Myths and Facts by Eli E. Hertz


Only twice in Jerusalem's history has the city served as a national capital. The first time was as the capital of the two Jewish Commonwealths during the First and Second Temple periods, as described in the Bible, reinforced by archaeological evidence and numerous ancient documents. The second time is in modern times as the capital of the State of Israel. It has never served as an Arab capital for the simple reason that there has never been a Palestinian Arab state.


No matter where Jews lived throughout the world for those two millennia, their thoughts and prayers were directed toward Jerusalem. Even today, whether in Israel, the United States or anywhere else, Jewish ritual practice, holiday celebration, and lifecycle events include recognition of Jerusalem as a core element of the Jewish experience. Consider that:


  Jews in prayer always turn toward Jerusalem.

  Arks (the sacred chests) that hold Torah scrolls in synagogues throughout the world face Jerusalem.

  Jews end Passover Seders each year with the words: "Next year in Jerusalem"; the same words are pronounced at the end of Yom Kippur, the most solemn day of the Jewish year.

  A three-week moratorium on weddings in the summer recalls the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem by the Babylonian army in 586 BCE. That period culminates in a special day of mourning - Tisha B'Av (the 9th day of the Hebrew month Av) - commemorating the destruction of both the First and Second Temples.

  Jewish wedding ceremonies - joyous occasions, are marked by sorrow over the loss of Jerusalem. The groom recites a biblical verse from the Babylonian Exile: "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning," and breaks a glass in commemoration of the destruction of the Temples.


Even body language, often said to tell volumes about a person, reflects the importance of Jerusalem to Jews as a people and, arguably, the lower priority the city holds for Muslims:


  When Jews pray they face Jerusalem; in Jerusalem Israelis pray facing the Temple Mount.

  When Muslims pray, they face Mecca; in Jerusalem Muslims pray with their backs to the city.

  Even at burial, a Muslim face is turned toward Mecca.

  Finally, consider the number of times "Jerusalem" is mentioned in the two religions' holy books:

  The Old Testament mentions 'Jerusalem' 349 times. Zion, another name for 'Jerusalem,' is mentioned 108 times.


The Quran never mentions Jerusalem - not even once.

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