Jerusalem 101: The Puzzle — Part IV

What do I mean by Jerusalem the Puzzle? Jerusalem is like a Russian nesting doll — each doll is unique, impacted by the next doll’s proximity and beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

The geographical puzzle piece is sacred to three religions — Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Not that each of these individual faiths can be seen as a united voice — there are separate factions in each, having strong and differing opinions. Jerusalem is a diamond that reflects the beliefs of the observer.

Jerusalem — what puzzle piece are you referring to?

Are you talking about the Old City of Jerusalem within the fortress walls, and if so, which of the four quarters: Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Armenian — or all of them?

Armenian? I was surprised too the first time I visited Jerusalem. Armenians in Jerusalem date back to the 4th century when they adopted Christianity.1 Armenian monks settled and established the St. James Monastery which houses the Armenian Apostolic Church’s Jerusalem Patriarchate.2 They consider themselves part of the Christian quarter. Their numbers in Jerusalem, have dwindled to as little as 500 estimated living in the Old City — the Israeli-Palestinian conflict makes lousy neighbors.3 Israel considers the Armenians living in the Old City — Palestinian.4

West Jerusalem, also known as New Jerusalem is the modern city outside the Old City fortress walls. It’s a modern metropolis, home to the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament building), the Supreme Court, Mount Herzyl (Israel’s National Cemetery), Yad Vashem (Israel’s Holocaust Museum), and numerous museums and art galleries. It even has a beautiful beach and vibrant nightlife with outdoor cafes. Other than the Jerusalem stone, it looks like any large beach city in the United States. However, what might discourage the less adventuresome from visiting are the far too frequent bombings, stabbings and car rammings.

East Jerusalem — did you hear alarms go off? East Jerusalem is a hotbed of controversy and confusion, starting with the fact that “East Jerusalem includes neighborhoods to the north, east and south of the Old City.”5

In 1949, the War of Independence ended with the signing of separate armistice agreements between Israel and the surrounding Arab states. Israel controlled 78% of the land including West Jerusalem, 22% was split between Jordan (West Bank and East Jerusalem) and Egypt (Gaza Strip).6

A Palestinian state was not established and no Arab state recognized Israel’s existence — though they had signed the agreement.7 The Palestinians now were forced to live under Israeli, Egyptian or Jordanian rule and over the course of the war there were 700,000 refugees.8

Jordan eventually annexed East Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1950 — not the Palestinians as Arabs of Palestine are currently called.9

Jordan did not allow Jews access to their holy sites, even though it was part of the agreement — the Temple Mount located in what is now called East Jerusalem, is the Jews most holy site. The Jewish residents were kicked out of the 58 sacred, ancient temples, half were desecrated by making them stables and chicken coops, and the others were razed.10

The 3,000 year old Mount of Olives Jewish cemetery was vandalized and their tombstones were used to build roads, latrines and Jordanian Army fortifications.11 Reading about the intentional disrespect made me cringe — not exactly an encouraging way to make people want to get along with you.

East Jerusalem’s annexation by Jordan made where the Temple Mount had existed, property of Jordan. Yet when Arabs look at this same site — the buildings they see today are the Muslim’s Noble Sanctuary. The Temple Mount has been buried beneath it for centuries.

Archaeological digs to prove it’s existence have been met with controversy — what would you expect? There are more controversies here than a daytime drama.

Who and where are the Palestinians in this puzzle? Did they leave and become refugees in their own land and in neighboring Arab countries due to their leaders’ insistence, promise of victory, fear from rumors, or by force?

Historians differ with their analysis and you have to be aware from whose side the study was undertaken. Perception — bias is always a third head on this dragon. I admit it, when I research articles I try to be as fair as possible. However, I’m Jewish, and I question myself as well. When a fact catches my eye, why is that? What compels me to mention x and not y? Guilty as charged — what do you expect? Jewish guilt is in my genes.

Did Palestinians become an identified entity in 1919 during the first Arab Palestinian Congress?

Did they become a people in 1948 during Israel’s War of Independence — or what Palestinians call the Nakba (the Catastrophe)? Palestinians left their homes as Palestinian refugees and it is disputed by historians still today — did they leave because their own leaders told them to leave while they took care of killing the Jews, or did they leave forcibly as a result of the Jews winning the war?

Or did Palestinians come to be an entity in 1967 after the Six Day War when Israel won and annexed East Jerusalem which is now often referred to contentiously as occupied territory

Regardless of Israel claiming the territory, Jordan continues to religiously administer the sensitive site of the Muslim Noble Sanctuary (comprised of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock), through the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf.

The bottom line for me in studying this sad history is that with all of the disempowerment and being ignored — often by fellow Arabs, it might just make you mad and want to hurt someone if you were Palestinian — and they do. Although the Palestinian’s anger is targeted not toward the Jordanians nor the Egyptians, but toward Israel. Their life is bleak, and their institutionalized education of hatred unfathomable to most people.

This is not to say that Israel is without blame for treating the Palestinians harshly, but missiles, stabbings and car rammings doesn’t make you want to invite them to your house for dinner, either.

In this dance — it’s hard to sort out who is to blame for which egregious action, or the result — so much pain has been caused against each other. Besides what is the point in trying anyway? To move forward in Peace both sides would have to leave the past behind and look forward to a brighter future.

Knowing what piece of land people are talking about impacted me personally in July 2014 on our family vacation when we found ourselves in the beginnings of war. We were there for two weeks. The war lasted for fifty days and over 4,000 Palestinian rockets pummeled Israel.

The Israeli newspapers and television reports we had been listening to said the Palestinians were bombing the south.

