Jerusalem the Eternal Capital of the Jewish People
That is why it has so much deeper a meaning for them (the Jews) than for anybody else.
Jerusalem throughout its long and turbulent history, Jerusalem, more than any other city, has evoked the emotions, aspirations, yearnings and religious fervor of civilised Jewish mankind. Yet this homage of the world cannot overshadow the consuming and single-minded passion of one particular attachment: that of the Jewish people. For that people, as no other, Jerusalem is not just its one and only religious centre and source of spiritual life; from time immemorial it has been and, still is, the very heart and core of the people - the tangible embodiment of its nationhood, the lodestar in its wanderings, the theme of its prayers each day, the fulfilment of its dreams for the Return unto Zion and indeed the cornerstone of its continuity.
Many thousand of years ago, it was in Jerusalem that the priests would offer up daily sacrifices in the Temple on Mount Moriah. It was there in the Temple that the Sanhedrin, the great court of 71 Jewish sages, would sit in judgement. And three times a year on the harvest holy-days of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles, the entire Jewish nation would make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It is in the direction of Jerusalem that Jews face when they pray three times daily.
The Jewish prayers themselves contain numerous references to Jerusalem and Zion. In the Amidah, the Silent Devotion, God is praised as the Builder of Jerusalem. In many other places the prayers echo the messianic belief that God will restore the Jewish people to His holy city. On Passover and the Day of Atonement Jews conclude services with the fervent hope: "Next year may we be in Jerusalem!"
The Jewish connection to Jerusalem harks back to Biblical times. Jacob, encountering the site where the Temple would stand centuries later said: "How awe-inspiring is this place! It is the House of God! It is the gate to heaven!" (Gen. 28:17). Jerusalem was "the site that the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes, as a place established in His name. It is there that you shall go to seek His presence" (Deut. 12:3).
Jerusalem began to fulfill the function of a spiritual and national capital when King David conquered the city in the 10th century BCE. He made it his seat of judgment and brought the Ark of the Covenant to rest there. It was also David who conceived the idea of building a permanent house of God, a Temple, a plan eventually fulfilled by his son Solomon. DESTRUCTION & REBIRTH The story of the Jewish people and Jerusalem has been one of exile, destruction and rebirth.
Jerusalem in its 3000 years of history the city was destroyed 17 times and 18 times reborn.
There always remained a Jewish presence in the city of Jerusalem, and the Jewish people as a whole always dreamt of returning en mass to Jerusalem and rebuilding their city.
When the Babylonians destroyed the city in 586 BCE, the Jewish exiles pledged that they would never forget their beloved Jerusalem: "By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, and we wept, when we remembered Zion. Upon the willows in its midst we hanged up our harps. For there they that led us captive asked of us words of song, and our tormentors asked of us in mirth: 'Sing us one of the songs of Zion.' How shall we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember thee not; if I set not Jerusalem above my chiefest joy" (Psalms 137:1-6).
The Jewish exiles did not forget their beloved city of Jerusalem. They were to return there and rebuild the Temple under the guidance of Ezra and Nehemiah. When the Seleucids took control over the Land of Israel and placed Greek idols in the Temple, the Jewish Maccabees revolted. They succeeded in recapturing Jerusalem and re-dedicating the Temple in 165 BCE.
The Romans destroyed the Temple in 70 CE. When the Emperor Hadrian began planning to replace it with a shrine to Jupiter, a Jewish revolt known as the Bar Kochba Rebellion broke out.
For the last 2000 years, on the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av, Jews everywhere have commemorated the destruction of their city and Temple with a 25-hour fast. They sit on low stools in their synagogues and recite Jeremiah's Lamentations. They recite elegies for the city which is "scorned without her glory".
During the periods of exile Jews throughout the world would be linked as they prayed together in their Hebrew tongue all facing in the same direction, maintaining their affinity with their eternal Jerusalem. Today Jerusalem flourishes once again as the heart and soul of Judaism. It boasts a full range of rebuilt and new synagogues, Talmudic academies and institutes of Jewish research. It is home to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel which administers the life cycle events of the nation's Jewish citizens. All varieties of Judaism are represented there. Nowhere else is the spiritual element of the Jewish people so visible as in this "place that the Lord has chosen".
Jerusalem the Jewish NATIONAL CAPITAL; Jerusalem was never the capital city of any of its conquerors.