This entry consists of two articles, the first on the History of Jerusalem and the second on the city's Symbolism. For additional discussion of these topics, see Zion.

History

Name and Description.

The earliest attestation of Jerusalem's name is in the Egyptian Execration Texts of the nineteenth and eighteenth centuries BCE in a form that must be a transcription of the Semitic Urusalim, which appears in the Amarna letters of the fourteenth century BCE. It is a combination of two elements meaning “the foundation of [the god] Shalem.” The second element, rendered Salem, is used alone in Genesis 14.18 and Psalm 76.2. The pronunciation of the Hebrew name is reflected in the Greek Ierousalem, which predominates in the Septuagint. In 1 Esdras, Tobit, and 1–4 Maccabees, however, the Septuagint has the strongly Hellenized Hierosolyma. Both forms appear in the New Testament.

The biblical city spreads across two hills (average altitude 750 m [2500 ft]) in the central mountain range. It is limited on the west and south by the Hinnom valley, and on the east by the Kidron valley, which separates it from the Mount of Olives. Josephus alone records that the central valley was called the Tyropoeon (“Cheesemakers”). The western hill is slightly higher than the eastern hill, and both slope to the south. There are two springs, Gihon (“gusher”; see Gen 2.13) and Ein Rogel (“the fuller's spring”), in the Kidron valley. The climate is temperate, and all the rain (annual average 560 mm [22 in]) falls during the four‐month winter (December to March). It occasionally snows.

Before the Exile.

The original city was on the southern extension of the eastern hill known as Ophel, excavated principally by Kathleen Kenyon and Yigal Shiloh. Scattered pottery attests occupation from the third millennium BCE and the site was defended by a heavy wall from about 1800 BCE. Houses built on artificial terraces climbed the slope to the acropolis. After the Israelite conquest the territory of Jerusalem was absorbed by the tribe of Benjamin, but the city of the Jebusites, with its mixed population of Amorites and Hittites (Ezek. 16.3), was left alone. It thus served David's need for a capital independent of the twelve tribes. He took it ca. 1000 BCE (2 Sam. 5.6–10) and made it an effective center by bringing into it the ark of the covenant, to which all the tribes gave allegiance. In order to house the ark appropriately David bought a threshing floor to the north of the City of David from one Araunah (2 Sam. 24.18–25), which is both a title (“lord”) in Hittite and a personal name in Ugaritic. Here Solomon built the First Temple ca. 960 BCE, which he linked to the city by a palace (1 Kings 6—7), effectively doubling the size of the original Jebusite city. The Jebusite water‐shaft was retained for use in military emergencies, but Solomon dug a tunnel from Gihon along the edge of the hill. Sluice gates at intervals facilitated irrigation of the King's Garden in the Kidron valley. The population of Davidic and Solomonic Jerusalem was a few thousand at most.

The excavations of Nahman Avigad in the Jewish Quarter have unearthed evidence, notably a massive wall 7 m (23 ft) wide, that the city had expanded to cover the western hill in the late eighth century BCE. When Sennacherib menaced Jerusalem, King Hezekiah built the wall (Isa. 22.10) to protect refugees from the northern kingdom of Israel, who had settled outside the crowded city. He thus created two new quarters, the mišneh (“second”; 2 Kings 22.14) on the western hill, and the maktēš (“mortar”; Zeph. 1.11) in the Tyropoeon valley. The City of David was given a new wall just inside the Jebusite wall that had served for a thousand years. In order to guarantee the water supply, Hezekiah dug a 533 m (1750 ft) tunnel from Gihon through the Ophel ridge to the pool of Siloam in the Tyropoeon valley (2 Chron. 32). An inscription found inside the exit details the construction technique. A new wall was built to protect the vulnerable north side of the city in the seventh century BCE. Both it and houses in the City of David bear traces of the savage attack that brought Jerusalem under Babylonian control in 587/586 BCE.

After the Exile.

