|Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
7 -13 December 2000
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
Eternal citySir- Successive Israeli governments have, for quite some time, been claiming Jerusalem as their "eternal capital." Is there any truth in this? When dealing with a claim like this, perhaps it would be best to let history decide.
Jerusalem is a 5,000-year-old city. It has been occupied by all sorts of people like the Jebusites, Canaanites, Amarites, Amalkites etc. for something like 2,000 years.
The Jewish period proper is between 1,000BC and 63AD and starts with David wresting the city from the Jebusites (long after Joshua failed to conquer it). All through this period two thirds of the city population was Jewish and one third was Egyptian, Arab and Phoenician, according to the Roman historian Strabo.
In 586BC the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar captured and burnt Jerusalem to the ground and between 10-50,000 Jews were deported to Babylon. But, seven years later, Cyrus of Persia defeated the Babylonians and ordered the rebuilding of the city as well as the return of the exiles.
In 63AD Pompeii with his Roman legions took Jerusalem and immediately began to expel the Jews from the city to the countryside. After two further Jewish defeats at the hands of the Romans in 70AD and 135AD, the city ceased to be Jewish. Only one third of the population remained Jewish while two thirds were Egyptians, Arabs and Phoenicians.
From 324 to 638AD, under Constantine the Great, Jerusalem was a Christian city. Then the Arabs occupied Jerusalem from the seventh to the 11th centuries. After 68 years as a Crusader city, it was again in Arab hands from 1187 to 1516AD. Then from 1516 to 1813AD the city was Ottoman. From 1813 to 1947 Jerusalem came under the British.
When the Balfour Declaration was issued in 1917 over 90 per cent of the population was Arab.
To sum up, out of the 5,000-year history of Jerusalem, the city was Jewish for a mere 1,439 years while for 3,561 years it was occupied by peoples of other religions, notably Muslims.
So, I wonder if the Israelis can make any valid claim whatsoever to Jerusalem!
A mislaid corpseSir- I always enjoy reading up on the latest restoration happenings in Cairo. However, I would like to point out that while Sultan Al-Ghouri was responsible for the last beautiful Mameluke monuments in Cairo (as reported in Al-Ahram Weekly, 23-29 November), he was in his mid-70s when he died while battling the Turks near Aleppo, and his body was never found. As any modest student of Cairo's history could tell you, the body in the mausoleum of Al-Ghouri is not his (as reported in the previously mentioned Al-Ahram Weekly) but that of his successor Tumanbay, who was hanged several times by the Ottomans from Bab Zuweila before the rope held together long enough to kill him.
Public corruptionSir- I read with great interest Mona Makram Ebeid's piece on corruption in our society (Soapbox, Al-Ahram Weekly, 23-29 Nov.). I'd like here to elaborate on one of the most widespread forms of corruption among government employees: bribery. You can hardly get anything done in any government office without having to pay someone.
Some time ago, I had to get an official copy of a court ruling. I went to see the clerk in charge, who told me that it would take me a long time to get the paper I required and that he would have to pay someone if I wanted to speed things up.
Unfortunately, this happens almost every day in most government offices. Some people even think it is right to pay government employees for the services they do for the general public on the grounds that they do not get enough pay. Our media must play a greater role in challenging such corruption.
Essam Hanna Wahba
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