An Essay for Cooperation, sharing and Love
between Jews,Christians and Muslims
By Reverend Labib Kobti,
Priest working in California, USA
From Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
(1) The original inhabitants of what is known today to the three Abrahamic faiths as the Holy Land, and it's focal city for the three religions, Jerusalem, were the Canaanites. Jerusalem was originally a village built on a hill. The name "Urushalim is first found on Egyptian statues, circa 2500 b.c. The Amorites (some historians identify them with the Canaanites) were also the first inhabitants of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. "Urushalim", in fact is a word of Canaanite-Amorite derivation; the prefix uru, meaning "founded by", and the suffix "salem" or "shalem" being the name of a Canaanite-Amorite deity. This evidence is reinforced by tablets found in Elba, Syria, dating back to 3000 b.c., on which the god Shalem being venerated in a city called Uruksalem is mentioned. The Old name of the city Urushalim figures also in the Egyptian texts called Texts of Proscription of XII dynasty 'ws'mm pronounced in Akkadian language Urushalim city of god.
The Canaanites, the original inhabitants, are also known as the Phoenicians. The Greeks gave the Canaanites the name phoenix or phoinos (red blood), since to the Greeks the people they called Phoenicians had a reddish, sunburned skin, which reminded them of they mythological bird, the phoenix, which had purple and gold coloring. Alternatively, some scholars feel that these dark skinned people came from the south-eastern, semi-arid desert regions of what is today known as the countries of Kuwait and Bahrein in the Gulf region. The Canaanites were also known as the "Purple People" or the "Purple Empire", since they were a coastal people, and were among the first to take advantage of seafaring for both economic trade routes, as well as for war and conquest. There are yet other scholars who believe the name "purple people" is derived from the purple dye popularly used in the coloring of their cloths and garments.
The Bible describes these people in Genesis 10:8-12. At any rate, regardless of which of these historical origins is correct, it is generally agreed by all that the Canaanites, later named the Phoenicians were the original inhabitants of the Holy Land and Jerusalem. In the northern regions of what is now known as Lebanon and Syria they were called by the name, Phoenicians. In the areas to the South, they were called the Canaanites.
(2) The historical record shows no mention of Jerusalem for five centuries prior to the 14th Century b.c., when King Abdi Hepa, the last king of the Canaanites, and a vasal monarch of Egypt, wrote to the Pharaoh Aknaton ( who is known in history as the Pharoah who developed monotheism, the religious belief in one God), and implored him to rid Jerusalem of new invaders. He described a group of people known as the "Habirus", as having already conquered Rushada, and advancing on Jerusalem. Aknaton, instead, conquered Canaan and Southern Syria, and left Jerusalem to be taken by the Jebusites. Subsequently Jerusalem was conquered by successive waves of Hitites, Philistines, and others. The conquering peoples became inhabitants of the land and its settled towns and villages, mixing with the original inhabitants, the Canaanites.
(3) In 1000 b.c., the Hebrew king David, conquered Jerusalem, and established it as his capital. At the time of his conquest, the city was known as "Jebus". Upon bringing the Arch of Alliance from Abinadab, Qirat-Yearim, he renamed it Jerusalem, once again. The Hebrew inhabitants of the combined kingdom of Judea in the South and Israel in the North, with the centralized city of Jerusalem as it's capital, integrated with the Canaanites, Amorites, Jebusites, Hitties, Philistines and other groups, through natural assimilation. Mention of this is made in the Bible: "Thus says the Lord God to Jerusalem. Your origin and birth are the land of Canaan, your father was an Amorite, and your mother a Hittite" (Ezekiel 16:3).
(4) In the year 597 b.c. the Babylonian empire conquered Jerusalem. The Temple to the Hebrew God YHVH, built by King David, was destroyed and much of the Jewish population(Jew comes from the word Judah, one of the 12 tribes) were deported to Babylon, known to Jews as the Babylonian captivity. Other ethnic inhabitants of Jerusalem, the descendants of the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, and Philistins, assimilated with the new conquerors. There is in Jewish prayer texts, a prayer imploring God to return Jews to the Holy City.("if I forget thee, oh Jerusalem, let my right hand forget it's cunning."). The book of Psalms relates to the nostalgia for Jerusalem and The Temple. King Cyrus of Persia defeated the Babylonians 48 years after the advent of the Babylonian captivity, freed the Jews, and offered to allow them to return to Jerusalem, and rebuild the Temple. About half of the Jewish population of Babylon did return. Successive waves of conquest were successfully achieved by the Greeks (under Alexander) and later the Romans. However, at all times, the permanent inhabitants of the Holy Land and Jerusalem remained those peoples who had descended from the Canaanites, Amorites, Jebusites, and Philistins, who had never left, and had integrated with the Hebrews, Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks and Romans.
