JERUSALEM: One City, Three Faiths
by Karen Armstrong (1997)
By Wayne A. Holst
JERUSALEM AND THE LAND OF THREE GREAT FAITHS
“The Holy Land in general and Jerusalem in particular have become essential to the spiritual geography of Jews, Christians and Muslims,” writes Karen Armstrong in her book – Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths.
THE HEBREW TRADITION
Begins at approximately 2000 BCE (Before the Common Era) or 4,000 years ago when Abraham left Mesopotamia in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley to the east and sojourned westward to Canaan “the Promised Land.” Here he fathered Isaac and Ishmael, the patriarchal founders of both the Jewish and Muslim faiths. The Hebrew Temple in Jerusalem was sacked and destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE and most Jews were forced to leave their land until November, 1947 when the United Nations partitioned Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. This marked the beginning of the modern state of Israel.
THE CHRISTIAN TRADITION
Jesus arrived on the scene in the ancient regions of Judah and Israel in 33 CE (The Common Era). He became a well-known preacher and healer, observing the Jewish festivals like Passover in Jerusalem. He is arrested and crucified by the Romans, but his disciples were convinced he rose from the dead. They persuaded others to believe in Jesus as the Messiah and in the Resurrection (the central Christian tenets separating it from the Jewish faith, and giving birth to a new religion). Over the centuries, some Palestinian Arabs became Christians, but their numbers have been in decline due to Jewish and Islamic persecution. There are a dwindling number of Christians in the Holy Land.
THE ISLAMIC TRADITION
In 705 CE a small Muslim prayer house was built close to the site of the ancient Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Eventually, Muslims built The Dome of the Rock (not a mosque, but a holy site, displacing most of the ancient remains on Temple Mount.) Christian sites such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (where Jesus body was to have been laid after he died on the cross) were built over the centuries.
Crusaders from Europe made a number attempts to reclaim sacred places that had been taken over by Muslims, but this era ended after 1,300 CE. The region continued as a locus of religious controversy.
A FRUSTRATING BUT IMPORTANT ENCOUNTER OF THE TRADITIONS
Most of modern Palestinian Territory and Sinai were taken over by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967. In March of 1979 at Camp David, Maryland Jimmy Carter worked out a treaty between Israel and Egypt to establish diplomatic relations and the withdrawal of Israel from Sinai. In July, 2000 the Palestinian and Israeli leaders met with US President Bill Clinton to create an agreement for Palestinian self-government in Gaza and parts of the West Bank. This was confirmed in 1993 with the so-called Oslo Accords. These hopeful efforts failed to accomplish the mutual goal of freedom for the Palestinians and recognition of Israel’s right to exist in peace and security among its Arab neighbors. Just recently, the Palestinians have declared that they are no longer bound by the Oslo agreements.
So today, in spite of much effort and good will on all sides, a continuing state of unrest – even terrorism – exists with regular flare-ups.
At the same time, the Holy Land remains an important spiritual centre for people of all three faith traditions.