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  • יְרוּשָׁלַיִם‎ (
Left-to-right from top:
Jerusalem skyline looking north from St. Elijah Monastery; a souq in the Old City; the Mamilla Mall; the Knesset; the Dome of the Rock; the citadel (Tower of David) and Old City Walls; and the Western Wall
  • Ir ha-Kodesh (The Holy City)
  • Bayt al-Maqdis (House of the Holiness)
Location of Jerusalem
Location of Jerusalem
Location of Jerusalem
Location of Jerusalem
Location of Jerusalem
Location of Jerusalem
Location of Jerusalem
Location of Jerusalem
Coordinates: Coordinates: 31°46′44″N 35°13′32″E / 31.77889°N 35.22556°E / 31.77889; 35.22556
Administered byIsrael
Claimed byIsrael and Palestine[note 1]
Israeli districtJerusalem
Palestinian governorateQuds
Gihon Spring settlement3000–2800 BCE
City of Davidc. 1000 BCE
Present Old City walls built1541
East-West Jerusalem division1948
Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem1967
Jerusalem Law1980
 • TypeMayor–council
 • BodyJerusalem Municipality
 • MayorMoshe Lion (Likud)
 • City125,156 dunams (125.156 km2 or 48.323 sq mi)
 • Metro
652,000 dunams (652 km2 or 252 sq mi)
754 m (2,474 ft)
 • City936,425
 • Density7,500/km2 (19,000/sq mi)
 • Metro1,253,900
Demographics (2017)
 • Jewish60.8%
 • Arab37.9%
 • others1.3%
Time zoneUTC+02:00 (IST, PST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+03:00 (IDT, PDT)
Postal code
Area code+972-2
HDI (2018)0.704[9]high
Official nameOld City of Jerusalem and its Walls
Criteriaii, iii, vi
Reference no.148
RegionArab States

Jerusalem (/əˈrsələm/; Hebrew: יְרוּשָׁלַיִם Yerushaláyim; Arabic: القُدس al-Quds)[10][11][12][note 2] is a city in Western Asia. Situated on a plateau in the Judaean Mountains between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea, it is one of the oldest cities in the world, and is considered holy for the three major Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The city straddles the Green Line between Israel and the West Bank; both Israelis and Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital. Israel controls the entire city and maintains its primary governmental institutions there while the Palestinian National Authority and Palestine Liberation Organization ultimately foresee it as the seat of power for the State of Palestine. Due to this long-running dispute, neither claim is widely recognized internationally.[note 3][13]

A site of permanent inhabitation since at least the 3rd millennium BCE, significant construction activities began throughout the city in the 9th century BCE, and by the 8th century BCE, Jerusalem had developed into the capital of the Iron Age Kingdom of Judah.[14][15] During its history, the city has been destroyed at least twice, besieged 23 times, captured and recaptured 44 times, and attacked 52 times.[16] It was first destroyed by the Babylonians in 587–586 BCE,[17] and rebuilt during the Persian era, and continued to rise in stature throughout the Hellenistic period.[18] In 63 BCE, it was captured by Rome, and in 70 CE, following a Jewish revolt, destroyed again.[19][20][21][22] Ownership of the city than passed into Muslim hands with the conquest of the Levant in in 638 CE. In 1538 CE, the surrounding city walls were rebuilt for a last time under Suleiman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Empire. Today, these walls define the Old City, which has historically been split into four areas known since the 19th century as the Jewish Quarter, the Armenian Quarter, the Christian Quarter, and the Muslim Quarter (clockwise from the southeast end).[23] The Old City became a World Heritage Site in 1981, and has been on the List of World Heritage in Danger since 1982.[24] Since 1860, Jerusalem has grown far beyond the Old City's boundaries. In 2015, Jerusalem had a population of some 850,000 residents, comprising approximately 200,000 secular Jewish Israelis, 350,000 Haredi Jews, and 300,000 Palestinian Arabs.[25][note 4] In 2016, the city's population was 882,700, of which Jews comprised 536,600 (61%), Muslims comprised 319,800 (36%), Christians comprised 15,800 (2%), and unclassified subjects comprised 10,300 (1%).[27]

