Jerusalem , located on a plateau in the Judean Mountains between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea, is one of the oldest cities in the world. It is considered holy to the three major Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Israelis and Palestinians both claim Jerusalem as their capital, as Israel maintains its primary governmental institutions there and the State of Palestine ultimately foresees it as its seat of power; however, neither claim is widely recognized internationally.
During its long history, Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times. The oldest part of the city was settled in the 4th millennium BCE. In 1538, walls were built around Jerusalem under Suleiman the Magnificent. Today those walls define the Old City, which has been traditionally divided into four quarters—known since the early 19th century as the Armenian, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Quarters. The Old City became a World Heritage site in 1981, and is on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Modern Jerusalem has grown far beyond the Old City's boundaries.
According to the Biblical tradition, King David established the city as the capital of the united Kingdom of Israel and his son, King Solomon, commissioned the building of the First Temple; there is no archaeological evidence that Solomon's Temple existed or any record of it, other than the Bible. These foundational events, straddling the dawn of the 1st millennium BCE, assumed central symbolic importance for the Jewish people. The sobriquet of holy city (עיר הקודש , transliterated ‘ir haqodesh) was probably attached to Jerusalem in post-exilic times. The holiness of Jerusalem in Christianity, conserved in the Septuagint which Christians adopted as their own authority, was reinforced by the New Testament account of Jesus's crucifixion there. In Islam, Jerusalem is the third-holiest city, after Mecca and Medina. In Islamic tradition in 610 CE it became the first Qibla, the focal point for Muslim prayer (salat), and Muhammad made his Night Journey there ten years later, ascending to heaven where he speaks to God, according to the Quran. As a result, despite having an area of only 0.9 square kilometres (0.35 sq mi), the Old City is home to many sites of seminal religious importance, among them the Temple Mount and its Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque.
Today, the status of Jerusalem remains one of the core issues in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. During the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, West Jerusalem was among the areas captured and later annexed by Israel while East Jerusalem, including the Old City, was captured and later annexed by Jordan. Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan during the 1967 Six-Day War and subsequently annexed it. Israel's 1980 Basic Law the Jerusalem Law refers to Jerusalem as the country's undivided capital. The international community rejected the annexation as illegal and treats East Jerusalem as Palestinian territory occupied by Israel. The international community does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and the city hosts no foreign embassies.
In 2011, Jerusalem had a population of 801,000, of which Jews comprised 497,000 (62%), Muslims 281,000 (35%), Christians 14,000 (around 2%) and 9,000 (1%) were not classified by religion.
All branches of the Israeli government are located in Jerusalem, including the Knesset (Israel's parliament), the residences of the Prime Minister and President, and the Supreme Court. Jerusalem is home to the Hebrew University and to the Israel Museum with its Shrine of the Book.
Capital of Israel
On 5 December 1949, Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, proclaimed Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and since then all branches of the Israeli government—legislative, judicial, and executive—have resided there, except for the Ministry of Defense, located at HaKirya in Tel Aviv. At the time of the proclamation, Jerusalem was divided between Israel and Jordan and thus only West Jerusalem was proclaimed Israel's capital.
In July 1980, Israel passed the Jerusalem Law as Basic Law. The law declared Jerusalem the "complete and united" capital of Israel. The "Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel" is a main reason for the international community not to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. In an unusually quick action, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 478 on 20 August 1980, which declared that the Basic Law is "a violation of international law", is "null and void and must be rescinded forthwith". Member states were called upon to withdraw their diplomatic representation from Jerusalem. Following the resolution, 22 of the 24 countries that previously had their embassy in (West) Jerusalem relocated them in Tel Aviv, where many embassies already resided prior to Resolution 478. Costa Rica and San Salvador followed in 2006. Currently, there are no embassies located within the city limits of Jerusalem, although there are embassies in Mevaseret Zion, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, and four consulates in the city itself.
In 1995, the United States Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which required, subject to conditions, that its embassy be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. However, U.S. presidents have argued that Congressional resolutions regarding the status of Jerusalem are merely advisory. The Constitution reserves foreign relations as an executive power, and as such, the United States embassy is still in Tel Aviv. Due to the non-recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, some non-Israeli press use Tel Aviv as a metonym for Israel.
On 28 October 2009, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that Jerusalem must be the capital of both Israel and Palestine if peace is to be achieved.