“Be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in My people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.” (Isaiah 65:18–19)
Today is an Israeli national holiday—Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day).
This day of rejoicing, which is kept in Israel and around the globe, commemorates the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli sovereignty over the Old City in June 1967 during the Six Day War.
It is marked by special prayers, programs and lectures, as well as parades through downtown Jerusalem and memorial services for those soldiers who died in the battle for the city.
It is not just a national holiday; it is considered a minor religious holiday as the Chief Rabbinate of Israel declared it so in order to thank God for victory and for answering the 2,000-year-old prayer of “Next Year in Jerusalem.”
Jerusalem: The Heart of the Universe
“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” (Revelation 21:2)
For those who believe in God’s word, Jerusalem is the heart of the universe.
It is from this city that the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) will reign at His return.
Indeed, this city has a glorious prophetic future and is of central importance in the Word of God, which states that at the end of the age, the New Jerusalem that will come down from heaven and the earth will experience a physical manifestation of God’s kingdom.
Many who claim to have experienced heaven describe it as the city of Jerusalem where the streets are paved with liquid gold. (Revelation 21:21)
Jerusalem has long been the heart of the Jewish People.
Today, it is unquestionably the center of the Jewish state. Many Jewish lives were lost fighting for its reunification in 1967.
“Jerusalem is the heart of our heart, the soul of our soul,” Nobel Prize-winning author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel wrote in an open letter to President Obama published as a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal.
“For me, the Jew that I am, Jerusalem is above politics. It is mentioned more than six hundred times in Scripture—and not a single time in the Koran. Its presence in Jewish history is overwhelming.… It belongs to the Jewish people and is much more than a city, it is what binds one Jew to another in a way that remains hard to explain. When a Jew visits Jerusalem for the first time, it is not the first time; it is a homecoming.”
Though the Jewish People have been attached to this city some 3,000 years, for many nations and individuals, it is a stumbling block and a bone of contention, as demonstrated by the recent peace negotiations in which Palestinians sought to divide Jerusalem and keep the ancient part on which Judaism’s First and Second Temples once stood. (Isaiah 8:14; Romans 9:33)
This contested section of Jerusalem not only contains Judaism’s most holy site, the Temple Mount, but also the Western Wall of the holy Temple’s courtyard, and other heritage sites such as Ir David (the City of David).
Last night, in a Yom Yerushalayim ceremony at Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, where a terror attack took place in 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasize that Jerusalem is indivisible.
“We take care of the nation’s heart. We will never divide our heart,” he said. “This is the heart of the nation and it must be united.” (JPost)
As precious as Jerusalem is to the Jewish People, Israel also recognizes that it is dear to Christians and Muslims.
It is the location of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, believed by the Catholic Church to be the site of Yeshua’s crucifixion and burial.
As well, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, which are holy to Muslims, are situated on the Temple Mount.
Today, the Catholic Church would like to make Jerusalem an international city.
Rumors abound that they are attempting to gain control of the Upper Room on Mount Zion, also known as the Cenacle, as well as the Garden of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. (Arutz 7)
The first floor of the Cenacle is the location of the revered King David’s Tomb where public classes are also held, hosted by the Diaspora Yeshiva (a Jewish seminary) which is located nearby.
Speaking for the Catholic Church, former Vatican foreign minister Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran said in 2011, “There will not be peace if the question of the holy sites is not adequately resolved.
“The part of Jerusalem within the walls—with the holy sites of the three religions—is humanity’s heritage. The sacred and unique character of the area must be safeguarded and it can only be done with a special, internationally-guaranteed statute.”
In line with this desire to see Jerusalem become an international city, The Vatican’s former archbishop in Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, approached the European Union and United States in 2011 with the request to “stop the Hebraization of Jerusalem.” (Arutz 7)
But Jerusalem was the capital city of the Jewish people over a millennium before the Catholic Church even came into existence.
Moreover, Israel respects and protects religious freedoms, which is almost unheard of in this region of the world.