The Israelites who returned from the exile in 538 BCE rebuilt the Temple under the direction of Zerubbabel (Ezra 5—6), but were authorized to reconstruct the walls only when the Persians appointed the first Jewish governor, Nehemiah, about 445 BCE. A complete description of these walls is given in Nehemiah 3, but the passage abounds in textual problems, and it has proved impossible to translate the data into a precise line on the ground. The complete absence of Hellenistic remains on the western hill, however, indicates that they encompassed an area barely equal to that of the city of David and Solomon.

Jerusalem suffered three sieges in the wars between the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Seleucids of Syria (201, 199, and 198 BCE). Sirach 50.1–4 praises the high priest Simon (220–195 BCE) for his rebuilding program, but the differences between the Hebrew and Greek versions create a certain obscurity as to what he actually achieved. After Jerusalem passed into the hands of the Seleucids in 198 BCE, the Hellenizing faction among the Jews built a gymnasium in the city (1 Macc. 1.14). In 167 BCE Antiochus IV Epiphanes forbade all Jewish religious practices. In order to forestall any resistance he threw down the walls of Jerusalem, and built a great fortress, the Akra, to hold a Syrian garrison (1 Macc. 1.29–35). Nine different sites have been proposed for the Akra, but it seems likely that it was south of the Temple. It is not to be confused with the Baris sited northwest of the Temple.

The refortification of the city was begun by Jonathan Maccabeus (1 Macc. 10.10–11) and completed by his brother Simon (1 Macc. 13.10), i.e., between 160 and 134 BCE. Josephus's description of this line (War 5.4.142–45), which he calls the First Wall, has been given precision by excavations. It ran due west from the Temple along the southern edge of a tributary of the Tyropoeon valley, followed the rim of the Hinnom valley, and mounted the eastern edge of the Ophel ridge to join the Temple. Descriptions of the Hasmonean city appear in the Letter of Aristeas (83–106) and in Josephus (Ant. 12–14), but both must be used with great caution. The date of the information in the former is uncertain, and the latter is at times guilty of anachronism.

The Herodian City.

The Romans, who asserted their authority over Palestine in 63 BCE, appointed Herod the Great king of Judea in 40 BCE. A three‐year campaign to establish his sovereignty culminated with the capture of Jerusalem in the summer of 37 BCE. The fact that he had to break two walls in order to reach the Lower City (Ant. 14.16.476–77) suggests that what Josephus calls the Second Wall (War 5.146), which ran from the Gennath Gate in the First Wall to the northwest corner of the Temple, was already in existence at this time. No certain elements of this wall have been discovered, but the section running north from the First Wall cannot be farther west than the present Suq Khan ez‐Zeit. Excavations beneath the Holy Sepulcher and in the Muristan reveal that this area was not within the city of the late first century BCE or early first century CE. There is unambiguous evidence that it was an abandoned quarry. A Jewish catacomb was cut in the west wall. The six kokhim graves still visible in the Holy Sepulcher are typical of the first centuries BCE and CE. A projecting corner in the south wall, which sloped to the southeast, was called Golgotha (“[the place of] the skull”). The relationship of these two elements corresponds perfectly with the descriptions of Jesus' crucifixion and burial in John 19.17–42.

While he presumably repaired, and in some cases certainly strengthened, the walls of the city, Herod did not alter the lines he had inherited. The prime contemporary written source for data on the area they enclosed is Josephus's Jewish War. The principal passages are 5.4.136–83 and 6.4.220–10.442, but other topographical references are scattered throughout the work. He consistently refers to the western hill as the Upper City, and alludes to the old City of David on Ophel as the Lower City. Cemeteries bordered the city on the north and east; the tombs of the families of Herod the Great (War 5.3.108) and of the high priest Caiaphas have been located west of the city.

Herod's Buildings.

