Jerusalem matters. It is vital to God’s plan for the past, present, and future of our world. All of the land, including Jerusalem, was a gift from Jehovah, and the ownership of Israel’s land is non-negotiable. In March 2002, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) addressed the issue of Israel’s right to her land: “Every new archaeological dig supports the fact that the Jews have had a presence in Israel for 3,000 years—coins, cities, pottery, other cultural artifacts. The Jews’ claim predates the claim of any other people in the region. The ancient Philistines are extinct as are other ancient peoples. They do not have the unbroken line the Israelis have. Ownership is and will be in the hands of God’s Chosen People—forever.”
When you sign your name to a check, you represent that you possess the amount indicated on that check. God wrote His Name in Jerusalem, and He has the power and authority over that which His name represents. On July 30, 1980, the Israeli Knesset voted to affirm a united Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel. Shortly afterward, I had the privilege of speaking with the man who would become my dear friend, Prime Minister Menachem Begin. We discussed the vastness of the territory held by Israel’s enemies. For instance, at that time Arab dictators controlled 13,486,861 square kilometers in the Middle East, and Israel controlled 20,770. The population of Israel was roughly 7.8 million, compared to the population of 300 million living in the surrounding Arab countries.
The odds against Israel are decidedly skewed. The Arab nations demanding a Palestinian state are represented by 21 separate countries. Several arguments have been offered as to why Palestinian Authority head, Mahmoud Abbas, continues to reject any and all offers of a Palestinian State. Chiefly, formal statehood would limit the ability of the PA and of Hamas in Gaza to commit acts of terrorism. It would rob them of the cover they now enjoy when it comes to terroristic acts against the Jewish people in Israel. It is obvious, when at some point in each round of negotiations, the Palestinians cry foul, pick up their marbles, and go home.
To this day, the same countries trying to foist a Palestinian state off on Israel do not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The Holy City is the symbol of all that Israel represents in our world. Teddy Kollek, Jerusalem’s first mayor wrote: “Jerusalem, this beautiful, golden city, is the heart and soul of the Jewish people. One cannot live without a heart and soul. If you want one single word to symbolize all of Jewish history, that word is Jerusalem.”
A world map drawn in 1581 features Jerusalem at its very center with the then-known continents of the world surrounding it. It resembles a ship’s propeller with the shaft in the center being Jerusalem. Another analogy is of Jerusalem as the navel of the earth.
Jerusalem belongs to God despite the detractors who wish to offer the city up as appeasement to her avowed enemies. Satan would dance gleefully should Israel be forced to make that move. When the Messiah returns, it will be to the City of David, not to Al-Quds (the Arabic name for Jerusalem.) We are the Jerusalem Prayer Team—the largest prayer movement in history—dedicated to fighting the spirit war for the future of the Holy City, the Jewish people, and the nation of Israel.
Though the Allies succeeded in defeating Germany in World War II, the long years of fighting took a heavy toll on the British government. The famed empire on which “the sun never sets” was strained to the breaking point. The last thing England wanted was another round of fighting in the Middle East. Having determined that appeasing the Arab governments was more important than anything else, they actively worked to prevent further Jewish immigration to Israel.
In March of 1947, the Exodus set sail for Israel. Aboard was a Christian Zionist Methodist minister, John Stanley Grauel. He was closely connected with the Haganah but was there on the ship ostensibly as an undercover correspondent for the Churchman, an Episcopal journal. With that designation, he secured a visa from the British Consulate in Paris, enabling him to legally enter Palestine. His assignment was to make certain the world knew of the events surrounding the ship.
Once he had arrived in Europe, Grauel’s job was to arrange for the transfer of refugees from displaced persons camps to the Exodus. His tasks were many and varied: cook, distributor of supplies, administrator, and contact person between the refugees and the crew. The ship steamed toward Palestine with more than 4,550 refugees packed aboard. Just as she neared Haifa on the Mediterranean coast, the ship was rammed by the British Royal Navy cruiser Ajax, in a convoy with five destroyers, and was boarded by sailors.
This was not an easy task, as the SS Exodus had been fortified with barriers and barbed wire to discourage such actions. The British reportedly bombarded the ship with tear gas grenades in order to subdue the passengers. Captain Ike Aronowicz and his crew challenged the boarding party. One crew member, First Mate William Bernstein, a sailor from California, and two passengers were bludgeoned to death.
