History of Jerusalem
During its long history, Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times. The oldest part of the city was settled in the 4th millennium BCE, making Jerusalem one of the oldest cities in the world.
Given the city's central position in both Israeli nationalism and Palestinian nationalism, the selectivity required to summarise more than 5,000 years of inhabited history is often influenced by ideological bias or background (see Historiography and nationalism). For example, the Jewish periods of the city's history are important to Israeli nationalists, whose discourse states that modern Jews descend from the Israelites and Maccabees, while the Islamic periods of the city's history are important to Palestinian nationalists, whose discourse suggests that modern Palestinians descend from all the different peoples who have lived in the region. As a result, both sides claim the history of the city has been politicized by the other in order to strengthen their relative claims to the city, and that this is borne out by the different focuses the different writers place on the various events and eras in the city's history.
- 1 Ancient period
- 2 Classical antiquity
- 3 Middle Ages
- 4 Early modern period
- 5 Modern era
- 6 Division between Jordan and Israel (1948–1967)
- 7 State of Israel
- 8 Graphical overview of Jerusalem's historical periods
- 9 References
- 10 Sources
- 11 External links
Archeological evidence suggests that the first settlement was established near Gihon Spring between 4500–3500 BCE. The first known mention of the city was in c. 2000 BCE in the Middle Kingdom Egyptian Execration Texts in which the city was recorded as Rusalimum. The root S-L-M in the name is thought to refer to either "peace" (compare with modern Salam or Shalom in modern Arabic and Hebrew) or Shalim, the god of dusk in the Canaanite religion.
The Book of Genesis 14:18, mentions a city called Salem, which most Jewish commentators believe refers to Jerusalem, ruled by King Melchizedek, whose name means "my king is zedek", where Zedek is believed to refer either to the Canaanite deity Sydyk or the word righteous. According to one Jewish tradition reported by the midrash, Jerusalem was founded by Abraham's forefathers Shem and Eber.
Canaanite and New Kingdom Egyptian period
Archeological evidence suggests that by the 17th century BCE, the Canaanites had built massive walls (4 and 5 ton boulders, 26 feet high) on the eastern side of Jerusalem to protect their ancient water system.
By c. 1550–1400 BCE, Jerusalem had become a vassal to Egypt after the Egyptian New Kingdom under Ahmose I and Thutmose I had reunited Egypt and expanded into the Levant. The Amarna letters contain correspondence from Abdi-Heba, headman of Urusalim and his suzerain Amenhotep III.
The power of the Egyptians in the region began to decline in the 12th century BCE, during the Bronze Age collapse. The Battle of Djahy (Djahy being the Egyptian name for Canaan) in 1178 BCE between Ramesses III and the Sea Peoples marked the beginning of this decline. The gradual loss of a central power gave rise to independent kingdoms in the region. According to the Bible, Jerusalem at this time was known as Jebus and its independent Canaanite inhabitants at this time were known as Jebusites.
Independent Israel and Judah (House of David) period
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According to the Bible, the Israelite history of the city began in c. 1000 BCE, with King David's sack of Jerusalem, following which Jerusalem became the City of David and capital of the United Kingdom of Israel. According to the Books of Samuel, the Jebusites managed to resist attempts by the Israelites to capture the city, and by the time of King David were mocking such attempts, claiming that even the blind and lame could defeat the Israelite army. Nevertheless, the masoretic text for the Books of Samuel states that David managed to capture the city by stealth, sending his forces through a "water shaft" and attacking the city from the inside. Archaeologists now view this as implausible as the Gihon spring – the only known location from which water shafts lead into the city – is now known to have been heavily defended (and hence an attack via this route would have been obvious rather than secretive). The older Septuagint text, however, suggests that rather than by a water shaft, David's forces defeated the Jebusites by using daggers rather than through the water tunnels coming through the Gihon spring. There was another king in Jerusalem, Araunah, during, and possibly before, David's control of the city, according to the biblical narrative, who was probably the Jebusite king of Jerusalem. The city, which at that point stood upon the Ophel, was, according to the biblical account, expanded to the south, and declared by David to be the capital city of the Kingdom of Israel. David also, according to the Books of Samuel, constructed an altar at the location of a threshing floor he had purchased from Araunah; a portion of biblical scholars view this as an attempt by the narrative's author to give an Israelite foundation to a pre-existing sanctuary.
