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Rabbi Arthur Segal’s love of people, humanity, and Judaism has him sharing with others “The Wisdom of the Ages” that has been passed on to him. His writings for modern Jews offer Spiritual, Ethical, and eco-Judaic lessons in plain English and with relevance to contemporary lifestyles. He is the author of countless articles, editorials, letters, and blog posts, and he has recently published two books:

The Handbook to Jewish Spiritual Renewal: A Path of Transformation for the Modern Jew


A Spiritual and Ethical Compendium to the Torah and Talmud

You can learn more about these books at:

Friday, December 8, 2017


Rabbi Dr Arthur Segal


1500 Years ago, our Chazel, our wise rabbis of blessed memory, 110 years before Islam was founded, and only 175 years after the Roman Empire became officially Christian, understood that Jerusalem was holy to both Christians and Jews, and knowing its past as an ancient holy site predating Abraham,  perhaps could foresee it would be holy for others. They understood that Jerusalem, while it was named 'the city of David' and was his capital, would need to be shared, or else have endless bloodshed. 

The rabbinic midrash on Genesis [Beresheit] reads: ''And Abraham called the name of the place "Hashem Yireh- God will see". [Rabbi Arthur Segal's note: The 'place' is Mt. Moriah.]

The midrash continues: ''Rabbi Yochanan said "he [Abraham] said to Him: Master of Worlds, at the hour that you said to me 'Take please your son, your only son', I had what to respond yesterday. You said "For with Yitzchak etc. (will I make your line great) but then "Take please your son"! God forbid that I don't do as you've asked me; instead, I conquered my mercy to do Your will. May it be your will, GOD our god, that in the hour when the sons of Isaac come (before You) because of transgressions and bad deeds, that the Akiedah (Binding) be remembered (for their benefit), and may You be filled with Mercy on them! Abraham called it "Yireh", as it says "And Abraham called the name of the place Hashem Yireh. ''

The midrash continues: ''Shem [Noah's son, the father of all Semites], called it Shalem, as it says "And Malchitzedek, the king of Shalem..."(Genesis 17) The Holy One, Blessed be He, said "If I call it Yireh, as Abraham called it, then Shem, who was a righteous man, will be hurt-- but if I call it Shalem, then Abraham, who was a righteous man, will be hurt. Instead, I call it Yerushalayim (Jerusalem), as they called it together: Yireh Shalem. Jerusalem.......'' MIDRASH BERESHEIT RABBAH 56:10. ;

They wrote this even knowing that the TaNaK states that King David paid for Mt. Moriah. 

For various reasons David did not confiscate Mt. Moriah after winning the land in battle, but preferred to buy it from Auranah, the defeated King of the Jebusites,  for full value: "So David paid Ornan [Auranah] for the site 600 shekels' worth of gold. And David built there an altar to the Lord and sacrificed burn offerings and offerings of well-being" (1 Chronicles 21:25, and a slightly different version at 2 Samuel 24:18-25).

Backing up a bit, who was Malchitzedek, whose name means "Righteous King"? Melchizedek, king of Salem, was a priest of ''God Most High'' [El Elyon]. Mt Moriah's sacred status dates back to the early Canaanite period, when it  was the cultic center of "El Elyon." "Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine; he was a priest of ''God Most High'' [El Elyon].  He blessed him {Abram, aka Abraham}, saying, Blessed be Abram of God Most High, creator of heaven and earth" (Genesis 14:18).

The Jewish Rabbinic tradition and the Torah name Abraham as the first Ivri, Hebrew, and the founder of the first monotheistic religion. The Canaanite El Elyon was the chief god in their pantheon of gods.   Their priest and king was Melchizedek, to whom Abraham paid tithes. [Gen. 14:20] . Note also, that "El Elyon" , God Most High, is used in Jewish prayers and is found in the TaNaK many times, notably by Abraham when addressing God (Ber. 21:3, 7:1, and in Psalms 9:1-2, and 83:18, when David addresses God. Most notably, it us used in the second sentence of the Amidah (the standing prayer): Ha'el hagadol hagibor ve'hanora, El Elyon.  The Amidah is so important to Judaism, that Talmud Tractate Berachot, refers to it constantly as 'The Prayer,' and it is said thrice a day. 

Mt. Moriah, where many important Hebrew events took place, is considered to be today's Temple Mount in Jerusalem. [2 Chron. 3:1 ]: "Then Solomon began to build the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the place provided by David." 