The ship that had brought such hope to so many had been attacked by the British navy a mere 17 miles offshore in international waters. It was a wanton act of piracy for which the Royal Navy commanders were never charged. Grauel later reported that as the Exodus staggered into the port at Haifa, those still able to stand gathered on the deck of the ship and sang “Hatikvah,” the hymn of hope.
Grauel, the only passenger on board with a valid visa, was arrested but soon escaped with help from none other than the future mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek (who would become a very dear of mine years later), and the Haganah. He was approached by a reporter who was a member of the Jewish organization.
The unnamed reporter shepherded Grauel to the men’s room, from which he was whisked out a back door into a waiting car displaying American press credentials. The Jews on board the Exodus were then forced to disembark in Haifa and were eventually and unwillingly returned to British-controlled camps in Germany.
Grauel was summoned to Kadimah House in Jerusalem to give a firsthand account of his experiences during the voyage with the refugees to the United Nations Committee on Palestine. As he stood before that group, he leveled his heartfelt accusations regarding the treatment of the Jewish passengers on the Exodus. He later said of his testimony: “There was great gratification for me in knowing that my eyewitness report was now a matter of record. Inherent in the nature of the relationship between Christians and Jews was the fact that because I was a Christian, in this situation my testimony would be given greater credence than that of a Jewish crew member.”
Grauel’s witness proved to be an effective means of gaining compassion and support for the Jewish cause. His eloquent speech to the UNSCOP later earned him the moniker of “the man who helped make Israel possible.” Prime Minister Golda Meir believed it was Grauel’s recounting of the events surrounding the Exodus that persuaded the UN to support the creation of a Jewish state.
The Lord gave Abraham and his descendants, Isaac and Jacob, the title deed to the land of Israel. He declared that it would be their possession perpetually. In Genesis, God spoke: “The same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: ‘To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates—the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites” (Genesis 15:18-21).
In secular terms, this would be called a royal land grant. This type of grant, common in antiquity, was perpetual and unconditional. The king, or sovereign, possessed all the land and granted parcels of it to loyal subjects as rewards for faithful service. In biblical terms, God is sovereign over all the earth. He created it, and there are no greater rights of ownership than that. So the land is certainly His to bequeath as He wishes.
Years after He made his original covenant with Abraham, God confirmed it. Abraham accepted the terms of the covenant by the right of circumcision:
“As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” And God said to Abraham: “As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised” (Genesis 17:4-10).
This covenant with Abraham is an eternal one with no preconditions or expiration date. It was given as an everlasting possession to Abraham and his descendants. Only Mankind is capable of impeding the fulfillment of the contract through disobedience, but the pact can never be rescinded. Moses declared: “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19).
Of what value is this ancient covenant between God and Abraham today? God is still sovereign over the land He bestowed upon Abraham and his offspring. He has never vacated the title deed, nor as some believe, has He rescinded His covenant declaration. The land still belongs to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants—as numerous as the sands of the sea.
The Jewish people have a God-given, inalienable right to possess the land of Israel and to the entire city of Jerusalem. Many have the mistaken idea that an inalienable right is one which cannot be taken from you. In reality, it means just the opposite. It is one that cannot be given away, sold, surrendered, or legally transferred to another. Giving away any of the land violates the covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and places the nation of Israel outside God’s covenant blessings. Likewise, the nations that are coercing Israel into giving up the land come under the curse of God.
When standing on the Mount of Olives, the sweeping panorama of Jerusalem is breathtaking. The multi-towered landscape is a splendid drama written in stone, one that has received rave reviews from countless pilgrims to the Holy Land.
Seen from atop the mount are landmarks such as the ancient ruins of the City of David, the gilded cupola on the Dome of the Rock, and the Kidron Valley, where tombstones dot the hillside beneath the crenellated walls of the ancient city. These massive stone walls, with their battlements intact, have proudly surveyed the sieges of invading armies. The parapets of these walls once sheltered archers; today, soldiers patrol them with automatic rifles.
The Olivet view entices pilgrims to descend into Jerusalem, a city of stones, and to visit the Old City with its Jewish Quarter. As the traveler wanders through the tangled labyrinth of narrow alleyways, one can almost touch the stone walls on either side. There are stone arches above and paving stones beneath. From the ancient ruins to the medieval ramparts, these streets and walls that have baked in the warmth of a million sunrises each have a story to tell.