Later, according to the biblical narrative, King Solomon built a more substantive temple, the Temple of Solomon, at a location which the Book of Chronicles equates with David's altar. The Temple became a major cultural centre in the region; eventually, particularly after religious reforms such as those of Hezekiah and of Josiah, the Jerusalem temple became the main place of worship, at the expense of other, formerly powerful, ritual centres, such as Shiloh and Bethel. Solomon is also described as having created several other important building works at Jerusalem, including the construction of his palace, and the construction of the Millo (the identity of which is somewhat controversial). Archaeologists are divided over whether the biblical narrative is supported by the evidence from excavations. Eilat Mazar contents that her digging uncovered remains of large stone buildings from the correct time period, while Israel Finkelstein disputes both the interpretation and the dating of the finds.
When the Kingdom of Judah split from the larger Kingdom of Israel (which the Bible places near the end of the reign of Solomon, c. 930 BCE, though Israel Finkelstein and others dispute the very existence of a unified monarchy to begin with), Jerusalem became the capital of the Kingdom of Judah, while the Kingdom of Israel located its capital at Shechem in Samaria. Thomas L. Thompson argues that it only became a city and capable of acting as a state capital in the middle of the 7th century.
Both the Bible and regional archeological evidence suggest the region was politically unstable during the period 925–732 BCE. In 925 BCE, the region was invaded by Egyptian Pharaoh Sheshonk I of the Third Intermediate Period, who is possibly the same as Shishak, the first Pharaoh mentioned in the Bible who captured and pillaged Jerusalem. Around 75 years later, Jerusalem's forces were likely involved in an indecisive battle against the Neo-Assyrian King Shalmaneser III in the Battle of Qarqar. According to the bible, Jehoshaphat of Judah was allied to Ahab of the Northern Kingdom of Israel at this time.
The Bible records that shortly after this battle, Jerusalem was sacked by Philistines, Arabs and Ethiopians, who looted King Jehoram's house, and carried off all of his family except for his youngest son Jehoahaz.
Two decades later, most of Canaan including Jerusalem was conquered by Hazael of Aram Damascus. According to the Bible, Jehoash of Judah gave all of Jerusalem's treasures as a tribute, but Hazael proceeded to destroy “all the princes of the people” in the city. And half a century later, the city was sacked by Jehoash of Israel, who destroyed the walls and took Amaziah of Judah prisoner.
By the end of the First Temple Period, Jerusalem was the sole acting religious shrine in the kingdom and a centre of regular pilgrimage; a fact which archaeologists generally view as being corroborated by the evidence, though there remained a more personal cult involving Asherah figures, which are found spread throughout the land right up to the end of this era.
Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian Empires period
Jerusalem was the capital of the Kingdom of Judah for some 400 years. It had survived an Assyrian siege in 701 BCE by Sennacherib, unlike Samaria, the capital of the northern Kingdom of Israel, that had fallen some twenty years previously. According to the Bible, this was a miraculous event in which an angel killed 185,000 men in Sennacherib's army. According to Sennacherib's own account preserved in the Taylor prism, an inscription contemporary with the event, the king of Judah, Hezekiah, was "shut up in the city like a caged bird" and eventually persuaded Sennacherib to leave by sending him "30 talents of gold and 800 talents of silver, and diverse treasures, a rich and immense booty".
The siege of Jerusalem in 597 BCE led to the city being overcome by the Babylonians, who then took the young King Jehoiachin into Babylonian captivity, together with most of the aristocracy. Zedekiah, who had been placed on the throne by Nebuchadnezzar (the Babylonian king), rebelled, and Nebuchadnezzar, who at the time (587/586 BCE) was ruler of a most powerful empire, recaptured the city, killed Zedekiah's descendants in front of him, and plucked out Zedekiah's eyes so that that would be the last thing he ever saw. The Babylonians then took Zedekiah into captivity, along with prominent members of Judah. The Babylonians then burnt the temple, destroyed the city's walls, and appointed Gedaliah son of Achikam as governor of Judah. After 52 days of rule, Yishmael, son of Netaniah, a surviving descendant of Zedekiah, assassinated Gedaliah after encouragement by Baalis, the king of Ammon. Some of the remaining population of Judah, fearing the vengeance of Nebuchadnezzar, fled to Egypt.
Persian (Achaemenid) Empire period
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According to the Bible, and perhaps corroborated by the Cyrus Cylinder, after several decades of captivity in Babylon and the Achaemenid conquest of Babylonia, Cyrus II of Persia allowed the Jews to return to Judah and rebuild the Temple. The books of Ezra-Nehemiah record that the construction of the Second Temple was finished in the sixth year of Darius the Great (516 BCE), following which Artaxerxes I sent Ezra and then Nehemiah to rebuild the city's walls and to govern the Yehud province within the Eber-Nari satrapy. These events represent the final chapter in the historical narrative of the Hebrew Bible.
