Jerusalem: name, capital and symbol


Jerusalem, according to Jewish tradition, is mentioned in the Torah (Genesis 14:18), as the city of Salem. Abraham, who met Melchizedek, King of Salem, received a blessing from him there. Rabbi David Kimche, a medieval Jewish commentator, explains that Salem refers to Jerusalem, which was a place of Zedek- righteousness & Salem- peace.
The Midrash, based on Genesis 22:14, teaches that Abraham brought his son Isaac to be sacrificed there. ”And Abraham called the place, G-d will be seen” – Yireh. Melchizedek , on the other hand called the place – Salem. The Almighty decided to affect a compromise , reflecting both the opinion of Abraham & Melchizedek. Therefore, say the sages of Israel, we call the city – Yireh Salem or Jerusalem. The city of Jerusalem is the place where the presence of G-d will be seen , when the Holy Temple will be rebuilt & is also the place which will bring peace to all mankind.
The name Jerusalem is mentioned more than 600 times in the Hebrew Bible.

Courtesy of: Rabbi Aaron Borow, Co-President
Rabbinical Council of America in Israel

Why Jerusalem?


The first known mention of Jerusalem is to be found in Egyptian texts. The name of the city appears in a group of inscriptions on pottery bowls and figurines from the nineteenth century BCE, known as the ”Execration Texts” that placed a curse upon potential rebellious city states. Five centuries later the name Jerusalem was found in archives in eI-Amarna, in Middle Egypt, which for a short time was the capital of all Egypt. Among the documents were letters by Abdi Hepa, king of Jerusalem, who sought the aid of the Egyptian monarch in his struggles against his neighbors. The source of the name Jerusalem is not clear. The city is not mentioned specifically in the Pentateuch. Melchizedek, the king of Salem, who was ”priest of God Most High” (Genesis 14:18), may very well have been the monarch of Jerusalem. The name Jerusalem first appears in the Book of Joshua, in a passage about the king of Jerusalem who allied himself with four other kings from the south against the Israelites, who had recently conquered part of the hill country. Joshua also refers to the city as Jebus, inhabited by the Jebusites. The Book of Judges (1:21) relates that ”The Benjaminites did not dispossess the Jebusite inhabitants of Jerusalem; so the Jebusites dwelt with the Benjaminites.” At that time Jerusalem, like other cities in the land, was a royal city ruled by the Jebusite king. At the beginning of Saul’s reign it was a non-Israelite enclave in the hill country. It was included in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin (Joshua 18:21-28).

The Capital


After David’s conquest of the city round about 1004 BCE, Jerusalem became the official royal residence and the capital of the new monarchy. David brought the Ark of the Covenant to the city with the intention of building a Temple to the Lord and making Jerusalem the religious and political capital of the people of Israel. The Bible relates that David was prevented from building the Temple because his hands were stained with blood. It was his son Solomon who erected the Temple, north of the royal quarter, on the site of the threshing floor purchased by David from Ornan the Jebusite, which is identified as Mount Moriah (II Chronicles 3:1). Once the Temple was dedicated, the city became the spiritual center that united the entire nation and to which the masses came on pilgrimages. This was ”the place that He would choose,” where people came to pay homage to the Lord of Hosts. After the monarchy was divided following Solomon’s death (ca. 930 BCE), Jerusalem remained the capital of the kingdom of Judah, whereas the capital of the kingdom of Israel changed a number of times, as one dynasty supplanted another. The kings of Israel sought a surrogate Temple for their subjects. At times peace reigned between the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, while during other periods they were hostile to each other.

The Symbol


The symbol tells the story of the very first days of the country of Israel…

Immediately upon the creation of the country it was decided that the symbol of the city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel needed to convey the special
meaning as the city of the Jewish people. It was designed by A.Koren .

On the first of the month of Adar, 1950, the symbol of the capital city of
Jerusalem was officialy chosen and registered.

The symbol that was chosen reminds us of the great and storied past of the
Jewish people: the stone wall in contrast with the surrounding olive branch exhibits the hope and peace of this new capital of a new country. The lion, the protector of the wall, symbolizes the connection of the capital city with the estate of the Tribe of Judah and is a display of one of the common symbols of the Jewish people that decorated some of their most holy instruments as well as the doors and curtains of the Holy Arks of the synagogues.