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Jerusalem History

The history of Jerusalem is long and complex. There’s evidence of a settlement here around 4000 BCE, though according to Jewish tradition, the city was founded by the ancestors of Abraham.

Hebrew Scripture places David as the first King of Israel, and his son Solomon is attributed with having built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Solomon’s temple was destroyed in 586 BCE by the Babylonians and rebuilt 70 years later.

During the reign of Alexander the Great, Jerusalem came under Macedonian control. The Maccabean Revolt led to the establishment of a new kingdom with Jerusalem as capital in 152 BCE.

Under the Roman client-king Herod, the city prospered and the Second Temple was expanded, but his death and the iron-fisted rule of the Romans led to a Jewish revolt, after which the Temple was destroyed and Jews expelled.

Religious tolerance was promoted under Emperor Constantine and Jerusalem became an important pilgrimage destination. After the Arab Conquest in the 7th century, Jerusalem came under Islamic rule. Jerusalem was also immensely holy for Muslims, who constructed the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The religious tolerance reigned until the 11th century, when the Seljuk Turks seized control. This led to the First Crusade and the successful conquest of Jerusalem. In the late 12th century, the Islamic Saladin recaptured the city but allowed the worship of all religions and the return of exiled Jews.

By the 16th century, the Ottoman Empire controlled the city and erected the Old City walls. The succeeding 300 years saw Jerusalem plagued with poverty, neglect and a static population. But by the 19th century, Jews from Europe and elsewhere were coming to the city. The population was ultimately divided into four major communities: Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Armenian.

Under British mandate in the early 20th century, the city grew but tensions between Jews and Palestinian Arabs increased too, culminating in the 1920s riots and the Arab Revolt of 1936-39. The State of Israel was declared in 1948, after which came the Arab-Israeli War and a divided Jerusalem. It remains greatly contested to this day.

Did you know?
• Jerusalem is considered to be the third holiest city in Islam. The Prophet is believed to have ascended to heaven from Jerusalem.
• Even amongst Christians, holy sites in Jerusalem are hotly contested. The upkeep of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, said to contain the tomb of Jesus, is tenaciously divided between Greek Orthodox, Catholic, Armenian and Coptic denominations.
• The status of East Jerusalem is a matter of great dispute since the Six-Day War in 1967, when Israel Defence Forces seized it (as well as the West Bank, Gaza and the vast Sinai Peninsula).

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Featured Hotels


Little House in Bakah

Set in a renovated 1930s Ottoman-style mansion in the old Bakah neighbourhood, this 33-room boutique property is big on charm with its high ceilings, arched windows and rustic décor. Rooms are simple and comfortable, and there’s free Wi-Fi, tea and coffee 24/7 and breakfast included. The hotel is just around the corner from the hip cafés of Bethlehem Road and Emek Refaim Street.

Knight's Palace

A former theological seminary with some parts dating back to the 11th-century, this lovely hotel is nestled in a quiet corner of the Muslim Quarter. It is steeped in Old City elegance with vaulted ceilings, arched windows and exposed stone. Despite being close to both the New Gate and Jaffa Gate, its location on a quiet cobbled lane means it is just out of reach of the hustle and bustle. It has comfortable rooms, a nice restaurant and bar, Wi-Fi throughout, AC and cable TV.

King Solomon Hotel

This 5-star in the centre of Jerusalem caters to religious Jewish travellers by offering its own synagogue, a Glatt Kosher menu and Shabbat lights in the bedrooms. The stunning views overlooking the Judean hills make up for the slightly outdated décor. The centrepiece of the lobby is a globe-shaped metal sculpture of Jerusalem by the English-born artist Frank Meisler. The hotel is just 10 minutes' walk from the Jaffa Gate of the Old City.

King David

Situated in an elevated position, this landmark hotel is one of Israel's most luxurious and prestigious hotels, boasting a guest list of world leaders, royalty and celebrities. The majestic King David was built in the 1930s and has all modern facilities, with fine views towards the Old City. It’s also a historic building in its own right – in 1946 when used during the British mandate as the British Army HQ, it was the scene of a dramatic anti-British bombing by militant Zionists.

Harmony Hotel

The Harmony Hotel is part of the fast-growing Atlas chain. With a bright and very kitsch chic atmosphere, it makes for an unusual stay in the Holy City. It is located in the trendy and historic Nahalat Shiva neighbourhood, a short 10-minute walk to the Old City, and with plenty of restaurants and shops nearby. It offers spacious, funky rooms designed by local artists, an impressive breakfast, and excellent views from the roof.

Prima Royale Hotel

Outside the Old City and close to Jerusalem’s Downtown Triangle, Prima Royale is an affordable and attractive hotel with one special draw: its goal of introducing guests to Jerusalem’s artistry. Each floor is dedicated to a specific artist, writer, or poet who drew inspiration from the city. Classical music plays in the morning, and jazz serenades you in the afternoon. The breakfast is also delicious.