Herod's first concern was for his own security. On the site of the Hasmonean Baris at the northwest corner of the Temple he built the Antonia fortress (War 5.5.238–45). Since it was named for Mark Antony, it must have been completed prior to the latter's defeat in 31 BCE. Paul was imprisoned there (Acts 21.27–22.30). The Roman garrison based there after 6 CE may have influenced the growth of the healing shrine outside the walls to the east, which figures in John 5.1–9. For the entertainment of his supporters Herod built a theater and an amphitheater (Ant. 15.8.268). The latter has not been located, but the former was in a little valley south of the Hinnom. The hippodrome (War 2.3.44) must have been in the Kidron valley. The quadrennial contests for which these were built gave great offense to pious Jews. In order to further elevate his splendid palace (War 5.4.161–82), excavations show that Herod erected a podium at the highest point of the Upper City. It was protected by three great towers, Hippicus, Mariamne, and Phasaelis. The latter surpassed the Pharos of Alexandria, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Its great base (today part of the Citadel) is the only element of the palace to have survived.

After the Romans assumed direct control of Palestine in 6 CE, Herod's palace became the residence of the procurators when they came to Jerusalem (War 2.14.301–308); Philo calls it “the house of the procurators” (Leg. ad Gaium 306). It is here then that we must locate the praetorium in which Pontius Pilate judged Jesus (John 18.28). This is confirmed by the geographic term used in John 19.13, because Gabbatha (“high point”) can only apply to this part of the Herodian city. At this stage the descendants of Herod used the Hasmonean palace on the western edge of the Tyropoeon valley (Ant. 20.8.189–90; cf. Luke 23.7–12).

Starting in 20 BCE it took Herod nine and a half years to complete rebuilding the Temple on a much grander scale than its predecessor on the same site (War 5.5.184–247; Ant. 15.11.380–425). Nothing remains except the huge retaining walls supporting the platform, the western side of which became a site for Jewish prayer (the “Wailing Wall”) after the destruction of the Temple. Such building activity inspired others, and the quality of life of the wealthy in first century CE Jerusalem is nowhere more evident than in the magnificent mansions excavated in the Jewish Quarter.

The sources make no mention of any concern on the part of Herod for the water supply of the city, but Josephus's mention of the Serpent's Pool (War 5.3.108; today Birkat es‐Sultan), which served a large catchment area west of the city, probably implies the existence of the serpentine 67 km (42 mi) low‐level aqueduct that brought water from Arrub via Solomon's Pools to the Temple. Herod certainly constructed the great reservoir, Birkat Israel, against the north wall of the Temple, and it is likely that he refurbished the Pool of Siloam (John 9.7). Other known reservoirs are Struthion (War 5.11.467), adjacent to the Antonia, and Amygdalon (War 5.11.468), just north of the palace; the latter was fed by aqueducts from Mamilla and from the north. When the water stored in house cisterns is added, it has been calculated that the population ceiling must have been about seventy thousand.

After Herod the Great.

Pilate is credited with having constructed a new aqueduct soon after 26 CE (War 2.9.175), but it cannot be identified with the 15 km (9 mi) high‐level aqueduct from Bir el‐Daraj that supplied the Upper City, and which inscriptions date to 195 CE. The prosperity of Jerusalem increased the demand on space, and the climate of peace meant that there was no risk in building outside the Second Wall. Herod Agrippa I (41–44 CE) tried to wall in this New City or suburb of Bezetha, but the attempt was blocked by the Emperor Claudius (Ant. 19.7.326–27). This wall, completed by the rebels during the First Revolt (66–70 CE), is the famous Third Wall of Josephus (War 5.4.147–55), which has given rise to intense debate, because the data given by Josephus are both vague and incoherent. Only two elements have been identified archaeologically, the north gate beneath the present Damascus Gate, and the east gate, which is the Ecce Homo arch near the Antonia. When eighteen thousand men were made redundant on the completion of work on the Temple in 62–64 CE, Herod Agrippa II employed them to pave the city with white stone (Ant. 20.9.219–22).

The Roman siege began at Passover 70 CE, while internecine warfare raged in the city. All Jerusalem was in the hand of the legions by late August. By order of Titus it was levelled to the ground, the only exceptions being the great towers, Phasaelis, Hippicus, and Mariamne, which were left as a memorial to Jerusalem's former strength and glory (War 7.2.1–2).

