Jerusalem served as the capital of sovereign Jewish kingdoms and commonwealths for centuries in antiquity, until after the birth of Jesus. The city is integrally enmeshed in Jewish history and culture, part of the bedrock of national and individual Jewish identity for three thousand years. The yearning for Jerusalem has always been a central theme of Jewish life.
Jews have resided almost continuously in Jerusalem under many conquerors throughout the centuries. In the modern era, the Jewish community has formed the majority in Jerusalem since the mid-1800s. As the population grew in the first half of the twentieth century, the city became the political center of the Jewish community of the British Mandate, which preceded the establishment of the State of Israel.
The Zionist movement, which arose to give modern political expression to the Jewish people's national identity, draws its name from the ancient Hebrew word for Jerusalem, and always viewed the return to Zion â€“ and the restoration of Jewish sovereignty in the ancient Land of Israel - as its primary purpose.
Drawing from the deep well of Jewish connection to Jerusalem and the centrality of the city to the life of the newly established State of Israel, it was only natural that the Knesset, Israel's parliament, declared Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on 23 January 1950.
Today, Jerusalem â€“ Israelâ€™s largest city â€“ serves as the center of its governmental activity. The Knesset is located there, as are the Presidentâ€™s Residence, the Prime Ministerâ€™s Office and most government ministries.
1967 â€“ the Battle for Jerusalem
Jerusalem was reunified under Israeli rule as a result of the 1967 Six-Day War launched against Israel by the Arab world.
Despite Israel's appeal to Jordan to stay out of the war, Jordanian forces fired artillery barrages at Israeli cities and also attacked and occupied the UN headquarters in Jerusalem. At first Israel held back but eventually was forced to counterattack and within two days was able to defeat and repulse the Jordanian forces across the West Bank and retake Eastern Jerusalem. On June 7, IDF paratroopers, after fierce fighting with Jordanian soldiers, were able to advance into the Old City and gain control of the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. "The Temple Mount is in our hands" â€“ the report from Paratroop Commander Lt. Motta Gur â€“ remains one of the most dramatic statements in Israel's history.
Jerusalem under Israeli Sovereignty
Since the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967, the city has become a haven for coexistence and revitalized religious and cultural expression for all faiths.
Freedom of worship at all holy sites is guaranteed for the faithful of all three monotheistic religions, the first time in modern history that this has been the case.
The Palestinian attitude to Jerusalem
The Palestinian rejection of the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel lies at the heart of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Not only does the Palestinian leadership refuse to acknowledge the Jewish people as a nation, with national rights and aspirations like any other people â€“ including the right to a national homeland â€“ it actively engages in policies and rhetoric which explicitly deny these truths and seek to undermine Palestinian and international acceptance of them.
This, even though Jerusalem has never served as the capital of any Arab polity.
Palestinian denial of the Jewish people's profound and unbroken connection to its ancient homeland is a key theme in public statements by Palestinian leaders and in the Palestinian education system. It underpins the consistent glorification of terrorists and serves as the starting point for international campaigns (such as at UNESCO) where history is rewritten and the Jewish connection to Jerusalem is deliberately erased. Palestinian denial of the Jewish people's connection to Jerusalem also creates direct and grave security and political risks.
Palestinian recognition and acceptance of Israel's Jewish character and the Jewish people's inherent and legitimate connection to the land and to Jerusalem are essential for the achievement of peace.