Calendar pages © Sebastian Kahnert
The new year brings many commemorative days. 1517, 1917, 1947, 1987, 2007: From the Ottoman invasion to the sealing off of the Gaza Strip – significant events in the Holy Land took place in a year ending in seven. A look at the 2017 anniversaries.
From the seven wonders of the world to the seven-armed candelabra, the seven-day week to seven deadly sins to the darned seventh year: seven is a lucky or unlucky number, but it is almost always assigned a special meaning. The Holy Land also seems to have a special relationship with it – in the form of dates ending in seven: 2017 marks the 10th anniversary of a whole series of events., 50., 100. or even 500. times – a year of commemorations in a region that is often enough caught up in the fast pace of events.
It was at the beginning of 1517 that Sultan Selim I., the ninth sultan of the Ottoman Empire, has roamed the Middle East, taking over Syria, Palestine and Egypt, as well as the Holy Land. He was followed by Suleyman I., the "Magnificent One," whose traces can still be seen in Jerusalem today: Large parts of the city wall originate from him, and he also caused the characteristic division of the city into a Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Armenian quarter.
Christians in the Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman rule also left its mark on the Catholic Church: in 1847, it was allowed to re-establish its hierarchy in the country, whereupon on 23. July Pope Pius IX. revived the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
Turkish rule was to last 400 years. It ended with a fierce battle for Jerusalem in the winter of 1917, in which British troops fought the Ottomans and Germans. On 9. December Jerusalem fell to the British, a heavy blow to the Ottoman Empire. Shortly before, on 2. November 1917, the then British Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur James Balfour had written to the leaders of the Zionist movement giving his approval to the establishment of a "national home" for the Jewish people in Palestine: The Balfour Declaration, considered by some to be the cornerstone of the Middle East conflict that continues to this day, marked its 100th anniversary in 2017. Mal.
Beginning of the Middle East conflict
A short time later, the British received the Mandate over Palestine and the task of implementing Balfour's plan. Resistance to the British occupiers grew, as did violence between Arab and Jewish residents. "Resolution 181," better known as the "UN Partition Plan," was supposed to end the conflict. The British Mandate was to be ended, one Jewish and one Arab state created, and Jerusalem placed under international control. 70 years ago, on 29. November 1947, 33 states voted in favor of the plan, 13 voted against, 10 abstained.
Arab opposition to the partition plan was predictably strong. Nevertheless, the British Mandate ended, Israel declared independence and waged its first major war against its Arab neighbors just hours after its birth. More wars were to follow. In the Six-Day War, the outbreak and end of which this year marks the 50th anniversary of the war. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary, Israel conquered the Sinai, the Golan Heights, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Geopolitically, this war was to shape an entire region to this day.
War of the Stones
Even the first Intifada cannot be understood without the Six-Day War. Their trigger: On 8. December 30 years ago, an Israeli truck collided with two Palestinian cars in the Gaza Strip. Four Palestinians died. Anger and despair over the Israeli occupation erupted in a "war of stones" that would last more than five years and claim countless lives. On 9. December 1987, the day after the fatal accident, the Hamas movement was founded. Another 20 years later, in June 2007, the struggle between the moderate Fatah movement and Hamas reached its climax: after Hamas' election victory the previous year, civil war-like fighting broke out between the two groups, from which Hamas emerged victorious. As a result, Israel and Egypt increasingly sealed off the borders with the Gaza Strip.
It almost seems as if the Middle East conflict can be traced in rough lines by those years ending in the number seven. The optimists among the archivists may now hope that 2017 will join the ranks of memorable years in a positive way – through a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, for example. The presumably overwhelming majority of skeptics, on the other hand, do not see the signs in the Middle East as pointing to peace. Her hope is no more catastrophe with year-end number seven.