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Jerusalem / Introduction

The historical and religious significance of Jerusalem is deeply embedded in the narratives of both Israelis and Palestinians, and resonates far beyond the Middle East. 


Jerusalem was the site of the first and second Jewish Temples and the capital of the ancient Israelite kingdom; it was where Muslims believe Muhammad ascended to heaven; and where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected. The Old City of Jerusalem is home to sites of key religious importance, including the Temple Mount/Haram Al Sharif, Western Wall, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Dome of the Rock, and al-Aqsa Mosque. 


Jerusalem is also a modern city. While the 1947 UN Partition Plan would have placed Jerusalem under international control — neither Israeli nor Arab — the 1948-49 war left the city divided: Israel controlled the west, and Jordan controlled the east — including the Old City. After the 1967 war, Israel annexed East Jerusalem and 27 surrounding Palestinian villages into a united Jerusalem municipality. Israel’s annexation has not been recognized by the international community. Fifty years later, Jerusalem is home to roughly 550,000 Israelis and 332,000 Palestinians.

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