(5) In the year 63 b.c. the land was under the control of the Roman Empire. When Jesus Christ began his mission, the land was under the same Roman occupation. Through all of this, the people living there, as outlined above, had never left. The Gospel of St. Matthew speaks about the Canaanites in section 15:22, more than one thousand years after the conquest of Jerusalem by King David, and shows the permanent presence of these people in the Holy Land. Many of these people subsequently converted to the Christian religion. However, religion per se, does not change the origin of people. None of the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity or Islam, change that fact. The ancient original inhabitants remain the true owners of the land.
(6) Inspite of pagan Roman persecution, as well as animosity towards the new Christians from some Jewish quarters (mainly the Pharisees), in the first centuries of Christianity, eventually Christianity came to become the dominant religion in the Roman empire and the Ancient World. The Jewish revolt against Rome, in 70 a.d. led to the destruction of the Second Temple, which had been rebuilt, leaving only what has come to be known as the Western or Wailing Wall in what is now East Jerusalem. After the destruction of the Temple, the Romans renamed Jerusalem, "Aelia Capitolina". Jews were prohibited from returningto the city for two hundred years, but the other population groups mentioned, remained and integrated with the Romans.
Later, the Roman-Byzantine emperor Constantin, restored the name, Jerusalem, to the city, and his mother, Helen, built the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, which opened in 335 a.d. in the presence of 300 bishops. Other churches were also built by Helen in Jerusalem, as well as the Church of the Nativity in nearby Bethlehem.
(8) From 632-636 a.d., Arab Muslims invaded Syria and the Holy Land. The conquering Muslims were smaller in number than the original inhabitants. Muslim occupation did not change the religion of the inhabitants to Islam, yet many did convert at a later date. When the Calif, Omar, entered Jerusalem and received tghe keys to the Holy City from the Christian Patriarch, Sophronius, the inhabitants were allowed to live in relative peace. The Dome of The Rock, which dominates the Jerusalem skyline to this day, was built by Calif Abdel Malek over the esplanade of The Second Temple in the year 685, .Jerusalem gained a special status with the"Ohda Omaria" or code of the Calif Omar, which was then removed by the Abassite Califs, who were non-Arabs. The Arab Christians, regarded by Muslims as the allies of the Byzantines, were mistreated and drprived of some fundamental human rights. While the Christians were looked upon as enemies and churches were destroyed in many places, the same fate did not fall on the Jewish inhabitants of the city, who fared better under the Muslim Caliphate.
(9) With the passing of time, a series of cruel religious wars befell the Holy Land. The Crusaders, European Christians, repeatedly tried to rescue the Christian holy places and churches in Palestine from Muslims, after news had reached Europe that the Muslims were mistreating the local Christians, as well as Christian pilgrims. They conquered Palestine (the name given by the Romans) as it was then known, that was under the reign of the Seljuk Turks.The crusaders mistreated Muslims, Jews and local Christians. Arab Christians allied with the Muslims as their Arab Heritage and traditions were semilar to their brothers Arab Muslims. The crusades ended with the Muslim victory led by Saladin, in 1192. Over the succeeding centuries, many dynasties came to rule the area.
(10) In 1517, the Ottoman Turks conquered the whole area of the eastern Mediterranean. This long reign ended with the conclusion of The Great War (now known as World War I ) in 1918, in which the allied powers of Great Britain and France (with the late assistance of the United States), defeated the central powers of Germany and Turkey.
