Old Jerusalem and the Blitzkrieg of the Warring Turtles
the wall fell down flat...they utterly destroyed all that was in the city—Joshua 6:20-21
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Old City of Jerusalem
"How is it?" The local warring turtles kept asking me while I was teaching at the Biblical Seminary. They wanted to know how Jerusalem, specifically the area known as the Old City, looks like. They expected me to repeat the descriptions appearing in the Bible, yet that was impossible. Two millennia of debris had changed the landscape. Old City is the area enclosed by an Ottoman Wall, which by local standards cannot be considered truly old; it is not even middle-aged, it was built in 1538 by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. Biblical Golgotha is within the walls; within them everything is quite flat, it is difficult to imagine the Via Dolorosa as the steep way Jesus walked to His crucifixion. "He must be lying," the warring turtles whispered among themselves.
Until 1967, this newish version of the Old City was divided in six parts. The Armenian, Christian, Jewish, Moroccan and Muslim Quarters were all dwarfed by the Temple Mount, Haram Al-Sharif. The Dome of the Rock on it dates to the 7th Century and is one of the oldest surviving structures in the city. Following the 1967 War, the Moroccan Quarter, which was located in front of the Western Wall—the largest reminder of the Jewish Second temple—was removed by the IDF in order to create the large esplanade existing nowadays in front of the Wall. The remaining area of this quarter was annexed to the Jewish Quarter. The religious/ethnic definition of the quarters is true historically, but not enforced by the different civilian authorities that controlled the area in recent centuries; all the quarters had mixed populations.
That's not all. The Temple Mount has experienced Jewish excavations in the Western Wall Tunnel and Muslim excavations by the Waqf, the religious authority on the Mount. Despite loud accusations, the sides coordinated their actions. Invaluable antiquities were taken out of the site with fully loaded trucks, destroying all possibility of finding out what both sides were so eager to destroy. In 2002, a large bulge was reported in the southern retaining wall of the Temple Mount, creating the excuse of a future collapse of the Muslim temples. Accordingly, the effect of a minor earthquake in 2004 was wildly exaggerated by the Hebrew media. Israel wants the Third Temple.
Israel Targets the Muslim Quarter
As commented above, the Quarters have a mixed population. Nowadays, around 60 Jewish families live within the Muslim Quarter; yet, the vast majority of its over 20,000 inhabitants are Muslim. Israel is seeking ways to increase Jewish presence in it because two prominent Jewish sites are there: the Little Western Wall, and the Western Wall Tunnels. In 1978, the Ateret Cohanim Yeshiva (Priests' Crown Jewish Religious College) was founded and since then it leads Jewish activity in the area. It belongs to the "Hesder" movement, meaning that its students serve in the IDF. The institution is directly involved in the ongoing purchase of properties in the Quarter. It is responsible for the presence of around one thousand Jews in the Quarter. They are serious in their intentions; recently, officials of the institution declared that it will cost another $100 million to purchase the rest of the Quarter.
Considering this, the decision taken by the Municipality of Jerusalem on February 25, 2013, is not surprising. A group of Palestinians living in the Muslim Quarter asked to renovate their houses; they were busy with Israeli red-tape for the last eight years. In contrast, Ateret Cohanim gets its construction and renovation requests approved immediately. This time, after a long, long deliberation, as long as this war is slow, the Municipality denied the Palestinian requests on the grounds that they do not plan to renovate any Jewish property.
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