One of the most incredible cities in history, from its establishment by King David in Biblical times to the present day. It is one of the most sought after cities in the world, having been ruled by Assyrians, Persians, Romans, Crusaders, Arabs, Ottomans, British, Jordanians, Jews…. And of course the Greeks. This is not an exhaustive list.
Jerusalem has been taken on at least 44 occasions.
Alexander the Great entered this wonderful city from Mount Scopus in 332 BC ushering in centuries of Hellenistic rule. With the death of Alexander, his General Ptolemy took the city for his own Greek empire, and by 198 BC it was taken by the Hellenic Seleucids from Syria, before coming under a Judean control for many decades. This Judean state came about as most Jews had become tired of the Hellenization of Jerusalem and rebelled with significant effect to take control.
The Romans took the city around 63 BC under Pompey and we can only imagine or speculate if Jesus may have been treated differently if the city and the Levant was ruled by the Hellenes. History will show us that Christ was to be cruelly crucified by the Romans, which ultimately has given the Levant a significant place in theology and history.
The Levant consists of Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Antalya (Antioch) in Turkey, and stops around the border of Egypt. I have been to many of these areas.
The Byzantine Greeks in the 4th Century AD until around 637 AD controlled Jerusalem, arguably the holiest city in the known world. Greek was the main language of administration. Over the years, as is the curse of this great city, many other minorities were forced in to exile. The Jews on more than one occasion, Palestinians who are 25% Greek Orthodox adherents, Greeks, Assyrians, Franks (westerners) and the list goes on.
In 629 AD, the Byzantine Emperor Heraclios regained the True Cross from the Persians after he defeated them. He was quick to restore the True Cross to Jerusalem.
Such is the esteem that the city is held, many major religions view this as their spiritual home. They are of course Judaism, Islam and Christianity including Greek Orthodox.
In 1054 AD all Christians in the Levant came under the jurisdiction of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem. Over the next two centuries Crusaders came and went, a few were successful and others easily repulsed.
Jerusalem has enjoyed very little extended stability in its history and it is destined to remain that way for some time to come as both Israel and Palestine claim it as their capital.
This is a city with over 800,000 people, yet today there are less than 2,000 Greeks here, most living in the Old City.
The Old City was walled by Suleiman the Magnificent in the 1500s and was divided in to Armenian, Arabic, Jewish, and Greek (there are other Christian representatives and citizens here). This was called the Hellenic Omilos or the Greek colony, in Bakaa, in Katamonas. There are 23 Greek Orthodox monasteries and convents located here.
The famous Church of the Holy Sepulchre, was completed in 335 AD by Byzantine Greeks and the Patriarchate of Jerusalem is here.
In 1922, the Charitable Hellenic Brotherhood was established and 2 years later the Union of Greek Women. Soon after, the Hellenic Scout Association was formed (I joke not about this) and there followed the Hellenic Community of Jerusalem and finally Athletic Association of Hercules. There may be more Hellenic committees, though these spring to mind at the moment.
Unfortunately, the war of 1948 and then 1967 whereby Jordan lost control of its section of Jerusalem, meant many of the Greeks went to Greece and other countries, never to return.
It is probable that Hellenic history has been here almost unbroken since Alexander the Great. Not a bad achievement when you consider the turbulent history of Jerusalem. With Easter having just passed, let’s hope there is peace ahead for all who live here. A remarkable city and may it one day bring peace to all people who are connected with it, irrespective of religion or race.