Between the end of World War I and 1948, the nucleus of what was to become the State of Israel, the Yishuv (the Jewish settlement colony in Palestine), grew slowly. The initial impetus for this was the political Zionist movement founded by Theodor Herzl in 1897, at Basil, Switzerland, and the subsequent letter from Lord Arthur James Balfour to Lord Rothschild, on 2 November 1917 (Herzl having died years earlier at a relatively young age.), which has come down in history as "The Balfour Declaration", which became incorporated as an international legal document, as a result of its addition to the British Mandate over Palestine which the Allies awarded to themselves, and it's codification at the Lausanne conference of the League of Nations in 1922. Although the indigenous population of Palestine, as well as the Arab states created out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire never recognized this declaration or the Mandate as being valid, the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate carried legal validity within the Western Community. The Balfour declaration itself is worded in such a way that a careful reading of it's "diplomatise" reveals that in fact it says nothing. The sixty-seven words which the author Alfred M. Lilienthal, in his book "The Zionist Connection, What Price Peace" (1978, Dodd-Mead), has described as "one man's dream, another man's nightmare" stated the following: "and it is important to note that much wrangling over the wording took place among Zionist Jews, who wanted the word "homeland" to be "state" and the word "a" to be "the", and the opposing anti-Zionist Jews lead by Lord Montagu, who saw the dangers of accusations of double loyalty in the document, and the British, who had been playing their usual game of divide and conquer, not only with this document, but with the Hussein-McMahon letters of understanding, and the secret Sykes-Picot agreement, which fundamentally divided the entire Middle East between the British and French "
" His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine (note: which in 1917 constituted 90% of the population), or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."
The British Mandate over Palestine, which turned out for the British to be more trouble than it was worth, was carried over to the United Nations, which succeeded the League of Nations, which was destroyed with the advent of World War II.
The British announced their intention to give up the Mandate, at which time a partition plan was drawn up for Palestine, by the UN, in anticipation of the departure of the British, in which separate Jewish and Palestinian states were drawn up out of the Mandated Palestine territory.
The Palestinians rejected this outright, but the Yeshuv viewed it as a foothold, and through various guerilla as well as terrorist and military activities which lead to the War of 1948, known to Israelis as "the War of Independence" and to Palestinians as "The Catastrophe", the State of Israel was declared into existence by David Ben-Gurion. Subsequently it became recognized by most member states of the United Nations.
In 1967, as a result of The Six Day War, Israel came into control of the now Occupied Territories of The Gaza Strip, The West Bank and the Golan Heights.
The West Bank, and East Jerusalem, won by the Arab Legion under Glubb Pasha in 1948 and subsequently annexed by Jordan ( which was only recognized by Great Britain and Costa Rica), now became part of Greater Israel, de facto, if not de jure.
(11) In the last thirty years the demography of the Occupied Territories, including East Jerusalem, which Israel has unilaterally annexed (an action which has yet to be recognized by any sovereign nation ), has changed drastically. Generous monetary incentives have led many native Israelis (those born in the region- known as Sabras), to settle on the West Bank. Ideological and religious imperatives, have also led many of these natives, as well as religious Zionist Jews from North America and Europe, to settle there as well. Virtually all North American and European Jews who have established settlements such as Kiryat Arba outside of Hebron, and are members of the group known as Gush Emunim ("the block of the faithful") are either Orthodox Jews who are religious Zionists, or secular Jews who are not religious but follow the philosophy known as Zionist revisionism, as first propounded by the Russian Jew, Vladimir "Ze'ev" Jabotinsky, such as the current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, infrastructure minister Ariel Sharon, "Benny" Begin, the son of Menachem Begin, who was the direct inheritor of the Jabotinskyite movement upon the death of Jabotinsky, Yitshak Shamir, and others, who are members of the Likud coalition party, or parties even further to the right, peopled by such individuals as Geula Cohen who is a member of the Knesset,and a former member of the infamous terrorist group, LEHI, better known as The Stern Gang (which was led by Yitzhak Shamir, upon the assassination of Avraham Stern.).
During the course of the last thirty years, starting with the Israeli Labor Party, (and not the Likud as is commonly mistaken), "facts on the ground" have been created on the West Bank through the appropriation of large tracts of Palestinian land for "security reasons" as well as "lack of appropriate documentation of ownership". At the current time, the Arab-Israeli dispute has deteriorated into a socio-political religious issue, with irredentist groups on both sides causing a peaceful solution to what is in effect a "Hundred Years War" to remain elusive.
(12) The conferences with regard to the Middle East conflict, Washington (Camp David), Madrid, and Oslo, recognized the legitimacy of a governing body known as the National Palestinian Authority over the areas of the West Bank and Gaza in 1995 (but not the Golan, which is under separate bilateral negotiations with Syria).
Prior to these multilateral conferences, Palestinian rights had gone as unrecognized by the Israeli government as well as other nations since 1948. Moreover innumerable security council resolutions pertaining to the mal-treatment of the Palestinians or other breaches of international law by the government of Israel, were invariably vetoed by the United States which sits as a permanent member in that body.
