Jerusalem for dummies: Why the world doesn’t recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

The Israeli flag fluttering in front of the Dome of the Rock mosque and the city of Jerusalem. (photo: Haaretz)

And why the possibility that Trump might do just that, seven decades after Israel’s establishment, is such a source of apprehension worldwide.

By David Green | Haaretz | Dec 7, 2017

As long as the sides cannot decide on a mutually agreeable plan for sharing sovereignty in Jerusalem, . . . [and as long as] the world community [has not] concluded that it must impose a solution on the sides — it would be highly improbable for any individual state to unilaterally give official recognition to Jerusalem as its capital.
Any individual state, that is, not led by Donald J. Trump.

Jerusalem is holy to three religions. Jerusalem is a powder keg, and the smallest wrong move there could set off a religious war. The Arab-Israeli conflict will never be solved until the Jerusalem question is resolved.

Yes, these are all truisms, and you’ve heard them a thousand times or more. But there’s a reason why the root of the word “truism” is “true.” For Jews, Jerusalem is where their Temple — the home of their one god — stood, in its various incarnations. Each time they were exiled from their cultic and political capital in ancient times, they dreamed of returning, and the term “Zion,” the name of one of the city’s hills, became a metonymy not only for the city itself, but for the Land of Israel in general, and the basis of the name of the modern movement calling for establishment of a Jewish state there.

So, why don’t the nearly 160 countries that have diplomatic relations with the State of Israel recognize Jerusalem as its capital, and why is the possibility that the United States may do just that now, nearly seven decades after Israel’s establishment, a source of such apprehension worldwide?

The answer has to do with that first truism — the importance of Jerusalem to Christianity and Islam, which between them have more than 3 billion followers worldwide. For Christians, Jesus, their messiah, died in Jerusalem and came back to life there; they can trace his genealogy back to King David, who established the united monarchy in Jerusalem and whose descendants, according to the Hebrew Bible, will include the Messiah.

For Muslims, Jerusalem — specifically “the farthest mosque,” identified with Al-Aqsa Mosque — was the destination of the Prophet Mohammed on his Night Journey, from where he ascended to heaven to speak with God.

For each of these religions, there is a spot in the Old City of Jerusalem that is most sacred, and it is the focus of their strongest, deepest passion and commitment: For Jews, it is the Holy of Holies, whose precise location is no longer known, making the entire Temple Mount holy ground; for Christians, it is Calvary, where Jesus was crucified, which, for a majority of followers, is situated in what is today the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; while for Muslims, Al-Aqsa has come to refer to the entire Haram al-Sharif (the Arabic name for Temple Mount).

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