By Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein—
As all eyes are focused on Jerusalem once again because of President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. But to understand what is going on, you must start with why Jerusalem is so important, why this ancient city is so woven into the heart of the Jewish people.
Since the beginning of time, Jerusalem has been the meeting place of heaven and earth. Jewish tradition teaches that Creation began in Jerusalem and that Adam was created from the dust of the earth in Jerusalem. It was the place where Abraham took his son Isaac to be sacrificed. David later purchased that same site to build an altar to God. Eventually David’s land would later become the Temple Mount, and the Temple would officially serve as the connection between God and man fornearly 1,000 years.
The special status of Jerusalem was derived from the Holy Temple. There are many commandments that could only be fulfilled within the walls of God’s city. And yet, the holiness of Jerusalem existed before the construction of the Temple and remains after its destruction. This is why thousands of years after the destruction of the Temple, all Jews face Jerusalem when they pray.
The Patriarch Jacob expressed it best after he awoke from his famous dream of a ladder that spanned heaven and earth. Upon awakening, Jacob exclaimed: “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven” (Genesis 28:17).
Some sages explain that Jacob had fallen asleep in the place where Jerusalem one day would be built, specifically, at the very location where the world began, and the Temple would stand, a permanent structure in a place that God would choose. The chosen place was revealed to King David as Mount Moriah in Jerusalem and the Temple was built by his son King Solomon.
Solomon prayed these words at the Temple dedication ceremony: “May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there,’ so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place” (2 Chronicles 6:20). To this very day, Judaism maintains that all prayers ascend to heaven through Jerusalem. Similarly, all blessings pass through Jerusalem to the rest of the world.
In the messianic era, the third and final Temple is prophesied to be built in Jerusalem. In the extensive vision of the new Temple given to Ezekiel (Ezekiel 40–48), which includes detailed descriptions of the restoration of the Temple, the altar, the priesthood, and the land of Israel, he is told that the name of the new city from then on will be “the Lord is there.”
Isaiah 56:7 tells us it will be “a house of prayer for all nations” and the direct connection between heaven and earth will be established once again. Jewish people long for this day. In the Amidah prayer, which observant Jews pray three times daily, they ask God to rebuild Jerusalem and to restore the Temple worship.
Many Christians also believe the Third Temple will either precede or coincide with the arrival of the Messiah. The Christian Scriptures, specifically the book of Revelation, contain a description of the end times, including more than one mention of “the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God” (Revelation 3:12).
Based on the prophecies in Ezekiel 44, many also believe the Messiah will enter through the Eastern Gate, also known as the “Golden Gate.” It is believed to be the one Jesus entered during his triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
As Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once said, “Jerusalem is the heart of the nation. We’ll never divide our heart.” The depth of this statement goes far beyond any political implications. Past and present, Jerusalem has always been the heart of the nation of Israel, inspiring love and drawing the faithful from the ends of the earth. This is our strength, and Jerusalem, our eternal capital, is its source.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein is the founder and president of The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship), which was founded in 1983 to promote better understanding and cooperation between Christians and Jews and build broad support for Israel. Today it is one of the leading forces helping Israel and Jews in need worldwide — and is the largest channel of Christian support for Israel. The Fellowship now raises more than $140 million per year, mostly from Christians, to assist Israel and the Jewish people. Since its founding, The Fellowship has raised more than $1.4 billion for this work. The organization has offices in Jerusalem, Chicago, Toronto and Seoul.