Lewis, Bonnie, et. al. "Jerusalem, Israel." Faithology.com. Faithology, 4 March 2014. Web. 2 September 2014.

Lewis, B., et. al. (2014, Mar 4). Jerusalem, Israel. Faithology. Retrieved from http://faithology.com/places/jerusalem

Lewis, Bonnie, et. al"Jerusalem, Israel" Faithology, LLC. Last modified March 4, 2014. http://faithology.com/places/jerusalem

Lewis, Bonnie, et. alJerusalem, Israel. Faithology, LLC, 2012. http://faithology.com/places/jerusalem (Accessed Sep 2, 2014).

  • Biblical quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version.
  • "Jerusalem," Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, edited by Watson E. Mills, et al. Macon: Mercer University Press, 1991. Print.
  • "Jerusalem," Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 2nd edition, edited by Ronald F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce and R. K. Harrison. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995. Print.
  • "Jerusalem Tourism: Christian Sites," The Jerusalem Website. Internet Department, Jerusalem Municipality (n.d.) Web. 14 July 2011. http://www.jerusalem.muni.il/jer_main/defaultnew.asp?lng=2.
  • AFP. "Israel experiencing tourist boom." Herald Sun. 28 Dec. 2011 http://www.heraldsun.com.au/ipad/israel-experiencing-tourist-boom/story-fn6bn4mv-1225976925534.
  • Last Updated: March 4, 2014
  • Originally Published: July 22, 2012
  • Jerusalem, Israel

Jerusalem Sky View


Located on the border of the West Bank and the modern-day nation of Israel, Jerusalem is considered a holy city by Muslims, Jews, and Christians alike. Originally an ancient Canaanite settlement, the city has been occupied and controlled by numerous political and religious groups throughout history. Today, it is still the site of much religious and political dispute. Jerusalem is claimed by both Jewish Israelis and Muslim Palestinians, though the international community universally accepts neither claim.

For Jews, Jerusalem is the spiritual center of their religion, the capital of the Kingdom of Israel and the site of the First and Second Temples in ancient times. Most view it as their rightful inheritance, the city from which their ancestors were unjustly exiled.

Christians revere the city because the New Testament records that many significant events in the life of Jesus Christ took place there, including the Last Supper, Jesus's trial and crucifixion, his resurrection, and his ascension into heaven.

Muslims, who view their religion as the true expression of the Abrahamic faith, find Jerusalem significant for many of the same reasons that Jews and Christians do, but they also believe that Muhammad was miraculously transported to the city, where he met and prayed with many of the prophets of the Abrahamic tradition. In the early years of Islam, before Muhammad and his followers gained control of Mecca and the Kaaba, Jerusalem served as the qiblah, or direction Muslims faced during prayer.

Situated about 36 miles east of the Mediterranean Sea, Jerusalem is surrounded on all sides by hills and valleys, including the Kidron Valley, Hinnom Valley, and the Tyropeoeon or Central Valley. Although the land surrounding Jerusalem is not especially fertile or flat, the area's geography helped make the city more defensible in biblical times. By redirecting water from a nearby spring into the city walls, the ancient inhabitants of the city attempted to protect against sieges.

Today tourism is one of Jerusalem's major industries. Because the city is sacred for three major world religions, it hosts many believers and others interested in the rich history of one of the world’s most disputed cities.

History of Jerusalem


Little is known about Jerusalem before it enters Jewish history. It was likely a Canaanite settlement, but its size and history are unclear. The Bible records that David, the king of ancient Israel, selected the city of Jerusalem as his capital, near 1000 BCE. It remained the political and spiritual center of Judaism for over four centuries, until it was conquered by the Babylonian Empire and most Jews were exiled from the city in 587 BCE. When the Jews were allowed to return to the city and reconstruct a temple, it again became the spiritual center of the religion, although Jews did not always enjoy complete political independence from then on. A major blow to Jewish control of Jerusalem came in 70 CE, when the Roman Empire extinguished what they perceived as a Jewish rebellion, destroying the Second Temple. The Jews fought back once more, but by the 2nd century CE, nearly all Jews had been banished from Jerusalem, and the Jewish Diaspora was fully underway.