Hellenistic Kingdoms (Ptolemaic/Seleucid) period
When Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire, Jerusalem and Judea fell under Greek control and Hellenic influence. After the Wars of the Diadochi following Alexander's death, Jerusalem and Judea fell under Ptolemaic control under Ptolemy I and continued minting Yehud coinage. In 198 BCE, as a result of the Battle of Panium, Ptolemy V lost Jerusalem and Judea to the Seleucids under Antiochus the Great.
Under the Seleucids many Jews had become Hellenized and with their assistance tried to Hellenize Jerusalem, eventually culminating in a rebellion by Matisyahu the High Priest and his five sons: Simon, Yochanan, Eleazar, Jonathan and Judah the Maccabee. As a result of the rebellion, Jerusalem became the capital of the independent Hasmonean Kingdom.
The Hasmonean Kingdom lasted for 103 years. It was ruled by Simon the son of Matisyahu; then by his son Yochanan who started minting coins; then by his son Yehuda Aristobolus; then by his wife Salome Alexandra; then by his brother Alexander Yannai; then by his sons Hyrcanus and Aristobulus. When the brothers Hyrcanus and Aristoblulus each asked for Rome to intervene on their behalf, Judea fell under the greater rule of Rome as an autonomous province but still with a significant amount of independence. The last Hasmonean king was Aristobulus's son Matisyahu Antigonus.
Roman Jerusalem period
In 37 BCE, Herod the Great captured Jerusalem, ending Hasmonean rule. Herod ruled the Province of Judea as a client-king of the Romans, rebuilt the Second Temple (see also Herod's Temple), upgraded the surrounding complex, and expanded the minting of coins to many denominations. Pliny the Elder, writing of Herod's achievements, called Jerusalem "the most famous by far of the Eastern cities and not only the cities of Judea." The Talmud comments that "He who has not seen the Temple of Herod has never seen a beautiful building in his life." And Tacitus wrote that "Jerusalem is the capital of the Jews. In it was a Temple possessing enormous riches."
Herod also built Caesarea Maritima which replaced Jerusalem as the capital of the Roman province. In 6 CE, following Herod's death in 4 BCE, Judea and the city of Jerusalem came under direct Roman rule through Roman prefects, procurators, and legates (see List of Hasmonean and Herodian rulers). Herod's descendants, (Agrippa I (41–44), and Agrippa II (48–100)), nevertheless remained nominal kings of Iudaea Province. In 66 CE the Jewish population rebelled against the Roman Empire in what is now known as the Great Revolt. Roman legions under future emperor Titus reconquered and subsequently destroyed much of Jerusalem and the Second Temple in 70 CE. The Second Temple was burnt and all that remained was the great external (retaining) walls supporting the Esplanade on which the Temple had stood, a portion of which has become known as the Western Wall. Titus' victory is commemorated by the Arch of Titus in Rome. Agrippa II died c. 94 CE, which brought the Herodian dynasty to an end almost thirty years after the destruction of the Second Temple.
Jerusalem became the birthplace of Early Christianity in the 1st century CE. According to the New Testament, it is the location of the Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ (see also Jerusalem in Christianity). It was in Jerusalem that, according to the Acts of the Apostles, the Apostles of Christ received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and first began preaching the Gospel and proclaiming his resurrection. Jerusalem eventually became home to one of the five Patriarchates of the Christian Church. After the Great Schism, it remained a part of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Roman Aelia Capitolina period
What is today known as the "Old City" was laid out by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century, when he began to rebuild Jerusalem as a pagan city. In 130, Hadrian visited the ruins of Jerusalem remaining after the First Roman-Jewish War of 66–73. He rebuilt the city, renaming it Aelia Capitolina in 135 CE. Hadrian placed the city's main Roman Forum at the junction of the main Cardo and Decumanus, now the location of the (smaller) Muristan. Hadrian built a large temple to Jupiter Capitolinus, which later became the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. He placed restrictions on some Jewish practices, which caused a revolt by the Judeans, led by Simon Bar Kokhba. Hadrian responded with overwhelming force, putting down the rebellion, killing as many as a half million Jews, and resettling the city as a Roman colonia. Jews were forbidden to enter the city but for a single day of the year, Tisha B'Av, (the Ninth of Av), the fast day on which Jews mourn the destruction of both Temples. For the next 150 years, the city remained a relatively unimportant pagan Roman town.
