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Jerusalem: – Sacred Geography Profane History

‘When my daughter sees President Trumps at TV, she giggles’ said writer Pankaj Mishra. Two things are becoming increasingly obvious, one, clownish ways of President Trump and –in- second loss of innocence in Children. After getting resounding no from U.N General Assembly, the U.S President, Once again preferred to live in meretricious isolation. Making a serious breach of protocol and U.N Security Council resolution 2334, which reaffirms that ‘Israel should desist from taking any action which would result in changing the legal status, geographical nature and materially affecting the demographic composition of the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem’ Trump embodies fire and fury and ‘his unpredictability serves as word of caution’ Noam Chomky. Trump’s election has sent ominous auguries in all directions, more towards Middle East. The choice of David Friedman as ambassador to Israel was the first salvo after the election campaign. His election campaign has the elements of theatrics of absurd. Jerusalem has evolved and incremental holiness. The holiness astronomical in proportions and ethereal in spirit is dwelling as small earthy part of a not a big city. The advent of nationalism and its territorial aggrandizement has made the contestations of competitive holiness uglier. Jerusalem has sacred geography, it was too small too insipid for Mark Twain and William M. Thackeray, who had visited the city and left it unimpressed. Jerusalem is city and seat of wailing wall, Solomon’s temple, Jesus death and resurrection, church of Holy Sepulchre, first direction of Muslim prayer, ‘farthest place of prostration’ housing Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. The claims of nation, a modern monstrosity is made on the quantum of antiquity of race and religion, on the exiles and exoduses, on the Diasporas and dispersions and depopulations and dispossessions. With the passing of every decade, every century every millennium, Jerusalem’s holiness increased with birth and rebirth of its religions, expanding the halo of holiness. The arrival of nationalism compounded the affairs making a hotchpotch and tinderbox of divine and profane. The city of divinity, pilgrimage of prophets, all the same sites and stones of it bear witness to conquests and carnages, Reconquista and refractories crusade and jihads, wars of Zionism and Arab nationalism, battles of racial preservation and tribal pride. Those who conquered and ruled Jerusalem, they developed its possessiveness, those who got vanquished and vacated could not help but develop the nagging sentimental longing to recover it, to return to it. Karem Armstrong notes it. ‘But after the bloodshed and wars’ Jerusalem had become, as symbol of Muslim integrity and no Islamic ruler could easily make concessions about the Holy city. The Christians were equally shocked. The very notion of allowing the Muslims to remain on Haram in a Christian city was intolerable. The whole story of Frederick’s extraordinary crusade show that Islam and West were finding it impossible to accommodate each other, on neither side was there any desire for coexistence and peace’
The historical expanse of Jerusalem has notable oases of peace and coexistence. The city’s origins go back to 1800 BC. It was restored and rebuilt by Solomon, King and one of the prophets of Islam, Christianity and Judaism (950 BC), Nehemiah (445-433 BC), Herod the Great. The city was ravaged and destroyed by Babylonians (587 BC), the Romans under Titus in 70 AD,. It was renamed “Aeolia Capitoline” after the Bar Kochba revolt and all Jews were expelled (132-135 AD). Jerusalem has witnessed frequent Crusades and Cautions Jihads. The Muslim advent in Jerusalem took place in 638 AD. The caliph, Umer, paragon of poverty and lack of pomp, met Sophronius, the patriarch of Jerusalem. They had to enforce the terms of peace. The unassuming of the Caliph surprised patriarch “For Muslims it was a miracle” (The shade of swords- M.J.Akbar. The continuity of rule by Umayyads, Mamluks and Ottomans was disrupted by Crusades. The Crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1095. This ‘pilgrimage’ and ‘act of love’ resulted in the massacre of innocent Muslims and Jews. The long march of crusaders killed Jews in tracks and trails, Muslims and Jews together at their destination- Jerusalem. The ‘Muslims were antichrist and Jews a race, that is greatest