Jerusalem wall - Panoramic view
If you are wondering how Jerusalem became such a center of religions and spirituality and a pilgrimage site for millions of tourists from around the world, the answer begins thousands of years ago. Jerusalem’s history is one of wars and struggles. Its strategic location attracted many nations that wanted to capture the city, and some of them did rule over it for various periods. This city has known war and peace, love and hate, riches and poverty, destruction and renewal, happiness and pain.
According to Jewish tradition, the creation of the world began (5766 years ago) with the foundation stone on Mount Moriah (under the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount). This is where an important royal Can’anite city was built (about 4,000 years ago), and which was conquered from the Jebusites by King David in 1004 BCE and became the capital of his kingdom and a holy city. David’s son Solomon built the First Temple and his descendents (Hezekiah, Zedekiah and the Judean Kings) continued to enlarge and fortify the city’s boundaries, and to build a water supply system (Hezekiah’s tunnel). These efforts paid off, and when King Sennacherib of Assyria besieged Jerusalem he could not subdue the city and withdrew. Only in 586 BCE did Nebuchadnezzar conquer the Jewish capital. The city was destroyed and most of its inhabitants exiled to Babylon. In 538 BCE Xerxes, the King of Persia, who has conquered Babylon, permitted the exiled Jews to return to Judea and Jerusalem, where they rebuilt the city and built the Second Temple. For 370 years Judea was an autonomous district, first under the Persians and then under the Greeks. After the Hasmonean Revolt in 168 BCE, Jerusalem again became the capital of a Kingdom, that later became under the rule of the Roman Empire. King Herod the Great further expanded the Temple in the years 73-4 BCE.
At the end of the Second Temple period Jerusalem was a city of great social and religious tension. It was during this period that Jesus was preaching in Nazereth. In 66 CE the Jews rebelled against the Roman Empire and took over Jerusalem. The suppression of this revolt ended in 70 CE, and the Romans, led by Titus, conquered the capital, destroyed the Temple completely and exiled the city’s inhabitants. For the next 60 years Jerusalem was desolate, until the Bar Kokhba Revolt, when the Jews returned for a short while. In 135 CE, the Romans rebuilt and renamed the city Aelia Capitolina and barred the Jews from living there.
After the Roman Empire accepted Christianity in 324 (and later became the Byzantine Empire), Jerusalem again became an important city. The site’s connected with Jesus’ life and death were located and declared holy, and many magnificent churches were built, including the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (the Church of the Resurrection) and the “Mother of all the Churches,” on Mt. Zion.
In 638 the Muslims conquered Jerusalem and built the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa mosque over the next few centuries. Following the Muslim conquest the Jews returned to Jerusalem, and around the 10th century this city again became the spiritual capital for the Jews of the Land of Israel.
The Crusaders also wanted to rule Jerusalem. They conquered the city in 1099, massacred the Jewish and Muslim residents and made Jerusalem their own capital. Less than 100 years later, in 1187, the Crusaders were defeated by Saladin a battle at Khitin. At that time the Jews returned to Jerusalem and have been here ever since.
In 1250 the Mamluk dynasty rose to power in Egypt and its rulers conquered this region and became the new lords of Jerusalem. In 1517 the Ottoman Empire spread to Jerusalem and for 400 years was under Turkish rule. During the first 100 years the city flourished and its walls were rebuilt. In the second half of the 16th century, as the Ottoman Empire began to decline, so did Jerusalem’s fortunes.
By the beginning of the 19th century Jerusalem was a small neglected city inside its walls, and only toward the end of the century (from 1860 onward), did the New City begin to grow, thanks to the generosity of British philanthropist Moshe Montifiore, who financed the construction of Mishkenot Sha'ananim. The success of this new neighborhood led to more neighborhoods being built outside the walls. More Jews began moving to Jerusalem, becoming a majority of the population in 1873.
In 1917, with the start of the British Mandate period, Jerusalem retained its status as the capital of the land. When Israel was established in 1948, Jerusalem was declared the state capital, and all the major government institutions were built here. These including the Knesset (Israel’s parliament building), the Supreme Court and the various government offices.
During the War of Independence, following bloody battles and ceasefire agreements, Jerusalem was left divided between Israel and Jordan, until the capital’s liberation in the Six Day War in 1967, when the two parts of the city were reunited and Jerusalem became Israel’s largest city.
From the very beginning, Jerusalem has been the one and only, a unique city second to none in the whole world. It was always a Jewish city for over 4,000 years.
Jerusalem the Temple and the Jewish people are so intertwined that telling the over 3000 history of one is telling the history of the other.
For more than 3,000 years, Jerusalem has played a central role in the history of the Jews, culturally, politically, and spiritually, a role first
documented in the Scriptures. All through the 2,000 years of the
Diaspora, Jews have called Jerusalem their ancestral home. This
sharply contrasts the relationship between Jerusalem and those
who inflate Islam’s links to the city.
The Arab rulers who controlled Jerusalem through the 1950's
and 1960's demonstrated no religious tolerance in a city that gave
birth to two major Western religions. That changed after the Six-
Day War in 1967 2nd war of liberation, when Israel regained control of the whole city.
One of Israel's first steps was to officially recognize and respect all religious interests in Jerusalem. But the battles for control of Jerusalem and its religious sites continues.
Palestinian Arab terrorism has targeted Jerusalem particularly in
an attempt to gain control of the city from Israel. The result is
that they have turned Jerusalem, the City of Peace, into a bloody
battleground and have thus forfeited their claim to share in the
city’s destiny. The Arab continued terror and violence in Jerusalem and elsewhere in greater Israel will force Israel to prohibit Arabs from living in Jerusalem.