Post-Crisis Roman and Early Byzantine Empire period
The Emperor Constantine, however, rebuilt Jerusalem as a Christian center of worship, building the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 335. Jerusalem had received special recognition in Canon VII of the First Council of Nicaea in 325. Constantine's mother, Helena, made a pilgrimage to the city and claimed to have recovered the cross of Christ. Jews were still banned from the city throughout the remainder of its time as a Roman province, except during a brief period of Persian rule from 614 to 629.
Rashidun, Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates period
Although the Qur'an does not mention the name "Jerusalem", the hadith assert that it was from Jerusalem that Muhammad ascended to heaven in the Night Journey, or Isra and Miraj. The city was one of the Arab Caliphate's first conquests in 638 AD; according to Arab historians of the time, the Rashidun Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab personally went to the city to receive its submission, cleaning out and praying at the Temple Mount in the process. Sixty years later the Dome of the Rock was built, a structure enshrining a stone from which Muhammad is said to have ascended to heaven during the Isra. (The octagonal and gold-sheeted Dome is not the Al-Aqsa Mosque to the south, the latest version of which was built more than three centuries later). Umar ibn al-Khattab also allowed the Jews back into the city and freedom to live and worship after four hundred years.
Under the early centuries of Muslim rule, especially during the Umayyad (650–750) and Abbasid (750–969) dynasties, the city prospered; geographers Ibn Hawqal and al-Istakhri (10th century) describe it as "the most fertile province of Palestine", while its native son, the geographer al-Muqaddasi (born 946) devoted many pages to its praises in his most famous work, The Best Divisions in the Knowledge of the Climes. Under Muslim rule Jerusalem did not achieve the political or cultural status enjoyed by the capitals Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo etc. Interestingly, al-Muqaddasi derives his name from the Arabic name for Jerusalem, Bayt al-Muqaddas, which is linguistically equivalent to the Hebrew Beit Ha-Mikdash, the Holy House.
Fatimid Caliphate period
The early Arab period was also one of religious tolerance. However, in the early 11th century, the Egyptian Fatimid Caliph Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah ordered the destruction of all churches. In 1033, there was another earthquake, severely damaging the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Fatimid caliph Ali az-Zahir rebuilt and completely renovated the mosque between 1034 and 1036. The number of naves was drastically reduced from fifteen to seven. Az-Zahir built the four arcades of the central hall and aisle, which presently serve as the foundation of the mosque. The central aisle was double the width of the other aisles and had a large gable roof upon which the dome—made of wood—was constructed. Persian geographer, Nasir Khusraw describes the Aqsa Mosque during a visit in 1047:
The Haram Area (Noble Sanctuary) lies in the eastern part of the city; and through the bazaar of this (quarter) you enter the Area by a great and beautiful gateway (Dargah)... After passing this gateway, you have on the right two great colonnades (Riwaq), each of which has nine-and-twenty marble pillars, whose capitals and bases are of colored marbles, and the joints are set in lead. Above the pillars rise arches, that are constructed, of masonry, without mortar or cement, and each arch is constructed of no more than five or six blocks of stone. These colonnades lead down to near the Maqsurah.
Kingdom of Jerusalem (Crusaders) period
Fatimid control of Jerusalem ended when it was captured by Crusaders in July 1099. The capture was accompanied by a massacre of almost all of the Muslim and Jewish inhabitants. Jerusalem became the capital of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Godfrey of Bouillon, was elected Lord of Jerusalem on July 22, 1099, but did not assume the royal crown and died a year later. Barons offered the lordship of Jerusalem to Godfrey's brother Baldwin, Count of Edessa, who had himself crowned by the Patriarch Daimbert on Christmas Day 1100 in the basilica of Bethlehem.
Christian settlers from the West set about rebuilding the principal shrines associated with the life of Christ. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was ambitiously rebuilt as a great Romanesque church, and Muslim shrines on the Temple Mount (the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque) were converted for Christian purposes. It is during this period of Frankish occupation that the Military Orders of the Knights Hospitaller and the Knights Templar have their beginnings. Both grew out of the need to protect and care for the great influx of pilgrims travelling to Jerusalem in the 12th century.
Ayyubid, Mamluk Bahri and Mamluk Burji period
According to Rabbi Elijah of Chelm, German Jews lived in Jerusalem during the 11th century. The story is told that a German-speaking Jew saved the life of a young German man surnamed Dolberger. Thus when the knights of the First Crusade came to siege Jerusalem, one of Dolberger's family members rescued Jews in Palestine and carried them back to Worms to repay the favor. Further evidence of German communities in the holy city comes in the form of halakic questions sent from Germany to Jerusalem during the second half of the 11th century.
