Why is Jerusalem so important to Israelis and Palestinians?

Jideofor Adibe

President Trump’s recent decision to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has ruffled feathers across the world – but delighted Israel and some Christian evangelicals. Trump wanted to underline that he is a ‘doing President’.

The truth is that since the US Congress passed the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, (which recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided capital”), US presidential candidates including Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barrack Obama had made moving the US capital to Jerusalem a campaign issue. None delivered. Trump, who came to power on a wave of right wing nationalism, wanted to convince his base and the Jewish lobby that he is not all rhetoric.

Expectedly several world leaders and organisations have condemned the Trump Jerusalem move, fearing it may lead to renewed violence between the Israelis and the Arabs. On December 10 2017, just a few days after Trump announced his Jerusalem move, 14 members of the  UN Security Council, including Britain, its staunch European ally,  voted in favour of a resolution (drafted by Egypt)  calling on Donald Trump to rescind his declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.  The United States vetoed the resolution – the first time in six years that it had to wield its veto power at the Security Council.  Nikki Haley the US ambassador to the UN, denounced the resolution as “an insult”, which “won’t be forgotten.”

Following the veto, the Palestinians immediately announced they would seek a similar resolution in the 193-member General Assembly, where there are no vetoes. Unlike the Security Council however, the Assembly’s resolutions are not legally binding.

Why is Jerusalem so important to the Palestinians and the Israelis?

Known in Hebrew as Yerushalayim and in Arabic as al-Quds, Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world. It holds a lot of symbolisms for some religious traditions, including the Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam, each of which considers it a holy city.

In Judaism, Jerusalem is considered the holiest city and the ancestral and spiritual homeland of the Jewish people since the 10th century BC. During classical antiquity, Jews considered it the centre of the world, where God lived. According to the Hebrew Bible, the First Temple at the site – which is today known as Temple Mount- was built by King Solomon in about 950 BC. When the Babylonians captured the city in about 580 BC, they destroyed the temple and sent the Jews into exile. During this period of exile the mystic bond between the Jews and Jerusalem was deepened, with a desire to return to the land of Zion being embraced as an article of faith. Hymns, songs and psalms about the hope of returning to Jerusalem became part of the people’s culture. Synagogues were built facing Jerusalem and many of the exiles left walls of their compounds unfinished to symbolize the temporary nature of their homes in the exile.

For the Christians, Jerusalem was equal to God’s presence on earth through his son Jesus Christ. The city is home to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a significant focus for Christians all over the world. Jerusalem is one of the main pilgrimage destinations for millions of Christians worldwide who visit the empty tomb of Jesus and seek solace and redemption in prayer at the site.  In addition, Jerusalem is the site of the sacred relic, Holy Lance – the spear that a Roman soldier used to pierce the side of Christ to prove to his comrades that He was in fact dead.

Jerusalem is regarded as the third holiest site for Muslims. The city houses the shrine of the Dome of Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque on a plateau known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif or the Noble sanctuary. Muslims believe that Prophet Muhammad travelled there from Mecca during his night journey and prayed with the souls of all prophets. Just a few steps away, the shrine of the Dome of the Rock holds the foundation stone, where Muslims believe Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.

Jerusalem is also home to the Temple of Solomon, which is believed to be the location where Abraham’s sacrifice of his son took place—a monumental event in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Apart from the religious of symbolism of Jerusalem to the three Abrahamic religions, the roots of modern Arab-Israel conflict can also be traced to the rise of Zionism and Arab nationalism at the end of the 19th century. A key issue here is that the territory regarded by Jewish people as their ancestral homeland is also regarded by the pan-Arabic movement (and by extension the Islamic world) as historically belonging to the Palestinians.

The sectarian conflict between Palestinian Jews and Arabs peaked into a full scale war in 1947, transforming into the First Arab-Israeli War in May 1948 following the Israeli declaration of independence. After the 1948 War, Jerusalem was divided – just like Berlin was during the Cold War – into Eastern and Western sectors under Israeli and Jordanian control respectively. In June 1967, Israel captured the eastern side, during its war with Syria, Egypt and Jordan. It expanded the city’s boundaries, annexed it and declared Jerusalem its “united and eternal” capital. It was a move that was never recognised internationally. Palestinians and Arabs generally insist that East Jerusalem must be the capital of a future independent Palestinian state. The consensus in the international community is that the city’s status must be resolved through direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

 Waiting on the Nigerian Shippers’ Council

 Just three years after the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC)  was appointed as the port economic regulator, the NSC says it wants to be more than an ombudsman: it wants to play a major role in the economic recovery of the country.

Set up in 1978, the NSC was originally a platform for the protection of the interests of shippers (importers and exporters) on matters relating to imports and exports to and from Nigeria. Is the NSC succeeding in its job as a regulator?

Time will tell.  But even in its new role, the NSC is not without its critics. Among the criticisms are lingering complaints about the high cost of doing business at the ports, (which diverts imports to neighbouring countries), the move by the NSC to reintroduce the Cargo Tracking Note (CTN) that was discarded by the Federal Government in 2013, (on fears that it will further drive up the cost of cargo clearance at the ports), the high cost of cargo clearance, demurrage payments and continuing congestion at the ports.

Executive Secretary/CEO of the Nigerian Shippers Council, Mr. Hassan Bello, said the regulator is working hard to address several of the complaints at the ports and that its two new ambitious initiatives will not only address many of the problems but also bring a lot of revenue to the country while creating thousands of direct and indirect jobs.

The two initiatives the NSC is currently pushing vigorously are:

 Inland Container Deports (Dry ports)

Inland Container Depots (ICDs) or Dry Ports, are inland intermodal terminals directly connected by road or rail to a seaport. The ICDs are meant to operate as centres for trans-shipment of sea cargo to inland destinations.  Though ICDS actually started in 1979 with two ICDs in Kano and Kaduna under the management of a company called Inland Container Nigeria Limited (ICNL), the 1996 port reforms cut short the operations of the two ports because of a new policy which required that inspections be carried out only at the seaports.

Following a feasibility study commissioned by the Ministry of Transport in 2000, the NSC promoted and facilitated the establishment of six ICDs on the basis of Public Private Partnership (PPP).  One of these six – the Kaduna Dry Port – is expected to be ready for commissioning soon.

 Truck Transit Park

 The NSC  also  conceived the Truck Transit Park project (also known as rest stops)  as a way of providing a coordinated and conducive parking facilities for trucks drivers at selected locations across the nation’s busy highways.

A Truck Transit Park (TTP) is a modern, state of the art, facility, off the highway, where truck drivers can conveniently park their vehicles and get some rest – if they need it.  A big catch here is that the TTPs will also afford cargo owners the means to monitor the movement of cargoes through a cargo tracking system installed in respective TTPs.

Based on feasibility studies in parts of the country the NSC is convinced about the economic viability of the initiative and its ability to be a major money spinner and job creator. The NSC wants to incentivize the private sector to partner with it based on Public- Private Partnership model.

Will the NSC succeed in these initiatives? Or will they go the route of other good schemes by government agencies which are discarded as soon as there is a change of government? Time will tell.

Email: pcjadibe@yahoo.com

Twitter: @JideoforAdibe




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