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Jerusalem (Yerushalayim): Eternal City, Hotbed Of Endless Conflict

jerusalem eternal city

July 24, 2017 – Jerusalem (Yerushalayim): Eternal City, Hotbed Of Endless Conflict

By Albert Afeso Akanbi

“He came closer to the city, and when he saw it, he wept over it, saying, ‘if you only knew today what is needed for peace!’” –Jesus Christ, Luke: 19 vs. 41 & 42B

According to some Christian leaders Jesus wept because, being God himself, he knew that the fickle minded Jews of Jerusalem who were shouting “Hosanna!” as he entered the city would almost immediately make a full 360 degree turn in conspiracy with the religious elite and cry “Crucify Him!”

For me, I believe Jesus wept because, as a great moral teacher, he may have calculated from what he observed about the hot headedness of his people, that if they did not slow down, the Romans would end up inflicting a dire fate on them.

He warned and they did not listen and around 70AD the Romans sacked the city.

The same issues that may have prompted the tears of the Saviour then, namely religion and politics, are still very much at play today; only that this time they may have far reaching consequences not only for Jerusalem but for the entire world.

As I type these words, Israelis and Palestinians, both of them cousins and today living in the same land over which our lord wept, are slaughtering each other again, the reason being religion mixed with politics.

The cause of the latest conflict is the decision of the Israeli government to set up metal detectors, after gunmen smuggled weapons inside the al-Aqsa mosque complex and used them to kill two Israeli police officers in the streets of Eastern Jerusalem.

jerusalem conflicts

Some people believe the final war between the forces of evil and good will be fought in Jerusalem. Others believe the crisis there may one day engulf the entire world. Yet both parties are unyielding and continue to lay claim to the city prompting the question of whether there will ever be peace in that region?

In 1947, the United Nations voted on a partition plan to divide what was then British-Mandate Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states. Under the plan, Jerusalem and Bethlehem were designated corpus separatum, and placed under international rule, because of the city’s importance to Judaism, Christianity and Islam.


Israel accepted this plan but Arab leaders rejected it. When Israel declared independence the following year, Arab leaders declared war on them. Israeli forces fought their way to a 78 percent control of the territory.

Years later, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cited Abraham’s biblical connection to Hebron as one reason his government wanted to maintain a Jewish presence in the predominantly Muslim West Bank city. In response, Palestinians began to promote the notion that the Palestinians are the modern-day successors to the Canaanites, who lived there, long before Abraham’s appearance.

Some say Israel’s stand is predicated on the ancient Jewish connection to Jerusalem and that for over three thousand years; Judaism has made Jerusalem a holy city and has remained steadfast to it. That in addition to countless other rituals that the Jews pray in its direction mentions its name constantly in prayers, closes the Passover service with the longing statement “Next year in Jerusalem,” and recall the city in the blessing at the end of each meal.

They add that throughout Bible times Jerusalem was the only capital of a Jewish state, and is the only city with a Jewish majority during the whole of the past century. A mayor of Jerusalem was quoted as saying the city represents “the purist expression of all that Jews prayed for, dreamed of, cried for, and died for in the two thousand years since the destruction of the Second Temple.”

They say the same cannot be said of the Islamic world where Jerusalem is not a place to which they pray, not once mentioned by name in their prayers, and is connected to any mundane events in their narrative nor did it ever serve as capital of a sovereign Muslim state?

They say Jerusalem appears in the Jewish Bible 669 times, Christian Bible, 154 times but zero time in the Qur’an.

They say although history tells us that in it early stage, Islam adopted the Judaic practice of facing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem during prayer as its first qibla (direction of prayer), this did not last long due to Jewish rejection of the new religion around 624AD. They say the Qur’an at 2:142-52 later explained why in the following words;

The Fools among the people will say: “What has turned them [the Muslims] from the qibla to which they were always used?“We appointed the qibla that to which you was used, only to test those who followed the Messenger from those who would turn on their heels [on Islam]’.

That Mecca became the direction of prayer from then on that the Qur’an added;

‘Even if you were to bring all the signs to the people of the Book [i.e., Jews], they would not follow your qibla.’

They say Tabari, an early Muslim commentator on the Qur’an noted that, “and the Jews were glad.” for this change.

They say after this incident, no significant Islamic connection to the city was mentioned again until the rule of the Damascus-based Umayyad dynasty in 661-750AD.

Of all the various powers that controlled the city throughout her history, the Umayyad, had more influence on the city. They constructed a number of religious edifices, palaces, and roads. The Israeli scholar Izhak Hasson explained that, the “Umayyad regime was interested in ascribing an Islamic aura to its stronghold and center.” as well as to assert Islam’s presence in its competition with Christianity. They built Islam’s first grand structure, the Dome of the Rock, right on the spot of the Jewish Temple, in 688-91AD. Their actions according to experts were partly inspired by a passage in Qur’an 17:1 describing the Prophet’s Night Journey to heaven (isra’):

‘Glory to He who took His servant by night from the Sacred Mosque to the furthest mosque.’

