Jerusalem – modern and historic capital of the Jewish people


INTRODUCTION: UN Security Council’s Resolution 2334 (December 23, 2016) declared among other things that the Kotel, the Western Wall of the Jewish Temple and all of Jerusalem, the capital of Israel are “illegally occupied Palestinian territory”.  Many people don’t understand the issues concerning this Resolution because they do not have an overall knowledge of the history of Jerusalem itself. This article provides a succinct dated account of Jewish ties to Jerusalem, the date of when the Arabs first arrived (as well as subsequent Muslim conquests), as well as the Modern History of Israel from just after WWI.

A Brief History of Jerusalem

For the purposes of this article, the history of Jerusalem will be divided into its I – Historic / Biblical History and its II – Modern History (post WWI).

I – Jewish Historic ties to Jerusalem

Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people since ~1000 BCE.

Archaeologists at the summit of the City of David have unearthed what is believed to be the palace of King David (who ruled from ~1005 to 965 BCE).

Davids Palace escavation inside
inside David’s Palace excavation site

Excavation have uncovered monumental structures, including a city gate, towers and a royal structure believed to be part of the city wall of Jerusalem, built during the 10th century BCE by King Solomon.

Inside Solomons Temple Gate - large clay jars for grain
Inside Solomons Temple Gate – large clay jars for grain
Eilat Mazar dig site outside Herods Temple
The Ophel excavations at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem

In March 2016, a 2500 year old Jewish seal was found in Jerusalem, dating from the first Jewish Temple Period, clearly establishing that there was an established Jewish presence at that time.


The First Temple (also called Solomon’s Temple) stood on the Temple Mount from 827 BCE until it was destroyed by the Babylonians 470 years later. The Second Temple stood on the Temple Mount from 349 BCE, until it was destroyed in 70 CE by the Romans.

Prior to the arrival of the Romans, the Jewish people were politically independent and were governed by self-rule for ~80 years under the Hasmonean Dynasty beginning in ~167 BCE — after the Maccabee brothers defeated the Seleucid king, Antiochus IV (Antiochus Ephipanes) ~165 BCE), after he had plundered the Jewish Temple of its gold objects of worship then and desecrated it by sacrificing a pig on its alter (what is celebrated as Hanukah).

The first time an Arab government ruled in Jerusalem was in the sixth century CE with the rise of Islam, ~700 years after the Hasmonean Dynasty.

The Romans conquered the Seleucids and in 37 BCE and appointed Herod King of Judea. Ten years after Herod’s death in 4 BCE, Judea came under direct Roman administration.

Roman suppression of Jewish life and increased taxation escalated into a full-scale revolt in 66 CE and culminating in the razing of Jerusalem and distruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. In 73 CE, the last Jewish outpost at Masada was destroyed. The Romans merged Roman Syria and Roman Judaea and renamed the geographical area Syria Palaestina in 135 CE. They chose the name as an insult to the Jewish inhabitants they displaced* because the ancient adversary of the Jews, were the Philistines.

* the inhabitants they displaced were Jews, not Arabs.

The founding of the Byzantine Empire in ~325 CE followed Constantine’s adoption of Christianity as the national religion. The Byzantines renamed the geographical area Palestina Secunda or Palestina II and ruled the area until 629 CE. 

In 614 CE, after a brief siege the Persians, with the assistance of Jewish forces captured Jerusalem.

In 636-637 CE, the Arabs under Caliph Umar conquered Jerusalem, claiming it as part of the Arab Caliphate.  Umar was the second Caliph of the Rashidun Caliphate who succeeded Abu Bakr (632–634 CE). In 687–691 CE, Caliph Abd el Malik of Syria had the Dome of the Rock built on top of the ruins of the First and Second Jewish Temples — as a means of demonstrating Islam’s superiority over the Christians and Jews that they had driven from Jerusalem. The al-Aqsa mosque was built ~20 years after the Dome of the Rock.

NOTE: Jerusalem was the Jewish capital >1500 years before the Arabs arrived.

The Arab Muslims ruled the area until the First Crusades, when Jerusalem was captured by the Christians in 1099 CE.

In 1187 CE, Saladin, a Sunni Muslim of Kurdish descent and the founder of the Ayyubid Dynasty conquered Jerusalem from the First Crusader Kingdom. The Christians failed to recapture Jerusalem during the Second Crusader Kingdom (1192–1291 CE) and Third Crusader Kingdom (1192 CE).

As a result of a 1229 CE treaty between the Roman Catholic Emperor and the Ayyubid Sultan, Jerusalem was under Christian control until 1244 CE, when Muslims failed to recapture it and the city was destroyed. A failed attempt to recapture the Jerusalem during the Seventh Crusades 1248–50 CE fails and the Muslim Ayyubids retain rule then relocate to Damascus, where they continue to rule the area, including Jerusalem for 10 more years.

