Jerusalem history is a microcosm of Israel history. What’s more, the city’s 4000-plus year history can be studied with remarkable continuity and clarity. Archaeological discoveries are being made on an almost daily basis in Jerusalem. Since Jerusalem is a bustling international metropolis, this is no small feat – you’ll find archaeological sites in the basement of the International Convention Center or next to an inner city parking lot. Every building in modern Jerusalem stands on existing remains of ancient Jerusalem.
Walking through the city today is inevitably to take a walk through a living, breathing Jerusalem history timeline. At the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, you’ll see a blend of Roman, Crusader and Byzantine influences and the grave of a signer of the Magna Carta. A few minutes away, you can pray at the Western Wall, whose enormous stones were laid under the rule of King Herod.
Jerusalem history stretches back at least 6000 years – pottery shards prove the area was settled as early as 4000 BCE. There are also remains of settlements from the Bronze period. The Canaanites had an important town here, which was also a military base for Egyptian troops.
When the Children of Israel entered the Holy Land, the city was a Jebusite stronghold. This was no small backwater village – it had fortifications over six feet tall, built with boulders that weigh up to three tons. Researchers still can’t figure out how these walls were built, without benefit of modern building machinery.
Not too long afterward (speaking in “Jerusalem-time” that is), King David made Jerusalem his capital and bought the site of the Temple from its original Jebusite owner for a goodly sum. That was over 3000 years ago. Archaeologists have recently unearthed what they believe to be King David’s palace and administrative center, just outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.
Fast forward to the days of King Solomon, who built the First Temple and a new royal complex, the remains of which you can visit today in the Ophel Archaeological Gardens.
Through Roman, Muslim and Crusader invasions, Jerusalem continued to survive. Each of these periods left its trace in the buildings of the city and can be found today. You can spend a day following in the footsteps of Jesus in Jerusalem, studying buildings that were constructed hundreds of years before then, or walking through tunnels dug a thousand years before that.
Modern Jerusalem history, too, has left its mark – you can spot bullet holes in downtown buildings, where Jordanian snipers shot at Jerusalem residents from the Old City, prior to Jerusalem’s unification in 1967, and see the marker where the Mandelbaum Gate – the only connection point between east and west Jerusalem – used to stand.
Turn to the future and you’ll discover award winning modern architecture at the Israel Museum, span the newly-constructed Bridge of Strings or attend conferences on ground-breaking scientific discoveries. Jerusalem history stretches far back into the past, but it reaches far foreword, too.
Visit Jerusalem and you’ll discover the interface between the past and the future and be a part of history.
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