THE CAPITAL CITY of the state of ISRAEL, Jerusalem is located in the center of the country. Jerusalem is Israel’s largest city, with an area of 48 square mi (126 square km) and a population of 657,500 (2000), of which 68 percent are Jewish and 32 percent mostly Arab. The city is divided into two components: West Jerusalem, or the New City, and East Jerusalem, or the Old City, annexed in 1967. Jerusalem is sacred to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Wailing Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and the Dome of the Rock are holy to Jews, Christians, and Muslims. In 1949, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion declared Jerusalem to be the “eternal capital,” and even though Costa Rica and Honduras hold embassies there, the United States and many countries hold their embassies in and around Tel-Aviv, the previous capital.
The site of present-day Jerusalem has been settled by humans since the Stone Age. According to Biblical tradition, King David captured the city from the Jebusites in approximately 1000 B.C.E. and made it the capital of the newly established Kingdom of Israel, until the destruction of the city and the First Temple by the Babylonians in 586 b.c.e. Jerusalem again became the capital of a short-lived Judean kingdom under the Maccabees in 142 B.C.E. It fell under Roman influence, and in 70 C.E., the Romans under General Titus destroyed the Second Temple during a rebellion. In 135, after the rebellion led by Simon Bar Kokhba, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, renamed the city Aelia Capitolina, and expelled the Jews from Judea.
In 638, the Muslims gained control of Jerusalem. After the First Crusade in 1099, Jerusalem served as the capital of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem established by the Franks. Muslims regained Jerusalem under the Mamelukes in 1291 and by the Turks in 1517. In 1917, British troops took control of Jerusalem and established the British Mandate in Palestine. In 1949, with the end of the British Mandate, Jerusalem was divided into the New City, the capital of the new state of Israel and the Old City, under Jordanian control. Jerusalem was reunified after the Six Day War in 1967. Palestinians hope to see East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state. As part of the Oslo Accords in 1993, the fate of East Jerusalem was to be resolved by the Israelis and the Palestinians. However, renewed violence in 2000 has prevented such a settlement.
The city is the country’s cultural center and is home to theaters, concert halls, and museums, notably the Yad Vashem, which chronicles the Holocaust, and the Israeli Museum, which holds the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Hebrew University has campuses in the Old City and the New City. Despite its turbulent history, Jerusalem continues to be a vibrant city.