JERUSALEM IN HISTORY
NOTES ON THE ORIGINS OF THE CITY AND ITS TRADITION OF TOLERANCE
K. J. Asali The late Kamil Jamil el Asali was a native of Jerusalem. He received his Ph.D. from Humboldt University, Berlin, 1967. He was engaged in research on Jerusalem at the University of Jordan. In 1982, he was awarded the prize of the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences.
EARLY IN 1994 THE ISRAELI PRESS REPORTED that the Israeli Ministry of Tourism and the Municipality of Jerusalem would organize country-wide celebrations in two-and-a-half years to mark the three-thousand-year anniversary of the founding of the city of Jerusalem. The Ministry and the Municipality found that the year 1996 would be one which would leave a special impression as an anniversary of the eternal city. However, in 1970 a musical festival was held in Israel marking the four-thousand-year anniversary of the founding of Jerusalem. At that time, the Israeli newspaper Davar criticized the organizers of the festival for reducing the age of the city by one thousand years. The question that presents itself here is how could the age of the city be reduced once again by another thousand years by the Israeli Municipality and the Ministry?
It is evident that neither anniversary is historically correct. It seems that both were chosen for touristic or artistic considerations, and that the choice of the second one was politically motivated. It is well-known that the correct age of the city, according to historical accounts, is five thousand years. This estimation is given by the Israeli historian Zev Vilnay, among other sources, in his comprehensive work in Hebrew, The Encyclopedia for the Knowledge of the Land of Israel, in the chapter titled "Jerusalem, the Capital of Israel.''[l] The same age is given by the Israeli historians Ephraim and Menachem Tilmay at the end of their book, Jerusalem. 
Why then does the Israeli government plan in 1996 to celebrate a fallacious 3000-year anniversary? Davar notes that the anniversary was calculated from the year of the proclamation of David as King of Jerusalem in 1000 B.C. However, no source exists which claims that David was the founder of Jerusalem. The Old Testament narrates in detail how David's soldiers broke into the city after passing through a famous tunnel, "Sinnor" in the Old Testament. The well-known story need not be reiterated here. The plain truth is that David did not found Jerusalem. Instead, according to the text of the Bible and Professor Vilnay's encyclopedia, he occupied an already-inhabited city. It is this occupation which occurred in the year 1000 B.C.
At the time of the Davidic occupation, Jerusalem was already two thousand years old. Its original inhabitants were not Jews but Canaanites, Amorites, Jebusites, Hittites and other races each of whom had a culture and langua ge as well as art, industry and agriculture.
Indeed, the oldest name of the city "Urusalem" is Amoritic. "Salem" or "Shalem" was the name of a Canaanite-Amorite god, while "uru" simply meant "founded by."  The names of the two oldest rulers of the city, Saz Anu and Yaqir Ammo, were identified by the American archaeologist W. F. Albright as Amoritic. The Amorites, according to the Bible, are the original people of the land of Canaan. They had the same language as the Canaanites and were of the same Semitic stock. Many historians believe that the Amorites are an offshoot of the Canaanites who came originally from the Arabian Peninsula. In this regard it is apt to quote the Bible (Ezekiel:1 6):
Thus say the Lord God to Jerusalem. Your Origin and your birth are of the land of the Canaanites, your father was an Amorite, and your mother a Hittite.
In the second millennium, Jerusalem was inhabited by the Jebusites. In the Bible the Jebusites are considered to be Canaanites. It was the Jebusites who first built the fortress Zion in the town. Zion is a Canaanite word which means "hill" or "height."
The second name of Jerusalem was "Jebus". The culture of Jebus was Canaanite, an ancient society which built many towns with well-built houses, in numerous city-states, in industry and commerce and in an alphabet and religion which flourished for two thousand years and were later borrowed by the primitive Hebrews.
It is strange indeed that all these facts were set aside and ignored by the authorities in Israel. But the reason is ready at hand: Jerusalem during these two thousand years, in the words of the Bible, "did not belong to the people of Israel." In Judges: 19 it says:
In those days when there was no king in Israel, a certain Levite set out on a journey to seek his concubine.... He had with him his servant. When they were near Jebus [i.e. Jerusalem] the day was far spent and the servant said to his master: "Come now let us turn aside to this city of the Jebusites and spend the night in it." [And his master said to him], "We will not turn aside to the city of foreigners who do not belong to the people of Israel 2E"
Bearing these facts about the origin of Jerusalem in mind, the Israeli writer Dan Almagor, writing in the Israeli paper Yediot Ahronot, 29 January 1993 scoffed at the intended celebrations of the founding of Jerusalem an destressed that David was the occupier, not the founder of Jerusalem. Almagor said, "Let us be careful about the rules of truth and reality in our publishing. Accordingly, we must say truthfully: No festivities for the 3000-year anniversary of the foundation of Jerusalem but for the occupation of Jerusalem."