In 1173 Benjamin of Tudela visited Jerusalem. He described it as a small city full of Jacobites, Armenians, Greeks, and Georgians. Two hundred Jews dwelt in a corner of the city under the Tower of David.
In 1219 the walls of the city were razed by order of al-Mu'azzam, the Ayyubid sultan of Damascus. This rendered Jerusalem defenseless and dealt a heavy blow to the city's status. The Ayyubids destroyed the walls in expectation of ceding the city to the Crusaders as part of a peace treaty. In 1229, by treaty with Egypt's ruler al-Kamil, Jerusalem came into the hands of Frederick II of Germany. In 1239, after a ten-year truce expired, he began to rebuild the walls; these were again demolished by an-Nasir Da'ud, the emir of Kerak, in the same year.
In 1243 Jerusalem came again into the power of the Christians, and the walls were repaired. The Khwarezmian Empire took the city in 1244 and were in turn driven out by the Ayyubids in 1247. In 1260 the Mongols under Hulagu Khan engaged in raids into Palestine. It is unclear if the Mongols were ever in Jerusalem, as it was not seen as a settlement of strategic importance at the time. However, there are reports that some of the Jews that were in Jerusalem temporarily fled to neighboring villages.
In 1267 the Jewish Catalonian sage Nahmanides travelled to Jerusalem. In the Old City he established the Ramban Synagogue, the second oldest active synagogue in Jerusalem, after that of the Karaite Jews built about 300 years earlier.
In the middle of the 13th century, Jerusalem was captured by the Egyptian Mamluk Sultanate.
Early modern period
The first provincial or superior of the Franciscan religious order, founded by Francis of Assisi, was Brother Elia from Assisi. In the year 1219 the founder himself visited the region in order to preach the Gospel to the Muslims, seen as brothers and not enemies. The mission resulted in a meeting with the sultan of Egypt, Malik al-Kamil, who was surprised by his unusual behaviour. The Franciscan Province of the East extended to Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, and the Holy Land. Before the taking over of Acre (on May 18, 1291), Franciscan friaries were present at Acre, Sidon, Antioch, Tripoli, Jaffa, and Jerusalem.
From Cyprus, where they took refuge at the end of the Latin Kingdom, the Franciscans started planning a return to Jerusalem, given the good political relations between the Christian governments and the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt. Around the year 1333 the French friar Roger Guerin succeeded in buying the Cenacle (the room where the Last Supper took place) on Mount Zion and some land to build a monastery nearby for the friars, using funds provided by the king and queen of Naples. With two papal bullae, Gratias Agimus and Nuper Carissimae, dated in Avignon, November 21, 1342, Pope Clement VI approved and created the new entity which would be known as the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land (Custodia Terrae Sanctae).
The friars, coming from any of the Order's provinces, under the jurisdiction of the father guardian (superior) of the monastery on Mount Zion, were present in Jerusalem, in the Cenacle, in the church of the Holy Sepulcher, and in the Basilica of the Nativity at Bethlehem. Their principal activity was to ensure liturgical life in these Christian sanctuaries and to give spiritual assistance to the pilgrims coming from the West, to European merchants resident or passing through the main cities of Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon, and to have a direct and authorized relation with the Eastern Christianity Oriental communities.
The monastery on Mount Zion was used by Brother Alberto da Sarteano for his papal mission for the union of the Oriental Christians (Greeks, Copts, and Ethiopians) with Rome during the Council of Florence (1440). For the same reason the party guided by Brother Giovanni di Calabria halted in Jerusalem on his way to meet the Christian Negus of Ethiopia (1482).
In 1482, the visiting Dominican priest Felix Fabri described Jerusalem as "a dwelling place of diverse nations of the world, and is, as it were, a collection of all manner of abominations". As "abominations" he listed Saracens, Greeks, Syrians, Jacobites, Abyssinians, Nestorians, Armenians, Gregorians, Maronites, Turcomans, Bedouins, Assassins, a possible Druze sect and Mamluks. Christians and Jews alike in Jerusalem lived in great poverty and in conditions of great deprivation, there are not many Christians but there are many Jews, and these the Muslims persecute in various ways." Only the Latin Christians "long with all their hearts for Christian princes to come and subject all the country to the authority of the Church of Rome".
