Historical Significance: Linking Past to Present
Throughout its 5000 years of history, Jerusalem has continued to thrive as an important political and cultural center, and ahouse of faith for the three monotheistic religions. This city has withstood many wars and conflicts, and despite someturbulent events in the past, it has retained a peaceful image of unity and sacredness. However, due to its addedimportance as a political symbol and a geographic center in the region, it has aroused great struggle over who has theexclusive right of its possession. Its recent history, borne out of the Arab-Israeli conflict, has fueled a long conflict regardingits future, and has rendered Jerusalem a vital but unresolved question in Middle East politics. Till today, the city remains theheart of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The rulers of Jerusalem through history have employed continuous and well-plannedstrategies of territorial, demographic, religious, and property claims in order to maintain control over the city’s sovereignty.
Jerusalem throughout the Ages
Throughout the ages, Jerusalem has had its prosperous times of co-existence and justice as well as somedark periods of oppressive rule and bloodshed. The earliest traces of permanent settlement in Jerusalemdates back approximately 5000 years. The first known tribes were the Caananites and the Jebusites. Around 3000 years ago King David conquered the city from the Jebusites and this era constitutes thefoundation of the Jewish claim to the city. The Jews were later on driven out of Jerusalem by theBabylonians but allowed back by the Persian King Cyrus around 500 BC. A number of foreign rulersfollowed and in 63 BC the Romans gained control over Jerusalem. The city remained under the rule of the Eastern Roman Emperor until the 7th century until it opened its doors to the Caliph Omar Ibn Al-Khattab, to whom the keys of Jerusalem were handed over by the Patriarch Safronios in 638 AD. The Arab Muslim Caliph granted the citizens of the city, the status of “protected people” or
, whichgave them the freedom to practice their religion. This was a period in which harmony and tolerancereigned.
A darker period ensued at the beginning of the 11
th Century, when theEgyptian Caliph Al-Hakim persecuted Christians and Jews, and destroyedthe Church of the Holy Sepulcher. A later conquest of the city by the Seljuk Turks caused manyoppressive reprisals on the inhabitants of the city. The city then remained under Islamic-Arabrule until it was captured by the Crusaders in 1099 AD. The Crusaders (“Al-Firanja”) massacredMuslims and Jews, and turned Jerusalem into a Christian city where non-Christians were notpermitted to live. Christian rule lasted until 1187 AD when Salah Eddin conquered the city.Salah Eddin restored Jerusalem’s true role; he left the Holy Sepulcher open to Christians andreopened the city in 1192 for pilgrimage. Again, following the fall of Jerusalem to Fredrick II in1229 the city was forbidden to Muslims and Jews, and in 1244 the city came under the rule of Egypt (the Mamluks).
The Mamluks governed Jerusalem from Cairo (1260-1516) and were followed by theOttoman empire (1516-1918). The Mamluks and the Ottomans transformed the city’sphysical attributes, endowing it with splendid religious monuments. The Ottomansbuilt the walls and gates of the Old City (1537-1541) and renovated the Dome of theRock. Jerusalem remained in their hands until 1917.
British Mandate (1917-1948)
Hussein-McMahon correspondence and the
Sykes-Picot Agreement concerning the future political status of the Arab lands of the MiddleEast, General Edmund
troops and the Arab Revolt defeated the Turks.Jerusalem was captured on 9 Dec.
and under the British Mandate (1917-1948), it was recognized as the administrative and political capital of Palestine. Amunicipality was formed with a balanced share of power between the threemonotheistic religions. In April
, the San Remo Conference awardedadministration of the former Ottoman territories of Syria and Lebanon to France,and Palestine, Transjordan and Mesopotamia (Iraq) to Britain. Ronald
became the first British military governor of Jerusalem. (1917-26) On 24 July
, the League of Nations Council approved the Mandate for Palestine withoutthe consent of Palestinians (the terms of the Mandate became official on 29Sept.