“After reuniting Jerusalem in 1967, Israel abolished discriminatory laws that denied Jews any access to holy places. Israel introduced religious freedoms that allow millions of Muslims and Christians to visit and pray in their holy sites in Jerusalem. Today Jerusalem is an open city for all faiths that celebrates religious tolerance and diversity,” Ambassador Ron Prossor recently wrote in an open letter to Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary-General.
Jerusalem: An Ancient City
“They will shake their fist at the mount of Daughter Zion, at the hill of Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 10:32)
Yerushalayim has a long history.
The first known mention in the archaeological record is found in the Middle Kingdom Egyptian Execration Texts (c. 2000 BCE), which calls the city Rusalimum, which seems to share the same root S-L-M as the modern Hebrew word shalom and Arabic word salam (peace). Alternatively, it could be derived from Shalem, the god of dusk in the Canaanite religion.
The name Yerushalayim or Jerusalem is probably the Hebrew rendition of a prior name “Urusalim,” a Semitic name meaning “Foundation of Shalem.”
Some experts believe that the Hebrew form of the name is possibly a blend of the words yerusha (heritage) or yeru (settlement) with the original name Shalem, meaning the heritage or abode of Shalim.
The Hebraic rendition of the name means “City of Peace,” from the Hebrew word for peace or completeness.
Originally, Jerusalem seems to have been a Canaanite settlement, which dates back to the early Bronze Age (3,300 to 2,100 BC).
The city is first mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 14:18 when Abraham pays tithes to Melchizedek, priest of Salem.
The name Jerusalem is first seen in Joshua 10:1. In that passage, the city’s King Adoni-Zedek joins forces with four other Amorite kings to attack the city of Gibeon, which had formed an alliance with Joshua.
Joshua comes to the aid of Gibeon and fights against the confederation of the five Amorite kings.
During this battle, the sun and moon stand still, miraculously extending the day for a complete victory.
Jerusalem is also mentioned in Judges 1:8, when the men of Judah sacked it and set it on fire.
Jerusalem, nevertheless, continued to be a Jebusite city, since the men of Judah and the Benjamites (who were both assigned parts of the city as their inheritance) were unsuccessful in driving them out and, instead, chose to live with them as neighbors:
“The Benjamites, however, did not drive out the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjamites.” (Judges 1:21, see also Joshua 15:63)
Four hundred years later, David took Jerusalem from the Jebusites making it his capital. Under the rule of King David, Jerusalem was known as Ir David or City of David, which is a hill situated just south of the Temple Mount.
“The king and his men marched to Jerusalem to attack the Jebusites, who lived there.… They thought, ‘David cannot get in here.’ Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion—which is the City of David.” (2 Samuel 5:6–7)
David moved to Jerusalem the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the two stone tablets received by Moses on Mount Sinai.
He chose Mount Moriah, which is now called the Temple Mount, as the site of the future temple. That location stands on the border between the tribes of Benjamin and Judah.
The Return to Jerusalem
“Although you have been forsaken and hated, with no one traveling through, I will make you the everlasting pride and the joy of all generations.” (Isaiah 60:15)
For over 3,300 years, there has been a continuous Jewish presence in Jerusalem except when the Romans drove them out after the Bar Kokhba revolt, which lasted from AD 132–135.
At that point the Second Temple was no longer standing. It had been destroyed in AD 70 following the Great Revolt of the Jewish People, which was crushed by the Romans.
The Bar Kokhba revolt broke out in AD 132 when Roman Emperor Hadrian reneged on his promise to rebuild the Holy Temple.
Instead, he made plans to turn Jerusalem into a pagan city packed with worship centers to numerous gods, including a temple to Jupiter on the site of the destroyed Temple.
The revolt was led by Simon Bar Kosiba. Rabbi Akiva changed his name to Simon Bar Kokhba (son of a star) because he had decided that Bar Kosiba was the fulfillment of Numbers 24:17: “there shall come a star out of Jacob.”
The star was believed to be a reference to the Messiah, who would relieve Israel of oppression.
Bar Kokhba, with his army of anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 men, was able to drive the Romans out of the land and establish an independent state, even minting his own coins.
It lasted for two and a half years.
Hadrian only succeeded in taking back the land by employing at least 12 of 24 legions, but the cost was high.
