Jerusalem’s Significance

Updated: Dec 2, 2019

Many cities across the globe possess rich history, beauty, and architecture but none are quite like the 6000-year-old city famous for being 'the place where God resided. Some call it the “City of Truth”, the “City of Gold”, and some the “Valley of Vision”, but most know it as Jerusalem; a city of stories and landmarks which, throughout the modern age, has not received the recognition it has deserved. The city of Jerusalem has religious, cultural, and historical significance.

Jerusalem is a city of many beliefs, however, its immense significance to the three Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Islam, and Christianity – is one of its unique characteristics. For Judaism, Jerusalem is where both Temples of Jerusalem once stood. It is the direction at which Jews would stand if they prayed outside of the city. All that remains of the temples' ruins is the Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews are allowed to pray. Islam believes the Western Wall is where the prophet Muhammad tied his winged steed, al-Buraq, to Jerusalem before ascending to paradise. Islamic tradition holds that previous prophets were associated with Jerusalem as well. In Christianity, Jerusalem's place in the life of Jesus gives it great importance, as well as its place in the Old Testament. It is where Jesus was brought as a child to be presented at the Temple and to attend festivities. There are even accounts of Jesus' Last Supper in Jerusalem, as well as his arrest, crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and ascension. Where religions are found, a broad range of cultures can be seen as well.

Jerusalem is considered to be one of the most significant places in the world many cultures share, yet it is also where they are set apart. The three main religious groups in Jerusalem may pray near each other but live separately, or more accurately, in different districts. It may sound as if disagreement and discontent is the cause of this division (and that is partially true) but due to that same division, cultural expressions are shown like nowhere else in the world. Arabs dress in their traditional and modern attire; Christians, both Western and Oriental, are found in their boundless variety of secular garb and monastic vestments, Jews in casual and Orthodox dress, and hosts of tourists combine in colourful, kaleidoscopic patterns. Synagogues, churches, mosques, and dwellings in various styles make up the city's unique architectural mosaic. It is where sunlight falling on the white and pink stone used for all construction within the city gives even plain buildings an aura of distinction. The scent of cooking and spices, the peal of church bells, the calls of muezzins from minarets, and the chanting of Jewish prayers at the Western Wall all add flavour to the life of the city. Alas, behind every culture, there is history.

In addition to religion and culture, Jerusalem possesses a vast history of conflicts. Jerusalem is considered by many to be one of the holiest places in the world filled with rich culture and its significance has led to bloody conflicts to control the city that have been waged for thousands of years. The first human settlements took place around the Early Bronze Age, which would be approximately 3500 B.C.. At 1000 B.C., King David conquered Jerusalem and claimed it as the capital of the Jewish Kingdom. The city was then passed on to his son, Solomon, who built the first Holy Temple about 40 years into his reign. Jerusalem was then occupied by the Babylonians around 586 B.C., who destroyed the Temple, and exiled the Jews. Fifty years later, the Jews were allowed, by the Persian King Cyrus, to return and rebuild the Temple. It was then taken by Alexander the Great around 332 B.C., and over the next several hundred years it was conquered and ruled by many groups such as Romans, Persians, Arabs, Fatimids, Seljuk Turks, Crusaders, Egyptians, Mamelukes, and Islamists. Hundreds of years forward towards the modern age (up to Israel's independence) clashes between Israelis and Palestinians over key territories in Jerusalem have been ongoing. In 1980, Israel declared Jerusalem as its capital, but unfortunately, most of the international community doesn't recognize this distinction. Jerusalem is known for its wars as well as its divinity.

Throughout history, Jerusalem went from being the city people would shed blood to conquer to the city many share today, whether it is the place they pray, practice their traditions, or study their history. Jerusalem does not have the same recognition it had many years ago, and it is an element the needs to be re-established. A city with 6000 years of religion, culture, and history is not something to set in the past.

"Wherever I go, I go to Jerusalem" - Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.

Written by Arie Vule

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