Rewriting the History of Jerusalem

Source: WSJ


For Unesco and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Israel’s capital is anything but Jewish.

Food For Thought
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According to UN Resolution 181 Part III Part III. – City of Jerusalem
The City of Jerusalem shall be established as a corpus separatum under a special international regime and shall be administered by the United Nations. The Trusteeship Council shall be designated to discharge the responsibilities of the Administering Authority on behalf of the United Nations.
The City of Jerusalem shall include the present municipality of Jerusalem plus the surrounding villages and towns, the most eastern of which shall be Abu Dis; the most southern, Bethlehem; the most western, ‘Ein Karim (including also the built-up area of Motsa); and the most northern Shu’fat, as indicated on the attached sketch-map (annex B).
The Trusteeship Council shall, within five months of the approval of the present plan, elaborate and approve a detailed statute of the City which shall contain, inter alia, the substance of the following provisions:
Government machinery; special objectives. The Administering Authority in discharging its administrative obligations shall pursue the following special objectives:
To protect and to preserve the unique spiritual and religious interests located in the city of the three great monotheistic faiths throughout the world, Christian, Jewish and Moslem; to this end to ensure that order and peace, and especially religious peace, reign in Jerusalem;
To foster cooperation among all the inhabitants of the city in their own interests as well as in order to encourage and support the peaceful development of the mutual relations between the two Palestinian peoples throughout the Holy Land; to promote the security, well-being and any constructive measures of development of the residents having regard to the special circumstances and customs of the various peoples and communities.
Governor and Administrative staff. A Governor of the City of Jerusalem shall be appointed by the Trusteeship Council and shall be responsible to it. He shall be selected on the basis of special qualifications and without regard to nationality. He shall not, however, be a citizen of either State in Palestine.
The Governor shall represent the United Nations in the City and shall exercise on their behalf all powers of administration, including the conduct of external affairs. He shall be assisted by an administrative staff classed as international officers in the meaning of Article 100 of the Charter and chosen whenever practicable from the residents of the city and of the rest of Palestine on a non-discriminatory basis. A detailed plan for the organization of the administration of the city shall be submitted by the Governor to the Trusteeship Council and duly approved by it.
, The City of Jerusalem shall be established as a corpus separatum under a special international regime and shall be administered by the United Nations. The Trusteeship Council shall be designated to discharge the responsibilities of the Administering Authority on behalf of the United Nations.

The Scripture states in Revelation 11:1-2 “And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.”
Revelation 11:1-2
that the city will be given over to the Gentiles once the Temple is build again.”

Are we seeing the beginning of the fulfillment of this prophetic Scripture?

This week in Paris, the executive board of Unesco, the United Nations entity charged with looking after matters related to education, science and culture, will vote on a resolution called “Occupied Palestine,” which attempts to redefine the capital of Israel as a supranational city to which Muslims, Christians and Jews have equal claim.

Perhaps not coincidentally, an exhibition currently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City makes the same case. For the sake of Jerusalem, both need to be exposed as the attempts at historical revisionism that they are.

Jerusalem has been a busy patch of earth over the course of its history and a magnet for people of many faiths—first Jews, then Christians, then Muslims—becoming over the millennia a location of cultural fascination. The “Jerusalem 1000-1400: Every People Under Heaven” exhibition at the Met is a case in point. The show highlights the spectacular objects produced in and around the medieval city that continue to inform its modern aesthetic. It is in many ways a curatorial tour de force and must have entailed all manner of diplomatic wrangling to garner so many loans of such delicate, irreplaceable objects.

But there is an elephant in this tastefully curated gallery. At its heart, this is a show about the identity of Jerusalem, as contentious a topic a thousand years ago as it is today, as is evidenced by the Unesco resolution. The exhibition’s premise, as is encapsulated in its title, is that during the medieval period, all claims to the city were equal and inhabitants were uniformly defined by their participation in this unique community.

This interpretation is implicitly projected onto the modern Jerusalem as photographs of the contemporary city appear on the gallery walls next to the explanatory texts. The visitor is encouraged to conclude that if only adherents of the three major religions—Christianity, Judaism and Islam—would understand themselves as citizens of Jerusalem, a city transcending national boundaries, this utopia could be recaptured. The organizers are careful to mix up the order of the three religions as listed in written materials to avoid the appearance of preferential treatment.

An uneasy subtext to “Every People Under Heaven” is that during the exhibition’s time frame Jerusalem was completely dominated by Christians and Muslims, successively. These four centuries spanned one of the sparsest Jewish presences in Jerusalem’s history, beginning as they did with the wholesale slaughter of Jews at the hands of the Crusaders in 1099, after which their population dwindled to as few as 200. The Mamluk conquest of 1260 marginally improved conditions, but a significant increase in the Jewish population would have to wait for the 18th century.

This reality is apparent in the show’s makeup, with Jewish objects being largely confined to books and jewelry, and Jewish issues to their longing for the “absent” Temple of Solomon, a longing that is treated as a somewhat quaint anachronism not as an expression of the enduring spiritual connection of Jews to Jerusalem. Jews, we are told, prayed outside the old city walls. Occasionally a Jew appears in the labels for the Christian or Islamic objects, as when one “Stella” reportedly declared that the Dome of the Rock and the al Aqsa mosque are “as radiant and pure as the very heavens,” as if to give the Jewish stamp of legitimization to the structures built on the Temple Mount.

Again, visitors may well ask themselves from this evidence, why can’t we all just get along today as well as we seem to have done in 1000-1400?

And that is where “Every People Under Heaven” does a disservice to its beautiful contents by making them pawns to a contemporary political agenda to delegitimize Israel. Medieval Jerusalem was not a harmonious, multicultural melting pot that inspired great art. It is in fact quite remarkable that great art was created there in the midst of the endemic violence and religious bigotry that characterized the period. What is different now is the composition of modern Jerusalem, which, as the capital of Israel, has a Jewish majority—but it also, somewhat remarkably, has growing numbers of Christians and Muslims. There are challenges inherent in this dynamic, but they are not the same as the circumstances of Jerusalem in the Middle Ages.

Ultimately, “Every People Under Heaven” functions as a highbrow gloss on the movement to define Jerusalem as anything but Jewish, and so to undermine Israel’s sovereignty. A more aggressive approach will be on display at Unesco on Thursday during the vote on the resolution defining Jerusalem as a global city with a universal rather than a national identity.

But both efforts are equally deluded. Imagining the past as we want the present to be is not a practical solution to Jerusalem—or anything else. It would be more productive to try to learn from the painful realities of medieval Jerusalem, not to revise its history. True progress for the city will come only when we confront our own reality, the good as well as the bad, in which Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

Ms. Coates, an art historian, is the author of “David’s Sling: A History of Democracy in Ten Works of Art” (Encounter Books, 2016).

  1. Charlene, 16 October, 2016

    Was just at the Met in NYC and visited the Jerusalem exhibit. From it you’d never know that Jewish people had anything to do with Jerusalem. I did think that was odd…..

  2. Charlene, 17 October, 2016

    Having visited this exhibit just last week, I can testify that knowing nothing, one would easily conclude after seeing the exhibit, that there were no Jewish people at all associated with Jerusalem. I was excited to view the exhibit; then disappointed with it, not sure why but the absence of Jewish people and history really was apparent. No worries — the angels guard Jerusalem and the nations are as nothing. Isaiah 41: 10 – 12

  3. Etzel, 17 October, 2016

    Hi Charlene

    The Met is run by a bunch of P.C. snowflakes. Next time try the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust located at
    36 Battery Place New York, NY 10280

    Phone # (646) 437-4202

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