The his­tory

The Dominion Post - - Opinion -

Jews call it Jerusalem, or Yerusha­layim, and Arabs call it Al-Quds, which means ‘‘The Holy’’. But the city’s sig­nif­i­cance goes be­yond the two par­ties most im­me­di­ately in­volved. At the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City is the hill which is known to Jews across the world as Har ha-Bayit, or Tem­ple Mount, and to Muslims in­ter­na­tion­ally as al-Haram al-Sharif, or The No­ble Sanc­tu­ary.

It was home to the Jewish tem­ples of an­tiq­uity but all that re­mains of them above ground is a res­train­ing wall for the foun­da­tions built by Herod the Great.

Known as the West­ern Wall, this is a sa­cred place of prayer for Jews.

Within yards of the wall, and over­look­ing it, are two Mus­lim holy places, the Dome of the Rock and the AlAqsa Mosque, which was built in the 8th cen­tury. Muslims re­gard the site as the third holi­est in Is­lam, af­ter Mecca and Medina.

The city is also an im­por­tant pil­grim­age site for Chris­tians, who re­vere it as the place where they be­lieve that Je­sus Christ preached, died and was res­ur­rected.

What is the city’s sta­tus now and does any other coun­try have an em­bassy in Jerusalem?

When Bri­tish rule ended in 1948, Jor­da­nian forces oc­cu­pied the Old City and Arab East Jerusalem.

Is­rael cap­tured East Jerusalem from Jor­dan in the 1967 Mid­dle East war and an­nexed it in a move not recog­nised in­ter­na­tion­ally.

In 1980 the Is­raeli par­lia­ment passed a law declar­ing the ‘‘com­plete and united’’ city of Jerusalem to be the cap­i­tal of Is­rael, but the United Na­tions re­gards East Jerusalem as oc­cu­pied, and the city’s sta­tus as dis­puted un­til re­solved by ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans.

Other coun­tries have had em­bassies in Jerusalem in the past, but moved them out of the city some years ago. The King of Jor­dan re­tains a role in en­sur­ing the up­keep of the Mus­lim holy places.

What is likely to hap­pen next? Has Jerusalem been a flash­point be­fore?

Ten­sions are run­ning high in Jerusalem, and vi­o­lence has erupted be­fore over mat­ters of sovereignty and re­li­gion.

In 1969 an Australian Mes­sianic Chris­tian tried to burn down the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

He failed, but caused dam­age. So charged was the Mid­dle East’s po­lit­i­cal cli­mate — just two years af­ter the Six Day War — that there was fury across the Arab world. In 2000, the Is­raeli politi­cian Ariel Sharon, then op­po­si­tion leader, led a group of Is­raeli law­mak­ers on to the Tem­ple Mount/al-Haram alSharif com­plex.

Pales­tini­ans protested, and there were vi­o­lent clashes that quickly es­ca­lated into the sec­ond Pales­tinian up­ris­ing, also known as the Al-Aqsa In­tifada.

Deadly con­fronta­tions also took place in July this year af­ter Is­rael in­stalled metal de­tec­tors at the en­trance to the com­plex fol­low­ing the killing of two Is­raeli po­lice­men there by Arab-Is­raeli gun­men.

In re­cent days, Pales­tinian fac­tions have called for protests, and Arab lead­ers across the Mid­dle East have warned that a uni­lat­eral Amer­i­can move could lead to tur­moil, and ham­per US ef­forts to restart long-stalled Is­raeliPales­tinian peace talks. – Reuters

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