Maybe you are wondering why Jews and Arabs both want control of Jerusalem. To understand the current Middle East crisis, you need to understand the history of Jerusalem. This article was written by Dave Hunt for The Berean Call.
THE BEREAN CALL September 2000
And when he (Jesus) was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it….
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord….
And they…shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
Luke 19:41; 13:34-35; 21:24
Jerusalem is undisputably, year after year, the top news story in the world. That fact reflects the fulfillment of multiple prophecies concerning this remarkable city and its unique place in God’s will. The ongoing actualization of these prophecies in our day is absolute proof that God exists, that the Bible is His Word and that the Jews are His chosen people.
The very fact that Jerusalem is mentioned more than 800 times in the Bible makes it worthy of special attention. This unique city is the only one upon which God has bestowed His distinctive blessing and protection (Ps 132:13-14), and the only city for whose peace we are commanded to pray (Ps 122:6). God says He has chosen Jerusalem as the place where He has put His name forever (2 Chr 6:6; 33:7; Ps 46:4; 48:1-8; 87:3).
After decades of pleading with Israel to repent of its idolatrous rebellion, God pronounced through Jeremiah His reluctant judgment upon His city and upon His land (Lv 25:23). Daniel referred to “the word of the Lord…to Jeremiah the prophet” (Jer 25:3-11), that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem” (Dn 9:2).
Two views (the second is correct) define the prophesied 70 years of desolations: 1) that it began with the first taking of captives to Babylon about 605 B.C. (2 Chr 36:6-7) and ended with the Edict of Cyrus around 536 B.C. (Ezr 1:1-4, etc.), allowing Jews to return to Jerusalem; or 2) that it began with the destruction of the temple and the city in 586 B.C. (Jer 52:7-14) and ended with the temples completion about 516 B.C. That the temple was restored and sacrifices resumed at the end of 70 years is established history. The angel Gabriel told Daniel that after the Messiah had come and been “cut off” (i.e., killed, “but not for himself”) the temple and Jerusalem would be destroyed again (Dn 9:25-26). This post-Messiah destruction would leave the Jews for “many days without a king…and without a sacrifice…” (Hos 3:4). Obviously, something would prevent the temple from being rebuilt! As quoted above, Jesus explained that the Gentiles would control Jerusalem. For 1,930 years since the 70 A.D. destruction of the temple, Christ’s words (proving that He is God the Messiah – Isa 9:6) have been fulfilled in history, and their continued fulfillment today is at the heart of the Middle East crisis. Control of Jerusalem was the major issue breaking down recent peace talks at Camp David. Sadly, neither the Israelis nor the Arabs in their “peace” negotiations give heed to what God has decreed for His land and His city. Were the world to take the Bible seriously, real peace would be instantly established. UN secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali expressed the world’s true intent toward Israel: “The Jews must give up their status as a nation and Israel as a state, and assimilate as a community in the Arab world.”
Popes throughout history have opposed Gods prophecies and promises concerning Jerusalem. The Crusaders captured Jerusalem from the Muslims for the Church, not to restore it to the Jews to whom God, as the Bible repeatedly declares, had given it as a possession forever (Gn 13:14-15; 17:8; Lv 25:23; Jer 31:35-40; Ezk 37:26, etc.). Pope Urban II, organizing the First Crusade in 1096, called the Jews “an accursed race, utterly alienated from God” and urged the Crusaders to “start upon the road to the Holy Sepulchre to wrest that land from the wicked race and subject it to yourselves.” Urban II’s offer of full forgiveness of sins for Crusade participants brought forth hordes of volunteers who, under the banner of the Cross, massacred Christ’s earthly brethren, the Jews, by the thousands all along the route to Jerusalem. The Crusade leader, Godfrey of Bouillon, vowed to avenge the blood of Jesus upon the Jews, leaving not one alive. Upon taking the City of David, the Crusaders chased the Jews into the synagogue and set it ablaze. [This sad mark in history was clearly NOT God’s will and violated the teachings of Jesus Christ]
Coming to modern times, Theodor Herzl records in his diary that when in 1904 he asked Pope Pius X to support the Zionist cause, the Pope replied, “We cannot prevent the Jews from going to Jerusalem, but we could never sanction it.” In 1919, Cardinal Pietro Gasparri, Vatican Secretary of State, said, “The danger that frightens us the most is that of the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine.” A 1928 Vatican decree refers to Jews as “the people formerly chosen by God.” The Second Vatican Council in 1965 affirmed the centuries-old claim that “the Church is the new people of God….” We have quoted [TBC, Sep. 99] the June 22, 1943 letter to President Roosevelt from Pope Pius XII which said in part, “If a Hebrew Home is desired, it would not be too difficult to find a more fitting territory than Palestine. With an increase in the Jewish population there, grave new problems would arise.” So the “vicars of Christ” and their Church have consistently opposed the fulfillment of God’s promises to His chosen people!