But Daniel Pipe, a scholar in religious matters, in his essay on the subject noted that; ‘When this passage was first revealed in about 621AD,…”furthest mosque” was a turn of phrase, not a place. Some early Muslims understood it as metaphorical…place in heaven…and Palestine would seem an unlikely location, for many reasons… being that elsewhere in the Qur’an (30:1) Palestine is called “the closest land” (adna al-ard)…and had not yet been conquered by the Muslims and contained not a single mosque…’

In 715AD, the Umayyad built a second mosque in Jerusalem, again on the Temple Mount, and called this one the Furthest Mosque (al-masjid al-aqsa, Al-Aqsa Mosque). Many experts believe this marked the point where the city was given a role in the Islamic narrative.

Palestinian historian A. L. Tibawi explained in his work that by building the mosque, the Umayyad, “gave reality to the figurative name used in the Koran.” That Jerusalem came to be seen as the site of the Last Judgment, after they cast aside the non-religious Roman name for the city, Aelia Capitolina and replaced it with Jewish Al-Quds (The Holy) or Bayt al-Maqdis (The Temple). They say the Umayyad sponsored a form of literature praising the “virtues of Jerusalem,” some of them equating the city with Mecca. There was even an effort to move the pilgrimage (hajj) from Mecca to Jerusalem.

They argue that the construction of the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosque, the rituals instituted by the Umayyad on the Temple Mount and the dissemination of Islamic-oriented Traditions regarding the sanctity of the site, all pointed to the political motives which underlay the glorification of Jerusalem among the Umayyad.

Jerusalem fell into near-obscurity after the demise of the Umayyad. The dome over the rock even collapsed in 1016AD.

When the Crusaders took the city in 1099AD, initially this did not arouse Muslim response that much. The calls to Jihad inside the city then even got no response at the time. But by now, there were already hadiths that stressed the virtues of Jerusalem. New ones were written to inspire the Muslim world to Jihad to retake the city, even though not a single volume appeared in the period between 1100 and 50AD.

In 1187AD Saladin took the city and wrote to his Crusaders opponent that the city “is to us as it is to you. It is even more important to us.”  Thereafter, a great building and restoration program quickly followed. It was during Saladin that the Dome of the Rock came to be seen as the exact place where the prophet ascended to heaven (mi’raj) on his Night Journey, the very rock from which Jesus was thought to have ascended to heaven. It is worthy of note that one of Saladin’s grandsons al-Kamil, during his own rule, offered to trade Jerusalem to the Europeans if they would leave Egypt, but they turned him down, but he became successful with German Emperor Friedrich II in 1229AD.

In 1244AD troops from Asia, the Ayyibids took the city again after it had exchanged hands back and forth, and this time it remained safely under Muslim rule for nearly seven centuries.

The psychology at work in those times according to experts is that, the Ayyibids felt that if Christians could travel from distant Europe to make Jerusalem their capital, it must be important thus accounting for why the city became the third most holy city of Islam (thalith al-masajid).

The Mamluk under whose rule the city witnessed decline, came between 1250-1516AD. Then the Ottoman 1516-1917AD, got off on an excellent start when Süleyman the Magnificent rebuilt the city walls in 1537-41AD and lavished money on it. However, taxes soon sent the city reverting back to her state of decline, so much so that, an historian reported that even the standards dropped so low that even the preacher at Al-Aqsa Mosque spoke a low standard of literary Arabic.

British recognized the minimal Muslim interest in Jerusalem during World War I. In negotiations with Sharif Husayn of Mecca in 1915-16AD, London decided not to include Jerusalem in territories to be assigned to the Arabs because, as the chief British negotiator, Henry McMahon, put it, “there was no place of sufficient importance further south” of Damascus “to which the Arabs attached vital importance.”

Israeli scholar Hava Lazarus-Yafeh noted that, Jerusalem “became the focus of religious and political Arab activity only at the beginning of last century.” She ascribes the change mainly to “the renewed Jewish activity in the city and Judaism’s claims on the Western Wailing Wall.”

The Jordanian era saw a decline in the city’s status and an insulting religious standing where, mosques lacked sufficient funds, where Jordanian radio broadcasted the Friday prayers not from Al-Aqsa Mosque but from mosques in Amman.

It was the Israeli era that brought the neglect to an abrupt end after June 1967 war. Almost immediately the city quickly became the single most emotional issue of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The conflicts have not ended till this day.