Modern Jerusalem is a large area. Regardless of how the city got it name as told in the above midrash, Jerusalem was named as "Urusalima" on ancient Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets, probably meaning "City of Salem" after a the site of worship of the Canaanite deity during the early Canaanite period (approximately 2400 BCE). While there is no archaeological evidence of the existence of Abraham, the Hebrew calendar places him circa, 1760 BCE, 640 years after the above mentioned tablets.  

''What's in a name?'', asks the age old question. East Jerusalem, which included the "Old City" which contains the Temple Mount, aka Mt. Moriah, was in Jordanian hands until Israel won it back in 1967's "Six Day Way.'' Most of all of East Jerusalem, which spreads south almost to Bethlehem in the West Bank, and north almost to Ramallah in the West Bank, came under Israeli control. Parts of East Jerusalem, far from the "Old City," are now part of the West Bank Palestinian area which Israel concedes. 

There is a Palestinian neighborhood, with high rises and modern buildings, that is part of East Jerusalem. Jews haven't lived there in centuries. It is called Kafr 'Aqab and is the northernmost Palestinian Arab neighborhood in what is officially East Jerusalem.  It is ''officially'' Jerusalem and is  located two kilometers from Ramallah. The Ottoman Empires censuses and tax records, first recorded in 1596 and last recorded in 1896, show this town to be 100% Arab Muslim. 

In the 1922 census of Palestine conducted by the British Mandate authorities, Kafr 'Aqab was 100% Muslim, and the same in the 1931 census . In 1945 the population of Kafr 'Aqab consisted of 100% Muslims. In the wake of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, and after the 1949 Armistice Agreements, Kafr 'Aqab came under Jordanian rule, and was annexed in 1950 by Jordan. After the Six-Day War in 1967, Kafr 'Aqab has been under Israeli occupation. In 2006, Kafr 'Aqab had a population of 10,411, 100% Muslim.  In 2007, Kfar 'Aqab was described as a middle class suburb. Now it is overcrowded, has crime and drug problems. Israeli authorities will not provide needed services, and the Palestinian authorities cannot, as it is officially in Israel.  While Kafr 'Aqab was annexed with the rest of East Jerusalem by Israel and falls under its full jurisdiction, it is separated from Jerusalem by the Israeli -West Bank barrier wall and Israeli Municipal inspectors never inspect the area beyond the barrier.

As mentioned, Kafr 'Aqab is 2 km, or 1.25 miles from Ramallah. This is a 20 minute walk or a 5 minute car drive. Ramallah has been described as the seat of government of the Palestinian Authority and serves as the headquarters for most international NGOs and embassies. Hundreds of millions of dollars in aid flowing into the city have boosted Ramallah's economy greatly since the end of the Second Intifada.

The Ramallah construction boom is one of the most obvious signs of West Bank economic growth, estimated at an annual rate of 8 percent. This has been attributed to relative stability and Western donor support to the Palestinian Authority. Ramallah's buoyant economy continues to draw Palestinians from other West Bank towns where jobs are fewer. The built-up area has grown five-fold since 2002.

By 2010, Ramallah had become the leading center of economic and political activity in the territories under the control of the Palestinian Authority. During a building boom in the early years of the 21st century, apartment buildings and "five-star" hotels were erected, particularly in the Al-Masyoun neighborhood. In 2010, "more than one hundred" Palestinian businesses were reported to have moved to Ramallah from East Jerusalem, because "Here they pay less taxes and have more customers." One local boasted to a journalist that "Ramallah is becoming the de facto capital of Palestine." This boast was seconded by The New York Times which, in 2010, called Ramallah the "de facto capital of the West Bank.'' According to Sani Meo, the publisher of This Week in Palestine, "Capital or no capital, Ramallah has done well and Palestine is proud of its achievements." 

 Kafr 'Aqab has not been a Jewish town in centuries if not millennia. Israel will not miss it as they basically ceded it to the West Bank by putting it on the other side of their barrier wall. But it is still East Jerusalem. Cede it to Ramallah in the West Bank. Now, the Palestinians can have some of East Jerusalem for their capital, and its a stone's throw [no pun intended] from their de facto capital. Sadly, Israel doesn't view it this way. Since Israeli municipal inspectors rarely if ever come to Kafr Aqab, the residents have to build, even ten story high rises, without permission. So using a ''catch 22,'' now that 5 high rises are built, not only housing people, but medical clinics and schools, Israelis are preparing, as of October 2017, to demolish them, because they were built without a permit.

Remember the Rabbinic midrash quotes God as wanting Jerusalem to be shared. This is the same God that promised the land to Abraham. Remember too the Rabbi's preach ''Great is Peace." Peace is the pipeline in which all of God's blessings flow to us. Without peace we cannot enjoy life. ;