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Jerusalem
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1 - Jerusalem Under Oslo
2 - Background
3 - The Israeli Position
4 - The Palestinian Position
5 - During the Interim Period
6 - Proposals


2 - Background

Jerusalem is commonly referred to as holy to all three monotheistic religions.

Early Jewish History: Jerusalem's national and political significance to the Jewish people commences with its conquest by David, who united the Israelite tribes, became king and made Jerusalem the political and administrative seat of his kingdom around 1000 BCE. The city's eternal spiritual and religious significance to the Jewish people was strengthened when David's son, King Solomon, constructed the Temple on the spot in Jewish tradition where Abraham expressed his willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac to God. The Temple was the religious center for the people of Israel, who made the pilgrimage to the Temple three times a year.

After Solomon's death, the monarchy was split, and Jerusalem remained the capital of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. In the eighth century, the Assyrians under Sennacherib besieged the city. In 586 BCE the Babylonians under Nebuchadnessar captured the city, destroyed the Temple and exiled Jerusalem's residents to Babylon. Fifty years later, when Babylon fell to the Persians, King Cyrus allowed Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem. The Temple was rebuilt on the historic site, the city was resettled and resumed its status as the spiritual capital of Judaism. With the conquest of Alexander the Great in 333 BCE, Jerusalem came within the Hellenistic orbit.

In the first century BCE, King Herod reconstructed and expanded the Temple. Although the country was under Roman rule from 63 BCE, the Roman capital was in Caesarea. In 6 CE, Judea became a Roman province. In 66 CE, a Jewish revolt against Roman restrictions on Jewish expression culminated in the Roman siege of Jerusalem. In 70, Titus led the Romans into Jerusalem, burnt down the Temple and destroyed the city. A thousand years of Jewish rule in Jerusalem came to an end.

Early Christian History: For Christians, Jerusalem is central to the events of the New Testament. According to tradition, many events in Jesus' childhood and adulthood took place in Jerusalem and it was in Jerusalem that he was tried, put to death, and rose again. Jerusalem took on added significance for Christianity when the Roman emperor Constantine adopted Christianity in the fourth century. Constantine's mother, Queen Helena, visited the city and, guided by religion and faith, decided on the location of the holy sites associated with the last days of Jesus. The great churches were built, notably the Holy Sepulcher, and attracted many pilgrims. To provide accommodation and prayer facilities for the growing Christian community and pilgrims, wealthy Christians built monasteries, convents, hospices, churches and chapels. Christian rule ended when the Muslims conquered Jerusalem in 638 CE. In the 12th century, Christian rule was restored with the Crusaders, who established the Latin Kingdom which reigned for another century.

Early Muslim History: According to Muslim tradition, Jerusalem is Islam's third holiest city (after Mecca and Medina), and the site of Mohammed's ascent to heaven. Mohammed and his followers initially turned to Jerusalem in prayer and although the direction was later changed towards Mecca, the sanctity of Jerusalem continued to be stressed in Islamic tradition. The capture of Jerusalem in 638, during the reign of the second Caliph Omar, brought the city into the "dar al-Islam" the jurisdiction of Islam. Omar ordered the clearing of an area of the Temple Mount -- the site of the ancient Jewish Temple and considered the location of Mohammed's ascent to heaven -- and the building of a temporary wooden mosque. In 691, Caliph Abd al-Malik built the Dome of the Rock, one of the glories of Islam. In the centuries following the Muslim reconquering of Jerusalem from the Crusaders in 1187 there was much building activity around the Temple Mount area and in the entire old city. The sanctity of Jerusalem in Islamic religious tradition has continued throughout the 20th century.

Modern Period: In 1517, Jerusalem fell from Mamluk to Ottoman rule, which lasted for the next four centuries. In 1917, the British Army led by General Allenby conquered Jerusalem from the Ottoman Turks. From 1922 to 1948, Jerusalem was the administrative seat of the British authorities in Palestine, entrusted to them by the League of Nations. The November 1947 United Nations Partition plan, rejected by the Arabs, called for the "internationalization" of the city. With the State of Israel's proclamation of independence in accordance with the partition plan upon the termination of the British Mandate on May 14, 1948, Arab states invaded the Jewish State and launched the first Arab-Israeli war. The armistice lines drawn at the end of the war divided Jerusalem into two sectors, with Jordan occupying and annexing the eastern sector, including the Old City. Israel retained the western and southern parts of the city and declared Jerusalem the capital of the State. For the first time in history, Jerusalem was a divided city. In violation of the Armistice Agreement, the Jordanians denied Jews access to and the right to worship at their holy sites, including the Western Wall.

In the June 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Israel gained the Jordanian-controlled sectors of Jerusalem and reunited the city under Israeli sovereignty, with the eastern part of the city subject to Israeli law, jurisdiction and administration. When Israeli troops entered the Old City, they found the 58 synagogues in the Jewish Quarter systematically vandalized and destroyed and Jewish cemeteries desecrated. Israeli authorities immediately passed the Protection of Holy Places Law, which guarantees the sanctity of all holy sites and makes it a punishable offense to desecrate or deny freedom of access to them. Under Israeli sovereignty, Christians and Muslims administer their own holy places and religious institutions, and have free access to Israel's court system in order to present any claim of violation of these rights. Israel annexed the eastern part of the city in 1980.

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