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Israel Celebrates ‘Jerusalem Day’; Brings Together Politics, History, and Religion

El día de Jerusalén, El American

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Under the blue sky of a hot day, this Sunday more than 50,000 Israelis celebrated Jerusalem Day and participated in the traditional “Flag March.” They celebrated the 55th anniversary of the recovery of their biblical capital.

They marched through the old walled sector, culminating at the Western Wall, a sacred place that was part of the Second Hebrew Temple. It was impossible to see streets without flags in sight, outside covering the participants, in windows, light columns and cars. Blue and white everywhere.

The celebration began in 1968. Most of those who go on the walk do so out of patriotism and to reaffirm Israeli sovereignty over the holy city. To label them — as some media do — as “far-right extremists” is either ignorance or bad faith. Media that, like CNN, The New York Times or TVE of Madrid, never use the term ultra-terrorism — not even terrorism — to describe Hezbollah, Hamas or the Islamic Jihad of Gaza.

The tensest moment was at the Damascus Gate, where some of the people entered the Old City. They ended up dancing and praying in front of the Wall.

While thousands marched chanting, small groups shouted Islamophobic phrases. This unacceptable event is tempered — according to some — by the wave of terrorism that has engulfed Israel in recent months, with the murder of 20 people, including a Ukrainian refugee and an Arab-Israeli policeman. Of course, the argument does not stand up, because the logical thing to do would be to cry out against Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, all murderous organizations. The appropriate thing to do is to focus, as the vast majority maintains, on patriotism and positive chants.

It should be noted that Israel is a Jewish and democratic state, home to a significant number of Muslim citizens, as well as Druze and Christians. Of course, the latter two communities identify with the country, perform military service, and do not experience the contradictions inherent to Muslims.

Key historical facts

Three monotheistic religions have holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem and nearby areas. Of these sites, some are historically accurate; others are matters of faith and tradition. For Christianity, there are fundamental sites. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher — where Jesus’ body was — the Church of Saint Anne, the Saint James’ Cathedral, the Sepulchre of Saint Mary, the Garden of Gethsemane and the Basilica of the Nativity. For Judaism, the holiest site is the Western Wall, the Temple Mount and the Cemetery on the Mount of Olives.

Jews have a history of more than 3,000 years with Jerusalem. It was and is a political, religious and cultural center. The city housed the First and Second Temples. It housed the Ark of the Covenant, which carried the commandments received by Moses at Sinai. Its fate is a mystery of history. One theory holds that it was hidden by priests in a subway cave to protect it.

During the British mandate, the city was the headquarters of the main Hebrew institutions, such as the Jewish Agency and the Zionist Organization. After the Arab invasion, the Israeli military triumph and the cessation of hostilities, the government declared Jerusalem its capital. After the 1967 war, it was reunified. In 1980, it reaffirmed its sovereignty and declared it the “eternal capital” of the Jewish people, guaranteeing respect for all religions.

To understand the crusader claims on Jerusalem, it is necessary to know its historical chronology, beyond doubts about the oldest dates.

After the unification of the Hebrew kingdom, around 1000 BC, King David chose Jerusalem as his capital.

970 BC: King Solomon built the First Temple, the religious and spiritual center of the nation.

922 BC: the kingdom is divided in two; Israel to the north and Judea to the south. Jerusalem is the capital of the second.

586 BC: Babylon conquers Judea, destroys the Temple and banishes most of its population.

538 BC: Cyrus of Persia authorizes the Jews to return and rebuild the Temple.

332 BC: Alexander the Great conquers Jerusalem and respects the religious traditions.

163 BC: after the rebellion of the Maccabees, Jerusalem returns to Hebrew sovereignty.

63 BC – 313 CE: Roman domination.

28-30: Jesus preaches in the lands of Israel and Jerusalem.

70: Rome defeats the Jewish rebellion and destroys the II Temple.

132-135: Bar Kojba rebels against the Roman Empire, controlling Jerusalem for three years.

313 – 636: domination of the Byzantine Empire.

325-335: the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is built.

636 – 1099: Islamic domination.

690: the Al-Aqsa Mosque is built.

691: Caliph Abd al-Malik builds the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount opposite Al-Aqsa.

1099 -1291: Crusader domination

1291 – 1516: Mamluk domination

1517 – 1917: domination by the Ottoman Empire

1860: the first quarter outside the walls is built.

1918 – 1948: British domination

1948: Israel declares its independence after UN endorsement, and consolidates it by rejecting the Arab invasion. Jerusalem was divided by barriers. Israel controlled the western zone and Jordan the eastern zone, which included the Old City with the main religious sites. The Mufti, Palestinian leader and former ally of Hitler, flees to Egypt.

1949: The Israeli cabinet approves moving official institutions from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

1967: “Jerusalem of Gold” becomes the symbolic song of the city.

1967: Israeli Parliament extends municipal boundaries and sovereignty over all of Jerusalem; an annexation of 70 km².

1980: The Knesset approves that “Jerusalem is the seat of the President of the State, Government and Supreme Court… the eternal capital”. The “holy places shall be protected…any act that prevents free access by members of any religion to their places of worship or violates their religious sensibilities is prohibited.”

2017: Trump recognizes Jerusalem as the Israeli capital: “I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”

Eduardo Zalovich, Uruguayan-Israeli, is a history professor and journalist. He has written for several media, such as La Vanguardia, El Confidencial, Vozpopuli, Búsqueda and Correo de los Viernes. Zalovich analyzes, from the Middle East, the reality of the region and international politics. // Eduardo Zalovich, uruguayo-israelí, es profesor de Historia y periodista. Ha escrito para varios medios, como La Vanguardia, El Confidencial, Vozpopuli, Búsqueda y Correo de los Viernes. Analiza, desde el Medio Oriente, la realidad de la zona y la política internacional.

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