The basis for the city’s spiritual importance for Palestinians is its centrality and importance in both Islam and Christianity. Following
For Palestinian Christians and other Christians worldwide, Jerusalem is the city associated with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus worshipped in the ancient Hebrew temple in Jerusalem. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre stands over the site of his crucifixion and resurrection, and the Mount of Olives is the spot from which Jesus ascended into heaven. Mount Zion is associated with the Last Supper as well as the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. The city boasts a number of other churches and Christian institutions belonging to various Christian communities.
The city is also of spiritual significance to Israelis and Jews throughout the world as well, which has contributed to the centrality of Jerusalem in the Arab-Israeli conflict. It served as the capital for the ancient Hebrew kingdom: the area of the Haram al-Sharif was home to the Temple of Herod
(the Hebrews’ second temple), constructed over the spot where Jews (and Christians) believe that God ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. The
For Palestinians, Jerusalem is also of tremendous geographic, cultural, and political importance. The city lies in the center of Palestine, along the crossroads to important traditional trading and manufacturing towns such as
Jerusalem has been deeply impacted by Zionism and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Because of the Zionist movement, the city’s Jewish population began to grow in the twentieth century. Previously, Jerusalem’s Jewish population during the Ottoman period consisted largely of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews (those of post-1492 Spanish origin and of Middle Eastern and North African origin) who long had lived in the city, and pious Ashkenazi Jews (of European descent) who moved to the holy city more recently for religious reasons. In 1922, the British counted 33,971 Jews and 28,112 Palestinians in the city. By the late 1940s, the city’s population stood at approximately 97,000 Jews and 61,000 Palestinians. It should be noted that these numbers related to the administrative limits of the city that were gerrymandered by the British to include every Jewish-inhabited neighborhood in the vicinity, even those several kilometres away, and to exclude several Arab ones near the city.
Zionist immigration and land purchases throughout Palestine stoked political and ethno-religious tensions between Jews and Arabs, which sometimes led to violence in the city, most notably the August 1929
The 1967 war
once again changed Jerusalem in significant ways. Israeli paratroopers captured the Old City on 7 June 1967 after fierce fighting with the Arab Legion. The next day, the Israelis destroyed more than 100 homes and displaced more than 600 Palestinians in the
In the following years, and in addition to settling in the Old City, large settlements outside the walls were established, such as the French Hill
, Ramat Eshkol
, Ma’alot Dafna
Concomitant with their settlement activities, Israeli authorities have tried to reduce the number of Palestinians living in the city through neglecting municipal services in Palestinian areas, reducing building permits to a trickle, and confiscating or refusing to renew Jerusalem identity documents of those whom they accuse of failing to live within the city limits for sufficient periods of time. In addition, the construction of the separation barrier and tightened restrictions on Palestinian movement between the
Both Israelis and Palestinians consider Jerusalem their capital, although the PLO only claims East Jerusalem in this regard. The Oslo Agreement of 1993 left all of Jerusalem in Israeli hands and subject to “final status” talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in the future. Such talks never really began in earnest, and with the breakdown of negotiations since 2000, the city remains in Israeli hands. Meanwhile, Palestinian Jerusalemites bear the brunt of policies that aim to marginalize them, displace them, and disconnect them from other Palestinians.
Armstrong, Karen. Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths. New York: Ballantine Books, 1997.
Boudreault, Jody, Emma Naughton, and Yasser Salaam, eds. U.S. Official Statements: The Status of Jerusalem. Washington, DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992.
Cattan, Henry. “The Status of Jerusalem Under International Law and United Nations Resolutions.” Journal of Palestine Studies 10, no.3 (Spring 1981): 3-15.
Dumper, Michael. The Politics of Jerusalem Since 1967. Institute for Palestine Studies Series. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.
“Jerusalem.” In Philip Mattar, ed., Encyclopedia of the Palestinians (Rev. ed.). New York: FactsOnFile, 2005.
Jerusalem Quarterly (journal published by the Institute for Jerusalem Studies).
Tamari, Salim, ed. Jerusalem 1948: The Arab Neighbourhoods and Their Fate in the War. Jerusalem: Institute of Jerusalem Studies and Badil Resource Center, 1999.
Tibawi, A. L. Jerusalem: Its Place in Islamic and Arab History. Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1969.