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Articles Blog

Jerusalem, Israel

Karyn Planett

The City of Gold

To quote Robert Byron from his 1937 work, The Road to Oxiana, "The city (of Jerusalem) stands in the mountains, a scape of domes and towers enclosed by crenellated walls and perched on a table of rock above a deep valley. As far as the distant hills of Moab the contours of the country resemble those of a physical map, sweeping up the slopes in regular, stratified curves, and casting grand shadows in the sudden valleys. Earth and rock reflect the lights of a fire-opal."

Kings And Rulers

Looking back into the dog-eared pages of history we learn that King Melchizedek was the first recorded ruler of Jerusalem. At that time, 1850 B.C., the city was known as "Urusalim" or "Salem." In time King David, king of the ancient Hebrews, overran the city and declared it a Holy City. It was his son Solomon who reigned peacefully and created many foreign alliances, developed trade and built the first Hebrew temple in Jerusalem at Mount Moriah.

This temple was destroyed by marauding Babylonian forces led by King Nebuchadnezzar. He ravaged the city and banished her citizens to wander in exile. In time, a second temple was constructed. Judas Maccabaeus and a band of Jews rose up against the then-ruling Seleucids and once again brought the Jewish faith back to Jerusalem.

The Romans were a major presence in Jerusalem under the rule of Herod the Great who had befriended Marc Antony who bestowed upon Herod the title of King of Judaea. Herod ruled the Jews with a heavy and bloody hand. He ordered the massacre of many innocents during the time Christ was born.

The Legacy Of Masada

Following Jesus' crucifixion Titus' forces devastated the city of Jerusalem and punished Jewish Zealots. Some Jews managed to escape death but were driven from their city. One thousand of them holed up in Masada, Herod the Great's mountain top fortress in the Judaean Desert near the Dead Sea. For three long and painful years, Roman soldiers camped in the fields surrounding the base of the fortress. Slaves were brought in to construct a giant assault ramp to the mountain top. When the Zealots, led by Elazar Ben Yair, realized they faced starvation or conquest, they chose suicide rather than surrender. Only two women and five children of the original 1,000 Zealots survived. The others died at their own hands, suffering death over defeat.

The Not So Distant Past

The Moslems came to Jerusalem and constructed the Dome of the Rock in 691. The Crusaders and the Mamelukes followed. Then the Ottoman Turks, led by Suleiman the Magnificent, whose architects and artisans brought Jerusalem back to its former glory.

In the year 1917 the British supported the idea of a homeland for the Jews. Having wrestled control of Jerusalem from the Turks, the British prepared the famous Balfour Declaration that proposed a Jewish national state in Palestine. Thirty years later the United National declared two Palestines, one Arabic and one Jewish. The city of Jerusalem owed its allegiance to neither faction, for the U.N. proclaimed Jerusalem an international city.

With World War II a closed chapter in the history books, the British withdrew their forces from Israel and left behind Chaim Weizmann as the country's first president. The year, 1948.

Recent history illustrates the difficulties those of differing faiths and ancestry faced by who live side-by-side in a country as small as Israel. However in 1993, a new framework for a Peace Agreement was signed by Israel's Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat. The world looks cautiously toward Israel with hopeful eyes and a prayer for peace.