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Map showing JerusalemJerusalem - 1. Ancient capital of the kingdom of Judea and capital of the State of Israel (though not recognized as such by many states). 2. Allegory for a utopian city - "The New Jerusalem." 3. One of numerous towns throughout the world named for the ancient Jewish city of Jerusalem.

Importance of Jerusalem in Judaism

Jerusalem is of central importance to Judaism and Zionism:

  • As a national center since ancient times

  • As a religious center since ancient times

  • As the unredeemed focus of Jewish humiliation, after its destruction and desecration by the Romans.

  • As a focal point of Jewish yearnings to return to the homeland

  • As a focus of Zionist reconstruction

  • As the scene of Arab massacres and ethnic cleansing of Jews in 1921, 1929, 1936-39 and 1948

  • As the scene of great bravery and heart-breaking failure in the Israeli War of Independence

  • As the capital of the state of Israel

  • As the symbol of Jewish national revival

Jerusalem was the capital of ancient Judea, the object of Jewish national and religious feeling throughout history, and the site of a venerable Jewish community that was ethnically cleansed by the Jordan Legion in 1948.

According to Jewish tradition, Jerusalem has been the center of Jewish national life for about 3,000 years since its conquest by King David. It was the capital city of Judea under the descendants of David and after the return from Babylonian exile. In the Jewish religion, Jerusalem is revered as the site of the ancient temples built by King Solomon and rebuilt after the Persian exile and greatly renovated by Herod, but destroyed by Trajan about 70 AD. In ancient times, Jews would come to Jerusalem 3 times a year for key holidays.

After destroying Jerusalem, Trajan returned to Rome in triumph and constructed a triumphal arch, with the inscription "Judea Capta" and bearing on it the booty he had captured from the Jewish temple. These treasures were in turn looted by barbarians and carried off to North Africa, where they were subsequently lost. Jews have prayed daily for the restoration of Jerusalem for nearly 2,000 years.

Click here for a more detailed account of the history and importance of Jerusalem to the Jews and in the history of modern Israel.

Importance of Jerusalem in Christianity

Jerusalem is revered as the site of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Christian tradition held that the destruction of Jerusalem was God's punishment of the Jews for the crucifixion of Jesus, and that the Jews may not rebuild Jerusalem, which would remain desolate until the establishment of the kingdom of God on Earth. This doctrine is evident in the works of Tertullian, Cyprian, Athanasius and in particular of St. Eusebius Pamphilius, bishop of Caesaria. Some believed that Jerusalem could be rebuilt only with the second coming of Christ, while others held that there was no longer any need for rebuilding Jerusalem, since the kingdom of the Lord had replaced it. Eusebius became famous for writing a history of the Church and a sycophantic biography of the Emperor Constantine. His interdiction concerning Jerusalem is sometimes called "the curse of Eusebius."

Athanasius wrote

"When did prophet and vision cease from Israel? Was it not when Christ came, the Holy One of holies? It is, in fact, a sign and notable proof of the coming of the Word that Jerusalem no longer stands, neither is prophet raised up nor vision revealed among them. And it is natural that it should be so, for when He that was signified had come, what need was there any longer of any to signify Him? And when the Truth had come, what further need was there of the shadow?"

(Incarnation, Ch. VI, written about 345)

The Roman Emperor Julian ("Julian the Apostate") was tolerant of the Jews and allowed them to rebuild their temple. However, Julian was soon killed while campaigning against the Persians and the project was aborted. In support of the proof of the curse of Eusebius, early Christian writers attested to prodigies of fire and brimstone that occurred when the Jews attempted construction in Jerusalem under Julian. Jerusalem was also the site of the Crusader kingdom which expelled the Jews and prohibited Jews from living there until their defeat by Salah Eddin.

Importance of Jerusalem in Islam

According to the Sura 17 (Isra) of the Qur'an, the prophet Muhamed was transported miraculously to Masjid El Aqsa ("the furthest Mosque") by God. Tradition holds that he was transported on his horse, El Buraq, which he tethered at the Western Wall. Muhamed died before the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem and there were no mosques there at the time, but this passage is usually interpreted as referring to Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the original direction of Muslim prayer (qibla) later replaced by Mecca.

The Mosque of Umar ("Dome of the Rock") was built between about 690 by the ninth Caliph, Abd-al Malik. It stands on the site where, according to Muslim tradition, Muhamed ascended to heaven. Abd-al Malik and his successors also constructed the holier, but less impressive Mosque of Al-Aqsa, which supposedly stands on the site of the Jewish temple. The entire area is called the "Haram as Sharif" - holy sanctuary, and the mosque of Al-Aqsa is supposed to be the replacement for Beit El Maqdes (Beyt Hamikdash in Hebrew, the Holy Temple). Many Muslims believe that the old testament prophets and heroes were Muslims and not Jews. They hold that King Solomon was a member of the Islamic faith and that the temple of Suleiman was the first Masjid al-Aqsa.