According to the Hebrew Bible, the city was conquered from the Jebusites by the Israelite king David, who established it as the capital of the United Kingdom of Israel. David's son and successor, Solomon, later commissioned the building of the First Temple in the city.[note 5] Modern scholars argue that Jews branched out of the Canaanite peoples and culture through the development of a distinct monolatrous—and later monotheistic—religion centred on El/Yahweh.[29][30][31] These foundational events, straddling the dawn of the 1st millennium BCE, assumed central symbolic importance for the Jewish people.[32][33] The sobriquet of "holy city" (עיר הקודש, 'Ir ha-Qodesh) was probably attached to Jerusalem in post-exilic times.[34][35][36] The holiness of Jerusalem in Christianity, conserved in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible[37] that was adopted by Christians as the Old Testament,[38] was reinforced by the New Testament's account of Jesus' crucifixion and subsequent resurrection there. In Sunni Islam, Jerusalem is the third-holiest city after Mecca and Medina in present-day Saudi Arabia.[39][40] This is due to its status as the first qibla (the standard direction for Muslim prayers) before Mecca.[41] In Islamic tradition, the Islamic prophet Muhammad made his Night Journey to Jerusalem in 621 CE, from where he ascended to heaven and spoke to God, according to the Quran.[42][43] As a result of all of these events, despite having an area of only 0.9 km2 (38 sq mi),[44] the Old City is home to many sites of seminal religious importance; namely the Temple Mount (also known as Al-Aqsa or Haram al-Sharif) with the Dome of the Rock, Al-Aqsa Mosque and Western Wall, as well as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Today, the status of Jerusalem remains one of the core issues of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and its peace process. During the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, West Jerusalem was among the areas captured and later annexed by Israel while East Jerusalem, including the Old City, was captured and later annexed by Jordan. However, during the 1967 Six-Day War, East Jerusalem was captured from Jordan by Israel, after which it was effectively annexed and incorporated into the other Israeli-held parts of the city, together with additional surrounding territory.[note 6] One of Israel's Basic Laws, the Jerusalem Law of 1980, refers to "complete and undivided" Jerusalem as the country's capital. All of the institutions of the Israeli government are located within Jerusalem, including the Knesset, the residences of the Prime Minister (Beit Aghion) and President (Beit HaNassi), and the Supreme Court. While Israel's claim to sovereignty over West Jerusalem is more widely accepted by the international community, its claim to sovereignty over East Jerusalem is regarded as illegitimate, and East Jerusalem is consequently recognized by the United Nations as Palestinian territory that is occupied by Israel.[48][49][50][51]

Etymology and names


The name "Jerusalem" is variously etymologized to mean "foundation (Semitic yry' 'to found, to lay a cornerstone') of the god Shalem";[52][53] the god Shalem was thus the original tutelary deity of the Bronze Age city.[54]

Shalim or Shalem was the name of the god of dusk in the Canaanite religion, whose name is based on the same root S-L-M from which the Hebrew word for "peace" is derived (Shalom in Hebrew, cognate with Arabic Salam).[55][56] The name thus offered itself to etymologizations such as "The City of Peace",[53][57] "Abode of Peace",[58][59] "Dwelling of Peace" ("founded in safety"),[60] or "Vision of Peace" in some Christian authors.[61]

The ending -ayim indicates the dual, thus leading to the suggestion that the name Yerushalayim refers to the fact that the city initially sat on two hills.[62][63]

Ancient Egyptian sources

The Execration Texts of the Middle Kingdom of Egypt (c. 19th century BCE), which refer to a city called rwš3lmm or ꜣwšꜣmm, variously transcribed as Rušalimum, Urušalimum or Rôsh-ramen,[64][65] may indicate Jerusalem.[66][67] Alternatively, the Amarna letters of Abdi-Heba (1330s BCE), which reference an Úrusalim, may be the earliest mention of the city.[68][69][70]

Hebrew Bible and Jewish sources

The form Yerushalem or Yerushalayim first appears in the Bible, in the Book of Joshua. According to a Midrash, the name is a combination of two names united by God, Yireh ("the abiding place", the name given by Abraham to the place where he planned to sacrifice his son) and Shalem ("Place of Peace", the name given by high priest Shem).[71]

Oldest written mention of "Jerusalem"

