Analysis & Opinions - The Huffington Post

Whose Jerusalem Is It?

| November 10, 2010

"God Wills It," cried the French Pope Urban II at the synod of Clermont, in south-central France, in 1095, as he exhorted battle-thirsty Frankish and Lombard nobles to go forth and capture Jerusalem for Christianity, as had been requested of him by the Byzantine Emperor. It was one of a number of mistaken Christian ventures into Islamic lands, on down to our day.

As the nobles made their way, along their route they acquired more adherents — German nobles and various commoners. It was a long voyage. At one rest-stop along the route, Ratisbonne (now Regensburg, in Bavaria) they encountered a community of Jews and proceeded to massacre them. This was a pattern that would repeat itself in subsequent crusades. The crusaders finally took over Jerusalem in 1099 and engaged again in massacres.

The First Crusade, as it was known, was one of eight, lasting for a period of three centuries after Pope Urban II's call in 1095. Jerusalem changed hands back and forth. The Crusaders were first driven out by the Muslims in 1187, led by an exceptional Kurdish warrior, Saladin. When Muslims again captured Jerusalem in 1244, the city was not again in Christian hands until General Allenby marched in in 1917.

"The Last Crusade"

In what Orlando Figes termed, "The Last Crusade," he emphasized that in the Crimean War (1853–1856), all the major players considered that they were in the midst of a crusade. At the heart of the war's cause was the rivalry between the Roman Catholics, supported by France, and the Greek Orthodox, supported by Russia, over who would control the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Into this situation leapt Napoleon III, who had a history of quixotic military adventures aimed at emulating his demonic genius of an uncle. Under Napoleon III the French succeeded in persuading the Ottoman Sultan to give Roman Catholicism the lead in managing the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. In 1853, the Sultan issued a decree to this effect, known as the Status Quo, which meant that it should not be altered in the future. The decree offended the Eastern Orthodox Church, which had theretofore shared the custodianship of the church. The result, ultimately, was the Crimean War of 1853–1856, pitting the British, the French, and the Turks against the Russians, the former being anxious to check Russian ambitions, in the straits and elsewhere. The war brought forth the charge of the Light Brigade, prompting a famous remark by a French General observing the carnage, "C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre."

Today the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is jointly supervised by the following religions: Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox.

Shared City?

It is the least one can say that Jerusalem has had a varied and contested past....

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For Academic Citation: Cogan, Dr. Charles G..“Whose Jerusalem Is It?.” The Huffington Post, November 10, 2010.