enemy of God. Men rode in blood up to their knees and bridle reins. Indeed it was just and splendid judgment of God that this place should be filled with the blood of unbelievers wrote the Chronicler of Crusade, Raymond of Aguilers. Stench of rotting corpses unburied in the fields and ditches filled Jerusalem months after end of first crusade. The conquest in Jerusalem was described turning point in history by Chroniclers. Christians were persistent in the pursuit of Crusade. Lay Muslims had forgotten Jihad. Ulema, repository of religion had not. Deputation and delegations met the Caliph in Bhagdad. The caliph was too weak to undertake any jihad. After 1144 victory in certain skirmishes and battles inspired Muslims to free Jerusalem of Crusaders. “So moribund was the Jihad spirit among the populace that reviving it was a hard work”. Karen Armstrong writes in Fields of Blood. Salah-ud-Din, a Kurd, a hero of Muslim history gave a call for Jihad. It was 1187, he made jihad a live force. He had strengthened himself by endearing himself to people by his compassion, humility and charisma. Jerusalem was recaptured by Muslims under Salah-ud Din. Not a single Christian was killed. Crusader’s massacre of 1099 was not avenged. ‘He Salah-ud-Din invited Jews back to the city (Jerusalem) and his name was celebrated throughout Jewish world. Saladin had consciously emulated the Caliph Umar and taken Jerusalem without bloodshed and destruction. Jerusalem’s history is splashed with blood before and after the Islamic interventions” M.J. Akbar notes in the Shade of Swords. Nobility and Sagacity of Caliph Umar and Salah-ud-Din had been conspicuous rarity. Christians recovered Jerusalem under Roman Emperor Frederich. The emperor negotiated a truce with Sultan-al-Kamil. Frederich crowned himself king of Jerusalem in the Holy Sepulchre. Christians lost Jerusalem again in 1244 to Khavarzami Turks. Tariq Ali, Marxist historian, comments aptly ‘contrary to common belief the concept of Jihad as holy war had limited pedigree. After the early victories of Islam it has been quietly dropped as mobilizing slogan. It was the barbaric zealotry of the First Crusade that sustained Sala ud din in uniting his own side behind the colours of Islam. For the next seven hundred years in the city (Jerusalem) with exception of one short-lived and inconsequential crusader occupation, remained under Muslim rule. During this period no blood soiled its pavement’.
Ottoman Turks took over Jerusalem in 1517, retained its control until 1917. It was period of peace and security for the inhabitants of city. Late Edward Said, recommended resurrecting the ottoman nation system in Israel’s newspaper Ha’aretz on August, 18 2000. “A Jewish minority can survive, the way the other minorities in Arab world survived, it worked rather well under Ottoman Empire, with its millet system. What they had then seems a lot more human than what we have now”.
The advent of western imperialism, Zionism, Arab nationalism, defeat and dismemberment of Ottoman Empire initiated Jerusalem to violence and oppression. During the First World War, Ottomans decided to side with neighbours, Austria, Hungary and Germany. Ottoman Empire was defeated, Jerusalem, a part of Palestine passed in to British mandate. The sotry of defeat is the story of promises and betrayals. The anti-Jewish pogroms in East and Central Europe led to the birth of Zionism. For secular atheistic Zionism, return of Chosen People to Promised Land, to Zion, Seat of Armageddon, Final Apocalypse was convenient. The British and other western powers encouraged the settlement of Jews in Jerusalem and other parts of Palestine, making redemption for European sins of medieval ones, of Reconquista, ghettoes, persecution and modern ones of pogroms and Holocaust. The Balfour Declaration of November, 20, 1917 lent imperial sanction and speed to the process of settlement and colonization. ‘One nation solemnly promised to second nation, the country of the third’ A.G. Noorani, quotes Arthur Koestler in Frontline Dec, 8, 2017. It was in the fitness of imperial things that Theresa May British Prime Minister hosted a dinner for Israeli Prime Minister on the 100th anniversary of Balfour Declaration on Nov 2, 2017. Sumantra Bose quotes Walter Lacquer in his book ‘Contested Lands’ ‘Zionists believed without a country, Jews were bound to remain bastards of humanity.’ Jews have a nation state, world pampers them. The Palestinians continue to suffer as ‘orphans’ of humanity.