One of the earliest extra-biblical Hebrew writing of the word Jerusalem is dated to the sixth or seventh century BCE[72][73] and was discovered in Khirbet Beit Lei near Beit Guvrin in 1961. The inscription states: "I am Yahweh thy God, I will accept the cities of Judah and I will redeem Jerusalem",[74][75][76] or as other scholars suggest: "Yahweh is the God of the whole earth. The mountains of Judah belong to him, to the God of Jerusalem".[77][78] An older example on papyrus is known from the previous century.[79]

In extra-biblical inscriptions, the earliest known example of the -ayim ending was discovered on a column about 3 km west of ancient Jerusalem, dated to the first century BCE.[79]

Jebus, Zion, City of David

An ancient settlement of Jerusalem, founded as early as the Bronze Age on the hill above the Gihon Spring, was, according to the Bible, named Jebus.[80][81][82] Called the "Fortress of Zion" (metsudat Zion), it was renamed as the "City of David",[83] and was known by this name in antiquity.[84][85] Another name, "Zion", initially referred to a distinct part of the city, but later came to signify the city as a whole, and afterwards to represent the whole biblical Land of Israel.

Greek, Roman and Byzantine names

In Greek and Latin, the city's name was transliterated Hierosolyma (Greek: Ἱεροσόλυμα; in Greek hieròs, ἱερός, means holy), although the city was renamed Aelia Capitolina for part of the Roman period of its history.


The Aramaic Apocryphon of Genesis of the Dead Sea Scrolls (1QapGen 22:13) equates Jerusalem with the earlier "Salem" (שלם), said to be the kingdom of Melchizedek in Genesis 14.[86] Other early Hebrew sources,[87] early Christian renderings of the verse[88] and targumim,[89] however, put Salem in Northern Israel near Shechem (Sichem), now Nablus, a city of some importance in early sacred Hebrew writing.[90] Possibly the redactor of the Apocryphon of Genesis wanted to dissociate Melchizedek from the area of Shechem, which at the time was in possession of the Samaritans.[91] However that may be, later Rabbinic sources also equate Salem with Jerusalem, mainly to link Melchizedek to later Temple traditions.[92]

Arabic names

In Arabic, Jerusalem is most commonly known as القُدس, transliterated as al-Quds and meaning "The Holy" or "The Holy Sanctuary",[58][59] cognate with Hebrew: הקדש, romanizedHa-Qodesh, lit.'The Holy'. The ق (Q) is pronounced either with a voiceless uvular plosive (/q/), as in Classical Arabic, or with a glottal stop (ʔ) as in Levantine Arabic.[12] Official Israeli government policy mandates that أُورُشَلِيمَ, transliterated as Ūršalīm, which is the cognate of the Hebrew and English names, be used as the Arabic language name for the city in conjunction with القُدس. أُورُشَلِيمَ-القُدس.[93] Palestinian Arab families who hail from this city are often called "Qudsi" or "Maqdisi", while Palestinian Muslim Jerusalemites may use these terms as a demonym.[94]


Given the city's central position in both Jewish nationalism (Zionism) and Palestinian nationalism, the selectivity required to summarize some 5,000 years of inhabited history is often influenced by ideological bias or background.[95] Israeli or Jewish nationalists claim a right to the city based on Jewish indigeneity to the land, particularly their origins in and descent from the Israelites, for whom Jerusalem is their capital, and their yearning for return.[96][97] In contrast, Palestinian nationalists claim the right to the city based on modern Palestinians' longstanding presence and descent from many different peoples who have settled or lived in the region over the centuries.[98][99] Both sides claim the history of the city has been politicized by the other in order to strengthen their relative claims to the city,[100][101][102] 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.

Overview of Jerusalem's historical periods

Reunification of JerusalemJordanian annexation of the West BankBritish EmpireOttoman EmpireMamluk SultanateAyyubid dynastyKingdom of JerusalemAyyubid dynastyKingdom of JerusalemFatimid CaliphateSeljuk EmpireFatimid CaliphateIkhshidid dynastyAbbasid CaliphateTulunidsAbbasid CaliphateUmayyad CaliphateRashidun CaliphateByzantine EmpireSasanian EmpireByzantine EmpireRoman EmpireHasmonean dynastySyrian WarsAchaemenid EmpireNeo-Babylonian EmpireLate Period of ancient EgyptNeo-Babylonian EmpireNeo-Assyrian EmpireKingdom of JudahKingdom of Israel (united monarchy)JebusitesNew Kingdom of EgyptCanaan