In 1551 the Friars were expelled by the Turks from the Cenacle and from their adjoining monastery. However, they were granted permission to purchase a Georgian monastery of nuns in the northwest quarter of the city, which became the new center of the Custody in Jerusalem and developed into the Latin Convent of Saint Saviour  (known as Dayr al Ātīn دير الاتين دير اللاتين Arabic))
Early Ottoman period
In 1517, Jerusalem was taken over by the Ottoman Empire and enjoyed a period of renewal and peace under Suleiman the Magnificent, including the construction of magnificent walls of what is now known as the Old City of Jerusalem (however, some of the wall foundations are remains of genuine antique walls). The rule of Suleiman and the subsequent Ottoman Sultans brought an age of "religious peace"; Jew, Christian and Muslim enjoyed the freedom of religion the Ottomans granted them and it was possible to find a synagogue, a church and a mosque in the same street. The city remained open to all religions, although the empire's faulty management after Suleiman the Magnificent meant economical stagnation.
In 1700, Judah HeHasid led the largest organized group of Jewish immigrants to the Land of Israel in centuries. His disciples built the Hurva Synagogue, which served as the main synagogue in Jerusalem from the 16th century until 1948, when it was destroyed by the Arab Legion. The synagogue was later rebuilt in 2010.
Decline of the Ottoman Empire period
In the mid-19th century, with the decline of the Ottoman Empire, the city was a backwater, with a population that did not exceed 8,000. Nevertheless, it was, even then, an extremely heterogeneous city because of its significance to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The population was divided into four major communities – Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Armenian – and the first three of these could be further divided into countless subgroups, based on precise religious affiliation or country of origin. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was meticulously partitioned between the Greek Orthodox, Catholic, Armenian, Coptic, and Ethiopian churches. Tensions between the groups ran so deep that the keys to the shrine and its doors were safeguarded by a pair of 'neutral' Muslim families.
At that time, the communities were located mainly around their primary shrines. The Muslim community surrounded the Haram ash-Sharif or Temple Mount (northeast), the Christians lived mainly in the vicinity of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (northwest), the Jews lived mostly on the slope above the Western Wall (southeast), and the Armenians lived near the Zion Gate (southwest). In no way was this division exclusive, however, it did form the basis of the four quarters during the British Mandate period (1917–1948).
Several changes occurred in the mid-19th century, with long-lasting effects on the city: their implications can be felt today and lie at the root of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict over Jerusalem. The first of these was a trickle of Jewish immigrants from the Middle East and Eastern Europe. The first such immigrants were Orthodox Jews: some were elderly individuals, who came to die in Jerusalem and be buried on the Mount of Olives; others were students, who came with their families to await the coming of the Messiah, and adding new life to the local population. At the same time, European colonial powers also began seeking toeholds in the city, hoping to expand their influence pending the imminent collapse of the Ottoman Empire. This was also an age of Christian religious revival, and many churches sent missionaries to proselytize among the Muslim and especially the Jewish populations, believing that this would speed the Second Coming of Christ. Finally, the combination of European colonialism and religious zeal was expressed in a new scientific interest in the biblical lands in general and Jerusalem in particular. Archeological and other expeditions made some spectacular finds, which increased interest in Jerusalem even more.
By the 1860s, the city, with an area of only one square kilometer, was already overcrowded. Thus began the construction of the New City, the part of Jerusalem outside of the city walls. Seeking new areas to stake their claims, the Russian Orthodox Church began constructing a complex, now known as the Russian Compound, a few hundred meters from Jaffa Gate. The first attempt at residential settlement outside the walls of Jerusalem was undertaken by Jews, who built a small complex on the hill overlooking Zion Gate, across the Valley of Hinnom. This settlement, known as Mishkenot Sha'ananim, eventually flourished and set the precedent for other new communities to spring up to the west and north of the Old City. In time, as the communities grew and connected geographically, this became known as the New City.
In 1882, around 150 Jewish families arrived in Jerusalem from Yemen. Initially they were not accepted by the Jews of Jerusalem and lived in destitute conditions supported by the Christians of the Swedish-American colony, who called them Gadites. In 1884, the Yemenites moved into Silwan.
British Mandate period
The British were victorious over the Ottomans in the Middle East during World War I and with victory in Palestine, General Sir Edmund Allenby, commander-in-chief of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, entered Jerusalem on foot, out of respect for the Holy City, on December 11, 1917.
By the time General Allenby took Jerusalem from the Ottomans in 1917, the new city was a patchwork of neighborhoods and communities, each with a distinct ethnic character. This continued under British rule, as the New City of Jerusalem grew outside the old city walls and the Old City of Jerusalem gradually emerged as little more than an impoverished older neighborhood. One of the British bequests to the city was a town planning order requiring new buildings in the city to be faced with sandstone and thus preserving some of the overall look of the city, even as it grew. During the 1930s, two important new institutions, the Hadassah Medical Center and Hebrew University were founded on Jerusalem's Mount Scopus.
