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Jerusalem (jəro͞oˈsələm, –zələm), Heb. Yerushalayim, Arab. Al Quds, city (1994 pop. 578,800), capital of Israel. East Jerusalem is also claimed by Palestinians as a future capital, and most nations have not formally recognized the city as the capital of Israel in the belief that its status remains to be determined by negotiations. A notable exception is the United States, which during the Trump administration recognized (2017) the city as Israel's capital.

Jerusalem is situated on a ridge 2,500 ft (760 m) high that lies west of the Dead Sea and the Jordan River. It is an administrative, religious, educational, cultural, and market center. Tourism and the construction of houses and hotels are the city's major industries. Manufactures include cut and polished diamonds, plastics, clothing, and shoes, and electronic printing and other high-technology industries have been developed. The city is served by road, rail, and air transport.

Jerusalem is a holy city for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Often under the name of Zion, it figures prominently in Jewish and Christian literature as a symbol of the capital of the Messiah. Jerusalem's churches and shrines are legion. The traditional identifications vary in reliability from certainty (such as Gethsemane) to pious supposition (such as the Tomb of the Virgin). The most famous and most difficult identification is that of Calvary. Excavations have been made in Jerusalem since 1835, and after 1967, the Israelis increased this activity. Many of Jerusalem's original streets, including the main Cardo, have been excavated and turned into tourist sites.

The Old City

The Old City, a quadrangular area built on two hills and surrounded by a wall completed in 1542 by the Ottoman sultan Sulayman I, is in East Jerusalem. Within the wall are four quarters. The Muslim quarter, in the east, contains a sacred enclosure, the Haram esh-Sherif (known as the Temple Mount to Jews), within which, built on the old Mt. Moriah, are the Dome of the Rock (completed 691), or Mosque of Omar, and the Mosque of al-Aksa. The wall of the Haram incorporates the Western Wall, or Wailing Wall, a remnant of the retaining wall of the Second Temple and a holy place for Jews. Nearby and southwest of the Haram is the Jewish quarter, with several famous old synagogues. Partially destroyed in previous Arab-Israeli fighting, the Old City was captured in 1967 by the Israelis, who began to rebuild and renovate the Jewish quarter. To the west of the Jewish quarter is the Armenian quarter, site of the Gulbenkian Library. The Christian quarter occupies the northern and northwestern parts of the Old City. Its greatest monument is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Through the area runs the Via Dolorosa, along which Jesus is said to have carried his cross.

The New City and Other Districts

The New City, extending west and southwest of the Old City, has developed tremendously since the 19th cent. It is the site of several educational institutions, as well as the Knesset (Israeli parliament) and other government buildings (including the striking Supreme Court building, which opened in 1992). Yad Vashem, a memorial to the Holocaust, is also in that section of the city. To the east of the Old City is the Valley of the Kidron, beyond which lie the Garden of Gethsemane and the Mount of Olives. To the north is Mt. Scopus, a Jewish intellectual center that is the site of the Hadassah Medical Center, Hebrew Univ., and the Jewish National Library. Another campus of Hebrew Univ. is located on the western edge of the city at Ein Karem. From 1948 to 1967, Mt. Scopus was an Israeli exclave in Arab territory. To the west and south of the Old City runs the Valley of Hinnom; this meets the Kidron near the pool of Siloam, which is next to the site of the original city of Jerusalem, now partly excavated and called the City of David; the Acra, a Seleucid (Greek Syrian) fortress, may have been at the northern end of this area. Since the 1967 war, Israel has annexed the Old City and annexed and combined areas in the West Bank neighboring the Old City into Jerusalem, greatly enlarging East Jerusalem but also confining Arabs to existing Palestinian neighborhoods.

Cultural and Educational Institutions

Jerusalem has numerous museums; one of the finest is the Israel Museum, in the New City, whose collection ranges from the contemporary to displays of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The city is the seat of Hebrew Univ., the British School of Archaeology, the Dominican Fathers' Convent of St. Étienne, with the attached Bible School and French Archaeological School, the American College, the Greek Catholic Seminary of St. Anne, the Pontifical Biblical Institute, the Swedish Theological Institute, the Near East School of Archaeology, the Rubin Academy of Music, and the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.