Under Roman control, Jerusalem was initially a pagan city. After the conversion of Emperor Constantine to Christianity in the 4th century CE, however, Jerusalem was developed and conserved as a sacred site of Christianity. Specific locations believed to be tied to the life of Jesus were identified, and Christian basilicas were constructed at those locations. Among these was the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which became one of the most significant pilgrimage destinations for Christians. In 638 CE, Muslims conquered Jerusalem, establishing it as an important religious site for Islam. They built a mosque on the Jewish Temple Mount, followed later by the Dome of the Rock, one of Islam’s oldest shrines.

Under Muslim control, Jerusalem was opened to Jews, who had been barred from the city for five centuries. Christians, Jews, and Muslims lived together in Jerusalem in relative peace until the First Crusade was launched from Europe to reclaim Jerusalem from Islam. European Christians accomplished their goal in 1099, bringing Jerusalem under Christian control for nearly a century before it was reclaimed by Muslims in 1187. Although political governance shifted over the next eight centuries, Jerusalem remained under Muslim control until World War I and the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1917.

After World War I Jerusalem came under control of the British Empire, which was charged with governing the region. Under British protection, many Jews flocked to Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. In 1947 the United Nations recommended that the city of Jerusalem come under international control; instead, fighting broke out between Jews, who had declared political independence as the nation of Israel, and Arabs living in what is today Jordan and the West Bank. Israelis gained control of West Jerusalem while Arabs gained control of East Jerusalem, including the Old City and the Temple Mount. An uneasy compromise reigned until the Six-Day War broke out in June 1967 between Israel and neighboring Arab countries. Israeli forces took control of East Jerusalem, and the nation of Israel declared that the city was now a unified Israeli city. Israelis have occupied East Jerusalem since that time, although no international recognition of Israel’s right to East Jerusalem has been granted. Palestinians in the West Bank continue to claim the eastern part of the city as the capital of an independent Palestinian state.

Significance for Jews

Jews remember Jerusalem as the capital of the ancient nation of Israel, which was united under King David. As such, the city serves as a powerful symbol of a strong, united Jewish nation. Furthermore, Jerusalem has enormous spiritual significance for Jews as the home of the ancient Jewish Temples, the first built by David's son Solomon, according to the Hebrew Bible. The First Jewish Temple, or Solomon's Temple, as it was called, is described as a spectacular edifice, famous for its architecture and rich furnishings. It became the center of the Jewish religion and the site of its most sacred religious rituals and ceremonies since its construction, most likely in the 10th century BCE, until its destruction by the Babylonian Empire in 587 BCE.

Not long after the destruction of the First Temple, Jews rebuilt the edifice, now known as the Second Jewish Temple. Like the First Temple, it remained the center of Judaism for nearly six more centuries until its final destruction in 70 CE. Jerusalem was seen as God's earthly dwelling place for ancient Jews, and many Jewish prophets, associated the city with the spiritual state of Israel. Today, the Jewish people still find enormous significance in the city and the Temple Mount, where the ancient temple stood. Millions of Jews visit the site each year, often praying at the Western Wall, thought to be the only remnant of the ancient holy place.

Significance for Muslims

Known to Muslims as al-Quds, or "the Holy," Jerusalem has also been a sacred city in the history of Islam. Because it emerges from the same ancient religious tradition as Judaism, Islam, too, holds that Jerusalem was the site at which many biblical prophets preached. However, as Muslims see Muhammad as the final and most important prophet, their attitude toward Jerusalem derives primarily from his association with the city. According to the Quran, Muhammad was miraculously transported in a single night to Jerusalem's Temple Mount, known in Islam as the Noble Sanctuary, where he led the spirits of past prophets in prayer and then ascended into heaven.1Quran 17 This episode, which Muslims refer to as the "Night Journey," forms a foundational story in the Islamic tradition as it explains the establishment of Muhammad's divine authority.

