Europe’s Oldest Painting of the “Real” Jerusalem

In medieval Christian art, it’s easy to find depictions of Israel’s ancient and modern capital. These were not based on the city’s actual layout at any given time, but instead on artists’ imagination. For this reason, the Cleveland Museum of Art touts a triptych by an anonymous Austrian painter, dating to around the year 1500, as an “exceptional” attempt at a “topographically accurate” cityscape. Menachem Wecker notes that the painting is itself based on a 1486 woodcut by the Dutch artist Erhard Reuwich—who had visited Jerusalem himself—and comments on its significance:

Many artists drew upon theological conceptions of heavenly and earthly Jerusalems, and it was easy—particularly for those who never visited the city—to think about the Holy Land as a symbol, rather than a real place. This remains the case today. No matter how much one reads in the news about Jerusalem, or no matter how many pictures one sees or how much time one spends on Google Maps “walking” old city streets, one can only approximate the sense one has of actually navigating Jerusalem.

When I see images like Reuwich’s [woodcut and the Jerusalem triptych], I think of abundant news story, even in major newspapers, that leave me scratching my head when they state that the Aqsa complex is Islam’s third-holiest site, without also noting that Jerusalem is central to Christianity and is the holiest city in Judaism. . . . I often wonder how many readers come away from those stories thinking that Muslims have revered Jerusalem from the start, and Jews and Christians are Johnny-come-latelys (or St. John-come-lately).

Of course, when one considers the history of Jerusalem and sets aside the different theological positions of the various faith groups, one is likely to conclude that Jerusalem was significant to Christians and Muslims respectively precisely because it was central to Judaism first. If not for all of the prophecies about the Holy Land in Jewish scripture, it is easy to imagine that Jesus, who was Jewish, would not have set out for Jerusalem, which would mean there would be no reason to require a church on a site that would be so central to his story. And if there had not been two Jewish Temples in Jerusalem, and a long prophetic association with that city, would Mohammad have taken his night journey to and from [what is now] al-Aqsa? Doubtful.

The 1486 woodcut and ca. 1500 painting show a then-modern city superimposed on a biblical and ancient one, with Jewish, Christian, and Islamic holy sites nearly built on top of one another. All are pieces of the Holy Land puzzle, and although centuries have passed, quite a lot remains the same.

Read more at Rough Sketch

More about: Art, Islam, Jerusalem, Jewish-Christian relations

Hamas Has Its Own Day-After Plan

While Hamas’s leaders continue to reject the U.S.-backed ceasefire proposal, they have hardly been neglecting diplomacy. Ehud Yaari explains:

Over the past few weeks, Hamas leaders have been engaged in talks with other Palestinian factions and select Arab states to find a formula for postwar governance in the Gaza Strip. Held mainly in Qatar and Egypt, the negotiations have not matured into a clear plan so far, but some forms of cooperation are emerging on the ground in parts of the embattled enclave.

Hamas officials have informed their interlocutors that they are willing to support the formation of either a “technocratic government” or one composed of factions that agree to Palestinian “reconciliation.” They have also insisted that security issues not be part of this government’s authority. In other words, Hamas is happy to let others shoulder civil responsibilities while it focuses on rebuilding its armed networks behind the scenes.

Among the possibilities Hamas is investigating is integration into the Palestinian Authority (PA), the very body that many experts in Israel and in the U.S. believe should take over Gaza after the war ends. The PA president Mahmoud Abbas has so far resisted any such proposals, but some of his comrades in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are less certain:

On June 12, several ex-PLO and PA officials held an unprecedented meeting in Ramallah and signed an initiative calling for the inclusion of additional factions, meaning Hamas. The PA security services had blocked previous attempts to arrange such meetings in the West Bank. . . . Hamas has already convinced certain smaller PLO factions to get on board with its postwar model.

With generous help from Qatar, Hamas also started a campaign in March asking unaffiliated Palestinian activists from Arab countries and the diaspora to press for a collaborative Hamas role in postwar Gaza. Their main idea for promoting this plan is to convene a “Palestinian National Congress” with hundreds of delegates. Preparatory meetings have already been held in Britain, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Qatar, and more are planned for the United States, Spain, Belgium, Australia, and France.

If the U.S. and other Western countries are serious about wishing to see Hamas defeated, and all the more so if they have any hopes for peace, they will have to convey to all involved that any association with the terrorist group will trigger ostracization and sanctions. That Hamas doesn’t already appear toxic to these various interlocutors is itself a sign of a serious failure.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian Authority