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It might be unclear at first why that policy change is so important. Jerusalem is, after all, the de facto capital of Israel. The Israeli parliament (Knesset) is there, as are the prime minister’s office, the president’s residence, the Supreme Court, and all of the executive agencies. Israelis consider Jerusalem their capital whether or not the U.S. recognizes it as such. As a practical matter, the change is symbolic. But as such, it is still extremely important.
To understand why, it is important to understand the history of the city. The Old Testament describes in 2 Samuel 5 how King David conquered the city and made it his capital, over 3000 years ago. It later describes in 1 Kings 8 how David’s son, King Solomon, built the Holy Temple and installed the Ark of the Covenant there. Since then, Jews have always faced Jerusalem in their daily prayers. It is the center of the Jewish faith and the core of Jewish history.
The Bible also tells the story of how the Jews were exiled from Jerusalem by the Babylonians, and later returned to rebuild the Temple. Another exile happened after 70 A.D., when the Romans destroyed the Second Temple and the city itself. Still, many Jews remained, and Jews worldwide prayed for 2,000 years for a return to “Zion.” Jews have been the largest ethnic group in Jerusalem for nearly 200 years, and a majority since the mid-nineteenth century.
Jerusalem is also holy to Christians and to Muslims, though it is less central to either. And under Israeli sovereignty, all religions have enjoyed the freedom to worship at their respective holy sites. The Temple Mount — or Haram ash-Sharif, to Muslims — has only been closed when there are imminent security threats, as radicals have sometimes used that holy site to attack Jews worshipping at the Western Wall — the last remnant of the Temple — below.
Jews began returning to the region in large numbers in the late nineteenth century as part of the Zionist movement, which aimed to re-establish Israel as a modern state, and as a refuge for the persecuted Jews of Europe. In 1917, the British government backed the establishment of a Jewish “national home” in what was then called Palestine (though the Arabs of the region did not call themselves Palestinians), in lands under British control since World War One.
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COMMENTS VIA TWITTER
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