What Mark Twain Saw
While desecrating cemeteries, synagogues and Torah scrolls seemed bad enough, it was Mark Twain’s “Innocents Abroad” description of his 1867 visit to Jerusalem that made me realize just how much Jordanians systematically eradicated the most precious remnants of Israel’s ancient history.
If someone had taken over what you felt was legally your house, but then the courts awarded it back to you, would your first action upon entering the house be to take a sledgehammer to the walls?
There is a distinct recklessness that surfaces when dealing with a supernatural level of hate. When it comes to the battle between the Kingdom of Darkness and the Kingdom of God, there is an unstoppable reckless rage manifesting that bypasses all reasoning. It is the rage of the Dragon who cannot defeat God and so rages at God’s creation (Rev.12:17). It’s the same madness that drove the crowds to ask for the release of a murderer named Barabbas into the streets rather than free a controversial rabbi named Yeshua. And it is this same madness that causes Muslims to destroy the historical evidence of God’s wonders done in Israel.
In 1863 during Ottoman rule, the British consulate in Jerusalem recorded the majority of the population in Jerusalem to be Jewish. This would remain unchanged until 1948 when the War of Independence divided the city and Jews were forced by Jordan to flee to the western side of the city. Almost 20 years later, when the Six Day War delivered East Jerusalem back into the hands of the Jewish people, an unconscionable amount of destruction would greet them.
The Jewish Virtual Library documents how Jordan treated Jerusalem:
“Israel’s army liberated Jerusalem’s Old City, finding the area completely neglected and virtually destroyed. … All but one of the 35 synagogues within the Old City were destroyed; those not completely devastated had been used as hen houses and stables filled with dung-heaps, garbage and carcasses. The revered Jewish graveyard on the Mount of Olives was in complete disarray with tens of thousands of tombstones broken into pieces to be used as building materials and large areas of the cemetery leveled to provide a short-cut to a new hotel. Hundreds of Torah scrolls and thousands of holy books had been plundered and burned to ashes…”
Jordanians use of Jewish tombstones to tile their roads, fill in walls and build army barracks was not only about dishonoring Jewish memory in the land, it was also about erasing it. Jordan’s Arabs had neither love for the history of the city, nor in their 20 years of rule did they take any initiative to create a capital out of it.
While desecrating cemeteries, synagogues and Torah scrolls seemed bad enough, it was Mark Twain’s “Innocents Abroad” description of his 1867 visit to Jerusalem that made me realize just how much Jordanians systematically eradicated the most precious remnants of Israel’s ancient history:
“Everywhere about the Mosque of Omar are portions of pillars, curiously wrought altars, and fragments of elegantly carved marble – the precious remains of [Herod’s] Temple…see the costly marbles that once adorned the inner Temple…the designs wrought upon these fragments are all quaint and peculiar…one meets with these venerable scraps at every turn, specially in the neighboring mosque Al Aqsa, into whose inner walls a very large number of them are carefully built for preservation.”
“These pieces of stone, stained and dusty with age, dimly hint at a grandeur we have all been taught to regard as the princeliest ever seen on earth; and they call up pictures of a pageant that is familiar to all imaginations – camels laden with spices and treasure… presents for Solomon’s harem – a long cavalcade of richly caparisoned beasts and warriors – and Sheba’s Queen in the van of this prison of Oriental Magnificence. These elegant fragments bear a richer interest than the solemn vastness of the stones the Jews kiss in the place of wailing can ever have for the heedless sinner.”
“Down in the hollow ground, underneath the olives and orange trees that flourish in the court of the great mosque, is a wilderness of pillars – remains of the ancient Temple, they supported it. There are ponderous archways down there…we never dreamed we might see portions of the actual Temple…”
With my love for our treasured history (as I presume any believer in the stories of the Bible would have) I can’t describe the sadness I felt when I read these words. Like the childhood diary of your great-grandparent found just recently smoldering, Jerusalem was returned to its rightful owner with so many of its secrets simply and recently erased. Remnants of the Temple, of places Yeshua walked and the disciples with Him, survived thousands of years under so many different rulers, empires and wars. But they would not survive the Islamic rage over Israel rising from the ashes and returning home.
Sadly, even with Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem, the battle to destroy evidence of past Jewish presence (before we rediscover it) continues. Because every discovery we make, every Hebrew-etched piece of pottery, coin and jewelry – pushes back against the Islamic propaganda that Jews never inhabited this land. Even now there are piles of earth illegally dug up by Jordan from the Temple Mount (removed to build another Mosque) sitting in an open lot. They remain unexcavated due to lack of budget, and who knows what secrets remain?
Thankfully Jordanians didn’t get to it all; we did return to our land and find the words that God spoke to our ancestors safely hidden and preserved in desert caves. We call them the Dead Sea scrolls. It’s symbolic in a way.