The first archaeological evidence of human presence in the area comes in the form of flints dated to between 6000 and 7000 years ago,[103] with ceramic remains appearing during the Chalcolithic period, and the first signs of permanent settlement appearing in the Early Bronze Age in 3000–2800 BCE.[104][105]

Late bronze age

The earliest evidence of city fortifications appear in the Mid to Late Bronze Age and could date to around the 18th century BCE.[106] By around 1550-1200 BCE, Jerusalem was the capital of an Egyptian vassal city-state,[107] a modest settlement governing a few outlying villages and pastoral areas, with a small Egyptian garrison and ruled by appointees such as king Abdi-Heba,[108] At the time of Seti I (r. 1290–1279 BCE) and Ramesses II (r. 1279–1213 BCE), major construction took place as prosperity increased.[109] The city's inhabitants at this time were Canaanites, who are believed by scholars to have evolved into the Israelites via the development of a distinct Yahweh-centric monotheistic belief system.[110][111][31]

Iron Age

The Siloam Inscription, written in Biblical Hebrew, commemorates the construction of the Siloam tunnel
(c. 700 BCE)

Archaeological remains from the ancient Israelite period include the Siloam Tunnel, an aqueduct built by Judahite king Hezekiah and once containing an ancient Hebrew inscription, known as the Siloam Inscription;[112] the so-called Broad Wall, a defensive fortification built in the 8th century BCE, also by Hezekiah;[113] the Silwan necropolis (9th-7th c. BCE) with the Monolith of Silwan and the Tomb of the Royal Steward, which were decorated with monumental Hebrew inscriptions;[114] and the so-called Israelite Tower, remnants of ancient fortifications, built from large, sturdy rocks with carved cornerstones.[115] A huge water reservoir dating from this period was discovered in 2012 near Robinson's Arch, indicating the existence of a densely built-up quarter across the area west of the Temple Mount during the Kingdom of Judah.[116]

When the Assyrians conquered the Kingdom of Israel in 722 BCE, Jerusalem was strengthened by a great influx of refugees from the northern kingdom. When Hezekiah ruled, Jerusalem had no fewer than 25,000 inhabitants and covered 25 acres (10 hectares).[117]

In 587–586 BCE, Nebuchadnezzar II of the Neo-Babylonian Empire conquered Jerusalem after a prolonged siege, and then systematically destroyed the city, including Solomon's Temple.[118] The Kingdom of Judah was abolished and many were exiled to Babylon. These events mark the end of the First Temple period.[119]

Biblical account

This period, when Canaan formed part of the Egyptian empire, corresponds in biblical accounts to Joshua's invasion,[120] but almost all scholars agree that the Book of Joshua holds little historical value for early Israel.[121]

Modern-day reconstruction of Jerusalem during the reign of Solomon (10th century BCE). Solomon's Temple
appears on top.

In the Bible, Jerusalem is defined as lying within territory allocated to the tribe of Benjamin[122] though still inhabited by Jebusites. David is said to have conquered these in the Siege of Jebus, and transferred his capital from Hebron to Jerusalem which then became the capital of a United Kingdom of Israel,[123] and one of its several religious centres.[124] The choice was perhaps dictated by the fact that Jerusalem did not form part of Israel's tribal system, and was thus suited to serve as the centre of its confederation.[109] Opinion is divided over whether the so-called Large Stone Structure and the nearby Stepped Stone Structure may be identified with King David's palace, or dates to a later period.[125][126]

According to the Bible, King David reigned for 40 years[127] and was succeeded by his son Solomon,[128] who built the Holy Temple on Mount Moriah. Solomon's Temple (later known as the First Temple), went on to play a pivotal role in Jewish religion as the repository of the Ark of the Covenant.[129] On Solomon's death, ten of the northern tribes of Israel broke with the United Monarchy to form their own nation, with its kings, prophets, priests, traditions relating to religion, capitals and temples in northern Israel. The southern tribes, together with the Aaronid priesthood, remained in Jerusalem, with the city becoming the capital of the Kingdom of Judah.[130][131]

Classical antiquity

In 538 BCE, the Persian King Cyrus the Great invited the Jews of Babylon to return to Judah to rebuild the Temple.[132][133] Construction of the Second Temple was completed in 516 BCE, during the reign of Darius the Great, 70 years after the destruction of the First Temple.[134][135]

Sometime soon after 485 BCE Jerusalem was besieged, conquered and largely destroyed by a coalition of neighbouring states.[136] In about 445 BCE, King Artaxerxes I of Persia issued a decree allowing the city (including its walls) to be rebuilt.[137][better source needed] Jerusalem resumed its role as capital of Judah and center of Jewish worship.