Jerome Murphy‐O'Connor

Symbolism

Although the sixteenth century was a period of great scientific advances among European mapmakers, one of the best known maps of that period is more imaginative than accurate: a woodcut in the form of a cloverleaf, with Jerusalem depicted as the center of the world from which emanate the continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The idea of the centrality of Jerusalem has been a mainstay in Christianity, in various ways, since its inception. It has also been integral to Judaism since the time of King David in the tenth century BCE and, together with the sacred cities of Mecca and Medina, to Islam since its beginnings in the seventh century CE. In the modern era of nation‐states, Jerusalem is both the capital of Israel and, for Palestinians, the capital of the state of Palestine. Thus, Jerusalem has long been a focus of powerful and intertwined passions of religion and politics. Although its name probably originally meant “foundation of [the god] Shalem,” it has often been interpreted to mean “city of peace” (Hebr. ʿîr šālōm). But peace has remained an elusive goal for most of Jerusalem's nearly four‐thousand year history.

In his meditation on this most holy and painful city (Jerusalem: City of Mirrors, [Boston, 1989]), the “capital of memory,” the Israeli writer Amos Elon observed that it is as if the very name Jerusalem (Hebr. yĕrûšālaim) is a reflection of the city's contradictory, even dualistic nature (aim is the Hebrew suffix indicating a dual or pair), manifesting itself even in its location on the boundary between Israel's cultivated grasslands and arid desert regions. There has always been a tension between the present and the future, the earthly and the heavenly, the real and the ideal Jerusalem, a city of diverse peoples struggling to accomplish their daily activities and the city of religious visionaries.

The name Jerusalem occurs 660 times in the Hebrew Bible; Zion, often used as synonymous with Jerusalem, especially in biblical poetry, occurs another 154 times. The former appears most frequently in the historical narratives of 2 Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, and in the prophetic books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah. Except for Salem in Genesis 14.18, it is absent from the Pentateuch, achieving importance in ancient Israel's self‐understanding only after David brought the ark of the covenant, symbol of God's presence, to the newly conquered city. The ark would find its permanent home in the Jerusalem Temple, the house of God, completed by David's son Solomon, and strategically situated very near to the house of God's loyal servant, the king. The belief in the inviolability of Jerusalem, the chosen dwelling place of God, was challenged by such prophets as Micah and Jeremiah, who warned that the city would be destroyed as a result of its transgressions (Mic. 3.12, quoted in Jer. 26.18). But after the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple in 587/586 BCE, the exilic prophets envisioned a new Jerusalem, which was simultaneously a rebuilding and restoration of the old and also an idealized city, both grander and more enduring than its predecessor, offering its inhabitants a relationship with God and concomitant peace and prosperity. For Jeremiah, the rebuilt Jerusalem was well grounded in the old, even in its physical contours (30.18; 31.38–40). Ezekiel, who understood Jerusalem as “in the center of the nations, with countries all around her” (5.5), celebrates a new city and a new Temple, areas of radiating holiness, fruitfulness, and well‐being (chaps. 40–48), where God's glory will again reside: “And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The Lord is There” (48.35). Second Isaiah is consoling in its assertion that Jerusalem “has served her term, that her penalty is paid” (Isa. 40.2). The gates of the new city will always be open (60.11), and the Lord will be its everlasting light (60.19–20). “No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime” (65.20).

The hopes and expectations of the exilic prophets were realized in part with the rebuilding of the city and Temple during the latter half of the sixth century BCE, the first generation of Persian rule. Both, however, would be destroyed by the Roman army in 70 CE. The Temple was never rebuilt. In the generation before its destruction, the Alexandrian Jewish philosopher and statesman Philo wrote that the Jews “hold the Holy City where stands the sacred Temple of the most high God to be their mother city” (Flaccum 46). The destruction of the Temple and “mother city” was both a great blow and a great challenge to Jews, inside and outside of Israel. Some Jewish apocalyptic texts from this period envisioned that at the end time, the heavenly Jerusalem, fashioned by God, would descend to earth; others envisioned a heavenly Jerusalem that awaited the righteous above. In either case, the renewal of Jerusalem was integral to the vision of the end time, a role already suggested in the eschatological visions of the exilic and postexilic prophets.

