JERUSALEM is the capital of the modern nation of Israel and a major holy city for the three Western traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It sits on spurs of bedrock between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea area. To the north and west, it tapers off to the Jezreel Valley and the hills of the Galilee, while to the south lies the Judean desert. The city is surrounded by three steep ravines (to the east, south, and west). On the other side of the eastern ravine, across the Kidron valley, is the Mount of Olives.
Historically, Jerusalem was an urban center for approximately 5,000 years. Scholars debate the original meaning of the name (Sumerian “foundation” or Semitic “to found” or to “lay a cornerstone”). It could also derive from the name of the Canaanite god of dusk, Shalem, where the main consonants of s-l-m also denote the Hebrew (salam or shalom), which means “peace.” Ironically, the city has known very little peace over the centuries.
Street of the Tower of David in the main bazaar, central Jerusalem. Colourised. 1890s.
The LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin above Jerusalem, 1931.
Picture of Jaffa Gate Jerusalem Year 1890
A picture of Barclay’s Bank, on VE Day, in Jerusalem, Palestine, 1945.
Ottoman officials surrender the city of Jerusalem to the British, 1917
Elderly Jewish man sitting on the street after the surrender of Jerusalem, Israel. First Arab–Israeli War, June 1948.
22 wonderful color photographs of Jerusalem in the early 1950s.
Christopher Columbus was interested in reaching Asia, and believed he had, as we all know. But did you know that his original reason for wanting to open a new trade route to the rich East was to pay for a military campaign to capture Jerusalem? Never mind that the holy city had been in Muslim hands 1187 – some good 300 years by Columbus’ time.
Once the New World was reached, Columbus kept his eye on the prize, like any good Catholic. He reported that there was so much treasure in this “Asia” he had found, that within seven years the Spanish crown could raise enough money for 5,000 cavalry and 50,000 footsoldiers, and use them to conquer Jerusalem. Sadly for Columbus’ lofty religious visions, the Spanish crown was uninterested in conquering Jerusalem, which is on the wrong side of the Mediterranean from Spain.
Ayyubid Sultan Saladin during the siege of a Crusader Castle in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Art by Angus McBride