Ibrahim Hooper, an American based Muslim speaks of how “the Muslim attachment to Jerusalem does not begin with the prophet Muhammad, it begins with the prophets Abraham, David, Solomon and Jesus, who are also prophets in Islam.”

Some say if this is so, doesn’t the fact that for a time Muslims directed prayers toward Jerusalem and upon revelation uniquely rejected the city and turned towards Mecca a sign that God had rejected the city for them?

Other wonder if Jerusalem, considered third in line in Islam, will ever be more than a secondary city for Muslims? They say considering the similarity between both religions in principle, Jerusalem should be to Jews what Mecca is to Muslims? That the Qur’an itself at 2:145, recognized that Muslims have one qibla and “the people of the Book [Jews]” another one that this should support their argument.

I believe Jews and Palestinians are one people. Jews pray thrice to Jerusalem, Muslims five times daily to Mecca. Muslims see Mecca as the navel of the world, just as Jews see Jerusalem. Whereas Jews believe Abraham nearly sacrificed Isaac in Jerusalem, Muslims believe it was Ishmael, and that it was in Mecca. The Ka’ba in Mecca has similar functions for Muslims as the Temple in Jerusalem for Jew. Worshipers take off their shoes and go barefoot in both their places of worship. Jews don’t eat pig, Muslim don’t eat pig. Jews fast in Yom Kippur and the Muslims fast in Ramadan and so on.

Time to set aside the almost nonexistent differences, find a common ground and live together, that tiny piece of land should cease to be reason for all the strife and bloodshed, and neither side should be denied access to their holy sites?

Finally, a constructive breakthrough that requires an outside-the-box approach in that region is urgently necessary to put an end to the bloodshed and maybe save the rest of the world from the crisis that may emanate from there.

About the author: Albert Afeso Akanbi is a Novelist, Researcher and Humanitarian. He lives in Abuja, FCT. Email: Twitter:@afeso82 Instagram: afeso82  Blog:

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  1. Amanda

    July 25, 2017 at 3:29 AM

    Lol, who told you that Quran doesnt mention or have connection to Qudu (Jerusalem). In chapter 17 verse 1 mentioned Aqsa in Qudus. However, the description of Jerusalem in the Quran is Holy Land (ard muqadasa) also known as “Blessed Land”. Holy Land in thew Quran is not Mekkah and Medina. Holy Land in the Quran refers to Aqsa known today as Jerusalem. Quran speaks at length about Holy Land to the point that , it says, only MUSLIMS will inherit the Land.

    Note that Muslims mentioned in the Quran who are entitled to the Land is not just Arabs. Muslims refer to any race or national who accepts Islam is entitled to the land. Also, the only rule of Law on the Holy Land approved by God is God’s Law.

    Today, how can Christians and Zionists claim to be righteous when they dont even apply God’s Law?. Fortunately, majority of people in that region are arabs. Thats why it appears to be Arab-Israeli issue but it is not.

    If Christians also want to claim entitlement to the Holy Land, they MUST return to Old Laws. You cant claim to be following Jesus, Abraham or Moses and then support homosexual. Thats not gonna wok on the Holy Land. Homosexual are now thriving on the Holy Land. Only Muslims resist this nonsense and orthodox Christianity.

    Holy is only given on conditions to whoever occupies it. The conditions are mentioned in the Quran and Jewish Book. The conditions are:

    ** You Must accept the right religion(Islam)

    ** You must be righteous in conduct.

    But today, Jews have changed the conditions. They said in their book they dont have to be righteous to be entitled to the Holy land. They are also very wicked.

    So they violated the conditions. How are they the rightful owners of the Holy Land if conditions are not met?

    • iron bar

      July 25, 2017 at 4:39 PM

      STOP THE RANTING AND REVISIT HISTORY BOOKS.PRES ABBAS of paletine state once accepted the terms but the cabal in the middle east kept pushing him to pursue their own desires.religion who does not tolerate other ones cannot be trusted,they kill at slightest altercation .they bomb on hearsys and denigrate human beings who does not share their belief.a lot is changing in saudi if u dont know.laws are being relaxed and women reintegrated into the society.have u lived in the north before,it used to be peaceful es[ecially acient city of kano until it became politiciized.if u claim koran recognised most christian virtues,then why the bias and hatred in their words and actions.westrn education is haram but u wear their dresses,use their technology,drive their cars and eat their food.self deciet and denial is a disease of the mind that torment our soul.

      • G. S. Babatunde

        July 25, 2017 at 6:05 PM

        @Iron Bar Where do you read in the Quran that Western Education is Haram????