When we got on our tour bus that morning and our tour guide said, “Don’t worry about the bombing, we’re going to the south. You’ll be safe there,” I was confused.

“Why are you taking us to the south when that’s where they are bombing?” I questioned, leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind fear had taken over my body.

“Oh,” our tour guide replied as the light-bulb went on, “the missiles are being sent to the south of Jerusalem — not the south of Israel, where we are headed. We’ll be safe there, the rockets don’t go that far,“ until they did. The GPS on his crystal ball must have been broken.

Israelis knew the media meant Palestinian rockets were targeting the south of Jerusalem — but we didn’t understand this discerning fact. It would have been nice to know sooner. I had spent the weekend during Shabbat when we were between tour groups, looking at our itinerary scared and confused (my theme song for the vacation) and wondering why we were going to where the rockets were landing.

We were going to Eilat, a seaside resort in the far south of Israel. In actuality it turned out instead of being safe — that was our worst night of bombing. 1 a.m., 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. we awoke to sirens blaring, and ran to the bomb shelters at the end of our hotel floor.

Our experiences vacationing while at war are recounted in my book I’m finishing — Blasted from Complacency. I’m looking forward to it being released next year. I’ll let you know when it comes out. Be sure to sign up if you’d like to be notified when my book is released here.

Jerusalem is considered divided by the Palestinians — East Jerusalem (theirs), and West Jerusalem  probably Israel’s. Probably, because some Palestinians still don’t believe Israel has a right to exist, so once again, who you are speaking with, matters.

Both Israel and the Palestinians see Jerusalem as their capital and the international community’s opinion varies — you guessed it, dependent on who they are — not clear in the least.

Do the Palestinians want all of Jerusalem, or part? Does Israel consider the reunification of Jerusalem permanent? Will they insist on governing all of it? Time will tell — the ending chapter to that story hasn’t been written. It’s sure to be a cliff hanger.

To avoid igniting any more frustrations, the United States Embassy has been located in Tel Aviv.  As you probably know, President Trump brought up the subject of moving the United States embassy to Jerusalem — now it’s languishing where it always does, lying in wait like a lion in a cage.

On December 5, 1949, during the establishment of Israel as a nation, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion announced that Jerusalem was the eternal capital of Israel.12 Years later amidst intense international controversy, The Knesset passed the Basic Law on Jerusalem in 1980 confirming Jerusalem was the capital of Israel.13

The United Nations protested this law and called for countries to move their embassies out of Jerusalem. At the time, thirteen countries moved their embassies to Tel Aviv.14

The United States Congress passed The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, which said that the U.S. embassy would be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.15 It has never been implemented because Presidents Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump, view it as a “Congressional infringement on the executive branch’s constitutional authority over foreign policy.”16   It’s become a power struggle in the United States, too.

Yes, you read that correctly. President Trump signed the Presidential Waiver which is renewed every six months just like all of the other previous U.S. presidents. What? Is he talking out of both sides of his mouth? Surprised?

Today, Israelis see Jerusalem as a united city based on the post 1967 Six-Day War expansions when Israel won what is referred to as the occupied territory. Although many nations do not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, nonetheless, Jerusalem functions as Israel’s capital.

Finally, after sorting through all of these complications, what are Christians’ interests in Jerusalem? Jesus was presented as a child at The Temple. The most important Christian site — the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is located here. Jesus preached, healed, was tried, had the Last Supper, was crucified, and was buried there. In addition, there are other Christian holy sites and churches such as Mary’s Tomb, the Church of St. John the Baptist and the Church of All Nations.17

So that’s the extremely complex story and the end of my blog series Jerusalem 101: The Puzzle – Part IV. I hope it’s been helpful.

I wish both sides would realize we are all human, and treat each other humanely. When will a lasting Peace prevail?

As always, I invite you to Join Me on My Journey…


1 “Armenian Quarter,” Wikipedia. Armenian Quarter (accessed August 24, 2017).

2 “Armenian Quarter,” Wikipedia. Armenian Quarter (accessed August 24, 2017).

3 “Armenian Quarter,” Wikipedia. Armenian Quarter (accessed August 24, 2017).

4 “Armenian Quarter,” Wikipedia. (accessed August 24, 2017). Moore, Megan Bishop; Kelle, Brad E. (17 May 2011). “Biblical History and Israel S Past: The Changing Study of the Bible and History”. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing “ via Google Books.

5  “East Jerusalem,” Wikipedia. (accessed August 24, 2017).

Matt Plen, “Israel’s War of Independence,” My Jewish Learning. (accessed August 14, 2017).

7 Martin Gilbert, “Jerusalem: A Tale of One City”, The New Republic, 14 November 1994.

8 Matt Plen, “Israel’s War of Independence,” My Jewish Learning. (accessed August 14, 2017).

9 “Jordanian annexation of the West Bank,” Wikipedia. (accessed August 26, 2017).

10 “Jordanian annexation of the West Bank,” Wikipedia. (accessed August 26, 2017).

11 “Jordanian annexation of the West Bank,” Wikipedia. (accessed August 26, 2017).

12  “Israel Passes Basic Law on Jerusalem, Center for Israel Education.” (accessed August 26, 2017).

13 “Israel Passes Basic Law on Jerusalem, Center for Israel Education.” (accessed August 26, 2017).

14  “Israel Passes Basic Law on Jerusalem,” Center for Israel Education. (accessed August 26, 2017).

15  “The Jerusalem Embassy Act,” Wikipedia., (accessed August 26, 2017).

16 “The Jerusalem Embassy Act” Wikipedia., (accessed August 26, 2017).

17  “Holy Land Voyager,” (accessed August 26, 2017).