Is Jerusalem in Palestine a City of Peace?

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The Meaning of Jerusalem

What comes to mind when you think about ‘Jerusalem?’ Some people might think of it as a holy place of Christianity, others might think of it as a holy place of Judaism, and others might think of it as a holy place of Muslims. Some people might even think of it as a region of conflict where terrorism and shootings never end.

October 2000 vs May 2021: How Palestinians defied fragmentation

(Aljazeera News, October 4, 2021)

2021 was the deadliest year since 2014, Israel killed 319 Palestinians in oPt 5-year record in house demolitions: 895 Palestinians lost their homes,

(BTSELEM, January 4, 2022)

Israel-Gaza violence: The conflict explained

(BBC News, June 16, 2021)

Who Owns Jerusalem: Short History of Jerusalem and Israel

(FIRM Israel, January 29, 2015)

Analysis: Jerusalem clashes raise fears of wider conflict

(Reuters, April 16, 2022)

These incidents have happened and are currently happening in Jerusalem. The keywords that always follow the word ‘Jerusalem’ include clash, conflict, terrorism, war, shootings, violence, fighter jet raids, armed police, etc.

Jerusalem, the psychological capital of Israel, is called yĕrûšālaim (יְרוּשָׁלִַם) in Hebrew, meaning the ‘source of peace.’ Can we really say that the current Jerusalem, stained by war and revenge, is a ‘source of peace’?

The History of Ancient Jerusalem

According to the Bible, Melchizedek is recorded as ruling ‘Salem’ as a priest of God (Genesis 14:18). Salem is believed to be the ancient name for Jerusalem (Psalms 76:1–2).

The person who ruled Jerusalem after Melchizedek was Adoni-Zedek of the Jebusites. He was afraid when he heard that Israel, liberated from Egypt, had occupied Jericho, Ai, and Gibeon, which had strong military presence, and had made a peace treaty with them. In response Adoni-Zedek joined forces with four other kings to attack Gibeon, which had made a peace treaty with Israel, but was defeated. In the end, Adoni-Zedek and the four other kings were killed (Joshua 10:1–42).

However, the Israelites who won the war were unable to drive out the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem (Joshua 15:63). Afterwards, even the tribe of Benjamin could not drive out the Jebusites who had settled in Jerusalem and instead had to live with the Jebusites there (Judges 1:21).

About 400 years have passed. The war to take over Jerusalem began again during the reign of King David. David designated Jerusalem as the political, religious, and cultural center. David surrounded and attacked the Jebusites living in Jerusalem. Meanwhile, the Jebusites mocked David because they thought their city was strong enough not to be invaded, but it was eventually taken over by David (2 Samuel 5:6–8).

David, who completely conquered Jerusalem, the city of the Jebusites, changed the name to the ‘City of David,’ repaired the ramparts of Millo, strengthened its defenses, built a royal palace there, and placed the Ark of the Covenant inside it (2 Samuel 5:9, 11, 6:12–15). Afterwards, he purchased the threshing floor of Ornan (Araunah) in the north and began preparations to build God’s temple (2 Samuel 24:24–25, 1 Chronicles 22:1, 2 Chronicles 3:1).

The First Temple (Solomon’s Temple)

After David died, his son Solomon became king of Israel. Solomon began building the temple in Jerusalem, which had been his father’s long- awaited project. He issued a call to work throughout Israel. There were 30,000 people who responded to the call. In addition, there were 70,000 carriers, 80,000 stonecutters, and 3,300 foremen. In total, 183,300 people were mobilized for the project, and the temple was completed after 7 years of construction (1 Kings 5:13–16, 6:38). The completed Jerusalem temple became the center of life and faith of ancient Israel, that is, the Jews.

After Solomon’s death, Israel was divided into two — South Judah and North Israel but Jerusalem maintained its name as the capital of South Judah. However, due to frequent border wars between the South and the North and invasions by foreign powers, the situation in South Judah became unstable, and Jerusalem also experienced a history of plunder.

(South Judah) In the fifth year of King Rehoboam’s reign, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem. He carried off the treasures of the temple of the Lord and the treasures of the royal palace. He took everything, including all the gold shields Solomon had made.

(NIV 1 Kings 14:25–26)

Jehoash king of Israel captured Amaziah king of Judah, … Then Jehoash went to Jerusalem and broke down the wall of Jerusalem from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate—a section about six hundred feet (180 meters) long. He took all the gold and silver and all the articles found in the temple of the Lord and in the treasuries of the royal palace. He also took hostages and returned to Samaria.