Many Jewish tombs from the Second Temple period have been unearthed in Jerusalem. One example, discovered north of the Old City, contains human remains in a 1st-century CE ossuary decorated with the Aramaic inscription "Simon the Temple Builder."[138] The Tomb of Abba, also located north of the Old City, bears an Aramaic inscription with Paleo-Hebrew letters reading: "I, Abba, son of the priest Eleaz(ar), son of Aaron the high (priest), Abba, the oppressed and the persecuted, who was born in Jerusalem, and went into exile into Babylonia and brought (back to Jerusalem) Mattathi(ah), son of Jud(ah), and buried him in a cave which I bought by deed."[139] The Tomb of Benei Hezir located in Kidron Valley is decorated by monumental Doric columns and Hebrew inscription, identifying it as the burial site of Second Temple priests. The Tombs of the Sanhedrin, an underground complex of 63 rock-cut tombs, is located in a public park in the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Sanhedria. These tombs, probably reserved for members of the Sanhedrin[140][141] and inscribed by ancient Hebrew and Aramaic writings, are dated to between 100 BCE and 100 CE.

When Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire, Jerusalem and Judea came under Macedonian control, eventually falling to the Ptolemaic dynasty under Ptolemy I. In 198 BCE, Ptolemy V Epiphanes lost Jerusalem and Judea to the Seleucids under Antiochus III. The Seleucid attempt to recast Jerusalem as a Hellenized city-state came to a head in 168 BCE with the successful Maccabean revolt of Mattathias and his five sons against Antiochus IV Epiphanes, and their establishment of the Hasmonean Kingdom in 152 BCE with Jerusalem as its capital.

In 63 BCE, Pompey the Great intervened in a struggle for the Hasmonean throne and captured Jerusalem, extending the influence of the Roman Republic over Judea.[142] Following a short invasion by Parthians, backing the rival Hasmonean rulers, Judea became a scene of struggle between pro-Roman and pro-Parthian forces, eventually leading to the emergence of an Edomite named Herod. As Rome became stronger, it installed Herod as a client king of the Jews. Herod the Great, as he was known, devoted himself to developing and beautifying the city. He built walls, towers and palaces, and expanded the Temple Mount, buttressing the courtyard with blocks of stone weighing up to 100 tons. Under Herod, the area of the Temple Mount doubled in size.[128][143][144] Shortly after Herod's death, in 6 CE Judea came under direct Roman rule as the Iudaea Province,[145] although the Herodian dynasty through Agrippa II remained client kings of neighboring territories until 96 CE.

Roman rule over Jerusalem and Judea was challenged in the

A coin issued by the Jewish rebels in 68 CE. Obverse: "Shekel, Israel. Year 3". Reverse: "Jerusalem the Holy", in the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet
Stones from the Western Wall of the Temple Mount thrown during the Roman Siege of Jerusalem
in 70 CE
The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans (David Roberts, 1850)

Following the Bar Kokhba revolt, Emperor Hadrian combined Iudaea Province with neighboring provinces under the new name of Syria Palaestina, replacing the name of Judea.[150] The city was renamed Aelia Capitolina,[19][151] and rebuilt it in the style of a typical Roman town. Jews were prohibited from entering the city on pain of death, except for one day each year, during the holiday of Tisha B'Av. Taken together, these measures[152][153][154] (which also affected Jewish Christians)[155] essentially "secularized" the city.[156] The ban was maintained until the 7th century,[157] though Christians would soon be granted an exemption: during the 4th century, the Roman emperor Constantine I ordered the construction of Christian holy sites in the city, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Burial remains from the Byzantine period are exclusively Christian, suggesting that the population of Jerusalem in Byzantine times probably consisted only of Christians.[158]

In the 5th century, the eastern continuation of the