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There is no other place in the world like Jerusalem, which is at the core of the identity of all three monotheistic religions in the world. For Jews, it is the location of their ancient Temples, and the place where God tested the patriarch Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac.For Christians, Jerusalem is the site of the resurrection of Jesus, the central event of their faith. And for Muslims, Jerusalem is where the prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven on his Night Journey. The Arabs renamed the city al-Quds, the holy one. It is at the core of what it means to be a Palestinian, at the core of the identity of what it means to be an Israeli.

Jerusalem is more than an intriguing global historical city. It is a classroom for liberal learning and international understanding. It had never, as far as we know, been a city of one language, one religion and one culture. Looking at the origins of Jerusalem’s name indicates its international and multicultural nature. First known in Pharonic Egyptian texts as Urusalem (City/House of Salem or Peace) and then in the Judaic traditions as Yerusalem.

As early as 3000 BC, the Old City was an organic entity focused on its religious and sacred nature becoming in time both a pilgrimage and market center. From the mid-19th century, Jerusalem began to grow out of its Old City into a New City until after the 1948 establishment of the Jewish State of Israel and the subsequent ceasefire agreements with Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria in February 1949.

From 1948 to 1967, Jerusalem was a city divided. For nineteen years, concrete walls and barbed wire sealed off one part of the city from the other. Its eastern section, including the Old City, was annexed by Jordan, and ruled from its capital, Amman. The western sector of Jerusalem became Israel's capital.

Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in a move the international community has not recognized. UN Security Council Resolution 242 called on Israel to return to its pre-1967 borders, which would include a complete withdrawal from the West Bank and all of East Jerusalem. Israelis say they have allowed Christians and Muslims free access to their holy sites since they took control of all of Jerusalem in 1967. Palestinians disagree, and say the only way to guarantee access is if they have full control.

Israel insists that Jerusalem be its undivided capital, while the Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent Palestinian state. At the 14-day July 2000 Camp David Middle East peace summit, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians sovereignty over some predominantly Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. But Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat rejected them, demanding full sovereignty over East Jerusalem. Arafat was especially angered over Israel's refusal to grant Palestinian sovereignty over Jerusalem's walled Old City - offering only access to the Al Aksa mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam.

Israel has not been willing to concede sovereignty on the Temple Mount, or Haram as-Sharif, which is sacred to both Jews and Muslims. The first Jewish temple was built there by Solomon and then subsequently the second temple reconstructed after the Babylonians had destroyed the first. The massive limestone rock at the center of the Dome of the Rock mosque also figures in Jewish tradition. It is known as the place from which the universe itself was created. The stone according to Jewish tradition is known in Hebrew as Even ha- Shetiyah, the Foundation Stone from which the whole universe was created. It is where the idea of the nexus between Heaven and earth originates within the Jewish tradition.

In 1995, Congress passed “The Jerusalem Embassy and Relocation Act,” which recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on 06 December 2017 and announced plans to relocate to the city the US embassy, currently based in Tel Aviv. The move, long-sought by Israel, broke with decades of US policy as well as the international consensus. World leaders urged Trump to reconsider, warning it could derail peace efforts and stir unrest in the region and beyond.

Israel's occupation of East Jerusalem effectively put the entire city under de-facto Israeli control. Israeli jurisdiction and ownership of Jerusalem, however, was not recognised by the international community, including the United States. In 1980, Israel passed the "Jerusalem Law", stating that "Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel", thereby formalising its annexation of East Jerusalem. The 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act required the US government to establish an embassy in Jerusalem, but allows the president to delay doing so by signing a waiver every six months. The waiver spared the state department financial penalties for failing to comply with the law. Presidents Bush and Obama signed the waiver twice per year with little fanfare. However, Trump had long hinted he would deviate from his predecessors.

After occupying the city's eastern part in the 1967 War, Israel annexed the territory, and proclaimed it as its "eternal, undivided capital." The Palestinians, however, see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

The US already has a 99-year lease on a plot of land in Jerusalem; it was granted by Israel in 1989 at the cost of $1 per year but remains undeveloped. No other country keeps an embassy in Jerusalem.

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Page last modified: 06-12-2017 16:14:36 ZULU