In 1260 CE, the Mongol Empire raids the Land, and turns over Jerusalem to the Christians, under Louis IX of France.

From 1516 – 1917, the Ottoman Empire rules the Land, including Jerusalem. The Ottomans were defeated during World War I (WWI) — a month after the Balfour Declaration was issued.

Where is “Palestine”?

The term “Palestine” is a geographical term used to designate the region at the above points in history, none of them belonging to Arabs;

(1) belonging to the Romans (Syria Palaestina, 135-390 CE),

(2) a province belonging to the Byzantine empire (called Palestina Secunda or Palestina II – 390 CE),

(3) a geopolitical entity under British administration, after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire after WWI.

When did the Arabs arrive in the Land?

The Arabs arrived in the Land during the Muslim conquest, when they besieged Gaza in 634 CE and defeated the Byzantines (636 CE). Two years later, in 638 CE, the Arabs conquered Jerusalem .

The Arabs first came to the Land > 1500 years after King David established his palace there in ~1000 BCE.

The Arabs first ruled Jerusalem 1465 CE years after the First Temple was built in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount in ~827 BCE.

Modern Jewish ties to Jerusalem

The Balfour Declaration in was issued by the British government in November 1917, where it announced its intention to facilitate the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”.  The was the beginning of concrete plans for a modern state of Israel.

In 1920, the Mandate system was instituted by the League of Nations (forerunner of the United Nations) in order to administer non-self-governing territories. A nation granted mandatory powers by the League of Nations was to consider the mandated territory a temporary trust and to see to the well-being and advancement of its population.

In 1922, following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in WWI, the British were granted mandatory powers by the League of Nations to administer the geographic region of Palestine. The area included all of the area of present-day Israel and Jordan.

The British Mandate for Palestine included provisions calling for the establishment of a Jewish homeland, facilitating Jewish immigration and encouraging Jewish settlement on the land all of which built on the foundation of the Balfour Declaration.


In 1923, under Article 25 of the British Mandate for PalestineBritish Mandate - Israel and TransJordan the first Arab-Palestinian state of Transjordan (later renamed Jordan) was created by the British, which allocated 78% of the land that had been set aside to be part of the reconstituted homeland for the Jewish people under the Balfour Declaration to an Arab state  and the British excluded it from Jewish settlement.

This left only 22% of the land for a Jewish state.

After the partition, Transjordan remained part of the British Mandate for Palestine, and Britain continued to be responsible for administering the land on both sides of the Jordan River.

The Arabs that remained living on the small piece of land earmarked for the Jewish state after the creation of the Arab-Palestinian state of Transjordan, attacked and killed Jews living there in an effort to drive them out and claim all of British Mandate of Palestine as Arab land. The Hebron Massacres of 1929 and the 1936-39 Arab Revolt are the most notable of these attacks.

In 1936, the British appointed the Peel Commission to find a solution to the violence, the outcome of which was a recommendation to partition the land under the British Mandate for Palestine, between Arabs and Jews.

In 1939, WWII began and shortly afterwards, the British issued a White Paper restricting Jewish immigration to British Mandated Palestine   just as thousands of Jews wanted to flee the escalating Nazi violence in Europe.  The British set a limit that a maximum of 75,000 immigration certificates would be authorized by the mandatory power to incoming Jews. The British hoped to appease the local Arab population by limiting the number of Jews coming into the region and with the US having also limited immigration of Jews, those being hunted by the Nazis had no place of escape.

Under the British Mandate for Palestine, the Jewish community that was already in the land, formed political, social and economic institutions that governed daily life and served as a infrastructure for the community. David Ben-Gurion served as its head.

In 1946, Britain unilaterally granted Transjordan independencecreating an independent Palestine-Arab state. This was the first “two-state solution“. In doing so, however, Britain failed to live up to its responsibility under the Mandate system to see the well-being and advancement of all of its population, Jews included. Shortly afterwards, the British government, unable to manage Arab tensions and ongoing violent attacks against the Jews in the land, handed control over to the United Nations.

After much debate and discussion, in November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly voted on Resolution 181, which allocated half of the land that the British had set aside for the Jewish homeland under the Balfour Declaration for creation of a second Arab state — with the remaining half (mostly of which was in the barren Negev desert) for a the Jewish state. This became known as the “Partition Plan“. The Jews accepted the Partition Plan that would have given the Arabs all of Gaza and all of Judea and Samaria  — in exchange for peace with a Jewish state, but the Arabs rejected it.