British rule marked a period of growing unrest. Arab resentment at British rule and the influx of Jewish immigrants (by 1948 one in six Jews in Palestine lived in Jerusalem) boiled over in anti-Jewish riots in Jerusalem in 1920, 1929, and the 1930s that caused significant damage and several deaths. The Jewish community organized self-defense forces in response to the Jerusalem pogrom of April 1920 and later disturbances; while other Jewish groups carried out bombings and attacks against the British, especially in response to suspected complicity with the Arabs and restrictions on immigration during World War II imposed by the White Paper of 1939. The level of violence continued to escalate throughout the 1930s and 1940s. In July 1946 members of the underground Zionist group Irgun blew up a part of the King David Hotel, where the British forces were temporarily located, an act which led to the death of many civilians.
On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly approved a plan which would partition the British Mandate of Palestine into two states: one Jewish and one Arab. Each state would be composed of three major sections, linked by extraterritorial crossroads, plus an Arab enclave at Jaffa. Expanded Jerusalem would fall under international control as a Corpus Separatum.
Partition between Israel and Jordan
After partition, the fight for Jerusalem escalated, with heavy casualties among both fighters and civilians on the British, Jewish, and Arab sides. By the end of March 1948, just before the British withdrawal, and with the British increasingly reluctant to intervene, the roads to Jerusalem were cut off by Arab irregulars, placing the Jewish population of the city under siege. The siege was eventually broken, though massacres of civilians occurred on both sides, before the 1948 Arab-Israeli War began with the end of the British Mandate in May 1948.
The 1948 Arab-Israeli War led to massive displacement of Arab and Jewish populations. According to Benny Morris, due to mob and militia violence on both sides, 1,500 of the 3,500 (mostly ultra-Orthodox) Jews in the Old City evacuated to west Jerusalem as a unit. See also Jewish Quarter. The comparatively populous Arab village of Lifta (today within the bounds of Jerusalem) was captured by Israeli troops in 1948, and its residents were loaded on trucks and taken to East Jerusalem. The villages of Deir Yassin, Ein Karem and Malcha, as well as neighborhoods to the west of Jerusalem's Old City such as Talbiya, Katamon, Baka, Mamilla and Abu Tor, also came under Israeli control, and their residents were forcibly displaced; in some cases, as documented by Israeli historian Benny Morris and Palestinian historian Walid Khalidi, among others, expulsions and massacres occurred.
In May 1948 the US Consul, Thomas C. Wasson, was assassinated outside the YMCA building. Four months later the UN mediator, Count Bernadotte, was also shot dead in the Katamon district of Jerusalem by the Jewish Stern Group.
Division between Jordan and Israel (1948–1967)
The United Nations proposed, in its 1947 plan for the partition of Palestine, for Jerusalem to be a city under international administration. The city was to be completely surrounded by the Arab state, with only a highway to connect international Jerusalem to the Jewish state.
Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Jerusalem was divided. The Western half of the New City became part of the newly formed state of Israel, while the eastern half, along with the Old City, was annexed by Jordan. According to David Guinn,
Concerning Jewish holy sites, Jordan breached its commitment to appoint a committee to discuss, among other topics, free access of Jews to the holy sites under its jurisdiction, mainly in the Western Wall and the important Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives, as provided in the Article 8.2 of the Cease Fire Agreement between it and Israel dated April 3, 1949. Jordan permitted the paving of new roads in the cemetery, and tombstones were used for paving in Jordanian army camps. The Cave of Shimon the Just became a stable.
According to Gerald M. Steinberg, Jordan ransacked 57 ancient synagogues, libraries and centers of religious study in the Old City Of Jerusalem, 12 were totally and deliberately destroyed. Those that remained standing were defaced, used for housing of both people and animals. Appeals were made to the United Nations and in the international community to declare the Old City to be an 'open city' and stop this destruction, but there was no response. (See also Hurva Synagogue)
David Guinn notes,
Similar to Jordan's treatment of Jewish holy sites, numerous Muslim holy sites (mosques and cemeteries) under Israeli rule in West Jerusalem fell into disuse and suffered from neglect. Some were destroyed due to Israeli development projects. For example, the Muslim cemetery in Mamilla area was damaged due to the construction of Independence Park in the center of Jerusalem ... [O]ne justification that was offered [for the increasing demolition of mosques] was to "[spare] Arab citizens sorrow ...".
