King Solomon was the first to lay the conceptual foundation for the universalism of Jerusalem; that is, the idea that Jerusalem was not only for the children of Israel but also for all the people of the world, regardless of their religion, “Whatever prayer, whatever supplication is made by anyone, or by all Your people Israel, when each one knows the plague of his own heart, and spreads out his hands toward this temple: then hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and act, and give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart You know (for You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men), that they may fear You all the days that they live in the land which You gave to our fathers.
Moreover, concerning a foreigner, who is not of Your people Israel, but has come from a far country for Your name’s sake (for they will hear of Your great name and Your strong hand and Your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this temple” (1 Kings 8: 38-43).
Solomon’s vision for Jerusalem attracted King Hiram, a pagan, to the construction of the Temple and he also inspired other kings and the Queen of Sheba to visit Jerusalem. The Prophets, including Isaiah, continued to develop the vision of a universal Jerusalem until the "last days",
"And many nations will go and say: come and ascend to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us His ways; and we will walk in His ways. For out of Zion will go forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3).
“Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar;
For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah 56:7).
The concept of the universalism of Jerusalem is also present in Midrash (Book of Jewish tradition), as from the mouth of Rabbi Yochanan, "The future of Jerusalem is to become the capital of all nations."
“Jerusalem is the light of the world”, said the Jewish sages (Midrash Raba).
In another book of Jewish traditional stories (Haggadah), it states, “The holiness of Jerusalem is higher than the holiness of all other places in the land of Israel”.
Therefore, the Jews say that they ascend to Jerusalem in the spiritual sense as well as geographically since the city is located on mountainous terrain ranging from 600 to 830m (1969 to 2723 feet) above sea level.
The holiness of Jerusalem is eternal in the eyes of the Jewish people, based on the promise from the Almighty to King Solomon,
“And the Lord said to him: ‘I have heard your prayer and your supplication that you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built to put My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually’” (I Kings 9:3).
The Talmud says seven substances were created before the creation of the world, and among them are the Temple and the stone of the universe, located in Jerusalem (Psakhim, nun-dalet, aleph).
Jerusalem is also the location of significant events in the spiritual development of mankind as shown by the historic binding of Issac by Abraham, the father of the three main religions of the world. The poetic story of Jacob's dream took place on Mount Moriah. Both of these areas later became part of the city and remain holy places today.
Jerusalem remained a symbol of Divine presence, national unity and Jewish statehood over two thousand years of dispersion throughout the world.
Jews in all corners of the earth continued to say to each other with hope and faith, "Next year in Jerusalem", as they dream if not to live there but at least to be buried on its slopes.
Conviction was firm among the Jewish sages that living in Jerusalem was meritorious in a moral and spiritual sense. At the beginning of the 19th century, people began to turn dreams into deeds and brought the possibility of the return of the Jews to the Promised Land into reality.
Edwin Samuel Montagu was a Jewish liberal politician who served as the British Secretary of State to India (1917-1922) and sharply opposed Zionism and called the attempts of Professor Chaim Weizmann to establish a national Jewish home in Palestine "blasphemous" and "arrogant". Nevertheless, the attempt was successful despite opposition and the ancient prophecies were fulfilled. The country arose from oblivion and Herbert Samuel, a moderate Zionist and the cousin of Montagu, became the first High Commissioner of the British Mandate of Palestine.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem ...
How did Jesus and his disciples view Jerusalem? According to the Gospels, Jesus was a true son of His people and treated the Jewish city with reverence.
Jesus and His parents made their pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Pentecost, according to the Gospel of Luke. This was an obligatory commandment in addition to the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). During these holidays, people flocked to the Temple to observe the holy days.
The touching cry from the soul of the Teacher from Nazareth and the object of the faith of millions is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew,
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!" (Matthew 23:37).
At the time of the Second Temple, the Samaritans stood out as a special cult. Jesus had a conversation with a Samaritan woman about the Temple in Jerusalem and He put forth a paradoxical thesis,
"Jesus said to her, 'Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.... But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him" (John 4:21 and 23).
In other words, Jesus affirmed universal, ecumenical principles that broke the established national and geographical boundaries of spirituality. John, the disciple of Jesus, echoed this principle in the most mysterious, elusive book of the New Testament, the Apocalypse (Revelation),
"Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God'" (Revelation 21: 2-3).
In other words, John's vision of Jerusalem was not earthly city built by men, but rather a spiritual, heavenly realm.
In the 4th - 5th centuries AD,
pilgrims and followers of the new religious doctrine rushed to Palestine and the term "Holy Land" came into use in relation to the Land of Israel.
Churches and monasteries were built in places associated with the life, work, death and resurrection of the great Teacher, Jesus. Jerusalem was re-populated once again, this time with a Christian population.
New terminology arose in relation to the city with names such as "New Jerusalem" and "Jerusalem above",
"but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all" (Galations 4:26).
These titles for Jerusalem had a somewhat allegorical meaning for the writers of the New Testament, but the Christians of the Greco-Byzantine Empire adopted more tangible, earthly terms when they named the monasteries and churches in the territory of Jerusalem.
Although the population of Christians within Jerusalem is very small in comparison to other religions, their influence and contributions to urban cultural life is substantial. There are about two hundred churches and chapels in the city, numerous educational institutions and concert halls, monasteries and conference halls, guest houses and youth hostels which were founded by the Christian community.
The Franciscan, Benedictine and Carmelite orders have their institutions in the city as well, the sisters of Zion (the "little sisters of Jesus") and Christian Orthodox monasteries.
The Israeli government also allowed the Mormons (Church of Latter-Day Saints) to open an office with the agreement not to engage in missionary work among the Jewish people.
This variety of Christian denominations is unimaginable anywhere else on the globe and indeed, even in Jerusalem, there is tension. Such a concentration of different faiths which are often hostile and intolerant to each other often have conflicts. On the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, disputes between priests during religious processions can lead to violence.