In recent times, Jerusalem has been in the spotlight for several reasons; part of which involves its ownership. While Israel claims to be the owner of the holy city, Palestine also claims ownership of the town. One of the reasons for this debate is because the city is associated with the world's three monotheistic religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) that trace their roots to Abraham. With this, who owns Jerusalem has become an issue of concern waiting for clarification.
The holy city is a city in the Middle East, and it is located between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea. As one of the oldest cities in the world, Israel maintains its primary governmental institutions in the town while the State of Palestine also foresees it as its seat of power even though the international community has not recognised both claims.
From history, the old city Jerusalem has reportedly been destroyed not less than twice, captured and recaptured 44 times, besieged 23 times, and attacked 52 times. In the 4th millennium BCE, the part of the city known as the City of David indicates the first signs of a settlement.
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What was Jerusalem called before it was called Jerusalem? Initially, it was named as Urusalim on ancient Egyptian tablets after a Canaanite deity, which possibly means the City of Shalem. During the Israelite period, in the 9th century BCE, notable construction activities started before the religious and administrative centre of the Kingdom of Judah was developed in the 8th century.
The walls of the city were rebuilt in 1538 under Suleiman the Magnificent, which, today, define the Old City. Traditionally, the wall has been divided into four quarters. In 1981, the Old City became a World Heritage Site and now ranks on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Who owns Jerusalem? Palestine or Israel?
When historical Palestine was divided between the Jewish and Arab states under the 1947 UN Partition Plan, the city got special status. It was supposed to be under international sovereignty and control because of the city's religious importance. When the 1948 war took place, Zionist forces took control of the western half of the city and declared the territory part of its state.
However, Israel captured the eastern half of the holy city during the 1967 war from the control of Jordan and annexed it through Israeli law, which was a breach of international law. In 1980, the "Jerusalem Law" was passed by Israel, and in it, it was stated that "Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel." This step formalised its annexation of East Jerusalem before the UN Security Council nullified it.
Initially, the international community comprising of the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States posited that Jerusalem should be the capital of the two countries. On the 28th of October, 2009, Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that Jerusalem must be the capital of both Israel and Palestine.
Also, a report from the Supreme Court of the United States in June 2015 said that as far as the US government was concerned, the city is not a part of Israel. However, when President Donald Trump came to power, things changed as he recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He also announced his plans to move the US embassy to the city but the world contested this plan.
The city is sacred to many religious traditions. So, how many religions are in Jerusalem? Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are popular religions in the city. There are also Armenians, although they are considered Christians.
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Some of the most sacred places for each of these religions are located in the holy city. More so, the one shared between all three is the Temple Mount. How many Muslims are in Jerusalem? As of 2016, there were about 319,800 Muslims, in addition to 536,600 Jews and 15,800 Christians.
Frequently asked questions
Apart from the concerns on the ownership of the holy land, several other questions have been raised. Part of these revolves around who controls it and how safe it is to visit the city, among others. Here are some of those questions and the best answers given so far:
Who controls East Jerusalem?
During the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, Jordan captured and annexed East Jerusalem before Israel captured it later during the Six-Day war that was held in 1967. However, under international law, Israel's occupation of Eastern Jerusalem has been considered illegal as it sees it as a part of Palestinian territory which they occupied. The country's occupation effectively put the entire city under de facto Israeli control.
What country is in control of Jerusalem?
No specific country has been said to be in charge of Jerusalem because of the state of things there. Who owns Jerusalem between Israel and Palestine is still a question under debate. Nevertheless, between the time when Israel became a state and 1967, it controlled West Jerusalem, while Jordan controlled East Jerusalem.
Is it safe to visit Jerusalem?
Tourists have been advised to stay at an alert each time they visit the city because of the shooting, stabbing, vehicle ramming, and stone-throwing attacks. Also, frequent demonstrations have been recorded in different areas of the famous city visited by tourists, especially after Friday prayers. Therefore, anyone travelling there is advised to stay up-to-date with their country's latest travel reports.
Who owns West Jerusalem?
Since the 1967 war, Western Jerusalem has been under the control of Israel, and this seems to be incontestable.
Why is Jerusalem important?
Considering the major conflict over the city, the importance of the holy town remains a question of concern to many. To Christians from around the world, the holy centre is a major pilgrimage site as they see the city as a site of key events in the life of Jesus and some other dignitaries. More so, according to traditional interpretations of the Koran and other texts, Muslims consider it as the spot where the prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.
Although the question of who owns Jerusalem is still contestable today, the historical events around the town and several places of interest there are still among the reasons why tourists enjoy visiting the area. However, for whatever reasons that a person may have to visit the land, it is encouraged to remain updated on travel reports.
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