As our tour of Jerusalem continued, so did our history lessons.
As the first of the many disasters which overwhelmed the holy places, in 614 A.D. the Persian Army, having conquered Jerusalem, sacked and demolished the churches and bore away the Cross itself into Persia.
Hardly had the churches been rebuilt when, in 638 A.D., the city was seized by the army of Caliph Omar; and so began that long Muslim occupation which lasted until the War of 1967. From 1917-1948 after the World War I, Britain governed what was then Palestine under a mandate from the League of Nations.
This rule ended with the proclamation of the Jewish state of Israel on May 14, 1948.
The next day Israel was attacked on all her frontiers by Arab forces that assailed her from Syria and Lebanon on the north, from Iraq and Transjordan on the east and from Egypt on the south. After more than six months of bitter fighting, four armistice agreements were arranged under the auspices of the United Nations in January1949, but until 1967 there was no peace.
The frontier between the Jews and the Arabs remained frozen as it was at the time of the ceasefire. The result of the new frontier between the Arab states and Israel was that the holy places were split up between Jordan and Israel. The whole of the old-walled City of Jerusalem with the Holy Sepulchre, the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, Bethlehem with the Church of the Nativity, Jericho and the Jordan and Bethany were all in Arab territory, while the house of the Last Supper, Naim, Nazareth, the Lake of Galilee and Mount Tabor were in Israel. A wall was built through the heart of Jerusalem cutting off the population of each side from the other for 19 years. But then the unexpected happened.
On June 5, 1967, Jordanian forces opened fire on the Jewish side of the city. It was a thoughtless act, but this time the Jewish army was ready and within 48 hours they brought about the reunification of the city under Jewish control. But hallelujah on June 27, the state of Israel annexed the Old City, and tore down the wall that had divided east from west. However, once inside the old city, the Jews made the painful discovery that the Jordanians (Arabs) had blown up the 27 synagogues. Those that hadn't been destroyed had been used as latrines, stables and garbage heaps.
Thank God the Wailing Wall had survived the vandalism.
Thousands of Jews poured into the Old City to touch and kiss its ancient stones for the first time in 2,000 years. It now has become known as the Western Wall. This was one of the highlights of our trip. The Wailing Wall is located in the Old City of Jerusalem at the foot of the western side of the Temple Mount. This wall is one of the seven wonders of the Holy City called the Gate of Mercy. Throughout the ages the Wall is where Jews have gathered to express gratitude to God or to pray for divine mercy.
There has been much publicized practice of placing pieces of paper containing written prayers in the crevices of the wall. More than a million are placed each year.
When we were there, the area around the wall had many people like ourselves waiting to put their piece of paper with perhaps a prayer or whatever in one of the crevices.
Final installment next week.