Sunday, July 19, 2009

Laying claim to Jerusalem

There's something mysterious about Jerusalem. I've lived there, on two separate occasions, for a total of almost seven years and I'm always excited to go back. Yet, when I finally get there, after the long climb up the road from Ben Gurion airport, it's always a little anti-climatic. On paper, Jerusalem is really nothing that special. Sure, it has the history, but there are far more beautiful cities in the world. There are certainly cleaner ones, with better planning and nicer drivers.

Yet everyone wants a piece of it. And everyone has a different opinion on who it belongs to and what should be done with it.

Even President Obama.

In his famous speech from Cairo, Obama opined for "all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer". This story is traditionally understood by Muslims to have occurred on the Temple Mount. Aside from the obvious problems there are with a professed Christian stating that his God's idea of peace is for the three major (and competing) religions to just "mingle" in His holy city, there is a dangerous thought at work here. Assuming that all three faiths, Christianity, Judaism and Islam have an equal claim on Jerusalem sets a very dangerous precedent.

The issue is one of sovereignty. Or, let me be more specific, denial of Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem. Obviously, Jerusalem is currently under Jewish control, and in fact all three faiths do already worship there in remarkable freedom. It's worth noting that in 1967 when Israel captured the Old City in the Six-day War, Minister of Defence, Moshe Dayan made an immediate statement affirming Israel's commitment to freedom of religion, and ceded administrative control of the Temple Mount to the Islamic Trust (Waqf). What is it exactly about this situation that doesn't work for everyone now? Why is it that America's President thinks there is something broken here that needs to be fixed?

You have to go back to the story of Isra. If Moses, Jesus and Mohammed all joined in prayer, who did they pray to? Are we to believe that there are three routes to the same god? Am I to understand that my God is so confused that He cannot decide how to "reveal" himself to different people? That's not what this is about. No, this is all about affirming the validity of the three religions, and in turn their respective claim to Jerusalem. It's not really about God at all.

And that's the big glaring point! It's God who has a claim to Jerusalem, not Judaism, or Christianity or Islam. And He's decided to give it to Israel as an inheritance. They are His custodians whether you like it or not. What a cheek, to bring God into an argument and then deny Him right to His own land. Of all the real estate in the world, God chose a thin sliver of dust filled land as His own, and picked a small group of people from the nations to live there and deliver His message of salvation to the world.

When you deny the Jewish people the right to sovereignty over Jerusalem, you might as well tell God to get off His throne because you think you've figured out a better way to run the universe. The audacity.

So, getting back to my opening line, what is it that makes Jerusalem so mysterious? Why is it so exciting and yet so frustrating? For me, there's just something eternal about it. You can't have heaven in your heart, and not be stirred by the Spirit when you enter the city God says He will make new, and then rule and reign from for eternity.

This year in Jerusalem!

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