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Old City of Jerusalem

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Old City of Jerusalem

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Basic Information

Location Jerusalem, Israel
Country Israel
City Jerusalem

General Information

Open to visitors yes
Need appointment no
Handicap accessibility yes
Geographical Coordinates 31.76832,35.21371

General

The Old City (Hebrew: העיר העתיקה‎, Ha'Ir Ha'Atiqah, Arabic: البلدة القديمة‎, al-Balda al-Qadimah, Armenian: Հին Քաղաք, Hin K'aghak' ) is a 0.9 square kilometers (0.35 sq mi) walled area within the modern city of Jerusalem. Until 1860 when the Jewish neighborhood, Mishkenot Sha'ananim was established, this area constituted the entire city of Jerusalem. The Old City is home to several sites of key religious importance: the Temple Mount and its Western Wall for Jews, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Christians, and the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque for Muslims.

Today, the Old City is roughly divided into the Muslim Quarter, the Christian Quarter, the Jewish Quarter and the Armenian Quarter. Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the Old City was occupied by Jordan and the Jewish residents were evicted. During the Six Day War in 1967, Israel occupied the Old City alongside the rest of East Jerusalem. Today, Israel controls the entire area, which it considers as part of its national capital.

History

According to the Bible, before King David's conquest of Jerusalem in the 11th century BCE, the city was home to the Jebusites. The Bible describes the city as "heavily fortified with a strong city wall". The city ruled by King David, known as "Ir David", the City of David, is now believed to be southwest of the Old City walls, outside the Dung Gate. His son King Solomon extended the city walls and then, in about 440 BCE in the Persian period, Nehemiah returned from Babylon and rebuilt them. In 41-44 CE, Agrippa, king of Judea, built a new city wall known as the "Third Wall."

Muslims occupied Jerusalem in the 7th Century (637 CE) under the second caliph, Umar Ibn al-Khattab who annexed it to the Islamic Arab Empire. He granted its inhabitants an assurance treaty. After the siege of Jerusalem, Sophronius welcomed Umar because according to biblical prophecies, "a poor, but just and powerful man" will rise to be a protector and an ally to the Christians of Jerusalem.

In 1099 Jerusalem was captured by the Western Christian army of the First Crusade and remained in their hands until recaptured by the Arab Muslims led by Saladin, on October 2, 1187. He summoned the Jews and permitted them to resettle in the city.

In 1219 the walls of the city were razed by Mu'azzim Sultan of Damascus; in 1229, by treaty with Egypt, Jerusalem came into the hands of Frederick II of Germany. In 1239 he began to rebuild the walls; but they were again demolished by Da'ud, the emir of Kerak. In 1243 Jerusalem came again under the control of the Christians, and the walls were repaired. The Kharezmian Tatars took the city in 1244 and Sultan Malik al-Muattam razed the city walls, rendering it again defenseless and dealing a heavy blow to the city's status.

The current walls of the Old City were built in 1538 by the Muslim Ottoman Empire Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. The walls stretch for approximately 4.5 kilometers, (2.8 miles), and rise to a height of 5–15 meters, (16–49 feet), with a thickness of 3 meters, (10 ft). Altogether, the Old City walls contain 43 surveillance towers and 11 gates, seven of which are presently open.




Landmarks

The Jewish Quarter:

The Jewish Quarter (Hebrew: הרובע היהודי‎, HaRova HaYehudi, Arabic: حارة اليهود‎, Ḩārat al-Yahūd) lies in the southeastern sector of the walled city, and stretches from the Zion Gate in the south, along the Armenian Quarter on the west, up to the Cardo in the north and extends to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount in the east. The quarter has had a rich history, with a nearly continual Jewish presence since the eighth century BCE. In 1948 its population of about 2,000 Jews was besieged, and forced to leave. The quarter was completely sacked by the Arabs, with ancient synagogues destroyed.

The quarter remained under Jordanian control until its capture by Israeli paratroopers in the Six-Day War of 1967. A few days later, Israeli authorities ordered the demolition of the adjacent Moroccan Quarter, relocating all of its inhabitants, in order to facilitate public access to the Western Wall.

The section of the Jewish quarter destroyed prior to 1967 has since been rebuilt and settled, and has a population of 2,348 (as of 2004), and many large educational institutions have taken up residence. Before being rebuilt, the quarter was carefully excavated under the supervision of Hebrew University archaeologist Nahman Avigad. The archaeological remains are on display in a series of museums and outdoor parks, to visit which tourists descend two or three stories beneath the level of the current city. The former Chief Rabbi is Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl and the current is his son Rabbi Chizkiyahu Nebenzahl, who is on the faculty of Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh, which is situated directly across from the Kotel.

The quarter includes the "Karaites' street" (Hebrew: רחוב הקראים, Rhehov Ha'karaim), on which the old Anan ben David Kenesa is located.

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