(2 Kings 14:13–14)

Jerusalem was plundered and torn down. However, it did not remain like this. Uzziah, son of Amaziah, king of South Judah, further fortified Jerusalem by building towers at the corners of the city walls, and his son King Jotham also rebuilt the upper gate of the temple. King Hezekiah also built another wall outside the city wall and strengthened its defenses; making it even more fortified (2 Chronicles 27:3, 32:5). However, Jerusalem faced another crisis.

(이미지 각주) Jerusalem Temple burning during the Babylonian invasion in 586 BC (by James Tissot)

On the seventh day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard… came to Jerusalem. He set fire to the temple of the Lord, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down. The whole Babylonian army… broke down the walls around Jerusalem. Nebuzaradan… carried into exile the people who remained in the city… So Judah went into captivity, away from her land.

(2 Kings 25:8¬–11, 21)

In 586 B.C., Babylon destroyed Judah. The destruction of Judah soon led to the destruction and downfall of the Jerusalem Temple.

The Second Temple (Zerubbabel’s Temple)

About seventy years have passed since the captivity. The people of Judah were emancipated from Babylon and returned to Jerusalem, and began to restore the ruined temple. This is because Cyrus (Cyrus II) king of Persia, conquered Babylon and allowed the people of Judah, who were captives in Babylon, to return and build a temple (Ezra 1:1–7). At that time, prisoners and slaves were an important labor force. Cyrus’ emancipation of the people of Judah was a very unusual event. The Bible records that this event was the fulfillment of the prophecy of the prophet Isaiah about 170 years ago (Isaiah 45:1–3, 13). 

The Jews who returned to their homeland started building the temple the following year. Because it was built under the leadership of Zerubbabel, it is also called the ‘Zerubbabel Temple’. The Bible describes the situation at that time: “When all the people saw that the foundation of the temple had been laid, they praised the Lord… the older priests and Levites wept loudly.” Because they remembered the beautiful temple that was first built during the time of King Solomon. (Ezra 3:11–13).

However, construction of the temple was not smooth. This is because while the people of Judah were in captivity, the foreigners who had settled in Jerusalem interfered continuously (Ezra 4:11–16). 

Accordingly, construction halted for about 14 years and then resumed (Haggai 1:13-15, Zechariah 4:6-10). And, with the financial assistance and support of King Darius of Persia (Darius I), the Jerusalem temple was finally completed around 516 B.C. (Ezra 6:1-14). The people of Judah joyfully celebrated with a dedication ceremony and observed God’s feasts such as the Passover (Ezra 6:16–22).

However, later, the walls of Jerusalem collapsed and burned down again. Eventually, with the help of Artaxerxes, king of Persia, the walls were rebuilt. In this way, the history of Jerusalem being burned down and rebuilt, burned down and rebuilt repeated for a period of time (Nehemiah 2:1 to 6:15).

Then in 175 B.C., Antiochus IV of the Seleucus dynasty ascended to the throne and took control of Babylon, Syria, Palestine, and Upper Asia. After plundering the Temple of Jerusalem in Palestine, Antiochus IV built an altar to Zeus and a statue in the temple and imposed his own Hellenization policies on the Jews, which is explained as forcing Greek traditions and beliefs on them. Accordingly, many Jews started a revolution led by Judas Maccabeus and at the end of the struggle, around 164 B.C. the Jews succeeded in recapturing Jerusalem and purified the temple of idols and altars of other gods. However, this joy did not last long. Around 63 B.C. the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed again by the Roman General Pompeius.

The Third Temple (Herod’s Temple)

It was King Herod who rebuilt the burned down and ruined Jerusalem Temple. Herod was from Idume (Edom), a Gentile, and ruled Galilee under the protection of the Roman power ruling class. He began expanding and rebuilding the temple around 20 B.C. to win the favor of the Jews. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, they describe Herod’s temple as, “Despite the magnificence of all that has already been detailed, undoubtedly the centrepiece of this majestic complex was the Temple itself. A building of shining white marble and gold, with bronze entrance doors, it was said that you could not look at the Temple in daylight as it would blind you.” Furthermore, certain stones within the temple weighed anywhere from 2 to 400 tons, and occasionally even more. The temple was grand and splendid. It is explained as “Herod’s Temple was highly praised.”

『Josephus: Of the War, Book I』 “Herod rebuilt the temple, and encompassed a piece of land about it with a wall, which land was twice as large as that before enclosed. The expenses he laid out upon it were vastly large also, and the riches about it were unspeakable.”22 The Gospel of Luke in the Bible records a disciple who saw the temple and said to Jesus, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” (Mark 13:1). According to their testimony, the appearance of the temple was so splendid and beautiful that it was admirable.

