I recently made a return trip to Jerusalem. When I was 19 years of age, 35 years ago, I spent a magical summer in Jerusalem working at the Temple Mount excavations conducted by Hebrew University. Returning to any city after that long reveals a number of changes. Jerusalem, however, is different. In Jerusalem there is a mixture of many old things that never change along with some new features that create major change.
Jerusalem has grown in the past three and a half decades. There is more traffic and new streets to accommodate the increase. New and larger hotels have sprung up to handle the increasing numbers of pilgrims coming to the city. I easily found the old hotel, which had been our home for the summer. It is closed and boarded up now. But what memories it held as I stood in the abandoned courtyard.
The Temple Mount, or Haram al-Sharif to Muslims, hasn’t changed in hundreds of years. The al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock stand on the mount in all their beauty. Jews gather in prayer at the Western Wall, although when I first touched it years ago it was called the Wailing Wall. Further excavations finished the work I was part of back in 1971. Now the southern wall of the Temple Mount is cleared all the way down to the period of the first century, the time of Christ and the apostles. The Economist recently called this 35-acre site the “most explosive piece of real estate in the world.” The platform and holy places are under the supervision of an Islamic authority. No one is happy with this arrangement. Constant irritants arise over Jewish access to the area and ongoing Muslim “improvements” that disturb valuable archaeological information.
The biggest change one sees in Jerusalem today is the winding wall being erected as a barrier between Palestinian and Israeli areas. The suicide bombings of recent years prompted this action by the Sharon administration. It was seen as the only way to stop this form of violence and has been effective in reducing the incidents. The wall cuts through Jewish and Palestinian neighborhoods. One wonders, who is being shut out by the wall? Are the Israelis boxing themselves in or shutting the Palestinians out? It is like the question asked in Robert Frost’s poem, “Before I build a wall I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out…”
I passed through that wall on the way into Bethlehem, just south of Jerusalem. On the Israeli side the wall was without any slogans or graffiti. But the Palestinian side was different. Spray-painted slogans and epithets showed the anger and hostility of the Palestinian view. It reminded me of another infamous wall, the Berlin Wall. The West German side of that wall had some of the most imaginative graffiti ever written.
This wall will provide a temporary benefit, but in doing so it will create other problems requiring attention. And so the struggle and turmoil that is Jerusalem goes on. As the prophet Zechariah said, Jerusalem has become “…a very heavy stone for all peoples” (Zechariah 12:3 Zechariah 12:3And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.
American King James Version×).
The late King Hussein of Jordan once said that Jerusalem was so holy to so many, therefore no human power could hold it together. It should be subject only to the sovereignty of God. It is doubtful any earthly power could define this in practical terms. The Economist suggested recently that “the mount be denationalized with international guarantees ensuring freedom of worship for all.”
Bible prophecy shows that armies and nations will converge again on Jerusalem before the coming of Jesus Christ. Could the trigger for this event stem from an effort by some entity to create such a status for Jerusalem or the holy mount? We will wait to see, knowing that the end of any such time will see the return of Jesus to Jerusalem. Like you, I’m sure, we’ll want front row seats at that event. WNP