The formative texts of rabbinic Judaism, which date from roughly the third to the seventh centuries CE, share with the earlier apocalyptic texts both the centrality of the renewal of Jerusalem in the messianic age, and a lack of uniformity in the description of that future, ideal city; in some texts, an earthly Jerusalem, and in others a heavenly city; in some an earthly city that ascends to heaven, and in others a heavenly city that descends to earth. What is striking, however, are the linkages and interdependencies between the earthly and the heavenly Jerusalem. In the anti‐Roman messianic Palestinian Jewish revolt of Bar Kochba (132–135 CE), the rebels struck coins with the image of the Temple facade and the inscription “of the freedom of Jerusalem,” indicating their hopes for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and its Temple. Similarly, the Jewish rebels of the First Revolt (66–70 CE), with their constellation of religious, nationalist, and messianic apocalyptic motivations, issued coins with the inscription, “Jerusalem the holy” (see Money). As noted above, however, the consequence of the first revolt was not the reinvigoration of Jerusalem, but rather its destruction.

Early rabbinic literature did not focus only on the Jerusalem of the messianic age. The Mishnah, Talmuds, and midrashic collections celebrated the memory of the historic Jerusalem as well. Some texts describe Jerusalem as the center or “navel” of the world; others depict in glowing language the grandeur and uniqueness of the city. Jerusalem's uniqueness was reflected also in the halakhic requirements associated with the city, most of which were not practiced, given the destruction of the Temple and city, and the banning of Jews from Jerusalem by the Roman emperor Hadrian, in the aftermath of the war of Bar Kochba.

As if in response to the words of the psalmist of a long‐gone era, “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither” (Ps. 137.5), the memory of Jerusalem and its Temple and the hope for their restoration were reflected in evolving Jewish liturgy, to be evoked on occasions of joy and mourning and perhaps, most importantly, to be recited as part of the Grace after Meals and the daily Amidah prayer, which together with the Shema, constitute, in a sense, the foundation of Jewish liturgy. The ninth of the month of Av developed as a day of fasting and mourning for the destruction of the First and Second Temples, becoming associated also with other calamitous events in Jewish history (see, e.g., m. Taʿan. 4.6).

It is not clear to what degree and for how long Hadrian's decree banning Jews from Jerusalem was enforced. Jews were permitted to reside in Jerusalem, however, during its many centuries of Muslim rule, beginning with its conquest by Caliph Umar in 638, interrupted only by the brief and, in many ways, violent rule of the twelfth‐century Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. During the years of Ottoman rule (1517–1917), notwithstanding the rebuilding of Jerusalem's walls (1537–1541) by Suleiman I, Jerusalem remained a small and impoverished city. Only in the mid‐to‐late nineteenth century did the Jews, Latin Christians, Armenian Christians, and Muslims leave their traditional quarters in the walled city to establish new ongoing neighborhoods, the Jews settling generally to the west of the Old City.