Early History to 1900

Despite incomplete archaeological work, it is evident that the Jerusalem area was settled at least as far back as the 5th millenium B.C. In the late Bronze Age (2000–1550 B.C.), it was a Jebusite (Canaanite) stronghold. David captured it (c.1000 B.C.) from the Jebusites and walled the city. After Solomon built the Temple on Mt. Moriah in the 10th cent. B.C., Jerusalem became the spiritual and political capital of the Hebrews. In 586 B.C. it fell to the Babylonians, and the Temple was destroyed.

The city was restored to Hebrew rule later in the 6th cent. B.C. by Cyrus the Great, king of Persia. The Temple was rebuilt (538–515 B.C.; known as the Second Temple) by Zerubbabel, a governor of Jerusalem under the Persians. In the mid-5th cent. B.C., Ezra reinvigorated the Jewish community in Jerusalem. The city was the capital of the Maccabees in the 2d and 1st cent. B.C.

After Jerusalem had been taken for the Romans by Pompey, it became the capital of the Herod dynasty, which ruled under the aegis of Rome. The Roman emperor Titus ruined the city and destroyed the Temple (A.D. 70) in order to punish and discourage the Jews. After the revolt of Bar Kokba (A.D. 132–35), Hadrian rebuilt the city as a pagan shrine called Aelia Capitolina but forbade Jews to live on the site.

With the imperial toleration of Christianity (from 313), Jerusalem underwent a revival, greatly aided by St. Helena, who sponsored much building in the early 4th cent. Since that time Jerusalem has been a world pilgrimage spot. Muslims, who believe that the city was visited by Muhammad, treated Jerusalem favorably after they captured it in 637, making it the chief shrine after Mecca. From 688 to 691 the Dome of the Rock mosque was constructed.

In the 11th cent. the Fatimids began to hinder Christian pilgrims; their destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher helped bring on the Crusades. Jerusalem was conquered by the Crusaders in 1099 and for most of the 12th cent. was the capital of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. In 1187, Muslims under Saladin recaptured the city. Thereafter, under Mamluk and then Ottoman rule, Jerusalem was rebuilt and restored (especially by Sulayman I); but by the late 16th cent. it was declining as a commercial and religious center.

In the early 19th cent., Jerusalem began to revive. The flow of Christian pilgrims increased, and churches, hospices, and other institutions were built. Jewish immigration accelerated (especially from the time of the Egyptian occupation of Jerusalem by Muhammad Ali in 1832–41), and by 1900, Jews made up the largest community in the city and expanded settlement outside the Old City walls.

The Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries

In 1917, during World War I, Jerusalem was captured by British forces under Gen. Edmund Allenby. After the war it was made the capital of the British-held League of Nations Palestine mandate (1922–48). As the end of the mandate approached, Arabs and Jews both sought to hold sole possession of the city. Most Christians favored a free city open to all religions. This view prevailed in the United Nations, which, in partitioning Palestine into Arab and Jewish states, declared that Jerusalem and its environs (including Bethlehem) would be an internationally administered enclave in the projected Arab state. Even before the partition went into effect (May 14, 1948), fighting between Jews and Arabs broke out in the city. On May 28, the Jews in the Old City surrendered. The New City remained in Jewish hands. The Old City and all areas held by the Arab Legion (East Jerusalem) were annexed by Jordan in Apr., 1949. Israel responded by retaining the area it held. On Dec. 14, 1949, the New City of Jerusalem was made the capital of Israel.

In the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, Israeli forces took the Old City. The Israeli government then formally annexed the Old City and placed all of Jerusalem under a unified administration. Arab East Jerusalemites were offered regular Israeli citizenship but chose to maintain their status as Jordanians. Israel transferred many Arabs out of the Old City but promised access to the holy places to people of all religions. In July, 1980, Israel's parliament approved a bill affirming Jerusalem as the nation's capital. With suburbanization and housing developments in formerly Jordanian-held territory, Jerusalem has become Israel's largest city. Strife between Arabs and Jews persists. The issue of the status of East Jerusalem, annexed by Israel but regarded by Palestinians as the eventual capital of their own state, remains difficult. In 1998, Israel announced a controversial plan to expand Jerusalem by annexing nearby towns; it has also has constructed housing for Israelis in East Jerusalem while limiting, by comparison, building permits for Arabs.


