Jerusalem is seen as a Holy City by billions of people all over the world. For the Jews, this city is the city King David made capital of his kingdom and where the temple stood with the Ark of the Covenant. For Christians, it’s where Christ died, buried and resurrected from the death. For the Muslims it’s holy because they believe Muhammad ascended to heaven from the Temple Mount. Click here for the maps of Jerusalem and the maps for Old Jerusalem (old city).
Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times. It’s more then 5,000 years old, according to the Jews. The truth is that Jerusalem already existed for 6,500 years under the name Rusalimum, founded by the Canaanites (source). By c. 1550–1400 BCE, Jerusalem had become a vassal to Egypt. In the 12th century BCE, according to the Bible, Jerusalem at this time was known as Jebus and its independent Canaanite inhabitants at this time were known as Jebusites. 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, and that makes it 3,000 years ago Jerusalem was in Jewish hands.
Jerusalem’s history lies in layers meters deep.
The three faiths
The energetic and noisy modern city Jerusalem is slowly but surely surrounding the old city. It’s population is 747,000 people and 35,400 are living in the old city. In the time of Jesus, its population was between the 20,000 and the 50,000.
When anyone walks through the city, he or she can see and hear the church bells pealing, muezzins calling Muslims to prayer, friars, rabbis and imams hasten by. The intriguing blend of sights, sounds and smells is unique for Jerusalem and its shows the combined cultures melted together, living side by side. Jerusalem has 1200 synagogues, more than 150 churches and more than 70 mosques.
The Old City
The Old City is surrounded by a wall and divided into four quarters, named after the dominant ethnic identity of its residents.
The largest and most populous Muslim Quarter, includes the Temple Mount with the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. Other sites in the quarter include the Pools of Bethesda and part of the Via Dolorosa.
The Christian Quarter contains the rest of the Via Dolorosa and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which enshrines the sites of Christ’s death, burial and Resurrection. Headquarters of several Christian denominations are among the 40 religious buildings in the quarter.
The Jewish Quarter adjoins the Western Wall, the sole remnant of the Second Temple plaza, which is Judaism’s holiest place. This quarter is more modern, with sophisticated shopping plazas. Archaeological remains are on display in museums and parks.
The Armenian Quarter provides a reminder that Armenia was the first country to make Christianity the state religion (in 301). It contains the Armenian Orthodox Cathedral of St James and a museum in memory of the 1915-23 Armenian Holocaust.
Mount of Olives
The teardrop Church of Dominus Flevit commemorates the Gospel incident in which Jesus wept over Jerusalem’s future fate.
Southwest of the Old City is Mount Zion, the highest point in ancient Jerusalem.
Here is found the Cenacle, believed to be on the site of the Upper Room of the Last Supper. This is also regarded as the site of the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the Council of Jerusalem, where early Church leaders met around AD 50.
Christian eras of Jerusalem
Since the Christian era began, Jerusalem has been ruled by the Roman Empire (first from Rome, then from Byzantium, now Istanbul), Persians, Arab Muslims, Crusaders, Muslims again, Egyptian Mamelukes, Ottoman Turks and, from 1917 to 1948, the British. See for more the brief history of Israel.
After the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, Jerusalem was partitioned between Jordan and the new state of Israel. The Israelis gained control of the predominantly Arab East Jerusalem and Old City during the 1967 Six Day War, but the status of Jerusalem remains a key issue in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.