That Jerusalem would be “trodden down of the Gentiles” has been a fact of history, exactly as Christ foretold. The Babylonians held Jerusalem, then the Medes and Persians. Alexander the Great took it for the Greeks in 333 B.C.. Later the Egyptians and Syrians alternately had it until the Romans under Pompey captured Israel in 64 B.C. and held it into the fourth century A.D. In the seventh century Islamic invaders took control, to be replaced near the end of the eleventh century by the Crusaders. They held Jerusalem until Saladin (Sultan of Egypt and great Muslim warrior) retook the city in 1187. Later the Islamic Mamelukes of Egypt possessed Jerusalem. Then the Ottoman-Turkish Empire ruled for about 400 years. The Turks sided with Germany in World War I, so the Allied victors gave Britain a mandate in 1917 to administer the region.
Central to the Middle East conflict today is the issue of the so-called Palestinian people. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), headed by Yasser Arafat since 1969, claims to represent them. To this day, the PLO declares, “The struggle with the Zionist enemy is not a struggle about Israel’s borders, but about Israel’s existence.”
The PLO is an Islamic terrorist organization. It trained most terrorists around the world: Idi Amin’s murder gangs who killed about 300,000 black Christians in Uganda; the Italian Red Brigades; German Baader-Meinhof gang; the Iranian Revolutionary Guards; terrorists in Latin America, etc. Arafat committed his first murder at age 20. Under him the PLO became the most vicious and bloodiest terrorist organization ever known. It holds records for the biggest hijacking (4 aircraft at once), the largest number of hostages (300 at one time), the largest ransom extorted ($5 million from Lufthansa) and the greatest number and variety of targets (40 civilian aircraft, five passenger ships, 30 embassies or diplomatic missions, and massacres of school children), etc. The Palestinian Prize for Culture was recently awarded to Abu Daoud for his book telling how he planned and murdered eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics!
The PLO’s terrorism against Jordanian civilians was so vicious that King Hussein chased them into Lebanon. There the PLO wiped out the Christian towns of Damur, Beit Mallat, Tall Abbas and others. Its reign of terror went largely unreported. The international press was cowed into silence by the brutal murder of those who dared to tell the truth: Larry Buchman and Sean Toolan of ABC-TV, Mark Tryon of “Free Belgium Radio,” Robert Pfeffer of Der Spiegel and others. About 300,000 Lebanese civilians were murdered in the PLO’s rape of that country before the Israelis expelled them. Yet Israel was painted the villain!
Incredibly, Arafat and his PLO murderers have been sanitized and lionized by world media. John Paul’s recent trip to Bethlehem was in response to Arafat’s invitation to join him there to celebrate “our Jesus Christ.” Our Jesus Christ? Arafat says Jesus was a Palestinian freedom fighter against Israel, and the Pope smiles and blesses him! John Paul II has warmly received Arafat in Rome many times. This ruthless, sadistic terrorist and murderer was given the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 and is honored as the champion of justice for the Palestinian people.
Palestinians? There never was a Palestinian people, nation, language, culture, or religion. The claim of descent from a Palestinian people who lived for thousands of years in a land called Palestine is a hoax. That land was Canaan, inhabited by Canaanites, whom God destroyed because of their wickedness. Canaan became the land of Israel given by God to His people. Those who today call themselves Palestinians are Arabs by birth, language, and culture, and are close relatives to Arabs in surrounding countries from whence most of them came, attracted by Israel’s prosperity. The name Palestine comes from the Philistines, who were not Semites, but invaded Canaan from Crete and parts of Asia Minor. Yet Arafat, an Arab, claims that ancestry.