See S. B. Cohen, Jerusalem: Bridging the Four Walls (1977); M. Har-El, This Is Jerusalem (1977); L. Collins and D. Lapierre, O Jerusalem (1980); M. Gilbert, Jerusalem: Rebirth of a City (1985); F. E. Peters, Jerusalem (1985); A. L. Eckardt, ed., Jerusalem: City of Ages (1987); A. Rabinovich, Jerusalem on Earth (1988); H. Shanks, Jerusalem: An Archaeological Biography (1995); S. S. Montefiore, Jerusalem: The Biography (2011).

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The holy city of Jerusalem contains many historical sites that are of immense importance to Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions. It has thus been a hotspot for wars ranging from the medieval Crusades to modern-day terrorism.Fortean Picture Library.

Jerusalem (Israel)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Jerusalem and the surrounding territory is possibly the most sacred place on Earth, land revered by the followers of three of the world’s most prominent faiths—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Its place in Judaism was established when King David made it his capital and brought to the city the Ark of the Covenant, in which God focused his presence to the children of Israel. King Solomon, David’s successor, then built the temple to house the Ark. Destroyed by the conquering forces in 587 BCE, the temple was rebuilt following the Jews’ return from exile in 538 BCE. However, many Jews also believe Jerusalem is the site at which, long before David, Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac in the famous incident recorded in the biblical book of Genesis 22:2–19.

Centuries later, Jerusalem became the center for the ministry of Jesus and the site of his passion, death, and resurrection. In Jerusalem, on the day of Pentecost, Christians believe God’s Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus’ disciples, and the Christian Church was founded.

For Muslims, Jerusalem is second in importance only to Mecca and Medina, where Muhammad (570–632) lived. While Muhammad never traveled to Palestine, he is believed to have visited Jerusalem during what is termed the Night Journey. From Mecca, Muhammad was supernaturally transported to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, from which he ascended into heaven and conversed with Allah.

Jerusalem is also integral to traditional views on the culmination of human history for believers of the three faiths. For Jews, Jerusalem was their traditional homeland, control of which has been at several points in history denied them. Thus, a return to Jerusalem from their global dispersal has been a major theme in Jewish thought. This additionally interacts with a belief that from Jerusalem, the end-time events of human history will be initiated, culminating in the resurrection of the dead.

Christianity, a movement suppressed through its early centuries, immediately voiced its claims on Jerusalem as soon as it attained some favor in the Roman Empire during the reign of the emperor Constantine (r. 306–337). The city became metaphorically an earthly image of the coming kingdom of God and the literal site from which the end-time events described in the book of Revelation would emanate.

For a segment of the Muslim community, Jerusalem has come to be seen as the place where the End of Days, including the return to life of the dead, will begin. That belief, by no means a consensus, has led many Muslims to seek burial close to the Temple Mount.

The broad claims of the three religions to hegemony over specific locations, and the particular claims of individual subgroups within the three large faith communities, accumulated as successive rule came to the city and the surrounding territory. A significant challenge to Jewish hegemony in the city began in 63 BCE with the conquest of the city by the Romans. That rule would be marked by the execution of Jesus and then, in 70 CE, the siege of the city and destruction of the Second Temple by Roman forces. In 135, the Romans destroyed much of the remaining city and barred both Jews and Christians access to their most holy sites.

In the fourth century Constantine opened Jerusalem to Christians, and Christian leadership dominated the land for the next three centuries. Jews received very limited rights to visit their sites, although access was gradually increased oversucceeding centuries. In 638 the initiation of Muslim rule led to the destruction of many Christian facilities while initiating the construction of many Muslim sites. The most important site was, of course, the Dome of the Rock, marking the site of Muhammad’s journey to heaven. The Dome occupies the site of the former Second Temple, and its existence thus blocks any desires of Jews to rebuild their temple.

