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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Jerusalem, the Most Special City in the World and International Law

Nadene Goldfoot
Judaism is a religion regarding the living.  It does not focus on when we die.  To live, we have rules and regulations regarding ourselves and our fellow man.  We have not only the ten commandments but 613 to follow as well.  Because of this, we have produced a lot of lawyers.  You can say that we are very interested in laws.  One lawyer I admire the most is Alan Dershowitz who has written many books defending Israel and her rights.

Right now the biggest concern is over Jerusalem and international law.  Israel has been very sincere and has found itself in the position to defend itself over having Jerusalem as its capital, which is pretty silly in itself being King David of Israel back in 1000-960 BCE established Jerusalem as the capital.  Remember him?  He was a fighter against the Philistines, son in law of King Saul, first king of Israel.

It was the capital in 586 BCE and again between 516 BCE and 70 CE.  The only people it has ever been a capital for has been for the Jews.   The Jews today are the people with the longest unbroken historical connection with Jerusalem starting from nearly 3,000 years ago.  Jerusalem is the focus of national and religious aspirations.  It is today the seat of the President of the State, the Knesset, the Government, the Supreme Court, the Chief Rabbinate, the Hebrew University and the Israel Museum and Boys Town just for starters.  It is where the Western Wall (Wailing Wall)  is, which is the holiest shrine of the Jews.  It dates back from the time of the 2nd Temple.  It is part of the wall that enclosed Herod's Temple and still stands in the Old City of Jerusalem.  It was very close to the Holy of Holies section of our temple which was at the Western end of the Temple, so is regarded as sacred and this goes back to the Talmudic Period in the 10th Century where regular services were held before it.

For Christians, Jerusalem is the link that begins with Jesus of Nazareth and the places with the story of his life and death.  For them, their holy place is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

For Moslems, Jerusalem rates 3rd in holiness after Mecca and Medina.  The mosque of Al Aqsa on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem which stands over our original Temple is one of the holiest shrines of Islam.  All these religious Holy places are administered by the religious bodies to which they belong under Israeli law.

Israel, the rebirth of which was May 14, 1948, lost East Jerusalem to Jordan in the fight who grabbed it.  That meant that for 19 years between 1948 and 1967, Jerusalem was divided in two parts between Israel and Jordan.  There was a wall of barbed wire and concrete separating the two parts.  The Jordanians forbid movement of people from one part to another.

A paragraph in the Israel-Jordan 1949 Armistice Agreement affirmed the Jewish right of access to the Wall. However,  it wasn't until 1967 that Jews could again go to the wall which now came under Jewish sovereignty for the first time since the 2nd Temple period.  It was on Shavuot 1967 that the public could visit the wall.  200,000 people went there.  Since then it has been the focal point for Jews from all parts of the world.  Lots of work has gone into landscaping the vicinity.  After 1968 excavations in the area uncovered many remains dating from Temple times.

After the 67 War, Israel liberated Jerusalem and it was reunified.  Today is is experiencing coexistence between Jews and Arabs, between the 3 faiths and between the religious and secular ways of life.

There is a 2 day conference in Jerusalem ending Wednesday (today) being held for international legal officials this week focusing on the status of Jerusalem.  The international Alliance for Justice in Jerusalem, a Toronto-based not -for-profit-organization with branches in many cities around the world,  is hosting this event at the King David Hotel.  This is where I met my cousin, Stanley Goldfoot back in 1981. The keynote address was from the Mayor, Nir Barkat, in the opening session.  They had sessions on the political, judicial and diplomatic issues facing the city dealing with the status of Jerusalem under international law.  The rest of the world does not see it as our capital and refuses to agree with Israel including the USA.

On July 30, 1980, the Knesset passed a basic law making "Jerusalem, complete and united…the capital of Israel."
"Under international law Israel has a legal right to its capital Jerusalem, " agreed Jacques Gauthier,   international jurist and human rights advocate who founded the organization that hosted this conference.  .

"Israel has filed strenuous protests  against this policy of not accepting Jerusalem as the capital, asserting that:
  • There is no basis in international law for denying Israel's establishing its capital in Jerusalem, because there is no binding treaty that makes the city a Corpus separatum.
  • The 1980 Basic Law is not a legal innovation and only affirms Israel's long-standing position on Jerusalem.
  • Israel has the sovereign right to establish its capital at the most meaningful place for its people, and its claim is unique.
  • Objections to Jerusalem as Israel's capital are political in nature, and not legal.
In its 2004 advisory opinion on the legality of the Israeli West Bank barrier, the International Court of Justice concluded that the lands captured by Israel in the 1967 war, including East Jerusalem, are occupied territory."

Jerusalem, that city that has been referred to as:
1. Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth (Bible, Zechariah, 8,3)
2. Jerusalem which is bound firmly together (bible, Psalms, 122, 3)
3. Eternity means Jerusalem (Talmud, Berakhot, 58)
4. There is no beauty like the beauty of Jerusalem (Avot Derabbi Nathan, Talmudic Commentary)

Jerusalem was a city with a population of 300,000 people in 1973 enjoying the fruits of unification.  By 2011 there were 497,000 Jews, 281,000 Muslims, 14,000 Christians and 9,000 irreligious making up the city's population which meant that 64% were Jewish and 36% were Arabs.

Resource: Arkutz Sheva:  Gathering Focuses on Legal Status of Jerusalem by Chana Ya'ar
The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
Facts About Israel, Division of Information, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Jerusalem
Myths and Facts by Mitchell G. Bard, Joel Himelfarb, pages 220-233 Ch 18 Jerusalem

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