Jerusalem through the Centuries
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
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 Jerusalem through the Centuries

 JERUSALEM
 JERUSALEM  |  CAPITAL  |  HISTORY  |  HOLY CITY  |  ARCHEOLOGY  |  WITHIN  THE  WALLS  |  ARCHITECTURE  |  MODERN  CITY
 
     
THROUGH THE CENTURIES
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



  If I forget thee, O Jerusalem,
may my right hand forget its cunning.
May my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy.

(Psalms 137:5-6)


King David made Jerusalem the capital of his kingdom, as well as the religious center of the Jewish people, in 1003 BCE. Some forty years later, his son Solomon built the Temple (the religious and national center of the people of Israel) and transformed the city into the prosperous capital of an empire extending from the Euphrates to Egypt.

The Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem in 586 BCE, destroyed the Temple, and exiled the people. Fifty years later, when Babylon was conquered by the Persians, King Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to their homeland and granted them autonomy. They built a Second Temple on the site of the First, and rebuilt the city and its walls.

Alexander the Great conquered Jerusalem in 332 BCE. After his death the city was ruled by the Ptolemies of Egypt and then by the Seleucids of Syria. The Hellenization of the city reached its peak under the Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV; the desecration of the Temple and attempts to supress Jewish religious identity resulted in a revolt.

Led by Judah Maccabee, the Jews defeated the Seleucids, rededicated the Temple (164 BCE), and re-established Jewish independence under the Hasmonean dynasty, which lasted for more than a hundred years, until Pompey imposed Roman rule on Jerusalem. King Herod the Idumean, who was installed as ruler of Judah by the Romans (37 - 4 BCE), established cultural institutions in Jerusalem, erected magnificent public buildings and refashioned the Temple into an edifice of splendor.

Jewish revolt against Rome broke out in 66 CE, as Roman rule after Herod's death became increasingly oppressive. For a few years Jerusalem was free of foreign rule, until, in 70 CE, Roman legions under Titus conquered the city and destroyed the Temple. Jewish independence was briefly restored during the Bar Kochba revolt (132-135), but again the Romans prevailed. Jews were forbidden to enter the city, which was renamed Aelia Capitolina and rebuilt along the lines of a Roman city.

For the next century and a half, Jerusalem was a small provincial town. This changed radically when the Byzantine Emperor Constantine transformed Jerusalem into a Christian center. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher (335) was the first of numerous grandiose structures built in the City.

Muslim armies invaded the country in 634, and four years later Caliph Omar captured Jerusalem. Only during the reign of Abdul Malik, who built the Dome of the Rock (691), did Jerusalem briefly become the seat of a caliph. The century-long rule of the Umayvad Dynasty from Damascus was succeeded in 750 by the Abbasids from Baghdad, and with them Jerusalem began to decline.

The Crusaders conquered Jerusalem in 1099, massacred its Jewish and Muslim inhabitants, and established the city as the capital of the Crusader Kingdom. Under the Crusaders, synagogues were destroyed, old churches were rebuilt and many mosques were turned into Christian shrines. Crusader rule over Jerusalem ended in 1187, when the city fell to Saladin the Kurd.

The Mamluks, a military feudal aristocracy from Egypt, ruled Jerusalem from 1250. They constructed numerous graceful buildings, but treated the city solely as a Muslim theological center and ruined its economy through neglect and crippling taxes.

The Ottoman Turks, whose rule lasted for four centuries, conquered Jerusalem in 1517. Suleiman the Magnificent rebuilt the city walls (1537), constructed the Sultan's Pool, and placed public fountains throughout the city. After his death. the central authorities in Constantinople took little interest in Jerusalem. During the 17th and 18th centuries Jerusalem sunk to one of its lowest ebbs.

Jerusalem began to thrive once more in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Growing numbers of Jews returning to their land, waning Ottoman power and revitalized European interest in the Holy Land led to renewed development of Jerusalem.

The British army led by General Allenby conquered Jerusalem in 1917. From 1922 to 1948 Jerusalem was the administrative seat of the British authorities in the Land of Israel (Palestine), which had been entrusted to Great Britain by the League of Nations following the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. The city developed rapidly, growing westward into what became known as the "New City."

Upon termination of the British Mandate on May 14, 1948, and in accordance with the UN resolution of November 29, 1947, Israel proclaimed its independence, with Jerusalem as its capital. Opposing its establishment, the Arab countries launched an all-out assault on the new state, resulting in the 1948-49 War of Independence. The armistice lines drawn at the end of the war divided Jerusalem into two, with Jordan occupying the Old City and areas to the north and south, and Israel retaining the western and southern parts of the city.

Jerusalem was reunited in June 1967, as a result of a war in which the Jordanians attempted to seize the western section of the city. The Jewish Quarter of the Old City, destroyed under Jordanian rule, has been restored, and Israeli citizens are again able to visit their holy places, which had been denied them between 1948-1967.

 
 
 
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