Although Israel’s official capital is Tel Aviv, the country has long considered Jerusalem as its unofficial capitalJerusalem, which is one of the oldest cities in the world, has been formally divided between Israel and Palestine for nearly 70 years, yet changed hands many other times throughout the course of its over 5,000-year history.
Israel and Palestine’s dueling claims to the city are steeped in decades of conflict, during which Jewish settlers pushed Muslim Arabs out of their homes and established the state of Israel on their land in the middle of the 20th century. But the claims are also tied to the religions of Judaism and Islam, both of which recognize Jerusalem as a holy place.
On December 6, President Donald Trump broke with previous U.S. foreign policy and announced that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, effectively endorsing Israeli control of the city.
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are strongly tied to the ancient city, and followers of each of these religions have controlled all or part of the city over the past few thousand years. In 1,000 B.C.E., King David established Jewish control over Jerusalem. The city fell in and out of other hands during the next couple of millenia; particularly during the crusades, when Christian crusaders fought competing Christian and Muslim factions for control of the city. And between 1517 and 1917, the Ottoman Empire—whose official religion was Islam—ruled the city.
Jerusalem features prominently in the Hebrew Bible. In the Jewish tradition, it is the place where Abraham, the first Patriarch of Judaism, nearly sacrificed his son Isaac to God thousands of years ago. Later, Abraham’s grandson Jacob (who took the name “Israel”) learned that Jerusalem is “the site that the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes, as a place established in His name,” according to the Book of Deuteronomy.
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Categories: Arab World