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    Why Jerusalem is the capital – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Why was Jerusalem chosen as the capital?

    A. Jerusalem is no ordinary city and it never was. A physical and spiritual aura always surrounded it. The Psalmist calls the city the perfection of beauty (Psalm 50:2); the Talmud says that ten measures of beauty came down upon earth and nine were taken by Jerusalem (Kidd. 49b).

    It is said to be the most ethical city on earth ­ the faithful city (Isa. 1:21), the city of truth (Zech. 8:3), the city that is united (Psalm 122:3). It is “the navel of the country” (Josephus) and will become “the metropolis of the world” (Ex. Rabba 23:10) when “out of Zion will go forth Torah and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isa. 2:3).

    It is mentioned some 750 times in the Bible; Zion is mentioned 180 times and there are countless references to other names such as City of David. It is to be noted that there are over 150 references to Jerusalem in the New Testament but none in the Koran (it never was an Arab city; Jews have always had a presence there, only the Jews made it their capital, Jews have been the majority population since the 1820s, and the Arab claim derives only from the Hashemite capture of part of the city in 1948-9).

    The name Jerusalem means “foundation of (or for) Salem”, but it is universally understood by Jews as “City of Shalom” -­ Ir Shalom. The Midrash sees it as a combination of Yirah (reverence) and Shalom (peace). So central is Jerusalem to the Jewish (and non-Jewish) world that pre-war Vilna was colloquially called the Jerusalem of Lithuania, and there are at least 60 Jerusalems in the United States ­and even one in New Zealand.

    Others may taste, love and be impressed by Jerusalem. But it is only the Jewish people that has been inextricably bound up with the city for 3000 years. Geographically, culturally, spiritually it is the heart of Judaism.

    In ancient days Jerusalem was the location of the Israelite sanctuary; today it is Israel’s sanctum, its heart, soul and spirit. Jeremiah speaks of “Zion, for whom no-one cares” (Jer. 30:17); Teddy Kollek said, “Jews care intensely about Jerusalem… The Jews have only Jerusalem, and only the Jews have made it their capital”.

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