Jerusalem is a holy city to the three major Abrahamic religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam. A city called Rušalimum or Urušalimum (Foundation of Shalem) appears in ancient Egyptian records as the first two references to Jerusalem, in c. 2000 BCE and c. 1330 BCE respectively.
Jerusalem is situated on the southern spur of a plateau in the Judean Mountains, which include the Mount of Olives (East) and Mount Scopus (North East). The elevation of the Old City is approximately 760 m. The whole of Jerusalem is surrounded by valleys and dry riverbeds (wadis). The Kidron, Hinnom, and Tyropoeon Valleys intersect in an area just south of the Old City of Jerusalem. The Kidron Valley runs to the east of the Old City and separates the Mount of Olives from the city proper. Along the southern side of old Jerusalem is the Valley of Hinnom, a steep ravine associated in biblical eschatology with the concept of Gehenna or Hell. The Tyropoeon Valley commenced in the northwest near the Damascus Gate, ran south-southeasterly through the center of the Old City down to the Pool of Siloam, and divided the lower part into two hills, the Temple Mount to the east, and the rest of the city to the west (the lower and the upper cities described by Josephus). Today, this valley is hidden by debris that has accumulated over the centuries. In biblical times, Jerusalem was surrounded by forests of almond, olive and pine trees. Over centuries of warfare and neglect, these forests were destroyed. Farmers in the Jerusalem region thus built stone terraces along the slopes to hold back the soil, a feature still very much in evidence in the Jerusalem landscape.
Water supply has always been a major problem in Jerusalem, as attested to by the intricate network of ancient aqueducts, tunnels, pools and cisterns found in the city.
Jerusalem is 60 kilometers east of Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean Sea. On the opposite side of the city, approximately 35 kilometers away, is the Dead Sea, the lowest body of water on Earth. Neighboring cities and towns include Bethlehem and Beit Jala to the south, Abu Dis and Ma’ale Adumim to the east, Mevaseret Zion to the west, and Ramallah and Giv’at Ze’ev to the north.
Given the city’s central position in both Israeli nationalism (Zionism) and Palestinian nationalism, the selectivity required to summarise more than 5,000 years of inhabited history is often influenced by ideological bias or background. For example, the Jewish periods of the city’s history are important to Israeli nationalists (Zionists), whose discourse suggests that modern Jews descend from the Israelites and Maccabees, whilst the Islamic, Christian and other non-Jewish periods of the city’s history are important to Palestinian nationalism, whose discourse suggests that modern Palestinians descend from all the different peoples who have lived in the region. As a result, both sides claim the history of the city has been politicized by the other in order to strengthen their relative claims to the city, and that this is borne out by the different focuses the different writers place on the various events and eras in the city’s history.
Jerusalem has been sacred to Judaism for roughly 3000 years, to Christianity for around 2000 years, and to Islam for approximately 1400 years. The 2000 Statistical Yearbook of Jerusalem lists 1204 synagogues, 158 churches, and 73 mosques within the city. Despite efforts to maintain peaceful religious coexistence, some sites, such as the Temple Mount, have been a continuous source of friction and controversy.
- Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Also Jerusalem has been sacred to the Jews since King David proclaimed it his capital in the 10th century BCE. Jerusalem was the site of Solomon’s Temple and the Second Temple. Although not mentioned in the Torah / Pentateuch, it is mentioned in the Bible 632 times. Today, the Western Wall, a remnant of the wall surrounding the Second Temple, is a Jewish holy site second only to the Holy of Holies on the Temple Mount itself. Synagogues around the world are traditionally built with the Holy Ark facing Jerusalem, and Arks within Jerusalem face the “Holy of Holies”. As prescribed in the Mishna and codified in the Shulchan Aruch, daily prayers are recited while facing towards Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. Many Jews have “Mizrach” plaques hung on a wall of their homes to indicate the direction of prayer.
Christianity reveres Jerusalem not only for its Old Testament history but also for its significance in the life of Jesus. According to the New Testament, Jesus was brought to Jerusalem soon after his birth and later in his life cleansed the Second Temple. The Cenacle, believed to be the site of Jesus’ Last Supper, is located on Mount Zion in the same building that houses the Tomb of King David. Another prominent Christian site in Jerusalem is Golgotha, the site of the crucifixion. The Gospel of John describes it as being located outside Jerusalem, but recent archaeological evidence suggests Golgotha is a short distance from the Old City walls, within the present-day confines of the city. The land currently occupied by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is considered one of the top candidates for Golgotha and thus has been a Christian pilgrimage site for the past two thousand years.
- The Temple Mount
Jerusalem is considered by some as the third-holiest city in Sunni Islam. For approximately a year, before it was permanently switched to the Kabaa in Mecca, the qibla (direction of prayer) for Muslims was Jerusalem. The city’s lasting place in Islam, however, is primarily due to Muhammad’s Night of Ascension (c. CE 620). Muslims believe Muhammad was miraculously transported one night from Mecca to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, whereupon he ascended to Heaven to meet previous prophets of Islam. The first verse in the Qur’an’s Surat al-Isra notes the destination of Muhammad’s journey as al-Aqsa (the farthest) mosque, in assumed reference to the location in Jerusalem. Today, the Temple Mount is topped by two Islamic landmarks intended to commemorate the event—al-Aqsa Mosque, derived from the name mentioned in the Qur’an, and the Dome of the Rock, which stands over the Foundation Stone, from which Muslims believe Muhammad ascended to Heaven.
The pictures of Jerusalem photo gallery have been taken on 30 of September, 2011.