I implore upon the masses that more people will be motivated to actively engage in the defense of the legal stances of the Jewish Nation regarding
Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the Jewish people. Thereby helping Israel bring peace, tranquility and mutual coexistence.
Jerusalem’s Jewish Link: Historic, Religious, Political
Jerusalem, wrote historian Martin Gilbert, is not a ‘mere’ city. “It
holds the central spiritual and physical place in the history of the
Jews as a people.”
For more than 3,000 years, the Jewish people have looked to
Jerusalem as their spiritual, political, and historical capital, even
when they did not physically rule over the city. Throughout its
long history, Jerusalem has served, and still serves, as the political
capital of only one nation – the one belonging to the Jews. Its
prominence in Jewish history began in 1004 BCE, when King
David declared the city the capital of the first Jewish kingdom.
David’s successor and son, King Solomon, built the First Temple
there, according to the Bible, as a holy place to worship the
Almighty. Unfortunately, history would not be kind to the Jewish
people. Four hundred and ten years after King Solomon completed
construction of Jerusalem, the Babylonians (early ancestors to
today’s Iraqis) seized and destroyed the city, forcing the Jews
Fifty years later, the Jews, or Israelites as they were called, were
permitted to return after Persia (present-day Iran) conquered
Babylon. The Jews’ first order of business was to reclaim Jerusalem
as their capital and rebuild the Holy Temple, recorded in history
as the Second Temple.
Jerusalem was more than the Jewish kingdom’s political capital
– it was a spiritual beacon. During the First and Second Temple
periods, Jews throughout the kingdom would travel to Jerusalem
three times yearly for the pilgrimages of the Jewish holy days of
Sukkoth, Passover, and Shavuot, until the Roman Empire destroyed
the Second Temple in 70 CE and ended Jewish sovereignty over
Jerusalem for nearly 2,000 years. Despite that fate, Jews never
relinquished their bond to Jerusalem or, for that matter, to Eretz
Yisrael, the Land of Israel.
No matter where Jews lived throughout the world for those two
millennia, their thoughts and prayers were directed toward
Jerusalem. Even today, whether in Israel, the United States or
elsewhere, Jewish ritual practice, holiday celebration and life-cycle
events include recognition of Jerusalem as a core element of the
Jewish experience. Consider that:
• Jews in prayer always turn toward Jerusalem.
• Arks (the sacred chests) that hold Torah scrolls in synagogues
throughout the world face Jerusalem.
• Jews end Passover Seders each year with the words: “Next year
in Jerusalem.” The same words are pronounced at the end of
Yom Kippur, the most solemn day of the Jewish year.
• A three-week moratorium on weddings in the summer recalls
the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem by the Babylonian
army in 586 BCE. That period culminates in a special day of
mourning – Tisha B’Av (the 9th day of the Hebrew month
Av) – commemorating the destruction of both the First and
• Jewish wedding ceremonies – joyous occasions – are marked
by sorrow over the loss of Jerusalem. The groom recites a
biblical verse from the Babylonian Exile: “If I forget thee, O
Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning,” and breaks
a glass in commemoration of the destruction of the Temples.
Even body language, often said to tell volumes about a person,
reflects the importance of Jerusalem to Jews as a people and,
arguably, the lower priority the city holds for Muslims:
• When Jews pray they face Jerusalem; in Jerusalem Israelis
pray facing the Temple Mount.
• When Muslims pray, they face Mecca; in Jerusalem Muslims
pray with their backs to the city.
• Even at burial, a Muslim face, is turned toward Mecca.
Finally, consider the number of times “Jerusalem” is mentioned in
the two religions' holy books:
• The Old Testament mentions “Jerusalem” 349 times. “Zion,”
another name for “Jerusalem,” is mentioned 108 times.
• The Quran never mentions Jerusalem – not even once.
Even when others controlled Jerusalem, Jews maintained a physical
presence in the city, despite being persecuted and impoverished.
Before the advent of modern Zionism in the 1880's, Jews were
moved by a form of religious Zionism to live in the Holy Land,
settling particularly in four holy cities: Safed, Tiberius, Hebron,
and most importantly – Jerusalem. Consequently, Jews constituted
a majority of the city’s population for generations. In 1898, “In
this City of the Jews, where the Jewish population outnumbers
all others three to one … ” Jews constituted 75 percent of the
Old City population in what the former UN Secretary-General
called “East Jerusalem.” In 1914, when the Ottoman
Turks ruled the city, 47,000 Jews made up a majority of the 65,000
residents. And at the time of Israeli statehood in 1948, 110,000
Jews lived in the city, compared to only 61,000 Arabs. Prior to the liberation and unification, Jordanian-controlled “East Jerusalem” was a mere 6 square kilometers, compared to 38 square kilometers on the “Jewish side.”
The San Remo Treaty of 1920 designated The Mandate for Palestine for the Jewish people which included both sides of the Jordan river, all of Jerusalem and Gaza. The San Remo Treaty terms are in affect in perpetuity. Only a signed treaty executed by Israel and another State can modify the terms of the treaty, and not the U.N. or any other country or entity.
Jerusalem is a beautiful place, despite of any tensions. It's definitely one of those special places... maybe because it's the most sacred region for some religions, or maybe because it's standing there, for thousands of years.
Visiting Jerusalem is definitely one of my life goals, and while that doesn't happen, we get to see these fantastic photographs. These were taken by some really talented people. For more of their work you should definitely visit their portfolios, simply by clicking each picture. Cheers! ;)
Juan Ramón Jiménez