Much of the international community now feels that these accords, especially Oslo II, have allowed Israel to gain a stronger hand over the Occupied Territories. At the current time, more land is being confiscated, Jewish settler communities are being enlarged, and more housing projects for Jews only are being proposed and constructed, much of it under the watchful eye of Infrastructure minister Ariel Sharon.
Jerusalem which had been formally annexed by Israel, has been declared by the Netanyahu government (inspite of what is stated in final discussions status of Oslo II), to be the "eternal capital of the Jewish people", and therefore to be made exclusively Israeli. Because of this ideology, building in East Jerusalem (whose borders keep expanding into the West Bank) has continued despite international condemnation, until the current stand-off at Jabal Abu Ghneim, in which the proposed exclusively Jewish community of Har Homa is to be established, thus completely surrounding Jerusalem with Jewish settlements.
(13) During the time of the British Mandate, and subsequently the formation of the State of Israel, Arab Muslims and Christians alike have felt that they have been losing their country to Jews constituting a foreign settler community, and many began to view Jews in general and Israeli Jews in particular as their enemys. Many joint efforts were conducted to combat the Israeli presence in Palestine. Both Arab Muslims and Christians have suffered from forms of discrimination ranging from the confiscation of their lands and homes to the closing of entire villages and cities. The Partiarchs and Head of the Christian Communities have been in constant communication with the international community and the United States to urge them to work for Justice, Peace and Truth, and moreover insisting that the United States should work as an honest and neutral broker for peace in the region. (please visit our website at http://www.al-bushra.org, under, Vatican and Middle East, Head of Christian Churches, Latin Patriarchate, Peace Team, US Catholics etc, to find the Christian Position)
B. LESSONS FROM HISTORY
It needs to be noted that:
(a) Before 1920 the Arab Muslims and Christians were living on good terms with the Jews of Palestine. Jews were welcomed in the Arab world, and some even moved into the higher economic strata in these societies, at a time when they were being persecuted in Europe.
(b) For the past millenium, Jews were never persecuted by Arab Muslims (prior to the Zionist enterprise). On the contrary, in contrast to Europe, Jews were treated better in countries ruled by Muslim rulers.
(c) Arab Christians who are a minority in the Middle East and especially in Jerusalem and the Holy Land have never persecuted Muslims or Jews. The Arab Christians of the Middle East and the Holy Land have nothing to do with the stands taken by apocalyptic Christian organizations in the west, such as The Christian Coalition of the Reverand Pat Robertson, in the United States, or with their philosophies with regard to the Middle East conflict or with the Christian Zionists and their International embassy in Jerusalem.The Arab Christians of the Middle East, should not be held accountable for past persecutions of Jews by European or American Christian groups.
C. FACTS TO REMEMBER
(a) The original descendents of the Canaanites-Phoenicians, Amorites, Jebusites, Hittites, and Philistins, are identified today by archeologists and historians with the People of Jerusalem and the Holy Land.
(b) Jerusalem was occupied:
(1) By pagans for 800 years: by the Babylonians for 50 years, by the Persians for 204 years, by Alexander the Great for 9 years, by the Ptolemys for 120 years, by the Seleucids for 33 years, by the Romans under various emperors for 205 years.
(2) By Jews for 543 years: The Independent kingdoms established by David and Solomon for 424 years, by the Maccabees(Hasmoneans) for 107 years. Jewish revolts against Roman rule occurred 40-37 b.c. (Parthes), the Jewish Revolt 66-70 a.d., and the Bar Kochba revolt 132-614 a.d.
(3) By Christians for 427 years: Romans 300, Byzantines 8, Crusaders 88, British mandate 31.
(4) By Muslims for 1193 years: Khailfates-Fatimides 463, Ayoubites 57, Mame- luks 273, Ottoman Turks 400.
(c) At the time when the Holy Land was occupied by Jews it was also inhabited by the Cannanites-Phoenicians, Amorites, Jebusites, Hittites and other groups. These people were the real owners of the land, although some historians would describe the Hittites(Hyksos) as also being occupying forces.
In view of this it should be noted that:
(1) Jews did not come in larger numbers than the original inhabitants
(2) Jews did not occupy the entire land, or all of Jerusalem
(3) Many of the inhabitants of the holy land, prior to the conquest by the Jews, did not convert to Judaism.
(4) The Zionist myth that the Holy Land at the end of the nineteenth century and early part of the 20th, that it was "a land without people", to quote Herzl, is just that - a myth.