Foundation of the State of Israel

At 4:00 PM on May 14, 1948, just 8 hours before the British Mandate for Palestine officially terminated, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the creation of the State of Israel and became its first prime minister. The very next day the armies of all of the neighboring Arab states of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Trans-Jordan (now Jordan) and Egypt attacked the newly-created State of Israel, in an attempt to destroy it. This became known as the “War of Independence“.

By March 1949, at the end of the 10-month long War of Independence, Gaza was occupied by Egypt, and Judea and Samaria and East Jerusalem were occupied by Jordan.

On April 24, 1950, Jordan annexed both East Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria — areas it had seized from Israel by military force in 1948. The annexation of East Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria was viewed as illegal by most of the international community, including all of the Arab states. 

The Six Day War

In May of 1967, Gamal Abdel Nasser, President of Egypt announced his plans “to destroy Israel”. Nasser placed Egypt’s troops on Israel’s border and after signing a treaty with Syria, placed the Syrian military under an Egyptian general. The armies of Egypt and Syria were mobilized to attack Israel. Israel preemptively attacked Egypt and Syria but did not attack Jordan — asking instead for King Hussein of Jordan not to join the war. Kind Hussein did not have a good relationship with Egypt’s President Nasser (Nasser’s intelligence service had tried to assassinate the King multiple times), but when the rest of the Arab world lined up behind Nasser’s promise to destroy Israel, King Hussein of Jordan joined the attack.

Jordan’s decision to join this Arab allegiance to destroy Israel, despite a request from Israel that they do not, ended by Israel taking control of its own land that Jordan had occupied in 1948 and illegally annexed in 1950— specifically East Jerusalem and the land on the “west bank” of the Jordan River; Judea and Samaria.

 “Pre-1967 Borders”

The UN Security Council’s Resolution 2334 of this past Friday (December 23, 2016) declares, among other things, that the Kotel (the Western Wall of the Jewish Temple) and all of Jerusalem are “illegally occupied Palestinian territory”  trying to enforce what “Palestinians” call “pre-1967 borders”.

A recent article in Arutz Sheva (Israel National News, Jeff Dunetz, 26/12/16 12:30) was a good reminder that;

there is no such thing as pre-1967 borders. That “green line” running through the West Bank is the 1949 Armistice Line.

At the end of the War of Independence, the Armistice Line (the so-called “green line”) was created where Israeli and Arab forces stopped fighting. It was not a border, but a cease-fire line. In fact, the 1949 Armistice Agreement with Jordan explicitly states that the Armistice Line did not compromise any future territorial claims of the two parties  since it had been

“dictated by exclusively by military considerations.”

Given that “pre-1967 borders” have been explicitly established in international law to not be the 1949 Armistice Line, the only “pre-1967 border” are the borders which existed on May 14, 1948, the day the modern state of Israel was created.

UN Security Council Resolution 242

Five months after the Six-Day War, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 242 which recognized that the 1949 Armistice Line was not to designate final Israeli borders.

During the negotiations to create UN Resolution 242, Arab governments tried three times to have the article “the” inserted in the resolution which would have changed the wording from;

“Israel should withdraw from territories taken during the war”


“Israel should withdraw from the territories taken during the war”

The addition of the article “the” would have changed Resolution 242 to mean that Israel should withdraw from all territories taken during the war — however their request for addition of a “the” in UN Resolution 242 was rejected.

Final thoughts…

During the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel re-took control of its own land (i.e. East Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria on the “west bank” of the Jordan River) that Jordan had taken by force in 1948 after the creation of the state of Israel, later  illegally annexing it in 1950. Since 1967, the international community has referred to this land as “disputed territory” and Israelis as ‘occupiers’ and ‘settlers’ of their own land — yet at no point from 1948 until 1967 did the international community ever view Jordan as “occupiers” of Judea and Samaria and East Jerusalem. The double standard is striking.

Israel is accused by the international community of not adhering to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 — a statute which outlines the obligations of an “occupying power” in times of war.  The Fourth Geneva Convention cannot be applied to Israel as it cannot be an occupying powerin its own land — land it reclaimed from illegal annexation by Jordan. The only “occupying power” in East Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria was Jordan, from the years 1948 – 1967.

While the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2334 of last Friday (December 23, 2016) effectively calls for Israel to stop building communities outside the 1949 Armistice Lines — those lines were never intended to “compromise any territorial claims” (1949 Armistice Agreement).

Furthermore, the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2334 of December 23, 2016 contradicts its own declaration (UN Security Council Resolution 242) which was passed 5 months after the Six-Day War and which recognizes that the 1949 Armistice line was not supposed to designate final Israeli borders.

“Palestinians” and the UN assert that Israel should return to “pre-1967 borders” Given that the 1949 Armistice Lines were specifically excluded from forming Israel’s borders, the only “pre-1967 borders” are those that existed in 1948, when the State of Israel was created.