JERUSALEM: A Pocket History for Trump

GOLAN HEIGHTS SETTLEMENT TO BECOME ‘TRUMP HEIGHTS’

The announcement by Benjamin Netanyahu that an illegal settlement in the  Golan Heights is to be renamed ‘TRUMP HEIGHTS’ provides a timely reminder of the strategy behind the unseemly Trump –  Netanyahu alliance and their open contempt for a just settlement of Palestinian rights. Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria in the closing stages of the 1967 Six-Day War.  Israel continues to flout the UN directive which forbids the building of settlements in what is internationally regarded as occupied territory.  Syria wants a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 border, this would give Damascus control of the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee which provides Israel’s main source of fresh water through the now occupied territory. This  latest move follows the audacious decision in March by President Trump to relocate the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,  changing the disputed status of Jerusalem without consultation and in the face of complete opposition from world leaders. Such a move suggests either a degree of ineptness or a callous disregard for the deepest feelings of those concerned. King Abdullah of Jordan, currently Custodian of the Holy Sites in Jerusalem, warned of the potential dangerous repercussions. 

HISTORY OF JERUSALEM

 Whatever our faith we tend to view Jerusalem from our own  perspective. While  sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians, the site is however much older than any of these religious traditions, artefacts show  it was first settled between 4,500–3,500 BCE. The original inhabitants of Jerusalem were Phoenician Canaanites, their culture is believed to have pioneered the Mediterranean system of agriculture, intensive horticulture, grain growing and commercial olive cultivation. Old Testament scripture states that the land is named after Canaan, a son of Ham, son of Noah, the ancestor of the Canaanite people. The Canaanites of the southern Levante worshipped a panoply of gods; the first known mention of the city of Jerusalem was in c. 2,000 BCE.

PHILISTIA  (present day Gaza on the Mediterranean coast of Israel) was the name of a region between Egypt and Canaan believed to be founded  c 2,100BC.  The Old Testament states that the inhabitants were Philistines. In Hebrew, Philistine literally means ‘of  Palestine’ (Phillistia). The name Jerusalem is of Canaanite origin, meaning “Founded by Shalem”: Originally ‘Urushalim’ or ‘Urushalem’ the prefix uru means ‘founded by’, and the suffix salem or Shalem refers to the Canaanite ‘god of dusk, of the setting sun and of health and perfection’. The Sumero-Akkadian name for Jerusalem (1330 BCE) uru-salim, means “foundation of [or by] the god ‘Shalim‘ from Hebrew/Semitic meaning ‘to found, to lay a cornerstone’.

Though not a part of Canaan and never conquered by the Israelites, Phillistia was in the area promised to the Israelites by their God. The two nations were initially on peaceful terms but eventually warred for centuries. Goliath the giant was the Philistine from Gath, who was killed by David  the shepherd boy (later King of Israel) with a slingshot stone. Under the later Roman occupation of Judea, Phillistia was renamed Palaestina,  the name Palestine and the Arab word Filistin originate from the Romanised Palaestina

According to the Old Testament  Abraham, the patriarch of Judaism, was born  in 1,813 BCE, he was a native of Ur of the Chaldeans, in Mesopotamia, now south eastern Iraq. He was led by God to settle in Haran. The Torah traces his  lineage through his grandson Jacob and through his twelve sons who became the ancestors of the twelve tribes of Israel. The name Israel comes from the renaming of Jacob following a heroic struggle when he wrestled with an angel. The Hebrew bible states the name is derived from ‘yisra’ meaning ‘to prevail over’ and ‘el ‘referring to ‘God, the divine’.

Following a famine Jacob’s descendants, the Hebrews, migrated to Egypt and under the patronage of Joseph, Jacob’s son, established a thriving community, which in time became viewed as a threat to the indigenous population. After Joseph’s death they were enslaved in Egypt for 400 years until Moses led them to freedom. The Hebrews were directed through the Sinai Peninsula to Canaan, the ‘land flowing with milk and honey’  promised  to them by their God. Canaan had an indigenous population of both settled and nomadic groups; the  Israelites were commanded  by their god to conquer Canaan. The  conquest occurred under Joshua in c.1,406BC. The  Book of Joshua states that Canaanites are included in a list of nations to exterminate and later described as a group which the Israelites had annihilated. Today this has been equated with genocide.

According to the Bible, the Israelite history of the city of Jerusalem began c.1,000 BCE, when the city of David was sacked by King David who later united the 12 tribes of Israel. Solomon, his son, built the Temple of Jerusalem, however following his death, the kingdom was split into two parts, 10 tribes of Israel and 2 of Judah.  The Jewish people were  exiled in the Assyrian conquest (740 BCE)  and in the Babylonian conquest (587/6 BCE) . After the Fall of Babylon  to the Persians, King Cyrus the Great allowed the descendants of the  tribes of the Kingdom of Judah  to return to Israel. The 10 tribes who never returned are referred to as ‘the Ten lost tribes of Israel’ who were  scattered globally in the diaspora.

Recent History:

ZIONISM IS NOT A RELIGIOUS TERM. IT DEFINES THE POLITICAL MOVEMENT COINED IN 1890 TO PROMOTE THE RETURN OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE TO PALESTINE AND THE RESUMPTION OF JEWISH SOVEREIGNTY IN THE LAND OF ISRAEL. THE NAME COMES FROM THE HILL OF ZION ON WHICH THE TEMPLE OF JERUSALEM WAS BUILT.

In 1917 in response to  the  Zionist political movement, Great Britain recognized the rights of the Jewish people to establish a “national homeland for the people of Palestine”.  In 1947 the UN voted for the Partition of Palestine, in 1948 Britain withdrew when their  Mandate for Palestine as a Protectorate ended. The  Zionist movement immediately declared a State of Israel in Palestine, triggering the Arab invasion and later the Arab/Israeli war and the eventual  Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. Since that time, Palestinians have been dispossessed of their rights and remain stateless. The restoration of East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital has been an inherent part of endless Peace negotiations for a two State solution until the recent declaration by President Trump.

Post script: Palestinians are now seeking a non partisan peace broker to replace the US in negotiations.

(First published December 13 2017)

(Note:Previous blog: Errata/Tribes of Israel corrected)

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