The reestablishment of Christian rule in Jerusalem became the object of the medieval crusades, but except for a brief period (1099–1187), the city remained in Muslim hands until the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. The arrival of the British, who established a protectorate over the city in 1917, led to three decades of Christian efforts to reclaim parts of the city. In 1947 Jewish residents of Palestine initiated a successful war whose goal was the establishment of Israel as an independent state. Despite succeeding in their basic objective, they were unable of include most of Jerusalem in the new nation. Most importantly, the Old City, including the Temple Mount, came under the control of Jordan, a Muslim nation. While Jordan allowed Christians access to their sites, Jews were not granted the same privileges. Two decades later, during the 1967 war, Israeli forces took control of the Old City, and it remains under Israeli authority to the present.

In 1947, when Jordanian forces took control of the Old City, they denied Jews access to the Wailing Wall, now generally called the Western Wall, the remnant foundation of the Jewish temple, which had over the centuries become a focus of Jewish aspirations for their traditional homeland. That wall fell into the hands of Jewish forces on June 7, 1967, and Jewish leaders immediately found their way to it. It subsequently became the single most important Jewish site in the city.

Muslim attention to the city is concentrated on the Temple Mount, now defined by the surrounding wall built by Herod the Great in the first century BCE. It is the site of the Dome of the Rock, the Al-aqsa Mosque (erected over the site where Muhammad originally landed in Jerusalem), and more than one hundred other Muslim structures. Although the Israeli government now controls the Temple Mount, it has respected the Muslim establishment that has been created, and to this day Jews are forbidden to venture within the Mount’s walls.

Beginning with the visit of Helena (c. 248-c. 329), the aging mother of Constantine, Christian leaders began to identify and mark the sites where the major events in the life of Jesus and his apostles occurred. No site was more important than that of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. Once it was identified by Helena, Constantine launched the building of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. That church became the culminating point of the interrelated sites marking the last events of Jesus’ life, beginning with his condemnation to death, torture, and the carrying of the cross to his place of execution. The path that Jesus walked is now called the Via Dolorosa (Sorrowful Way), and the symbolic reenactment of the Via Dolorosa has become a significant devotional practice in the Roman Catholic Church, whose members are encouraged to pray through the Stations of the Cross. The Via Dolorosa begins at the Lion’s Gate and passes the Church of the Condemnation, a variety of small chapels, an Armenian Catholic Church, and an Ethiopian church before culminating at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The importance of Jesus’ treading of the Via Dolorosa was underscored in the response to the 2004 blockbuster movie The Passion of the Christ, directed by Mel Gibson.

Besides Jesus’ last days, the locations of a variety of occurrences from Jesus’ ministry have been designated and today remain pilgrimage sites. They would include the pool at Bethesda where Jesus healed a lame man, the pool of Siloam where he cured a blind man, the Garden of Gethsemane where he went to pray, and the Mount of Olives where he spoke the Lord’s Prayer. Several churches now commemorate the site of Jesus’ ascension into heaven. The Church of the Assumption is the traditional site of the grave of the Virgin Mary; however, Roman Catholics have come to believe that Mary was taken bodily into heaven at the end of her earthly existence—a belief that was declared dogma in 1950.

Modern Jerusalem is one of the most religiously diverse cities in the world, with many of the sectarian divisions of the three major faiths represented in its residents. In addition to the older sites relative to the founding and major historical events of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, the modern leadership of the various elements of their communities have centers in Jerusalem. At the center of the religious communities are organizations that seek to represent the larger Christian, Jewish, and Muslim groups in the city and others that seek to provide dialogue between them.