        • Amanda

          July 26, 2017 at 4:18 AM

          u dey mind him?. he talks rubbish

  2. G S Babatunde

    July 25, 2017 at 12:42 PM

    @Amanda God bless you

  3. M

    July 25, 2017 at 1:16 PM

    Jazakallahu khayr@Amanda..pls educate them because their **** are so blind and they have ****** ears!

  4. samuel

    July 25, 2017 at 5:50 PM

    Early Islamic sources state that the “al Aqsa Mosque” (literal meaning: ‘the farther mosque’), mentioned only once in the Koran, was one of two mosques located near Ji’irrana, a village located between Mecca and Taaf in the Arabian Peninsula (now Saudi Arabia.) One of the mosques was called “al-Masjid al-Adna,” meaning the “closer mosque” and the other ” al-Masjid al-Aqsa”, the “farther mosque.” When the Koran refers to the al Aqsa mosque while telling the myth of the Prophet Muhammad’s night time journey from the “holy mosque” of Mecca to al Aqsa, that is, the “farther mosque,” it is referring to the mosque in Ji’irrana.
    In 682 C.E., fifty years after Mohammed’s death, Abd allah Ibn al-Zubayr, the tough man of Mecca, rebelled against the Umayyads who ruled Damascus and would not allow them to fulfill the Haj in Mecca. Since the Haj pilgrimage is one of the five basic Islamic commandments, they were forced to choose Jerusalem as their alternative for a pilgrimage site. In order to justify choosing Jerusalem, the Umayyads rewrote the story told in the Koran, moving the al Aqsa mosque to Jerusalem, and adding, for good measure, the myth of the night time journey of Mohammed to al Aqsa. This is the reason the Sunnis now consider Jerusalem their third holiest city.

  5. Ajala Niyi

    July 25, 2017 at 7:57 PM

    Here are some facts about Jerusalem, perhaps unpalatable to some:
    Mohammed died in 632 ce. In the Koran it says he ascended to heaven on his steed Buraq from the “fatherest Mosque.” This clearly refers to a Mosque in Arabia, because Mohammed never left Arabia and there were no Mosques outside Arabia at that time and no Muslims had ever been to Jerusalem up to that time.
    The Arab Muslims under Mohammed’s successor Caliph Omar (or Umar) conquered Jerusalem and the surrounding country from the Byzantine Christians in 637 ce, 5 years after Mohammed’s death! Jerusalem was still a predominantly Jewish city at that time.
    The Mosque of the Dome of the Rock was not built until 691 ce and the Al-Aksa (or “Fartherest”) Mosque was not built until 705 ce, although a wooden structure existed on the site before that. However, it is clear that Mohammed could not have ascended to heaven from this Mosque because it was not built until 73 years after his death.
    It is evident that the Mosques on the Temple Mount (called Haram al-Sharif or Noble Sanctuary by the Muslims) where the Jewish Temples stood for thousands of years before, were claimed as holy or sacred to Islam in order to establish their claim to the Holy city of Jerusalem.
    Jews and other visitors who enter the area of the Western Wall and the Temple Mount from West Jerusalem must go through metal detectors and undergo a security check. Muslims entering the Temple Mount and the Mosques from East Jerusalem until now have not had to undergo any security check.
    This is because after the 1967 Six-Day War, in an attempt to show magnanimity, Gen. Moshe Dayan then Israeli Defense Minister, allowed the Temple Mount (the holiest site in Judaism) and its Mosques to be controlled by the Jordanian Muslim Trust or Wakf. As Churchill said “in victory magnanimity” but the Muslims have shown no gratitude for this colossal mistake by Dayan. It has led to many years of further strife over the site.
    Many times there have been violent confrontations between Muslim gangs throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks on Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall below and the Israeli border police or IDF. On several occasions Israeli forces have had to enter the Mosque to put down riots and attacks.
    The fatal shooting of two Israeli Border Police last week by a gang of Palestinian Arab terrorists who came from the Mosque with guns and then returned there has caused the IDF security experts to decide that metal detectors are needed there too.
    Metal detectors are used at most major Mosques, including the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and at most Mosques in India. This is a basic security precaution and does not in any way interfere with the ability of Muslims to access or to pray at the Mosques.
    The current rioting and violent confrontations in Jerusalem and elsewhere are part of the usual Arab Muslim reaction to anything Israel does in Jerusalem, where Israel has full sovereignty. The false rumor that “Al-Aksa is in danger” has been used time and time again to foment Muslim anger at Jews and was the primary excuse for the anti-Jewish riots in 1929 in Jerusalem and Hebron that resulted in massacres of the Jewish inhabitants. The murders of the Salomon family in the settlement of Halamish by a Palestinian Arab last week is another example of that false incitement.

  6. Omale

    July 26, 2017 at 1:39 PM

    When a historian like Mr Ajala speaks, every other person listen with interest except the bigots.

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