On June 7, 1967 - in the midst of the Six Day War - Israel reunified Jerusalem after nineteen years of division. It marked a decisive change in the life of the Holy City. Under Jordan's control of the eastern portion of Jerusalem from 1948 to 1967, the city was divided - and its holy sites were desecrated, destroyed, and set off limits to certain people and faiths.
In 1980, the Israeli Parliament declared the City of Jerusalem to be the undivided, eternal capital of the State of Israel, established as such by King David almost 3,000 years earlier. Protest erupted in many corners of the international community - and the thirteen nations who maintained embassies in Jerusalem closed their doors. In response, the Christian world joined together and founded the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. The goal was simple: to speak words of comfort and support to Israel.
Jerusalem has been a central focus of Judaism for more than three millennia:
- Jews have maintained a continuous presence in Jerusalem for more than 3,000 years - and have been the majority religious group in the city for the last 150 years.
- There are nearly 700 mentions of Jerusalem in the Hebrew Bible.
- More than a hundred generations of dispersed Jews prayed three times a day to return to Jerusalem following their expulsion by the Romans in 70 AD.
- View this video on the history of Jerusalem.
Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike suffered when Jordan controlled East Jerusalem:
- Jordan's restrictive laws on Christian institutions led to a dramatic decline in the holy city's Christian population by more than half - from 25,000 in 1948 to 11,000 in 1967.
- Israeli Christians were only permitted to visit their holy sites once a year, on Christmas.
- Israeli Muslims were banned from visiting the Islamic holy shrines.
- Jews were banned from visiting the Western Wall, the holiest prayer site in Judaism. They were also denied access to the Temple Mount - the site of the second Temple. Jordanian soldiers desecrated the Mount of Olives - an ancient Jewish cemetery and a holy site for Christians - using tombstones from the site to build latrines. They could not even enter East Jerusalem.
- As soon as they conquered Jerusalem's Jewish Quarter, the Jordanians blew up more than 50 synagogues, including the Hurva synagogue, the most prominent temple in Jerusalem for more than 300 years. All Jews were forced out of the Jewish Quarter, where they had lived for generations.
Jerusalem has thrived as a united, prosperous, and free city under Israeli control - where all faiths are guaranteed unimpeded access to their Holy Sites - and all residents are guaranteed political rights.
- Today Jerusalem's population is 62% Jewish, 36% Arab, and 2% non-Arab Christian and other groups. Israel's parliament passed a law protecting all holy places - and ensuring open access to worshippers and tourists of all nationalities and religions.
- Israel grants Muslim and Christian religious authorities responsibility for managing their holy sites. Today, the Temple Mount - Israel's holiest site - remains under the administration of Muslim religious authorities. Numerous studies have shown that the current Arab residents in East Jerusalem would choose to live under Israeli sovereignty, not Palestinian sovereignty, if the city were ever divided in a peace deal. In fact, many are applying for Israeli citizenship, making it clear they would rather live under Israel than any Arab rule.