The world’s most disputed and fought-over metropolis, Jerusalem is a holy city for three of the world’s great religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
The “New Kingdom of Egypt” controlled Jerusalem for more than 500 years from 1600-1100 B.C., and the Romans controlled the city for almost 400 years from about 50 B.C. to 350 A.D. The Ottoman empire ruled Jerusalem for at least 400 years before the World Wars, and even longer if the earlier empire of the Kurdish Ayyubid is included from the middle of the 12th century.
And in between these long stretches of rule have been all sorts of other dominions and kingdoms including Macedonians, Byzantines, Assyrians, Persians, the Crusaders, and into modern times, even Britain. If ever there were a contested city on earth whose roots stretch into man’s earliest history, it’s Jerusalem.
At the conclusion of World War I, Britain invaded Palestine and made Jerusalem the capital of its colonial government. Britain administered Palestine very similar to the way it administered all of its colonies world-wide, segregating clans and tribes. As the Kikuyu had been favored in Kenya, the Zionists were favored in Israel and prospered at the expense of other peoples. At the conclusion of World War II, Britain divested itself of its colonies and the League of Nations had the thorny question of what to do with Palestine. Before its plans were implemented, Jewish guerillas began the war of 1948 which resulted in the creation of the state of Israel and the division of Jerusalem between Israel and Jordan.
The old walled city lay entirely within Jordan, where as the newer western section was held by Israel. Barbed wire and soldiers divided the city as carefully as Berlin was being divided.
Agreements to the Armistice of 1949 between Jordan and Israel included free passage for religious reasons to the shrines and holy places in the divided city, but disputes occurred regularly and by 1950 Jordan officially annexed East Jerusalem and subjected it to Jordanian law which forbid, among other restrictions, Jews from visiting anything in East Jerusalem.
By the mid 1960s, Jordan had razed 34 of the 35 synagogues that had existed in the old city. A number of other Jewish holy sites were destroyed and new structures built. This and other issues led to the 6-day war in 1967 which resulted in Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem and buffer areas to its east. Only Britain and Pakistan recognized the annexation. Although denounced by most of the world, and which motivated the famous United Nations Resolution #478 demanding the return of East Jerusalem to Jordan, the reunited city has remained in Israeli control ever since.
Jerusalem is probably the world’s largest in situ museum. The list of attractions, monuments and holy sites is endless. The most visited include the Garden of Gethsemane, the Mount of Olives, Absalom (the tomb of King David), the Temple Mount, Dome of the Rock, Via Dolorosa, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Yad Vashem, and the Citadel.