State of Israel
East Jerusalem was captured by the Israel Defense Forces during the 1967 Six Day War. The Moroccan Quarter containing several hundred homes was demolished and its inhabitants expelled; thereafter a public plaza was built in its place adjoining the Western Wall. However, the Waqf (Islamic trust) was granted administration of the Temple Mount and thereafter Jewish prayer on the site was prohibited by both Israeli and Waqf authorities.
Most Jews celebrated the event as a liberation of the city; a new Israeli holiday was created, Jerusalem Day (Yom Yerushalayim), and the most popular secular Hebrew song, "Jerusalem of Gold" (Yerushalayim shel zahav), became popular in celebration. Many large state gatherings of the State of Israel take place at the Western Wall today, including the swearing-in of various Israel army officers units, national ceremonies such as memorial services for fallen Israeli soldiers on Yom Hazikaron, huge celebrations on Yom Ha'atzmaut (Israel Independence Day), huge gatherings of tens of thousands on Jewish religious holidays, and ongoing daily prayers by regular attendees. The Western Wall has become a major tourist destination spot.
Under Israeli control, members of all religions are largely granted access to their holy sites. The major exceptions being security limitations placed on some Arabs from the West Bank and Gaza Strip from accessing holy sites due to their inadmissibility to Jerusalem, as well as limitations on Jews from visiting the Temple Mount due to both politically motivated restrictions (where they are allowed to walk on the Mount in small groups, but are forbidden to pray or study while there) and religious edicts that forbid Jews from trespassing on what may be the site of the Holy of the Holies. Concerns have been raised about possible attacks on the al-Aqsa Mosque after a serious fire broke in the mosque in 1969 (started by Denis Michael Rohan, an Australian fundamentalist Christian found by the court to be insane). Riots broke out following the opening of an exit in the Arab Quarter for the Western Wall Tunnel on the instructions of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which prior Prime Minister Shimon Peres had instructed to be put on hold for the sake of peace (stating "it has waited for over 1000 years, it could wait a few more").
Conversely, Israeli and other Jews have showed concerns over excavations being done by the Waqf on the Temple Mount that could harm Temple Relics, particularly excavations to the north of Solomon's Stables that were designed to create an emergency exit for them (having been pressured to do so by Israeli authorities). Some Jewish sources allege that the Waqf's excavations in Solomon's Stables also seriously harmed the Southern Wall; however an earthquake in 2004 that damaged the eastern wall could also be to blame.
The status of East Jerusalem remains a highly controversial issue. The international community does not recognize the annexation of the eastern part of the city, and most countries, including the US, maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv. The United States Congress has pledged to move its embassy to Jerusalem, subject to Presidential approval, which has not been forthcoming as the peace process continues. The United Nations Security Council Resolution 478 declared that the Knesset's 1980 "Jerusalem Law" declaring Jerusalem as Israel's "eternal and indivisible" capital was "null and void and must be rescinded forthwith". This resolution advised member states to withdraw their diplomatic representation from the city as a punitive measure. The council has also condemned Israeli settlement in territories captured in 1967, including East Jerusalem (see UNSCR 452, 465 and 741).
Since Israel gained control over East Jerusalem in 1967, Jewish settler organizations have sought to establish a Jewish presence in neighborhoods such as Silwan. In the 1980s, Haaretz reports, the Housing Ministry "then under Ariel Sharon, worked hard to seize control of property in the Old City and in the adjacent neighborhood of Silwan by declaring them absentee property. The suspicion arose that some of the transactions were not legal; an examination committee ... found numerous flaws." In particular, affidavits claiming that Arab homes in the area were absentee properties, filed by Jewish organizations, were accepted by the Custodian without any site visits or other follow-up on the claims. ElAd, a settlement organization which Haaretz says promotes the "Judaization" of East Jerusalem, and the Ateret Cohanim organization, are working to increase Jewish settlement in Silwan in cooperation with the Committee for the Renewal of the Yemenite Village in Shiloah.
Graphical overview of Jerusalem's historical periods
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to History of Jerusalem.|
- "Jerusalem (Before 71 CE)". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- Jerusalem (71–1099) – Catholic Encyclopedia article
- Jerusalem, Latin Kingdom of (1099–1291) – Catholic Encyclopedia article
- Jerusalem (After 1291) – Catholic Encyclopedia article
- 4,000-year-old cemetery uncovered in Jerusalem (November 8, 2006)
- Jerusalem Through Coins
- History.com – Jerusalem Timeline from Kind David to the 20th Century