Following the first Israeli occupation of Jerusalem, the city did not become purely Jewish, since the Jebusites remained in the city. Judges 1: 21 refers to a situation in which Benjaminites and Jebusites lived side-by-side, "But the people of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who dwelt in Jerusalem, so the Jebusites have dwelt with the people of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day." 
"To this day" refers, of course, to the time of writing this chapter of the Old Testament, about the Fifth Century B.C. But the time may be carried forward to our present day. The Arabs of Jerusalem, as of those of all of Palestine, are in their majority the descendants of those who lived in the country since time immemorial.
As DeLacy O'Leary pointed out in Arabia Before Muhammad "The majority of the present Palestinian peasants are descendants of those who preceeded the Israelites."  In The Golden Bough, the British anthropologist Sir James Frazer (1854-1941) stressed that, "the Arabic-speaking peasants of Palestine are the progeny of the tribes which settled in the country before the Israelite invasion. They are still adhering to the land. They never left it and were never uprooted from it." 
The American scholar Charles Matthews in his "Palestine--Muhammedan Hol y Land" expressed the matter clearly:
Because the view is often held and expressed by sincere people that the "Arabs are mere interlopers in Palestine" and ought to give way to the "return" of the rightful and historic "owners" of the land of the Bible, a further word may be said regarding the ethnology of the land. The simple fact is that the majority of the "Arab" people of Palestine are not descendants of those "new arrivals" who intruded with the Islamic-Arab conquest in the seventh century.
The majority of the native Palestinians, both Christian and Moslem Arabs, are of a mixed race whose connection with the land reaches back into very early history. There is a natural tendency for history to be simplified by the concept that all Moslems of the conquered lands came in, and assumed control, from the outside: and it is an understandable fancy for most of the Moslem population to believe that their ancestors were of the conquering race. Of course, considerable numbers of real Arabs from Arabia did settle in the new possessions, and there are in the voluminous general and local histories of history-minded Islamic-peoples' records of such settlements.
But the conquerors and settlers who followed in the wake of military success and political control were only a small minority compared to the masses of the continuing, historic population. The designation "Arab" was gradually accepted by the majority along with the new religion, and the Arabic language was adopted by all. The change in religion was, in most cases, voluntary, for the sake of preferment and advantage, to escape the higher taxes on non-Moslems, and in a natural process of following the predominant environmental influence and practice. The simplicity and the virility of the new faith, in contrast with the often violent theological controversies over complex philosophical-religious doctrines of Christianity, also had their influence.
Therefore, the "Arabs" of Palestine are the historic people of the land, and the country has always been theirs. 
It seems to this author that Matthews should be endorsed when he goes on to write:
".... but Palestine still is, and will remain, the holy land of three religions. Each of the three groups in Palestine needs what the others have to contribute to the common welfare. A common and mutual welfare can be achieved--if no group will seek undue aggrandizement; but for such a goal all the people of Palestine need the informed sympathy and the understanding of the hundreds of millions of the three great world religions to which the land is sacred.' 
As far as the population throughout the centuries is concerned, it must be underlined that from the Seventh Century of the Christian era until the Nineteenth Century the Jews lived as a tiny minority in Jerusalem. They virtually disappeared after the wars of 70 and 135 A.D. The Byzantine emperors renewed the ban imposed by Rome which prevented the Jews from living in the city. This ban was lifted only with the advent of the Arabs in the 7th Century but was reimposed in 1099 when the Crusaders occupied the holy city for 88 years.
Of the five thousand years of the history of Jerusalem, Jews have lived in the city perhaps 1135 years as a majority. Of these years, they actually ruled the city (i.e. during the united Kingdom and the divided Kingdom) for only about 600 years. This means that their presence as a dominant element in the population of Jerusalem continued for only 22% of the history of the city, one fifth of the five thousand years. They have ruled Jerusalem for 12% of its life.
After their expulsion by the Romans it is only with the coming of Islam that the Jews were permitted to live as an autonomous, but small, community in Jerusalem. Statistics vary about the number of Jews who lived in Jerusalem during the Islamic era, but all authorities agree that the Jewish population of Jerusalem did not exceed 500 to 600 persons at any one time between the Seventh and the Nineteenth Centuries. This figure is from a total population which ranged between 20- and 40-thousand, making the Jewish population merely 2%.
In fact, until 1850 Jews constituted less than 4% of the population of Palestine which was approximately 350,000 [l2]. The artificial increase through immigration started in 1882 when Jerusalem and all Palestine was flooded with Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. It is one of the major ironies of fate that it was the Muslim rulers of Jerusalem who allowed the Jews to return to the city or take refuge in it in the wake of their persecution in Europe.