(5) Many contemporary Jews cannot trace their origins to the Middle East, and in fact are of Central Asian and European origin. A large proportion of the religious Zionist settlers are in fact from the United States, and specifically from areas such as Brooklyn, N.Y., Monsey, N.Y. and other communities in the New York City Metropolitan area.
(6) The notion of "the promised land" is a theological and not a political or his-toric issue. (See Jeremiah 31:31-34), it means for the Christians theologians the CHURCH or Heaven (Celestial Jerusalem), see comments from different Catholic and Christian sources
D. THEREFORE IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT:
(a) An admixture of people of different racial and/or ethnic origin, or of different religions does not confer on any one of them an exlusive right of primogeniture by God.
(b) Religion does not change ones ethnicity.
(c) Arabs as a group are mentioned in Acts of the Apostles 2:10
(d) A distinction must be kept in mind between the Christians of the first century, those Christians inhabiting Jerusalem and the Holy Land, many of whom speak Arabic as a native language, and the Christians of the West who came with the Crusaders as an occupying force.
(e) The original owners of the land never left, although many of them converted to either Judaism or Muslims or Christianity, while others remained pagans.
(f) During the time of the Muslim occupation of Jerusalem and the Holy land, the same original people remained, accompanied by an infllux of other people who came as occupiers or with the occupiers. Many of these people subscribed to the religions of Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Samaritanism, or Pagan worship.
E. IT SHOULD FURTHER BE NOTED THAT:
(a) Arab muslims did not displace the people already living there.
(b) The indigenous Christians had welcomed the Muslims because of discrimination suffered at the hands of the Byzantines.
(c) There was significant social intercourse between the people of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, with the Muslims, even though at certain periods, discriminatory laws were passed that prohibited both Christians and Jews of certain fundamental rights. Later on this was restricted exclusively to Christians.
(d) The Arab Muslim newcomers were not of greater number than the indigenous inhabitants.
(e) At no time did Jerusalem or the Holy Land ever become exclusively Muslim. The three Abrahamic religions, inhabited the region together.
(f) Under virtually every political occupation that has been related to a religious dynamic, the people of Jerusalem and the Holy Land have suffered.
Commenting on this last fact, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah wrote: "Five elements are essential to Jerusalem and should be taken into clear consideration in any proposed solution: Two peoples: Palestinians and Israeli Jews, and Three religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. For two thousand years Jerusalem was the source of continuous wars, because it was always governed by one political authority, belonging to one religion. If we want to give Jerusalem a permanent stability, so that it will remain a source of war no more, it must by necessity have have a special staus which takes into account the five essential components;i.e, two peoples and three religions. No one should remain outside Jerusalem. All five components should feel equally at home there, with equal rights and responsibilities. If Jerusalem, once again falls under the sole control of only one political authority, related to only one religion, then those who are excluded from enfranchisement will harbor hatered and a desire to re-enter Jerusalem by force of arms and violence. Moreover, there is no reason to assume that any political authority, might not one day be in military conflict with other sovereign states, as has been true in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and Arab countries. Therefore an "internationalization" of Jerusalem as proposed by the United Nations original partition plan, would afford free access to all parties. Today as a result of "security reasons" it is not accessible to all Arabs, Christians or Muslims in Arab Countries, or even to inhabitants of the Occupied Territories except by special permission.
(1) East Jerusalem is in fact Occupied Territory as recognized by UN resolutions, the Geneva IV convention to which the state of Israel is a signatory, as well as long standing United States foreign policy. It IS NOT disputed territory.
(2) The unilateral annexation of Jerusalem by the government of Israel has been rejected by UN resolutions 242, 478 (not 338?) and by the International Community all of whom with one exception, maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv.
(3) Jerusalem, as a religious capital only, should be the capital of Jews, Christians and Muslims.
(4) Jerusalem as a political capital, cannot be the exclusive capital of a Jewish State. The Israelis have occupied Jerusalem for a period of 1% of its entire history.
(5) Jerusalem should be the captial of two modern states: Palestine and Israel (barring it's internationalization)
(6) The claims of Israel that Jerusalem is the eternal, unique and unified capital of Israel is contrary to the long history of the city, and it's spiritual mission.
(7) Lastly, supporting Truth, Justice and a comprehensive peace in the Middle East,especially in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, is a profound religious imperative.
The One God of Jews, Christians and Muslims put them together in his Holy City to witness love, Justice and peace in the CITY OF PEACE. Pray with me for a comprehensive peace and Justice and TRUTH.
Rev. Labib Kobti,
The Article: in Spanish
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