The temple was the focal point of the Jewish religion at the time, where the Jews held liturgical events, and the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish court, was also held there (John 2:13–15). It was here that Jesus proclaimed the gospel of the New Covenant and performed many miracles. The saints of the early church also stayed in Jerusalem and received the early rain of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. As such the Jerusalem Temple, which served as the background for the early church, began construction around 20 B.C. and was completed around 64 A.D. after Herod’s death.

However, just a few years after its completion, the temple was captured again and burned by the Roman General Titus. This was because the Jews revolted against Rome.

(이미지 각주) Seige and destruction of Jerusalem by Roman troops under Titus in 70 A.D. (written by David Roberts) The Flight of the Prisoners (1896–1902), James Tissot and followers, The Jewish Museum

The Romans, according to order,* made a vigorous attempt upon the temple . . . After this the Romans set fire to the galleries,* . . . Many of the Jews perished in the flames: some were cut off by the enemy upon their fall; others pushed from the battlements: some again, in despair- . . . Those that made an attempt on the Romans from the walls, were destroyed without any difficulty; till, at length,* they were either slain or scattered. . . .

『Josephus: Of the War, Book II』

In 70 A.D. Titus took his 14th legion and launched a fierce attack from April to the end of September. In this way, the temple, the walls, and the city were all burned to the ground leaving only rubble and earth lying around… It is said that the number of people killed in the siege was 1.1 million and 97,000 taken prisoner.

(Byungwoo Yang, 『History of the World』, Samsung Culture Development)

In this way, the history of Jerusalem was a repetition of war, blood and fire. And the never-ending vicious cycle of blood continues to this day.

Current Situation in Jerusalem

The land of Israel, which was destroyed by Rome in 70 A.D., was ruled by Rome, Byzantine Empire, Muslims, and Ottoman Turks. The Jews, completely deprived of their sovereignty, were driven out of Jerusalem and became nomads scattered throughout the world.

Then, after World War II (1939-1945) a miracle occurred. On May 14, 1948, the state of Israel was established in Palestine according to the decision of the United Nations Security Council.

BY VIRTUE OF OUR NATURAL AND HISTORIC RIGHT AND ON THE STRENGTH OF THE RESOLUTION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY, HEREBY DECLARE THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A JEWISH STATE IN ERETZ-ISRAEL, TO BE KNOWN AS THE STATE OF ISRAEL.

(Declaration of Independence, Jewish Agency Chairman David Ben-Gurion, May 14, 1948)

On this night the first Middle East war broke out. This is because the Arabs living in Palestine at the time opposed the establishment of the state of Israel. As a result of the war between Israel and the Arabs, Jerusalem was divided into East and West. East Jerusalem, where the historic shrine is located, was occupied by Jordan, and West Israel was occupied by Israel.

In 1967, war broke out again. It was a war between Egypt and Israel. The war expanded to Syria and Jordan. After a successful surprise attack, Israel defeated three countries Egypt, Jordan, and Syria one after another in just six days. After a great victory, Israel occupied East Jerusalem, and in July 1980, passed the ‘Basic Law on Jerusalem, the Capital of Israel,’ which stipulated that ‘Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel. However, the UN Security Council defined Israel’s claims as a violation of international law.

The international community views Jerusalem as a region divided into East and West. East Jerusalem is considered the capital of Palestine, and West Jerusalem is considered the capital of Israel. However, the Israeli government emphasizes that Jerusalem is a place that can never be divided or shared, and has continued to build Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem.

According to Israel’s official Central Bureau of Statistics, as of the end of 2021, 9.449 million people living in Israel, including Israelis living in the West Bank settlements, of whom 6.982 million (74%) are Jews. Palestine says that Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem are illegal under international law, but Israel denies this.

Then, why are they so sensitive about the Jerusalem capital issue? This is because Jerusalem is an indispensable sacred place and national center in the history of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.

(이미지 각주) Panoramic view of East Jerusalem, where major holy sites of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity are concentrated

A view of the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. There is a wall in front. This is the ’Wailing Wall’ also called the ‘Western Wall’, which the Jews consider a holy site. The Jews believe that this wall is where the First Temple, built by King Solomon 3,000 years ago, and the Second Temple, built later, is located. This place is the spiritual center and religious heart of the Jewish people.

The problem is that this is an important holy site for Arabs and Muslims as well. The ‘Dome of the Rock’ borders the ‘Wailing Wall’ and the ‘Al-Aqsa Mosque’ is located next to it. This is where Muhammad, the founder of Islam, is said to have flown on an Al-Buraq (a heavenly equine) and ascended to heaven. After the Arab Muslims conquered Jerusalem in 638, they built a mosque and it became a very important holy site for Muslims.