Those most beloved by the people of Israel are the stones that rise to form the Western Wall, the holiest Shrine of the Jewish faith. The 50-foot-high wall is all that remains of the Temple Mount as it existed in the first century. The stones stacked one upon another to build this wall are so massive that it’s hard to imagine how they were chiseled out and transported up the hills of Jerusalem.
To grasp the perspective, it is helpful to look backward across the centuries and then to follow the course of events that has led to today’s impasse in the City of David. Consider the view from the Temple when the stones were newly hewn and the city of Jerusalem shone like alabaster in the morning sun. Herod the Great began rebuilding Solomon’s Temple before the birth of Christ; the project occupied the rest of his administration. While the 15-story-high Temple was constructed during Herod’s reign, the outer courts and walls were not fully completed until 64 A.D., after his death. And they would not stand for long.
One day, after Jesus had been teaching in the Temple precincts, he called his disciples’ attention to the buildings: “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2).
The words of Jesus were precisely fulfilled in 70 AD when Roman armies swept through Jerusalem and reduced Herod’s magnificent Temple to a pile of blackened rubble. The stones of the Temple are buried in antiquity, somewhere deep beneath the Old City. The only remnant that remains today is the Kotel—the “Western Wall” that was not part of the Temple itself but rather a retaining wall built to expand the hillside so the great Temple Herod envisioned could be built.
The remaining stones of the Western Wall have become a symbol of the enduring hope of the Jewish people. Even non-religious Jews venerate the Wall as a national monument. The plaza in front of the Western Wall can accommodate 100,000 congregants. It is the gathering place of the people of Israel, the scene of both joyous celebration and solemn memorial. For a city that has been completely destroyed twice, occupied by enemies 23 times, surrounded 52 times, and liberated 44 times, the Wall remains a testimony of God’s all-encompassing providence.
In 1992, the government of Norway offered to act as an intermediary between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization in an effort to bring lasting peace to the region. They were hoping to follow up on the Madrid Conference from the previous year, which had not produced any concrete results. A series of increasingly high-level secret meetings were held both in Oslo and in London. At the conclusion of those meetings, a Declaration of Principles was prepared, which came to be known as the Oslo Accords.
In September of 1993, Israeli and Palestinian leaders met in Washington. At a ceremony hosted by President Bill Clinton, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat officially signed the agreements. Clinton held a celebration on the White House lawn for what he called “a brave gamble for peace,” where he forced—actually standing with his thumb pressed into the prime minister’s back—Israel’s Yitzhak Rabin to shake hands with PLO chairman Yasser Arafat over a blank sheet of paper that represented the Declaration of Principles, or Oslo Accords. The paper lay on the same table over which President Jimmy Carter had presided, as Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat signed the earlier peace treaty between Israel and Egypt in 1979.
President Clinton later described it as one of “the highest moments” of his presidency as the two “shook hands for the first time in front of a billion people on television, it was an unbelievable day.” One of Clinton’s greatest hopes was to go down in history as the man who finally resolved the Arab–Israeli conflict in the Middle East. In order to do this, he used his tremendous aptitude at image transformation to turn the terrorist and murderer Yasser Arafat into a diplomat. Arafat became the most-welcomed foreign leader to the White House during the Clinton years. It also seems likely that Arafat received some coaching from Clinton and his advisers on what to say, how to speak, and what to do to help in this metamorphosis.
The Nobel Prize Committee awarded the Peace Prize to Rabin, Arafat, and Israel’s foreign minister (later prime minister and president) Shimon Peres. But the hope of peace again proved to be empty. The late Jewish actor and spokesman Theodore Bikel said: “Arafat turned out to be no partner for peace…he had never intended to be such a partner in the first place. Oslo and the handshake gave him the cachet of peacemaker; it also gave him half of a Nobel Peace Prize, which, if he had had any sense of shame, he would have returned. In truth, for him Oslo was nothing more than an opportunity to obfuscate and spin wheels.”
For all of the concessions Israel made, the PLO and Yasser Arafat took no steps toward peace. Instead, they continued to incite attacks against Israel and to pay terrorists (or their families) an annual salary for killing innocent Jewish people. Israel lost far more than it gained from the Oslo Accords.