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Saturday, 12 September 2015

Jerusalem (city)


Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world. Located in a natural position of great strength among the hills, it has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, and attacked 52 times.

Jerusalem means 'city of peace' in Hebrew. It's probably derived from the Hebrew ieru shalom.

King David conquered the city from the Jebusites and established it as the capital of the United Kingdom of Israel. His son, King Solomon, commissioned the building of the First Temple and Jerusalem became the great sacred city of the Jews.

On March 16, 597 BC Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II captured Jerusalem and installed Zedekiah as King of Judah. The Babylonians then laid waste to Solomon's Temple. Finds unearthed at the Israelite Tower in Jerusalem's Jewish Quarter attest to the Babylonian sack of the city.

Seventy years later, the Persian King Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild the Temple.

Jesus visited Jerusalem for religious festivals (as was the custom). It was the scene of Christ's Crucifixion and Resurrection, and the birthplace of the Christian Church.

Both Matthew and Luke in their Gospels record Christ's warning to the disciples of the future destruction of Jerusalem.

The 4th century historian Eusebius recorded in his Ecclesiastical History, iii.v, that the believers, on seeing the armies of Cestius Gallus in 66 AD surrounding Jerusalem and the capture of The Temple by the Jewish Zealots, a Jewish nationalist party who hated the Christians, migrated from Jerusalem to the transjordan city of Pella before the serious fighting started, (thus heeding Jesus' warning). Just after they escaped the city, the Zealots seized the city, guarded the gates, and prevented all escape.

On May 10, 70,  Titus, the son of emperor Vespasian, opened a full-scale assault on Jerusalem. The Jews fought with great heroism but by early autumn all of Jerusalem including the temple was almost completely destroyed and most of the Jews who survived were scattered throughout the Roman empire. The separation of Christianity from Judaism was completed by the destruction of the central shrine of Jewish religion and the consequential scattering of the Jerusalem Christians.

Catapulta, by Edward Poynter (1868). Siege engines such as this were employed by the Roman army during the siege.

According to Muslim tradition, the Prophet Muhammad originally selected Jerusalem as the qibla, the direction Muslims should face during prayer. However, he later told his followers to face Mecca instead of Jerusalem when praying.

Muhammad is said to have gone up to heaven from a stone now covered by a golden-domed shrine called the Dome of the Rock.

Byzantine Jerusalem was conquered by the Arab armies of Umar ibn al-Khattab in 638. Christians were horrified but the Muslims allowed the Christian pilgrims to visit their holy city.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a Christian church in Jerusalem, was completely destroyed by the Fatimid caliph Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah on October 18, 1009. He hacked the church's foundations down to bedrock.  The church was located on the site venerated by many Christians as Golgotha, (the Hill of Calvary), where Jesus was crucified. It is believed that Al-Hakim was angered by the scale of the Easter pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

In 1076 the Seljuk Turks captured Jerusalem and begun to restrict access of Christian pilgrims to the holy places and persecute them. Twenty-three years later,  Jerusalem was conquered by the Crusaders, who massacred most of its Muslim and Jewish inhabitants and left the city emptied of people; later the Crusaders created the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

The Siege of Jerusalem lasted from September 20 to October 2, 1187, when Balian of Ibelin surrendered the city to Saladin. The defeat of Jerusalem signaled the end of the first Kingdom of Jerusalem. Europe responded in 1189 by launching the Third Crusade led by Richard the Lionheart, Philip Augustus, and Frederick Barbarossa separately.

Balian of Ibelin surrendering the city of Jerusalem to Saladin,

Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II landed in Acre, Palestine in 1228 and started the Sixth Crusade, which resulted in a peaceful restitution of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

In 1517, Jerusalem fell to the Ottoman Turks, who generally remained in control for the next 400 years. It enjoyed a prosperous period of renewal and peace under Suleiman the Magnificent – including the rebuilding of magnificent walls around the Old City.

In 1917 after the Battle of Jerusalem, Hussein al-Husayni, the Ottoman mayor of Jerusalem, surrendered the city to the British.

In the 1967 Six-Day War Arab armies attacked Israel but were repelled to the line of the Jordan River and Israel occupied Judea and Samaria. The Israelis found themselves back in control of the Old City of Jerusalem thus fulfilling the prophecy in Luke 21 v24 that the "times of the Gentiles" would end.

In 1993, the golden covering of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem was refurbished following a donation of $8.2 million by King Hussein of Jordan who sold one of his houses in London to fund the 80 kilograms of gold required.


Jerusalem is an important to many major religions. Jews consider it as a holy city because it was their religious and political center during Biblical times and the place where the Temple of God stood. Christians consider Jerusalem holy because many events in the life of Jesus Christ took place in the city. Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammad rose to heaven from there.

Despite having an area of only 0.35 square  miles, the Old City is home to many sites of seminal religious importance, among them the Temple Mount and its Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (see below), the Dome of the Rock, the Garden Tomb and al-Aqsa Mosque.

Jerusalem is Islam's third holiest city, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

The Dome of the Rock and an ancient mosque called Al Aqsa Mosque are among the holiest sites in Islam. They are the main buildings on the Temple Mount, which Muslims call Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary).

Both Israel and Palestine claim Jerusalem as their national capital. All other countries and the United Nations say that West Jerusalem is part of Israel and that East Jerusalem is Palestinian.

Here are some songs inspired by Jerusalem:
"Jerusalem" by Esther Ofarim
"Jerusalem (Out of Darkness Comes Light)" by Matisyahu
Jerusalem” by Steve Earle
Holy City” by Joan as Police Woman
And the hymn "Jerusalem."

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