Jerusalem is also a very important holy site in Christianity. This is because it is the place stained with Jesus Christ’s suffering and anguish on the cross, including the place where He climbed up Golgotha while carrying the cross, and where He was crucified.

Jerusalem is an area where the holy sites of three religions are concentrated. Jerusalem, where the holy sites of three religions are gathered, should be filled with love and peace more than any other place. However, the reality is different.

“Palestinian witnesses said Israeli forces used excessive force including stun grenades and tear gas, causing suffocation injuries to the worshippers, and beatings with batons and rifles.”

Israeli forces attack worshippers in Al-Aqsa Mosque raid, Al Jazeera, April 5, 2023

“. . . when Jews are celebrating the Passover holiday and Muslims are marking the Ramadan holy month. In 2021, an escalation also triggered by clashes at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, spilled over into an 11-day war between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers.”

Israel stages rare strikes in Lebanon, also hits Gaza Strip, April 7, 2023, AP News

“According to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC), beginning in September 2015, there has been a wave of terrorist attacks which began on the Temple Mount and in east Jerusalem. . . .”

Wave of Terror 2015-2023, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, May 18, 2023

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “A united Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Jerusalem was and will always be ours. It shall never be divided and disunited again.”45 Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat from Algeria said, “Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Palestine.”46 Hamas leader said, “You cannot contain the resistance, because the resistance is in our thoughts and in our souls … our resistance will continue until all our demands are met and we are getting closer to victory and al-Quds [Jerusalem].”47 Meanwhile, in Christianity, Jerusalem is considered sacred as it is called “the Omphalos of the world.”48 According to the South Korean news agency ‘The Asian Economic Daily’, one of the reasons why European countries continue to intervene in Middle East affairs even after the 200-year crusades ended in failure is because the religious aspirations for the restoration of the holy city of Jerusalem is a significant contributing factor.

Now and then, Jerusalem is at the center of conflicts, disputes, feuds and wars. Jerusalem has been a battlefield where various religions and ethnic groups have fought for control for thousands of years, from ancient times to the present. However, this is how the Bible describes Jerusalem:

For this is what the LORD says: “I will extend peace to her like a river. . . As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem… your heart will rejoice…”

(Isaiah 66:12-14)

The book of Isaiah records that God’s people will be comforted in Jerusalem, and that their hearts will rejoice. What is clear is that the current Jerusalem, marred by the sounds of gunfire, where teenage girls carry guns, where men are killed by machine guns, where there is war and bloody revenge, is a place far from peace, comfort and joy. Moreover, 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ said that not a single stone would be left standing in the Temple of Jerusalem (Luke 21:6, Mark 13:2, Matthew 24:2). He prophesied that Jerusalem, located in Palestine, would fall and become desolate. How can we receive comfort in a place that has been devastated and how can we enjoy happiness and peace in a place where war is ongoing?

What we need to pay close attention to is that the Bible records that there exists another Jerusalem other than the Jerusalem in Palestine.

Heavenly Jerusalem

The Jerusalem the Bible speaks of is not the Jerusalem in Palestine (Middle East) that we are familiar with. There exists another Jerusalem, that is the Heavenly Jerusalem.

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect…

(Hebrews 12:22–23)

The Bible clearly states that in the Heavenly city of Jerusalem mentioned here, there are thousands upon thousands of angels and the spirits of the righteous who have been made perfect. As Jesus said in John 14:2, “In my Father’s house are many rooms,” Heavenly Jerusalem is a spiritual place. In other words, it is the heavenly capital city where saints who will be saved will go.

There is also a record that indicates that Heavenly Jerusalem is our Mother.

Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.

(Galatians 4:25–26)

In the Book of Revelation, the existence of Heavenly Jerusalem Mother is expressed as the ‘Bride’ (Revelation 21:9–10). If Mother is the Bride, who is the Bridegroom? Of course, He is Father.

2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ also told a parable about the heavenly wedding banquet. At this time, Jesus referred to Himself as the ‘bridegroom of the wedding banquet.’ And He referred to the disciples who were by His side as ‘wedding guests’ (Mark 2:18–20). Guests are people invited by the bride and groom. In other words, the saints who are wedding guests cannot be the Heavenly Jerusalem represented by the bride. Therefore, in the Book of Galatians, it is written that Heavenly Jerusalem is not the saints, but the Mother of the saints.

In this day and age, the place that humankind needs to pay attention to is not Jerusalem in Palestine, where conflicts, terrorism, shootings, violence, division, and disputes are happening, but the Heavenly Jerusalem, the Mother of the saints.

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<Jerusalem Mother & Eternal Life>

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