Ian (loic) wrote,

Jerusalem Maths

Last Friday we went on an alternative archaeological tour of the Silwan neighbourhood of East Jerusalem. The tours are run by Israeli archaeologists who feel that the archaeology done in the area often referred to as the City of David aren't done professionally. The Israeli Government and the settler organization El Ad use archaeological techniques that have been rejected by mainstream archaeology for a hundred years (such as tunnelling) and approach the digging with a political agenda rather than pure scientific interest.

Our guide showed us not only how archaeology is being used as an excuse to force Palestinians from their homes, but also how only the Jewish and Judean parts of the history were being explored and explained to the exclusion of the other significant history of the area. It was also interesting that he rejected a strong connection between the Judean people who settled in Jerusalem in 1000BCE and the Jewish people of today.

Jewish people feel a strong historical connection to Jerusalem, but so do people of many different faiths and cultures. In the city's 3800 year history it has had many rulers and been consistently home to different people. Back to the time of King David there is biblical documentation of the city being culturally mixed (see: Joshua 15:63, Judges 1:21). While there have been Judean or Jewish people living in the city with (with a few interruptions) since about 993BCE, they've never been the only residents. Some Palestinians see themselves as the descendants of the Canaanites who first settled Jerusalem, but that connection, like that between the modern Jewish people and the Judeans of King David's time is difficult to prove or disprove and is widely disputed.

I did some quick lazy research and made a spreadsheet to track who has been running Jerusalem for the past 3810 years, since the Canaanite Jebusites first built a wall around their city. I tallied up the years that different groups controlled the city and it came out like this:
Judean / Jewish / Israeli812 years
Babylonian / Greek / Roman964 years
Arab / Turkish / Ottoman1210 years
Byzantine / Crusader / British128 years

Jerusalem has spent about 20% of its history as a Jewish city. It has spent about 1.5 times more time as a Muslim city and twice as much time ruled by polytheistic rulers. Even parts of the city that are considered to be associated with particular religions almost always have a mixed history. The Muslim Dome of the Rock is built on the site of the Jewish temple but has also been a Christian church. Much of the Western Wall (Kotel), arguably the most holy place in modern Judaism were built by Muslim rulers of the city. The history is so complicated and mixed it's illogical for any particular group to claim a unique connection to the place. Anyone that does probably has a modern political agenda.
Tags: history, israel, palestine, travel
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