Universalism of Jerusalem

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.


Historical Chronology of the City of Jerusalem

  • 19 -18 centuries BC:  Jerusalem is mentioned in the Egyptian papyri as Ur Shalimum.
  • The Bronze Age (3330 BC to 2300 BC) In the Bible, Jerusalem (Ir Shalem) and the city’s ruler and priest, Melchizedek, are found in Genesis 14.
  • 13-12 centuries BC: The city of Jerusalem (Ur Shalem) is found in Al-Amarna's manuscripts.
  • 14th century BC: In the biblical book of Joshua, Adonizedek, the king of Jerusalem enters into battle with the Israelites and is defeated.
  • 12th century BC:  The tribe of Judah conquers Jerusalem and sets it on fire. 
  • 1000 BC:  Famous King David conquers Jerusalem by defeating the Jebusite people (II Kings 5: 7).
  • 950 BC: Solomon, son of King David, fulfills the dream of his father and all the people when he builds the Temple.
  • 925 BC: The Kingdom of Israel is split and Jerusalem becomes the capital of Judea.
  • 701 BC:  Sennacherib (Sancherib), the king of Assyrian, besieges Jerusalem, but does not conquer it.
  • 587-586 BC: Tragedy strikes the Jewish people when Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the Babylonian Empire, conquers Jerusalem, destroys the Temple and takes the Jews into captivity. According to tradition, this occurred on 9th of the month of Av.
  • 536 BC: The return of the Jewish captives led by Zerubbabel and the restoration of the city.
  • 515 BC: The restoration and construction of the Second Temple.
  • 332 BC:  Jerusalem falls under the rule of Alexander the Great.
  • 321 – 301 BC:  The reign of the Ptolemaic dynasty.
  • 203 BC: King Antiochus the Third begins the process of Hellenization of Judea which leads to a split among the people.
  • 167 BC: King Antiochus the Fourth desecrates the Temple and bans religious traditions (including circumcision) which leads to the Hasmonean rebellion.
  • 165 BC: Hasmonean rebels conquer Jerusalem.
  • 141-37 BC: Jerusalem becomes the capital of the Hasmonean kings, the religious and national capital of Judea.
  • 63 BC: There is strife between Hyrcanus and Aristobulus, brothers and heirs to the throne of the Hasmonean dynasty and Jerusalem is conquered by Roman general, Pompey the Great.
  • 37 BC: Herod the Great and the Roman army conquer Jerusalem.
  • 37-4 BC: Herod strengthens Jerusalem, reconstructs the Temple, expands the Temple Square, builds Anthony's fortress (a palace and a fortified citadel) on the site of the modern Citadel of David and builds a hippodrome and a theater.
  • 4-56 AD: Jerusalem is ruled by Roman henchmen.
  • 28-32 AD: Crucifixion of Jesus in Jerusalem.
  • 41-44 AD: Reign of Agrippa I, the last Jewish king.
  • 45-66 AD: Reign of Roman governors.
  • 70 AD:  Suppression of the anti-Roman uprising causes destruction of the Temple and city.
  • 132-135 AD:  The Bar-Kokba revolt, led by ideological leadership of Rabbi Akiva fails, Jerusalem is destroyed and Jews were exiled from Judea. The ruler, Tinnius Rufus, opened the city's borders as a sign of its colonization. Emperor Hadrian rebuilds it in the Roman manner and renames it Aelia Capitolina
  • 335 AD: Jerusalem becomes a Christian center due to the initiative of Emperor Constantine and his mother, Helen. The first Christian churches were built in Jerusalem, including the Church of the Resurrection of Christ - the Church of the Sepulcher.
  • 361-363 AD: Emperor Julian the Apostate allows Jews to return to Jerusalem and prepares for rebuilding of the Temple.
  • 614 AD: Jerusalem is conquered by Persia.
  • 628 AD: Byzantine emperor, Heraclius, returns to Jerusalem and organizes a massacre of the Jewish population of the city.
  • 638 AD: Jerusalem submits to the army of the Muslim Caliph Omar al-Khattab.
  • 7th century AD:  The Jewish sect, the Karaites, are in Jerusalem.
  • Late 7th century AD:  Return of Jews to Jerusalem (70 families). Caliph Abd Al-Malik builds the Dome over the Rock mosque and his son, Al-Walid, builds the Distant Mosque (Al-Aqsa) on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
  • 969 AD: Jerusalem falls under the rule of the Fatimid caliphs.
