Sunday was a national holiday in Israel. Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day) commemorates the reunification of the city of Jerusalem, as a result of the Six-Day War, in the early days of June of 1967.
When the Israeli 1948 War of Independence ended with an armistice with the five Arab countries surrounding it, Jordan retained occupational forces in parts of Jerusalem and the historic Jewish territories of Judea and Samaria, known by the Arabs as the West Bank. Tensions and deadly skirmishes continued for 19 years until Israel was able to establish control over the Old City and the territories in 1967.
Jerusalem had not been under complete Jewish control since the sixth century B.C. This modern reality is highly significant for the Jewish, as well as Christian, faiths.
Jerusalem's Mt. Moriah was where Abraham, the forefather of the Jews, had prepared an altar and was willing to sacrifice his son, Isaac, before God provided the sacrificial lamb. It was also where the lauded Jewish King David later bought a threshing floor area, where his son Solomon would build the first Jewish Temple.
In addition to father Abraham and King David, Jerusalem and Solomon's famous Temple was important to Jesus, the Jewish Messiah and our Savior! Notice these connection points:
- Jesus was dedicated and prayed over in the Temple as a newborn (Luke 2:21-40).
- Jesus, as a boy, discussed doctrine with the leaders in the Temple (2:41-52).
- Jesus cleansed the Temple by driving out merchants money changers (Matt. 21:12).
- Jesus declared "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19-21).
- Jesus' authority was questioned as He taught and preached in the Temple (Luke 20:1-8).
- Jesus told the disciples about the future destruction of the Temple (Matt. 24:1-2).
- Jesus challenged the crowd, including the temple guards, why they did not seize him when he was "daily in the Temple" with them (Matt. 26:55).
- Jesus healed the blind man and later, in the Temple courts, told him to sin no more lest something worse happen to him (John 5:14).
- Jesus taught in the temple during the Feast of Passover (John 7:14).
- Jesus claimed his authority to teach came directly from God (7:28).
- Jesus taught in the treasury area of the Temple, but no one arrested him, "for His hour had not come." (John 8:20).
- Jesus walked right through a throng that was going to stone Him. (John 8:59).
- Jesus openly taught in synagogues and in the Temple and "said nothing in secret. (John 18:20).
- The early church preached Jesus Christ, "in the temple and from house to house'" in Jerusalem (Acts 5:52).
The ancient Jews were first taken captive by the Babylonians in 597 B.C., while the majority were deported in 586 B.C. and held in captivity for 70 years. Finally, they were allowed to slowly migrate back to the land to rebuild the walls of the ancient city of Jerusalem and a meager version of the temple, itself.
These Jews held some local autonomy from time to time, but mainly they were a vassal state of some greater authority. By the time of Jesus, Jerusalem was under Roman authority and controlled by Syrian mercenaries of the Roman military, along with appointed governors and "kings."
The Roman authorities sought to control the rebellious Jews by exiling many to other conquered lands and by merging Roman Judea with Roman Syria. They called the combined province Syria Palaestra and Jerusalem became Aelia Capitolina.
By the seventh and eighth centuries A.D., Muslim armies viciously marauded throughout the Arab peninsula and the Middle East, dominating the weak tribes and peoples of those areas.
There is no evidence Mohammed ever set foot in Jerusalem before his death in 683 A.D. and Islam's Dome of the Rock was not built by his followers on the former Jewish Temple mount until the late eighth century A.D. Their Mosque of Omar, on the southern section of the Temple Mount, was not built until the 12th Century.
The ill-considered Christian "Crusades" were unfortunate responses by imperfect people and popes to the aggressive conquests of Islamic invaders throughout the Christianized northern Africa, eastern Mediterranean territories and eastern Europe.
In addition to localized Islamic warlords, the Islamic caliphate, known as the Ottoman Empire, ruled or harassed many of these previously Christianized areas for nearly four hundred years, until after World War 1.
While the territory around Jerusalem has historically had a Jewish remnant since the time of King David, Islamic control of the land required they accept the humiliation know as dhimmi, where non-Muslim "infidels" or "unbelievers" in an Islamic state must pay a demeaning tax to be allowed to live and work as second-class citizens, constantly having to defer to any Muslim.
After World War 1, the British accepted a mandate from the League of Nations to administer non-governing territories of the former Ottoman Empire, with the aim to develop "a homeland for the Jews." The territory, known since Roman Days as Palestine, was to be divided between Arabs and Jews.
First, the British determined the land east of the Jordan River would be for the Arabs and became the Emirate of Transjordan, in 1923. But the Arabs on the western side of the Jordan revolted against the historic territory on the western side of the Jordan River becoming an independent, Jewish state. The British attempted to administer the disputed territory for another 25 years until their mandate expired in 1948.
In May of 1948, with the support of the United States in the United Nations, the Jews declared independence and announced their new state would be known as Israel.
Immediately, the Arab countries surrounding the nascent nation urged the local Arabs to leave the area so they could make a quick defeat of the new Jewish state militarily. By God's grace, the Jewish forces excelled and an armistice was finally declared, with boundaries set at the "Green Line," where the fighting had stopped.
The city of Jerusalem was divided, with Israel controlling the newer suburbs around it and Jordan controlled the holy sites within and the Old City as well as the West Bank.
And so it remained until the Arabs nations attacked again in 1967.
That time, Israel gained the Golan Hills in the north from Syria, Gaza in the south from Egypt and the city of Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan.
Since then, there have been other recognized Arab-Israeli wars, Palestinian intifadas and many "armed conflicts." Israel has attempted to trade land for peace but true peace has never come to this holy land.
Yet, God's word calls for us all to "pray for the peace of Jerusalem" (Psalm 122:6).
As the Jews celebrate "Yom Yerushalayim" (Jerusalem Day) and remember the armed conflict of 1967 which gave them possession of this historic, holy city, it would be well for God's people everywhere to pray and work for His peace in our world.
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