In 130 A.D., the Romans rebuilt Jerusalem as a pagan city with a temple to Jupiter where the Jewish temple had stood. Provoked to rebellion, about 500,000 Jews were killed and thousands sold into slavery. The Romans angrily renamed Israel “Syria Palaestina.” Jews living there became known as Palestinians. During World War II, the British Army had a Palestinian Brigade made up entirely of Jewish volunteers. The Palestinian Symphony Orchestra was all Jewish, and The Palestine Post was a Jewish newspaper.
In 1948, Arabs who had fled from Israel (attacking Arab nations had broadcast, “All Arabs get out!”) began to claim they were the true Palestinians and that the land of Israel had always belonged to them. World media eagerly promotes that lie. Yet in 1948, Arabs owned a mere 3 percent of so-called Palestine.
Israel’s claim to the land goes back 4,000 years to Abraham’s purchase of the cave of Machpelah in Hebron. There Sarah, Abraham, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Leah are buried. In Hebron David was crowned king. This sacred Jewish site has no relationship to Arabs or Muslims. Yet Muslims claim Hebron as their own, built a mosque to keep Jews and Christians from visiting the cave, and are determined to drive out every Jewish resident.
For 3,000 years Jerusalem was the capital of Israel. Temple Mount on the summit of Mount Moriah is the heart of Jerusalem. This 35-acre parcel arouses such explosive passions that it could trigger World War III at any time. This is where Abraham built an altar to offer his son Isaac to God. That spot was purchased by King David from Ornan the Jebusite to build there an altar to God. There Solomon built the first temple. In its place now sits the Dome of the Rock, a monument to Islam’s unbiblical and irrational claim that Abraham offered, not Isaac, but Ishmael.
Ikrema Sabri, mufti of Jerusalem, declared again early this August that the Temple Mount is Islamic and “not subject to negotiations.” Given its 3,000-year Jewish history and importance to Christians, on what basis should Muslims control this site? Jerusalem is not even mentioned one time in the Koran.
Today we see the continuing fulfillment of Christ’s remarkable prophecy that Jerusalem would be “trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Lk 21:24). UN Resolution 181 in 1947, supported by the Vatican, declared that Jerusalem must remain an international city. Israel’s Knesset is there. But nations locate their embassies elsewhere in Israel. No other country is forbidden to decide its own capital! The European Union repeatedly says it “does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty” over Jerusalem. By what right do Gentile nations claim Jerusalem as their international city?
In 1998, the Vatican’s foreign minister called the Israeli presence in East Jerusalem “illegal occupation.” In a papal bull on the Year 2000 Jubilee, John Paul II again rejected Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. In mid-February 2000, the Vatican signed an agreement with the PLO calling for “international guarantees” to keep Jerusalem under international control.
Muslim nations have spent billions since the Yom Kippur War for missiles carrying a variety of deadly warheads. These are not defensive weapons. They exist for one purpose: to rain death and destruction upon Israel, so that Muslims can possess the land God promised the Jews. The new borders imposed by the Oslo Accords (1993) allow Katyusha rockets to be moved to within deadly range of Israel’s narrow heartland which holds 70 percent of the Jewish population, 80 percent of its industry, its only international airport and its most important military installations.
As the “peace process” continues, Arabs murder and torch the homes of fellow Arabs suspected of cooperating with Israel. Muslim terrorists who kill Jews are honored with streets and holidays named after them! Yet Israelis dream on of peace with those who have sworn to exterminate them!
When will “the times of the Gentiles” end? Clearly, not until the Gentile nations are defeated at Armageddon. Just ahead lies “the time of Jacobs trouble” (Jer 30:7). The armies of the world, led by Anti-christ, will be brought to Armageddon by Yahweh to punish them for mistreatment of His people Israel (Ezk 38:16-18)–and to discipline Israel for her unbelief.
No wonder Christ wept over Jerusalem! For 1,900 years, as Hosea foretold, Jews have had no sacrifices for sin. We are driven to one of two conclusions: either God has abandoned them–or the Messiahs once-for-all death for sin has fulfilled and replaced animal sacrifices. Let us pray that Israel will awaken to the truth.