On the 9th of Av in 135 AD, the same date as the destruction of the First and Second Temples, the city of Jerusalem fell once again to the Romans.
In an attempt to erase the presence of Jews from the city of Jerusalem and the land of Israel, Hadrian completely leveled Jerusalem and built a pagan city on the rubble called Aelia Capitolina.
To further add to the indignity, Hadrian renamed the land Philistia—after the Philistines—Israel’s greatest enemy of Bible times.
Jews were restricted from entering the city except on the 9th of Av so they could be reminded of the great disaster that they brought on themselves.
Nothing remained of the Temple except some retaining walls.
For hundreds of years, the section of the wall called the Western Wall or Wailing Wall was the only area that Jews were allowed to approach.
And so the Jewish People who had lived in the land of Israel, with Jerusalem as its capital for over 1,400 years were scattered throughout the Roman Empire, where even the practice of Judaism became illegal.
A Jewish remnant, however, has always remained in the land. In fact, since the early 1800s, the city’s population has been predominantly Jewish.
Following World War I, the British were given a mandate over the land to the east and west of the Jordan River, and Hadrian’s new name for the Land of Israel—Philistia or Palestine—was resurrected. Of course, this is the origin of the term Palestinians, which was applied to anyone from the Land, whether Jew or Gentile.
After the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the Jordanians took the eastern portion of Jerusalem by force. That section includes the Old City of Jerusalem. The western portion is more recent in origin, and it served as the capital of the Jewish state until the city was reunified in 1967, when the Arab drums of war began beating once again.
Although the Palestinians are currently claiming Jerusalem as their capital, when the Jordanians held it, they made no attempt to move their capital from Amman to Jerusalem or to make it the capital for all of the Arab-“Palestinian” people. Few Arab leaders even bothered to travel there.
Throughout Arab history, the city has held interest for Arabs and Muslims only when it became economically or politically beneficial for them. Otherwise, the city was mostly disregarded.
The Koran itself orders the direction of prayer to Mecca to distinguish Islam from the Jewish faith that prays toward Jerusalem.
The Time of the Gentiles
“For the Lamb on the throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:17)
The history of Jerusalem has been one of invasion and domination by foreign powers.
The Scriptures and the rabbis teach that this is the result of turning away from God and His commandments.
At first, God sent prophets, such as Isaiah and Jeremiah to warn the people to turn back to God. When they refused to listen, they suffered the consequences of invasion and captivity.
Nevertheless, God has placed a time limit on the control of Jerusalem by the Gentiles.
In Luke 21:24, Yeshua (Jesus) states that Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles until the “time of the Gentiles” is fulfilled. Many believed that the time of the Gentiles ended when Israel reoccupied Jerusalem’s Old City.
Sadly, the Israeli government at that time decided to allow the Muslim Waqf or Islamic trust to maintain its control over the Temple Mount, thus keeping administrative rule of that sacred area in the hands of the Gentiles.
Yeshua describes a period of dread and fright after the time of the Gentiles is fulfilled—“People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” (Luke 21:26)
After that, He will return.
“At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” (Luke 21:27)
Believers understand that the “Time of the Gentiles” will end in the not-too-distant future.
Because the prophecies of His first coming were accurately fulfilled, we can be certain that the prophets also accurately foretold the events of His second coming.
We know that He is coming to Jerusalem, the undivided capital of the Jewish nation of Israel, to enter His rebuilt Temple. (Ezekiel 40–48)
“On that day His feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives, which lies before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley; so that one half of the Mount shall withdraw northward, and the other half southward…. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.” (Zechariah 14:4–5)
There He will reign for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4)
Until that time, Jerusalem will continue to be a focal point for the nations, and a cup of trembling to all who seek to deprive Israel of its undivided capital—Jerusalem—and undermine the nation’s very existence.
“Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth are gathered together against it.” (Zechariah 12:2–3)
Today’s heated rhetoric concerning Jerusalem is fulfillment of Bible prophecy. And for those who love the Lord and His Chosen People, Jerusalem is not a cup of trembling but a source of joy, for it is from Jerusalem that the Jewish Messiah, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, will reign bringing peace to the entire earth.
“When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28)