The aforementioned Israeli historian Vilnay stressed in his encyclopedia "Whenever Jerusalem came under the rule of Christians, Jews were not allowed to stay or live in it. Those Jews who happened to come to the city during their [the Christians'] rule were either killed or expelled. On the other hand, whenever the Muslims occupied the city they used to call the Jews in, allow them to live inside the city . . . and they lived in peace.'' [l3]
Colin Thubron, the British author, also writes in his book Jerusalem, " In the early centuries, the Muslims were generally tolerant of the Jews and lived with them peacefully while Europe was steeped in persecution.'' [l4 ] These statements are borne out by the several easily identifiable events.
From the Second to the Nineteenth Centuries there were three significant periods which witnessed an increase in the Jewish population of Jerusalem :
(1) after the Arab conquest of the city in the Seventh Century,
(2) after the recapture of Jerusalem from the Crusaders in 1187, and
(3) after the occupation of the city by the Ottomans in 1516. In the Seventh Century some Jews were even allowed to work as attendants in the Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest shrine in Islam.
If we believe the testimony of Salman ben Yeruham, A Karaite Jewish author, writing about A.D. 950, the Muslims granted the Jews access to Jerusalem and its holy sites. Salman wrote:
"As it is known, Jerusalem remained under the rule of the Rum [the Byzantines] for more than 500 years, during which they [the Jews] were not able to enter Jerusalem. Anyone who was discovered entering was killed. When by the mercy of the God of Israel the Rum departed from us and the kingdom of Ishmael [the Arabs] appeared, the Jews were granted permission to enter and reside there." [l5]
During the reign of Saladin this traditional Islamic tolerance continued. Conversely, when the Crusaders entered Jerusalem, they burned the Jews in their synagogue.
From 1099 to 1189, Jews were not allowed to live in the city. But with the Muslim repossession of Jerusalem, Jews were allowed to return. The Spanish poet Yehuda al-Harizi, who was in Jerusalem in 1207, described the significance for the Jews of the recovery of Jerusalem by Saladin:
[ In A.D. 1190] God aroused the spirit of the prince of the Ishmaelites [Saladin], a prudent and courageous man, who came with his entire army, besieged Jerusalem, took it and had it proclaimed throughout the country that he would receive and accept the entire race of Ephraim, wherever they came from. And so we came from all comers of the world to take up residence here. We now live here in the shadow of peace. [l6]
Further testament to Saladin's tolerance comes from the eminent German Jewish historian of the Nineteenth Century, Heinrich Graetz. In his Geschichte der Juden [History of the Jews], vol. 11, published in 1853, he states that the Sultan, "opened the whole kingdom to the persecuted Jews, so they came to it, seeking security and finding justice.'' [l7]
At about the same time that Jews were fleeing from Spain and seeking refuge in Arab lands and elsewhere (15th and 16th Centuries), the Ottoman Empire opened its doors to them and gave them refuge. The prominent Jewish banker Don Joseph Nasi, a refugee from Portugal, was made advisor to Sultan Suleiman who showered the emigre with honors.
There are a number of statements from prominent Jews expressing gratitude to the Ottomans for their generous treatment of fugitive Jews. In his History of the Jews, A. L. Sachar, a former president of Brandeis University, noted:
"Jews had found refuge in the Ottoman dominions for many decades before the expulsion from Spain. During the fifteenth-century persecutions in Germany, thousands had fled eastward and had been well received in the Turkish provinces. Life was secure and the morrow could be greeted without terror
There were no degrading badges and no oppressive residential or trade restrictions. The Jews were liable only to a negligible poll-tax, which all non-Moslems paid. The hospitality of the Turkish rulers was a godsend to the victims of Spanish and Portuguese bigotry." [l8]
In Palestine the small Jewish community was augmented by immigrants who fled the Spanish Inquisition and were given refuge in Jerusalem and Safed.
David dei Rossi, a Jewish Italian who visited Jerusalem in the 16th Century, commented on Jewish life in the city: "Here we are not in exile as in our own country [Italy]. Here . . . those appointed over the customs and tolls are Jews. There are no special Jewish taxes.''[l9] The same optimism was echoed by Solomon ben Hayyim Meinstrel of Ludenburg, a visitor in the Holy Land in 1607:
"The Gentiles who dwell on the soil of Israel . . . hold the graves of our holy masters in great reverence, as well as the synagogues, and they kindle lights at the graves of the saints and vow to supply the synagogues with oil." 
Professor A. Cohen of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, in a fine study of Jewish life in Sixteenth Century Jerusalem, based on the registers of the shari'a court, stresses the positive attitude of the Ottoman authorities toward the Jews. He emphasizes that fiscal restrictions imposed by the shari'a were not applied in accordance with the letter of the law, and that not all Jews of Jerusalem who owed the jizya tax paid it. Those who did were expected to pay the lowest official rate.