The expansion of Jerusalem outside of the walled city developed at roughly the same time as European Zionism. Many factors contributed to the evolution of the latter, including the anti‐Jewish policies of the Russian czarist governments, the overall political, social, and economic conditions of Eastern European Jewry, the evolution of anti‐Semitic movements and agitation in Western Europe, and the presence and vitality of other European nationalist movements. Notwithstanding the generally nontraditional religious orientation of most of the early Zionist leaders, one cannot underestimate the significance for them of Jewish historical connections with the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem, suggested even in the term “Zionism.” Nonetheless, many of the early Zionist leaders expressed a kind of ambivalence about Jerusalem, reacting seemingly both to the physical squalor of the city and, from their perspectives, to Jerusalem's tired and outdated Jewish religious practices and passions. The ultra‐Orthodox Jewish communities of Jerusalem were a counterpoint to the Zionists' visions of a transformed Jewish society. As late as 1947, the Zionist leadership was willing to accept the United Nations resolution to partition Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state, and to make Jerusalem a separate political entity under international administration. Following the war of 1948 and the bloody battle for Jerusalem, however, neither the internationalization of Jerusalem nor the Arab state in Palestine was established. Instead, the land fell under Israeli or Jordanian rule with western Jerusalem under Israeli control and eastern Jerusalem, including the Old City and its holy places, under Jordanian control. Jerusalem was declared the official capital of Israel in December 1949. As a result of the 1967 Six Day War, Israel began to govern formerly Jordanian‐held East Jerusalem, which was later officially annexed and incorporated by the Israeli government into the state of Israel. Within the Old City stood the Western or Wailing Wall, a retaining wall from the Second Temple as renovated by Herod in the first century BCE. It continues to function as a complex religious‐national symbol, a focus of prayer, and an object of pilgrimage for Jews inside and outside of Israel. Today, even most of the significant number of Israeli Jews who support territorial compromise with the Palestinians in exchange for peace, including the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, are reluctant to give up any portion of Jerusalem, or to see the city come under international rule or be divided again. Analogously, the significant number of Palestinians who also support a “two state solution” insist that eastern Jerusalem serve as the capital of Palestine. Thus the “city of peace” remains a stumbling block in Arab‐Israeli and Palestinian‐Israeli negotiations.

Although the Christian population of Jerusalem, two to three percent of the total, has been in decline for the last fifty years, the number of Christian visitors and pilgrims to Jerusalem remains very large. The roots of this fascination with Jerusalem date both to the origins of Christianity as a first‐century Palestinian Jewish apocalyptic movement and to the depictions of the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus in the four New Testament Gospels. The Gospels mention Jerusalem sixty‐seven times. Matthew refers to it as the “holy city” (4.5; 27.53). Although the texts vary, each of the Gospels depicts Jesus as moving seemingly inevitably to Jerusalem, the site of the pivotal events of the life of Jesus and of Christianity's self‐understanding, that is Jesus' death and resurrection; and, for first‐century Palestinian Jewry, their national and religious center.

As was the case with other kinds of Judaism of this period, early Christianity knew of both an earthly and a heavenly Jerusalem (e.g., Gal. 4.25–26; Heb. 12.22–24). The book of Revelation, drawing heavily on Ezekiel's vision of the new Jerusalem and very reminiscent of contemporary Jewish apocalyptic texts, describes “the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God” (21.2). Unlike Ezekiel's city, however, this Jerusalem has no Temple, “for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb (21.22).” As Robert Wilken has noted, speculation concerning God's future kingdom on earth with Jerusalem as its center dominated Christian eschatology of the first and second centuries, as, for example, in the writings of Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. Later church fathers, however, such as Origen, who spent more than twenty years in third‐century Caesarea, disputed both the teachings of Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, as well as Jewish beliefs in the future restoration of some kind of Jerusalem on earth, to speak only of the heavenly Jerusalem, which remained above and entirely separate from the earthly city.

The fourth century was a period of tremendous change for Christianity. It entered the century as the religion of a persecuted minority, and exited as the official state religion of the Roman empire. Emperor Constantine made Christianity a legal religion in 313, and became its patron and protector. Palestine and in particular Jerusalem became a Christian showplace of sorts. From the time of Constantine, massive church building projects were undertaken to create a visible and glorious manifestation of the legitimacy and permanence of Christian rule—an outward sign of the truth and victory of Christianity. Money poured in from both the government and private persons, bringing with it increased material prosperity and cosmopolitanism for all of fourth‐ and fifth‐century Palestine. Hadrian's Jerusalem, Roman Aelia Capitolina, named after the emperor and the gods of the Capitoline in Rome, would be transformed into a Christian Jerusalem. Constantine himself sponsored the building of three major Palestinian churches, all connected with the life of Jesus, and two of which were in Jerusalem: the Church of the Holy Sepulcher; a church on the Mount of Olives; and the Church of the Nativity in nearby Bethlehem. Already, in the writings of Eusebius, the early fourth‐century Caesarean church historian, one can see intimations of the Palestinian church's understanding of itself as guardian of a very earthly Christian Palestine with its center at Jerusalem—a land in which Christians lived and visited, and in which one could see and touch the very places in which the saving events of biblical history had taken place.

