Earlier this month, Jonathan Gribetz, assistant professor of Jewish studies and history at Rutgers University in New Jersey, delivered a talk about the history of Jerusalem at a local synagogue. He discussed its long history of conquest, from King David to the Six Day War. He called the city “a place where religion and politics are almost inextricable.”
According to Gribetz, when King David conquered the city, his goal was unifying and consolidating his kingdom on both sides of the Jordan. Later, the Romans conquered the city and destroyed the Temple, eventually banning Jews outright from Jerusalem. Eventually, Muslims gained control over the city so that in the Middle Ages, Pope Urban II launched the crusades to liberate it and its Christian residents from ‘savage’ Muslim rule. Since the Muslims built the Dome of the Rock over the site of the Jewish Temple, the Crusaders rededicated the mosque as a church, adding a cross. “The Crusaders came and converted the Dome of Rock to the Temple of the Lord and stuck a cross on top of it,” said Gribetz. “Then the Muslims returned and removed the cross. They cleansed the rock and resanctified and reconsecrated the Dome.” This status remained even after the British captured Jerusalem from the Ottoman Empire during WWI.
Since 1967, when the IDF reunified the city divided during the 1948 Independence War, Israel set a new precedent: allowing all people to access their respective religious sites. The Islamic Waqf, for example, administers the Temple Mount site and the Dome of the Rock, but Israel controls the Western Wall and overall city security (including that of the Mount).
“What is the key to holding the city forever?” Gribetz asked. “Is holding the city ever more tightly the answer, or is sharing the key to permanence…? Is permanence really attainable in a city like Jerusalem?”