Due to Jerusalem's importance as a holy site, Muhammad initially declared it to be the qiblah, or the direction faced during prayer. The qiblah was later changed to the Kaaba in Mecca, but Jerusalem remained important to Islam. As the early Islamic empire expanded, it gained control of Jerusalem near 637 CE. Soon after, Muslims built a prayer house at the location to which they believe Muhammad was transported during the Night Journey. This structure was eventually replaced by a mosque, which, after reconstructions and expansions, remains on the Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem today as the Al-Aqsa, or "Farthest," Mosque. Additionally, before the end of the 7th century, Muslims began construction of a shrine, also located on the Noble Sanctuary, now known as the Dome of the Rock. According to Muslim belief, the shrine was built over the stone upon which the prophet Abraham intended to sacrifice his son Isaac in accordance with God's commandments before being prevented by an angel. Many Muslims also believe that it was from this precise stone that Muhammad ascended into heaven and received his divine authority. The Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock remain two of the most sacred sites of Islam today.

Significance for Christians

Christians, who accept the prophets of the Hebrew Bible as precursors to their own religion, consider Jerusalem a sacred site due to its centrality in Old Testament history, but, like Muslims, their attachment to the city is more directly tied to the association of their religion's founder with the city. According to the New Testament, many significant events in the life of Jesus Christ took place in Jerusalem, including his death and resurrection, which most Christians consider to be the central events of all Christianity.

The New Testament indicates that Jerusalem was important to Jesus from his childhood. Born only six miles from the city in Bethlehem, Jesus was presented at the Temple in Jerusalem as an infant in accordance with Jewish custom. The Gospel of Luke records that two prophetic individuals, Simeon and Anna, recognized in the infant the future savior of mankind and prophesied that he would redeem humanity.2Bible: Luke 2:22-38 Jesus was brought again to Jerusalem as a young boy and, after being separated from his mother Mary and her husband Joseph, was found in the Temple teaching the wise men assembled there.3Bible: Luke 2:41-52
In addition to his childhood associations with the city, the New Testament reports that Jesus visited Jerusalem throughout his ministry. Some of the most significant events of Christianity, however, occurred in the city during the last week before his death. Entering the city on the Sunday before his crucifixion, Jesus was greeted with great fanfare, an event known in Christianity as the Triumphal Entry. The following day, he drove merchants from the Temple grounds, suggesting the degree of sanctity that he attributed to that structure.4Bible: Mark 11:1-17 His deep feelings toward Jerusalem itself are manifested in his lament for the city, which he regretted had not fully embraced his gospel.5Bible: Matthew 23:37-39 Later in the week, on Thursday, Jesus shared his final meal with his disciples within the city of Jerusalem, an event known as the Last Supper. Christians today continue to commemorate this event through their celebration of the Eucharist or Communion.6Bible: Matthew 26:17-29

After the Last Supper, many of the central events of Christianity took place in and near Jerusalem. Jesus was betrayed by one of his disciples named Judas, arrested, and questioned by influential rulers in the Jewish community, who mocked and physically abused him.7Matthew 26:47-68 Jesus was transferred to Roman custody, whipped, and eventually crucified outside the city on the hill named Golgotha.8Bible: Matthew 27 His body was buried in a tomb in the city, and, according to the Christian narrative, Jesus was resurrected at that location.9Bible: Matthew 28:1-10; Finally, after his resurrection, the New Testament records that Jesus commissioned his disciples from Jerusalem to take his gospel to all the world, after which he ascended into heaven.10Bible: Matthew 28:16-20; Luke 24:48-53

After Jesus's final exit from the New Testament, Jerusalem became the center of the new religion. It was there that the disciples received the Holy Spirit, according to the book of Acts, and that many of the first Christians were converted after the death of Jesus.11Bibale: Acts 2 After the Christianization of the Roman Empire, many sites in Jerusalem believed to be associated with Jesus were identified, and efforts were made to honor and memorialize them. The most significant of these was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was built at what was believed to be the site of Jesus's burial and resurrection. Other Christians have identified other locations as the possible sites of his death and resurrection, but Christians of many traditions and denominations have made Jerusalem a pilgrimage destination for centuries.