Christian pilgrimage to Palestine and especially Jerusalem became widespread in the fourth century. Early pilgrims included Helena, the mother of Constantine. Fourth‐century Christian pilgrims, as part of their quest for perfection, would undertake the dangers of travel to Palestine to visit the holy places, and therein both confirm and strengthen their faith. As pilgrimage flourished, some church leaders questioned its value, drawing attention to the contrast between “Jerusalem the Holy” and the city that awaited the pilgrim. For example, Gregory of Nyssa in his “Letter on Pilgrimage” pointed to the “shameful practices” of the people of Jerusalem as evidence that God's grace was no more abundant in Jerusalem than elsewhere.

Echoes of early Christian speculations on the role and nature of Jerusalem in the end time, as well as an interest in the earthly city itself, can be found both in the constellation of factors that shaped the Crusades of medieval Europe, and in the voyages of Columbus who, influenced by late fifteenth‐century apocalyptic thought, sought to acquire the gold to finance the final crusade, which would capture Jerusalem and place it again in Christian hands—all part of God's plan for the end time.

Columbus failed in his plans, but Christian interest in and pilgrimage to Jerusalem has endured. For many pilgrims, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, consecrated in 335, was the highlight of their trip. Today it remains the major Christian holy place in Jerusalem, although most of what can be seen dates from the period of the Crusades, the Church having been destroyed and rebuilt several times since the time of Constantine. Several Christian denominations have rights to various sections of the Church. In their stories of conflict and cooperation, they are illustrative of the diversity within Christianity and the long, complex, and vital history of the Christian community in Jerusalem.

Although an overview of the symbolism and significance of Jerusalem for Islam is beyond the scope of this article, one must note both the importance of Jerusalem for Islam, and the importance of the city's Muslim communities since their inception in the seventh century CE for the history of Jerusalem, in Arabic “al‐Quds,” “the Holy.” Today, Jerusalem's major Muslim holy place, the magnificent Dome of the Rock, a rotunda on an octagonal base, built by the Umayyad Caliph Abd al‐Malik and completed in 691/692, dominates the Haram al‐Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, also the site of the Temple Mount of the Jews. The Dome, reminiscent on a grander scale of the nearby Church of the Holy Sepulcher, was constructed in the architectural style of the Byzantine martyrium to serve as a shrine for the holy rock beneath it—a rock which by the time of the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem in 638 was already associated with the Temple and with Abraham, the common traditional ancestor of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Dome affirmed the triumph of Islam in the midst of the Christian show place, Jerusalem, “The Holy City,” and in a place, atop the Temple Mount, which the Byzantine Christians had kept in ruins to concretize Christian beliefs that the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple was both a fulfillment of prophecy and a proof of the victory and truth claims of the “New Israel.”

The sanctity for Islam of the Rock, the Haram, and Jerusalem, in general, was strengthened by the identification by early Muslim authorities of Jerusalem as the destiny of the Prophet Muhammad's night journey (Sūrah 17:1), and the Rock as the place from which he ascended to heaven (Sūrah 53:4–10). As in Judaism and Christianity, Jerusalem assumed an important role in Muslim beliefs concerning the end time and the day of judgment. So too, Muslim sources reflect the tensions between the holy city, setting of the last judgment, and Jerusalem in its daily activities. Thus Muqaddasi, a tenth‐century geographer and historian, and a native of Jerusalem, would celebrate Jerusalem as “the most illustrious of cities” where the advantages of the present and the next world meet, and also describe the city as a place oppressive to the poor, lacking in learned men, “a golden basin filled with scorpions.”

Jerusalem is today a city of approximately one‐half million people, a city which both celebrates and is haunted by its history, a city in which the tensions between the ideal and the real Jerusalem are lived and witnessed daily, and in which the rages and passions of religion and politics bring to mind the words of the psalmist, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Ps. 122.6).

Barbara Geller Nathanson