Carry This With You When Defending Jerusalem

The ancient battle for Jerusalem continues, but it is one we will win.

David Friedman

OpEds David Friedman
David Friedman
Credit: INN:DF

 This Sunday is Tisha B’av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar. On Tisha B’av we mourn numerous calamities that have befallen us over the ages, foremost among them the destruction of Jerusalem and its Holy Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, and again by the Romans in 70 CE. There is much to lament on Tisha B’av, but I think there are also some positive perspectives that are worth noting, all of which re-confirm the centrality of Jerusalem to the Jewish People:

First, as we mourn Jerusalem’s sorrows, let us recognize that our link to Jerusalem spans at least 3000 years, longer than any other people by many orders of magnitude. Similarly, let us acknowledge that despite the multitude of foreign armies that have captured and then relinquished Jerusalem, no other nation observes any remembrance of these battles. Finally, let us all appreciate the re-birth of Jerusalem that is taking place before our eyes and be grateful for the unique and special time in which we live. 

Jerusalem is the eternal and undivided capital of the Jewish People. That point seems so obviously correct to so many of us that we can’t even fathom the basis for a debate. And yet the debate continues and with mixed results. Indeed, even three Jewish justices of the United States Supreme Court recently were unconvinced with regard to the sacrosanct status of Jerusalem.  

From every perspective within which this issue is considered, we have the winning argument. Historically, our roots in Jerusalem date back at least to the monarchy of King David in 1000 BCE. The Old Testament refers to Jerusalem more than 600 times; the Koran, not once. When Jerusalem was under the control of foreign forces, it was desolate and barren.  Even in modern history, from 1948 through 1967, the Government of Jordan
In this world of sound bytes, it is impossible to be right – you don’t have enough time to demonstrate your point – and it is impossible to be wrong – you have just enough time to say something ridiculous without being challenged.
destroyed the Jewish holy places and denied access to Jewish worshippers. In contrast, since 1967, Jerusalem has thrived under Israeli stewardship and all worshippers of all religions have the unfettered opportunity to visit and pray. Incredibly, Muslims are even given preference to Jews at the Temple Mount – the epicenter of Judaism’s holiest site.

We do not lack committed and articulate spokespeople for the cause of Jerusalem. They are present in the halls of Congress, in the Knesset, in countless synagogues and elsewhere. Nor do we lack written material on the subject – there are outstanding books and articles that methodically and compellingly make the case for Jerusalem as the indisputable capital of the Jewish People. So why are we still facing such headwinds?

A significant part of the problem lies in the diminished attention span of our audience and the devaluation of the written and spoken word. It has become unreasonable to expect anyone not consumed with interest on the subject to read a scholarly article or, Heaven forbid, actually read a book.  We have become so flooded with words that they have lost their value. In this world of sound bytes, it is impossible to be right – you don’t have enough time to demonstrate your point – and it is impossible to be wrong – you have just enough time to say something ridiculous without being challenged.  And so in any “balanced” discussion of Jerusalem that hits the airwaves, the uninformed are left only with the impression that the sanctity of Jerusalem as the holy capital of the Jewish People – and only the Jewish People – is a matter of legitimate discourse as opposed to a matter of incontrovertible fact.

With Tisha B’av upon us, I had a thought about a potentially effective way to demonstrate, with minimal advocacy, the primacy of Jerusalem to the Jewish People. I carry with me a silver shekel minted in Jerusalem by the Jews in 67 CE during their first revolt against the Romans – a revolt that failed three years later on Tisha B’av.  It is a bit pricey but you can get an exact replica for about $10.

The coin (pictured below), written in ancient Hebrew script, says “Shekel Yisrael” (Shekel of Israel) on its front, and “Yerushalayim Hakedosha” (Jerusalem the Holy) on its back. It is universally acknowledged and authenticated by numerous secular authorities on ancient coins, something easily discernable from an internet search. You can find these coins in the British Museum, the Israel Museum, and many others.

What does this coin tell us? Without words, without spin, and without argument, it demonstrates – as a matter of fact, not opinion – that Jerusalem was the political and spiritual capital of the Jewish People at least 600 years before the Muslim religion came into existence! 

Bar Kokhba coin INN:DF

Do I expect this coin to magically convert public opinion on a global basis? Of course not.  But in a world where talk is cheap and getting cheaper, perhaps an ancient object will have more credibility than even a well-intentioned word. It’s worth a try.  

Have a meaningful fast.