He adds that the entire supervisory mechanism governing the implementation of the religious law was often slanted in favor of the Jews and accepted the testimony of Jewish litigants and witnesses in contradiction of the accepted notion that their testimonies were inadmissible.
In conclusion, Cohen says that an autonomous Jewish life in Jerusalem was encouraged and protected by Muslim rulers. 
The tolerance depicted in the previous pages was due, for the most part , to the spirit of Islam and its attitude toward "the people of the Book," i.e. Jews and Christians and also to the reverence of Islam for the city of Jerusalem-al-Quds. Islam held in high esteem the ancient prophets and their messages. Jerusalem itself was considered holy because it was the abode of the prophets. Hence, it was made the first qibla (direction of prayer) for the Muslims, and the Prophet Muhammad visited it in his miraculous night-journey, al-Isra'.
For these reasons Jerusalem was considered the third holy city in Islam (after Mecca and Medina). The attachment of the Muslims to Jerusalem was so great that they considered a single prayer in Jerusalem equal to 500 prayers elsewhere. The Aqsa Mosque was one of three mosques to which people could travel to do their prayers. On the Day of Judgment the human race will, according to Islamic principles, assemble in Jerusalem. Thus, many Muslims chose to be buried in the city. Some 70 Muslim books were written on the "merits of Jerusalem". Out of this reverence for Jerusalem, the Muslims at all times spared the city the horrors of war and destruction. Whenever they liberated it, they did so as peacefully as possible and avoided atrocities against the occupiers. This was in striking contrast to the desecrations committed by the Crusaders in the Eleventh Century and by Zionists in our present day.
Today, in the shadow of the 21st Century, the good relations between Arabs, both Muslim and Christian, and Jews are a thing of the past. It has become clear that Israel, with the full support of the West, will displace the ancient inhabitants in order to transform the identity of Jerusalem and all Palestine. The Balfour Declaration, the British Mandate and the aggrandizement of the Zionists has left no room for peace, and hatred has developed in the Holy Land Here is not the place to describe the tremendous suffering inflicted by the Zionists upon the people of the land. Western powers aid and support this injustice, forcing Arabs to pay dearly in life and property for the persecution of Jews in Europe.
A single example stands as representative of the situation. On the evening of 8 June 1967, three days after the Israeli occupation of the Old City of Jerusalem, the Maghariba quarter adjacent to the Haram al-Sharif, was bulldozed. Some one thousand inhabitants were ordered to leave their homes within two hours, and the houses, 135 in number, were leveled to the ground by an engineering unit of the Israeli army.
Within a few days this historic waqf (religious endowment) was rubble. This action was only the first step in a massive process of so-called "urban renewal" that would change the city and divest its owners of their property and means of existence. It is ironic that the inhabitants of this quarter, the Maghariba Moroccans, had for centuries protected their neighbors in the adjacent Jewish quarter against any breach of their rights by the authorities and would intercede on behalf of the Jews with the Wali of Damascus. According to a document dated A.D. 1392, the Sheikh of the Maghariba protested to the Mamluke Wali in Damascus against the unlawful deprivation of the heirs of a deceased Jew of their rightful patrimony!  In return for this, the Maghariba had to suffer for their protectiveness and their tolerance.
This episode is symbolic. It epitomizes the retribution meted out to the people of Jerusalem for their tolerance and for the good treatment of Jews throughout the ages.
Since the bulldozing of the Maghariba Quarter by the Israelis authorities, a long series of measures have been taken in defiance of international law and U.N. resolutions on Jerusalem. These measures aim to dilute the Arab presence in Jerusalem and completely Judaize the city. However, the continued violation of international resolutions not only blocks the road to peace, but threatens to plunge the Middle East into chaos and endless confrontation.
In these days when the international community strives to restore peace to the Holy Land, it is of utmost importance to remember that Jerusalem is the core issue and the key to real peace. Ignoring Jerusalem will be fatal to the future of any solution. Indeed, any viable settlement of the issue should include the following indispensable principles:
Perhaps political solutions reflect objective, actual situations; that the balance of power determines everything, and that in the world of politics the maxim "Might makes right" still applies with all its cruel consequences. Even so, the lessons of history teach us that situations do change and visionaries realize that only visionary solutions stand the test of time and are accepted by future generations. The current stand of the Israeli government, which is based on military power, will prove in the end to be barren. The maxim "Jerusalem is not negotiable" is ominous and torpedoes the very foundations of peaceful co-existence. The Israelis have every right to feel insecure as long as they ignore other peoples' right to live in their own land in dignity and freedom.
It might be a fitting conclusion to this essay to note that the experience of 5000 years has proven that many have come to Jerusalem by force of arms and tried to establish their power against the will of a large section of the city's people. These conquerors claimed that the whole city belonged to only their select group and was an eternal capital. No conquest has lasted long, each eternity becoming a brief flicker in history. Only Jerusalem remains eternal.