Ancient Jerusalem
The Eternal Capital of the Jewish People

The history of Ancient Jerusalem begins much before King Solomon’s Temple. Archaeologists say the city was founded around 3000 BC by the people of Canaan. It is mentioned in Egyptian records about 4000 years ago when local authorities asked for help from the Egyptians.

The actual history begins with the conquest by King David and the establishing of the United Kingdom of Israel circa 1000 BCE. The city was known then as “Ir David” or the city of David, and became the center of government for the Kingdom of Israel.

Model of Jerusalem in times of the Second Temple in the Israel Museum

King Solomon builds the First Temple

The son of David, King Solomon built the First Temple of the Jews in Jerusalem . The temple became the center of all worshipers and a firm foundation for generations of Jews through thousands of years. But in 586 BC Jerusalem was totally destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.

Ancient Jerusalem was destroyed and burned and the Temple as well. The Jewish people were taken into exile in Babylon for 70 years. The ruins of the destroyed city were found by archaeologists just outside today’s walls.

Painting on the Destruction of the Temple by Francesco Hayez 1791-1882

Second Temple

Construction of the Second Temple began in 538 BCE after the fall of the Babylonian Empire and it took 23 years to build it.  It was not as imposing and lavish as the first but it still dominated the landscape of the city.

After many years of trying to Hellenize the city by the Greek conquerors, came a man called Mattitiahu and his five sons, the people joined them, fought the Greeks and defeated them.

Judas Maccabeus rededicated the Temple in 164 BCE and this brings us the Story of the Festival of Lights Hanukkah as a major festival of happiness and rebirth. More than a century later around 20 BCE the Temple was renovated this time under Herod the Great and became known as Herod’s Temple.

In 70 CE it was destroyed by the Romans during the siege of Jerusalem and eventually desecrated. The Jews revolted many times by leaders as Simon Bar Kochva and Rabbi Akiva but were stopped and expelled from Jerusalem by the Roman Empire.

Model of the ancient mosaic depicting Jerusalem
Found in Madaba, near Petra Jordan

Ancient Jerusalem a Holy City

Jerusalem has been a Holy City for Christians since the very beginning of Christianity. The New Testament tells us the Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem in 30 CE.

A visit to Jerusalem today is proof of the importance of the city to Christians. But not only to Christians is the city Holy, also Muslims and of course Jews consider this city Holy.

Old City Jerusalem is home to many sites and monuments attesting that. Among them we’ll find the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Via Dolorosa , The Western Wall Jerusalem and the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Few world cities have such a history of destruction, besiegement and attacks. It has been captured, released and recapture more than forty times.

One of the oldest cities in the world, Jerusalem Old City inside the walls has been designated as World Heritage Site and has been traditionally divided into Four Quarters, the Jewish, the Armenian, the Muslim and the Christian.

Israeli Soldiers after liberating Jerusalem from Jordanian hands

Six Day War

Since 1967 when during the Six Day War , Jerusalem was reunited, it is now a free city and worshipers from all faiths can come and go freely.

This was not the case when it was under Jordanian rule when Jews were not allowed to enter the Old City.

I can attest to that, because when I came to study in Jerusalem in 1959, the only consolation for us was going to Mount Zion and getting a glimpse of the walls of Ancient Jerusalem.

Image Credits:
model by michael tyler
old mosaic by mattes
six day war n/a

All courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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