməʃ]) is a term for Torah in printed form as opposed to the Torah scroll. The word comes from the Hebrew word for five, ḥamesh (חמש). A more formal term is Ḥamishah Ḥumshei Torah, "five fifths of Torah". It is a Hebrew name for the Five Books of Moses, also known by the Latinised Greek term Pentateuch in common printed editions."
S W writes "As to the definition of chumash, among the several there is this: A multi-volume set in Hebrew only, often but not always including the entire Tanakh with masoretic notes, Targumim and other classical commentaries, and referred to as Mikraot Gedolot. " This description was, for all intents and purposes taken from the "Usage" rubric under the WIKIPEDIA Chumash entry - WITHOUT ATTRIBUTION. In short, S W PLAGIARIZED!
It is clear from the WIKIPEDIA item that Chumash = Pentateuch is the authentic meaning, and later "usage" and amounted to (folk) misusage.
Yes indeed the source is -- as noted in another comment -- from Wikipedia. Thank you for noting that the definition I used was -- while not sourced -- at least correct.
To characterize "later usage" as "folk misusage" is a fine attempt to rebut the article's fact. Most amusing that seven come to complain, and this suggests yet again that the real issue goes back to my comment to Mr. Tom, that "City of David" predates Islam by centuries. This fact -- no one has rebutted that -- erodes the stance that "relinquishing the rest of present-day Jerusalem to the Palestinians" is their threatened belief and political stance.
Mr. Morris: please see Wiki's article on Chumash under "usage." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chumash_(Judaism)
Mr. Tom: Many Zionists died and are buried outside of Eretz Yisrael, in North America and Europe as well. Is each death and burial a denial of their Zionist views? If so, the only Zionists are in Israel, and no non-Israeli can be a Zionist. A strange conclusion. I offered facts about the rebbe's life, not conjecture, as have you.
It becomes obvious that six -- so far -- come to debate one, enlisting ad hominem with such a regularity as to reveal their politics, overtly anti-Zionist and overtly pro-Palestinian.
Anyone who is so oblivious to the sharp distinction between "Rav" and "rebbe" is hardly the person to address Tom's point D.
The stone-cold fact of the matter is, that, a pious Jew (which Rabbi Soloveitchik certainly was) - let alone a distinguished Orthodox sage and luminary, not to mention a committed Zionist- would want to be buried in the Holy Land. So why wasn't he?
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Strangely, Sokolow ignores extensive reference to Jerusalem in the Tanach. He also forgets that the city of Shalem (later Yerushalaiym) is mentioned
For political reasons, Jerusalem became important to Muslims only when Jews returned after the 1967 6-day war.