Jerusalem: 3,000 Years Young
Most people think that Jerusalem is a city, but that’s not completely true. In many ways Jerusalem is a city like any other big city; it has a mayor and a city hall, it has shopping centers and office buildings, and it has schools, playgrounds, parks, museums and a zoo. To the Jewish people however, Jerusalem is much, much more than just a city. It’s even more than the capital of Israel. In many ways, Jerusalem is the very heart and soul of Judaism, Jewish history, and the Jewish people.
Today, Jerusalem is constantly in the headlines, and for over 3,000 years it has been an ever-present feature in Jewish life, Jewish spirituality, Jewish prayer and Jewish dreams.
The following is a brief history of Jerusalem:
The following list of twenty-one dates is a summary of the 3,700-year-old relationship of the Jewish people to Jerusalem.
1738 BCE The first Jew goes to Jerusalem
Abraham, the founding father of the Jewish people, was sent by God to Israel. After arriving in Israel, Abraham went to Jerusalem where he received a blessing from king Melchizedek.
1676 BCE The binding of Isaac
One of the most important events in early Jewish history was when Abraham almost sacrificed his son Isaac. This took place on Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem.
1590 BCE Jacob’s dream
One of the most important experiences in the life of Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, was his mystical dream about a ladder that reached to heaven. This dream took place in Jerusalem.
866 BCE Jerusalem becomes the capitol of Israel
King David established Jerusalem as the capitol city of Israel.
825 BCE The first Temple in Jerusalem
King Solomon built the first Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple stood for 400 years until being destroyed by the Babylonians.
423 BCE Destruction of first Temple
The Babylonians conquered Israel, destroyed the Temple and exiled the Jews
352 BCE The second Temple in Jerusalem
The Temple was rebuilt and stood for another 400 years.
70 CE The second Temple is destroyed
The Romans destroyed the second Temple.
312 Christianity expels Jews from Jerusalem
The Christians ruled Israel for 300 years and made it illegal for Jews to live in Jerusalem.
638 The Muslims conquered Jerusalem
The Muslims conquered Israel and Jerusalem. Though they allowed Jews to move back into Jerusalem, they also built their mosques atop Judaism’s holiest site—the Temple Mount.
1099 Christians return to Jerusalem
The Christians defeat the Muslims and kill all the Jews in Jerusalem.
From the time of the destruction of the Temple, no foreign ruler paid much attention to Jerusalem and it became a poor, run down city that suffered from a lack of clean water, from disease, and from robbers. Despite this, Jews everywhere dreamed of returning to Jerusalem and many literally risked their lives to travel and settle there. The Western Wall, the last remnant of the Temple, was the holiest place in Jerusalem for prayer.
1267 A new synagogue in Jerusalem
The Ramban was a great rabbi who was forced to flee Christian persecution in Spain. He went to Jerusalem where he re-established the first synagogue in 150 years. That synagogue became the center of a small new Jewish community and was used for 300 years.
1500 Rabbi Ovadia of Bartenura
Though Jews were scattered all over the world, many made heroic efforts to move to Israel and settle in Jerusalem. Rabbi Ovadia of Bartenura was a great scholar who moved to Jerusalem.
1517 The Turks conquer Jerusalem
The Turkish empire conquered Israel and Jerusalem and ruled for 400 years until the end or World War I.
1699 Yehuda Hachassid
Rabbi Yehuda Hachassid led 1,000 Jews from Poland to Israel where they settled in Jerusalem. The Yehuda Hachassid synagogue was in use for over 200 years until it was destroyed in1948 by the Jordanians. It is currently being rebuilt.
1742 Rabbi Chaim ibn Attar moves to Jerusalem
Rabbi Chaim Attar, a great scholar and mystic, moved with his family and many of his students from Morocco to Jerusalem.
1777 The Baal Shem Tov
The Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chassidic movement, inspired many to emigrate to Israel. In 1777, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk led a group of 300 Russian Jews to Israel.
1809 The Vilna Gaon
Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna (known as the Vilna Gaon) encouraged his students to move from Lithuania to Israel. From 1809 to the late 1830’s approximately 200 people a year left Lithuania for Israel where most of them settled in Jerusalem. The Vilna Gaon himself tried twice to make the move but was unsuccessful.
1917 The British conquer Jerusalem
England defeated the Turks in World War I and conquered Israel and Jerusalem.
1850 - 1948 The great return to Jerusalem
Over the centuries the Jewish population slowly grew until there were 10,000 Jews living in the city in 1850. (There were also 6,000 Arabs and 4,000 Christians living in the city.) At the end of World War I, the British promised to help the Jewish people rebuild a homeland in Israel. By 1948 there were 650,000 Jews living in Israel and 100,000 in Jerusalem.
1948 The Jordanians destroy the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem
In 1948 Israel fought and won the War of Independence, but it lost Jerusalem to the Jordanian forces. All of the Jews who lived within the walls of the ancient city of Jerusalem were either killed or driven out by the Jordanians The Jordanians destroyed all of the synagogues in the city and would not allow any Jews to live in Jerusalem or even visit the Western Wall to pray. Israel established its capitol in the new city of Jerusalem that was outside of the walls of the ancient city of Jerusalem.
1967 The Six-Day War and Jerusalem-Yom Yerushalayim
Though the modern state of Israel was born in 1948, for twenty years, Jews were cut off from the heart of Jerusalem. In the spring of 1967, the Arab countries that surround Israel were planning to attack and destroy the Jewish state. Instead of suffering defeat, Israel won the war in just six days. On June 7, 1967—after almost 2,000 years— Jerusalem was united and the Old City of Jerusalem was once again the capital of the Jewish homeland. The restoration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel 2,800 years after King David first made it the capital, and 2,000 years after it’s destruction by the Romans, just might be the most incredible event in all of world history.
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