Under Turkish rule, Jerusalem fell into severe neglect. During the Mamluk and Ottoman periods and until the mid-19th century, non-Muslims were not permitted into the Haram as Sharif, an exception being made for the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1862.

The neglect of Jerusalem, was reversed by the initiative of the British appointed Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el Husseini, who wished to make Jerusalem a symbol of the Palestinian Arab national struggle against the Jews, raised money for restoration of the mosques and other works beginning in 1922. By agreement, the Hashemite dynasty of Jordan was given the role of protectors of Jerusalem, in partial compensation for their loss of their stewardship of the holy places of Islam in Saudi Arabia.

The loss of Jerusalem and in particular of the Haram as Sharif to Israel in the 1967 6-day was was considered a great tragedy and shock, not only for Palestinians, but for all Muslims and Arabs. However, beyond that, Jerusalem has never had any political significance for the Palestine, Arab or Muslim world, and was never the capital of any sovereign state.

Yasser Arafat and the former Mufti of Jerusalem, Ikram Sabri, led a campaign that attempted to sever the historic connection of Judaism with Jerusalem. They claimed that the is no archeological evidence that Jerusalem was ever the capital of the Jews, though it is mentioned as such explicitly by Greek and Roman historians. Arafat also claimed that the ancient capital of the Jews was in Nablus (ancient Shechem or Neapolis), but there is no evidence to support this claim.

Ethnic Cleansing of Jerusalem

A Jewish community had lived in the old city of Jerusalem for several hundred years, and in fact Jews had returned to Jerusalem several times after expulsions by Roman emperors and crusaders. The Ottoman census of 1844 showed that Jews were the largest minority in Jerusalem, constituting 47% of the population inside the city walls. In later years, some of this population moved out of the walled old city, where it was impossible to be gainfully employed.

The Arab riots of 1929 and 1936 depleted the Jewish population of the old city Jerusalem, so that only about 2,000 Jews remained there, living for the most part as orthodox Jews and worshipping in the 59 synagogues of the old city.

Outside the walls of the old city, the Jews built a new city with a large population during the British Mandate. Arabs from surrounding towns and from the Old City followed the Jews and built their own neighborhoods. In the Israeli War of Independence the Arabs blockaded the road to Jerusalem and attempted to starve out the civilian population. The U.N. had declared Jerusalem to be an international city, but the British prevented the UN from enforcing this regime in any practical way. The Arabs cut the water supply to Jerusalem, and attacked convoys, particularly at a stretch of the Tel-Aviv-Jerusalem Road beginning at Sha'ar Hagay, known in Arab as Bab El Wad. The Jewish forces managed to bring supplies to Jerusalem and saved the new city. However on May 28, 1948, the Jewish quarter of the old city of Jerusalem was conquered by the Transjordanian Arab Legion and the Jews of Jerusalem were unceremoniously evicted - ethnically cleansed in the language of modern political debate. Therefore, claims concerning the rights of the "Arab Majority" of Jerusalem are based on a history of racism and ethnic cleansing that created and maintained that "majority." The policy of maintained quarters or ghettos for different populations, instituted by the Turks and maintained under the British mandate, is itself racist. For details of the ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem, see here: The Ethnic Cleansing of Jerusalem

In 1929, rumors that the Jews intended to build a synagogue in the vicinity of the Wailing wall were the cause of bloody riots.

On August 29,1969, a deranged Australian tourist, twenty-eight-year-old Denis Michael Rohan, a fundamentalist Christian, set fire to the al-Aqsa Mosque. The Palestinian National Authority has repeatedly spread the falsehood that the fire was caused by a Jewish extremist. For example:

http: //english.wafa.ps/body.asp?field=Enews&id=3781

"GAZA, August 20, 2005 (WAFA-PLO news agency) - On 21 August 1969, a radical Jew following dawn prayers, when the mosque was free of worshippers, set fire to the al-Aqsa Mosque"

In September of 1996, the Netanyahu government opened a gateway in underground excavations beneath the Temple Mount to facilitate creation of a tourist attraction. A groundless rumor was spread that the Jews were undermining the foundations of the mosques. This resulted in fatal rioting known as "the tunnel riots."

In September of 2000, a visit by Ariel Sharon to the Haram as Sharif compounds (he did not enter any mosques) triggered the so called "second Intifada."

The Jerusalem Syndrome

Jerusalem seems to attract or inspire other psychotics and disturbed people like Denis Rohan, who believe they will bring about the coming of the messiah or the end of the world by creating a disturbance or harming the mosques, or commit other demonstrative or threatening act. These behaviors have been termed the Jerusalem Syndrome.

Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information:Maps of Jerusalem:

Map of Jerusalem drawn about 1200 Map of Jerusalem - World with Jerusalem at the Center - 1581
Map of Jerusalem - Cook's Tours Map of Jerusalem 1924 Jerusalem Armistice Map 1949 erusalem Armistice Lines Map 1949 (middle portion only) Jerusalem Map 1912

Battles in and around Jerusalem: Map of Israeli Conquest of Jerusalem, June 5-7, 1967 Operation Nachshon Operation Kilshon

Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.

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