Bahat, Dan. Carta’s Historical Atlas of Jerusalem. Jerusalem: Carta, 1995.
Gonen, Rivka. Biblical Holy Places: An Illustrated History. New York: Macmillan, 1987.
Grabar, Oleg. The Shape of the Holy: Early Islamic Jerusalem. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996.
Hollis, Christopher, and Ronald Brownrigg. Holy Places: Jewish, Christian, and Moslem Monuments in the Holy Land. New York: Praeger, 1969.
The Encyclopedia of Religious Phenomena © 2008 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Hebrew, Yerushala’im; Arabic, el-Kuds), a city in Palestine, west of the Dead Sea on a semidesert plateau. Population, 283,100 (1970). The city has a railway station and is an automobile highway junction. It is an industrial, commercial, transport, and cultural center. The most important industries are food, textiles, leather and shoes, metalworking, pharmaceuticals, glass, and printing. Handicrafts are well developed, and there is a radio-manufacturing plant in the city. Jerusalem is considered a “holy city” by Christians, Jews, and Muslims.

The first reference to Jerusalem dates from the middle of the second millennium B.C. Later, it was held at various times by the Kingdom of Judah, Alexander the Great, the Seleucid state, ancient Rome, Byzantium, the Arab Caliphate, the Crusaders, the Ayyubid state, the Mameluke state, and the Ottoman Empire. English troops occupied the city in December 1917, and from 1920 to 1947 it was the administrative center of the Mandate of Palestine. After the abolition of the English mandate in Palestine by a resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations on Nov. 29, 1947, Jerusalem was to become an independent administrative unit with a special international regime under the administration of the United Nations. After the Arab-Israeli War of 1948–49, Jerusalem was divided into two parts; the eastern part went to Jordan, and the western part to Israel. In January 1950, the government of Israel, contrary to the resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations of Nov. 29, 1947, proclaimed Jerusalem the capital of Israel. Great Britain, the USSR, the USA, France, and other states did not recognize this Israeli action. Israel seized the eastern part of Jerusalem in the beginning of June 1967, and on June 28, 1967, the Israeli government adopted a resolution annexing it to the western part of the city. The fifth extraordinary special session of the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the resolutions of July 4 and July 14, 1967, demanding that Israel reverse all measures annexing the eastern part of Jerusalem. However, these resolutions were not carried out. On May 21, 1968, the Security Council called on Israel to refrain from any actions that could change the status of the city, which had been defined by previous UN resolutions. This position was reaffirmed in the Security Council’s resolutions of July 3, 1969, and Sept. 25, 1971.

The remains of Hellenistic and Roman monuments are located in the eastern part of Jerusalem. The ruins of early Christian monuments, beginning with the fourth century A.D. , include the rotunda of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which has been rebuilt numerous times, several crypts of the fifth century, and the basilica on the Mount of Olives. The monuments of Arab culture include the Kubbet es-Sakhra mosque, built in 687–91 on the site of the temple of Solomon, which had been built in the tenth century B.C. and was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70, and al-Aksa, altered from a Christian basilica in the beginning of the eighth century and reconstructed completely in 780 and 1035. A number of churches of the 11th and 12th centuries are still standing, including St. Anna and St. Jacob. The citadel dates from the 14th century (reconstructed in the 16th century). The city walls and gates (including the Damascus Gates, 1537) date from the 16th century. The building of the western part of the city was begun in the second half of the 19th century. There are many public buildings in Jerusalem; among the most important of these are the new university complex (begun in 1954) and the medical center (1960, J. Neufeld). Jerusalem is the site of the Museum of National History, the Bezalel National Museum, and the Hebrew University (founded in 1918).

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


destroyed in 586 B.C. by Nebuchadnezzar, and in A.D. 70 by Titus. [Jew. Hist.: Collier’s, XI, 16, 17]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. the de facto capital of Israel (recognition of this has been withheld by the United Nations), situated in the Judaean hills: became capital of the Hebrew kingdom after its capture by David around 1000 bc; destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in 586 bc; taken by the Romans in 63 bc; devastated in 70 ad and 135 ad during the Jewish rebellions against Rome; fell to the Arabs in 637 and to the Seljuk Turks in 1071; ruled by Crusaders from 1099 to 1187 and by the Egyptians and Turks until conquered by the British (1917); centre of the British mandate of Palestine from 1920 to 1948, when the Arabs took the old city and the Jews held the new city; unified after the Six Day War (1967) under the Israelis; the holy city of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Pop.: 693 200 (2003 est.)
2. the New Jerusalem Christianity Heaven
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005