  • 1012 AD: Fatimid ruler, Al-Hakim B'Imr Allah, destroys the houses of prayer of Jews and Christians in Jerusalem and the Church of the Sepulcher is completely destroyed.
  • 1016 AD: A strong earthquake damages the Dome over the Rock.
  • 1033 AD: Strong earthquake.
  • 1063 AD: The walls around the city are rebuilt by the Egyptian sultan, Fatimid caliph al-Mustansir. 
  • 1071 AD: Seljuk Turks conquer Jerusalem.
  • 1096 AD: Egyptians restore power over the city.
  • 1099 AD: The Crusaders conquer Jerusalem and destroyed the entire population of the city.
  • 1187 AD: Sallah ad-Din (Saladin) drives out the crusaders and returns the Jewish population to Jerusalem.
  • 1129 -1239 AD: Frederick II the Great of Germany conquers the city.  
  • 1244 AD:  Khorezm Turks conquer the city.
  • 1260 AD: Turkish Tatars destroy the city.
  • 1267 AD: The Mameluke dynasty establishes power over Jerusalem and all the land of Israel. Rabbi Nahmanides (also known as Ramban), Talmudist, teacher and biblical scholar from Spain, finds two Jews living among the 2000 inhabitants of the city. He rebuilds the destroyed building of the Crusaders into a synagogue which attracts pilgrims from all over the country.
  • 1480 AD: Tatar-Mughals of Genghis Khan destroy Jerusalem.
  • 1517 AD: Turkish Sultan Salim ו conquers the city and country.
  • 1538-1541 AD: Turkish Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, rebuilds the walls around Jerusalem, which have survived to this day.
  • 1622 AD:  Ishayahu from Gorovich (modern Mongolia) arrives in Jerusalem, the beginning of the return of Jews to Jerusalem.
  • 1663 AD: Shabtai Zvi, a kabbalist from Symrna arrives in Jerusalem, causing a split in the Jewish community.
  • 1700 AD: Rabbi Yehuda Ha-Hasid arrives in Jerusalem from Europe.
  • 1721 AD: European Ashkenazi Jews expelled from the city.
  • 1812: Ashkenazi Jews return to Jerusalem.
  • 1819: Jewish population of Jerusalem - 3000 people.
  • 1832: Ibraim Pasha, ruler of Egypt, conquers Jerusalem.
  • 1839: British Consulate opens in the city.
  • 1841: Turkish authorities return to Jerusalem.
  • 1842: The Anglican Church of Christ is founded, the first Protestant church in the Middle East.
  • 1854:  construction of the first hospital funded by Edmond Rothschild, French banker and Zionist.
  • 1866: Church of St. Mary Magdalene, the first Russian Orthodox Church is built on the Mount of Olives by Russian Czar Alexander III as a memorial to his mother, Empress Maria Alexandrovna.
  • 1888: Czar Alexander III visits Jerusalem.  Church of St. Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives was consecrated to the 900th anniversary of the Christianization of Kievan Rus people through mass baptism in 988 AD when Orthodox Christianity was accepted by Grand Prince Vladimir.
  • 1880-1900:  Jerusalem’s majority population is Jewish (17,000 out of 31,000 residents).
  • 1883: General Charles Gordon created an archaeological sensation when he found a tomb and mistook it for the true tomb of Jesus which was found later.
  • 1892: Construction of the railway line to Jerusalem is completed.
  • 1898: Historical visit to Jerusalem of German Kaiser Wilhelm II who meet with Zionist ideologist T. Herzl.
  • 1910: Jewish population of Jerusalem is 40,000 out of 65,000.
  • 1914-1917: World War I causes hunger and deprivation in Jerusalem.
  • 10/12/1917:  The city of Jerusalem is surrendered to the British Army.
  • 1918: British commander Sir Ronald Storrs issues a decree prohibiting the demolition of buildings of historical value. The new municipal law (still in effect today) requires all city buildings to be faced with Jerusalem stone.
  • 06/18/1918:  Public water supply system starts operation, supplying water to Jerusalem from the Solomon pools.
  • 1920: The beginning of the civil administration of the city.
  • 1/04/1925: Hebrew University of Jerusalem opens.
  • 1927: A powerful earthquake in Jerusalem and causes extensive damage to Church of the Sepulcher, Church of August Victoria on Mount of Olives, Al-Aqsa Mosque and others.
  • 1931: Jewish population of Jerusalem is 51,000 out of 90,000.
  • 1946: Jewish population of Jerusalem is 99,004 out of 164,004.
  • 07/22/1947: Explosion at the King David Hotel, British Mandate, organized by Jewish resistance activists, kills 90 people.