In 1917, the British under General Edmund Allenby Captured Jerusalem. He visited old and sacred part of city barefooted, but the spirit of Crusade could not be concealed. He was not vulgar like General HernriGouraud, who after taking the charge of Damascus in 1920 visited Saladin’s tomb, stood to attention and declaimed’ Saladin I have returned, My presence here consecrates the Cross over crescent’. The increasing settlement pushed the seams and tensions in Jerusalem. Riots broke out in the city between Jews and Arabs in 1920 and in 1929. British Mandate expired in 1947. UN Partition plan accorded a Corpus Separatum and Creation of special international regime. Arab Israeli war changed status quo, Israel took West Jerusalem and Jordan took control of East Jerusalem. East Jerusalem is the old walled city. West Jerusalem is new ever settling and sprawling quarters. Israel declared Jerusalem as the capital city. The division of city created refugee problems, rival factions removing Jews and Arabs from their areas of control and neglecting the shrines of other. In 1967, six days Arab-Israeli- war. Israel armed forces under Moshe Dayan took the control of East Jerusalem. Muslim and Christian holy sites came under Israel’s control of East Jerusalem, it extended its law and jurisdiction to East Jerusalem. The inclusion of outlaying towns and suburban settlements and ever going pushing of the confines of city create difficulties in deciding the limits and demography. Karen Armstrong tells about ‘numinous experience of the Israelis after the conquest of old city in 1967. In 1898, the Zionist ideologueThéoderHerzle had visited the western wall, the last relic of Herod’s temple, he had been repelled by the sight of Jewish worshippers clinging cravenly to its stones. But in June in 1967, tough paratroopers with blackened faces and their atheistic officers lent against the wall and wept, their secular ethos momentarily transformed by sacred geography ……Nationalism, as we have seen easily segues in to quasi-religiousfervour, especially in the moments of heightened tension and emotion…… emotions of sacred geography were fused with Israel’s secular nationalism in which territorial integrity was all important, politicians have no doubt that Jerusalem belonged absolutely to the Israel state. Jerusalem had become non-negotiable absolute. Aba-Eban, Israel’s delegate to the United Nations argued that Jerusalem lie beyond and above, before and after, political and secular considerations. In Yaweh’s Zion there could be no oppression and violence, it must be a haven for the poor (evionim). But once the holiness of Jerusalem had fused with the secular nation state, its Palestine inhabitants became a vulnerable minority and their presence a contamination. (Fields of Blood).
If you search Jerusalem on Wikipedia, the points of interest are:- I, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, ii Western wall, iii Temple Mount and More. People also search for 1 Israel, ii Tel Aviv iii Mandatory Palestine Arab symbols and marks have weak advocates in modern founts of knowledge. The Domes of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque will continue to shimmer in the horizon of Jerusalem, these domes are most exquisite structures from past of the city. It is apt to quote here Armstrong, calling octagonal Dome of Rock “a map of Islam”. ‘The Dome itself, which would become such feature of Muslim architecture, is a powerful symbol of the soaring ascent to heaven. But it also reflects the perfect balance of Tawhid, its exterior, which reaches towards the infinity of the sky, is as perfect replica of its internal dimension. It illustrates the way, the divine and human, inner and outer world fit and complement one another as the two halves of a single whole. The very colours of shrine also convey a message. In Islamic art, blue colour of sky suggests infinity, while gold is the colour of knowledge, which in the Quran is faculty which brings Muslims an apprehension of God (A History of Jerusalem: one city, three faiths)
WalidKhalidi, a Palestinian scholar, suggested a resolution of Jerusalem problem in his article” Thinking the unthinkable: – A sovereign Palestinian State” Sumantra Bose cites the some details of proposed resolution in his book “Contested Lands”. “East Jerusalem is the natural capital of Sovereign Palestine State, to make it so, would involve the partition of the city along pre 1967 armistice lines but not necessarily a return to the status quo ante bellum in its all details. Partition solution does not mean the erection of a wall, the frontiers could remain open between the capital of Israel in West Jerusalem and the capital of Arab-Palestine in East Jerusalem. A joint cross- border Israel- Palestinian body in Jerusalem tasked with certain essential common services and grand interfaith council of Jewish, Muslim and Christian representatives under U.N or rotating chairmanship to administer a regime for the holy places in the old city, which would include, an irreversible right of access to the wailing wall for Jews as many refugees as possible need to resettled in the East Jerusalem. The resolution authored in 1978 has a resonance in the present. Presently the only elements of the Israeli’s state visible in East Jerusalem are the restrictive planning laws and security (The author can be reached at: mmuddin @ 2804 gmail.com)