Featured Story: Modern History of Jerusalem

Byonce Tyus, Staff Writer

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One day, while riding the bus, I had indulged in a conversation about politics.

A topic that a friend had brought up was Israel and Palestine. Heatedly, he had said that the problem simply wasn’t ours to deal with anymore. He had stated that the Middle East will always be split, and that there is no solution for a situation that has lasted so many years.

A big topic all over the world is the Israeli and Palestinian Conflict, and multiple countries have gotten involved. While it has gone on for years, through many generations, do the people in outside countries know enough about Middle East history to base an opinion?

To Laurie Melchionne, a student at a New Jersey high school, the answer is no. “Generally speaking,” she says, “not everybody is as familiar with it as we would like them to be when it comes to the debate. They don’t enough about either side to form a well educated opinion.”

The city of Jerusalem has stood for centuries, and has been one of the main problems in the conflict. Jewish, Arabic, and Christian groups have Jerusalem mentioned in their holy texts- which gives the city immense meaning to all three religions and their history. However, since modern times, Israelis and Palestinians have been the only two groups to fight over the ancient city.

Jerusalem was not established as a capital until the years from 1917 to 1948 when the British Mandate has taken place. Prior to this, Jerusalem was seen as anyone’s land since a lot of historical and religious buildings were in the city.

The British Mandate was created after World War I when the Allies had taken territories from Germany and the Ottoman Empire. Palestine (modern-day Israel, Gaza Strip, and West Bank) and Jerusalem were now controlled by Britain.

During this time, a new movement of wanting a homeland had begun within the Jewish community. The start of Zionism had begun, and Jerusalem was seen as the capital.

The idea of Jerusalem belonging to the Jewish homeland was a problem, though. The ancient city held sites that were important to Christianity and Islam. There were also Arab nationalists who had rejected the idea of Jewish people claiming the land.

 

The Zionist movement had become more popular as the years under British rule continued.

In 1948, after being created a State in 1947, Israel declared their independence. During this time, Palestinian nations had decided to fight the new country, but lost. Due to this, Jerusalem would be split in half. The Eastern part would belong to Jordanians, and the Western side would be belong to Israelis.

In Jerusalem, there is a large plot of land that’s held high to both religions known as the Temple Mount. Jewish people hold this area as the holiest place since it has been mentioned since the days of Abraham, and the first and second Temples are built there. The Temple Mount is also known as Islam’s third holiest sight- where they believe the prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.

Because of the meaning held at this historic sight, and neither side wants the other to be within that area, it’s seen as the most bitter conflict among both Israelis and Palestinians.

During the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel captured the East side of Jerusalem and control of the Temple Mount. This would create a rise in nationlism, and Jerusalem would be placed under more intensified meaning to Israel. Its history would be emphasized in Israel’s military, and through school curricular. Students would even take trips to the city for prayer.

In 1980, at Israel’s peak, Prime Minister MK Menachem Begin had created the Jerusalem Law. This would declare the city as its capital. Though this law was made, Israel didn’t annex East Jerusalem since it would’ve created an uproar. The declaration was not recognized by other outside countries, but had created even more animosity between Palestinians and Israelis.

In 1993, at Camp David, three leaders had came together. Former President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Mahmoud  Abbas had gathered to discuss a peace treaty between Israelis and Palestinians.

This meeting would be known as the Oslo Accords, and was the first major step made by the United States to create common ground between the two feuding sides.

This would lead to the conclusion that Palestinians would take back control of the Gaza Strip and West Bank- two things that were also taken during the Six Day War. However, the meeting did not lead to any agreements about Jerusalem or its state.

Many had hoped that this agreement would lead to a better world for the Middle East and for the world, but all was lost when the treaty was broken.

The latest decision made to ease tensions on this topic was made in May 2017. It came from a Palestinian group called Hamas who wanted to create a new State of Islam with Jerusalem as its capital. However, one of the negotiation this group refused to do was recognize Israel as a country. For that reason, Israelis rejected the proposal.

With prior solutions gone, many do not think compromise is in the near future.

“I don’t think any possible solutions will be permanent.” says Heather Lohr. “Compromise can never be accomplished with this conflict.”

Others, like Paige Miller, say that world leaders are understating the situation.

“Most leaders are severely underestimating the problems.” She says. “They believe they can just walk into the conflict, come up with a solution, and everything will be fine. That’s not true.”

The fight for peace in the Middle East has been long, and is still unpredictable. Though some are hopeful, a lot have taken the opinion that peace will never be accomplished. While that could be true, people should educate themselves on the conflict and the major problems each side has. The step to finding the permanent solution lies in informing people, and the generations to come.

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