When Jerusalem first appears in biblical history it is a town without a past, a newly conquered Jebusite settlement that David had made the capital of his still insecure Israelite kingdom. Today it is once again the capital of a Jewish state, but in the three millennia that separate the modern city from David’s cramped settlement on the southeastern spur of Mount Moriah Jerusalem has become as well the Holy City of three of the world’s most important religious communities: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. What unites the three is their claimed descent, by nature, grace or providential plan, from Abraham. The later Jewish tradition delighted to put Abraham in at the site of Jerusalem, chiefly in connection with the binding of Isaac, but the sanctity of the city, and of most of the holy places within it, has little to do with the Hebrew patriarch. On the Bible witness, it was the people, “a kingdom of priests, a holy nation” (Exodus 19: 5), and the land itself (Leviticus 18:1-5) that are pronounced holy long before Jerusalem was possessed by David. In these texts holiness is not defined in terms of place or time but in practices: the purity code set up in opposition to the defiling and abhorrent practices “of the people who were in the land before you.” But the early books of the Bible recognize quite another form of holiness that is tied to place. Moses will ascend Sinai, but before his departure he is instructed by the Lord to issue a warning: “You must set bounds for the people, saying, ‘Take care not to go up to the mountain or even touch its base.’ Anyone who touches the mountain shall be put to death.” (Exodus 19:12) Here we are clearly in the presence of the holy, a dangerous enterprise for the people in case “the Lord shall break out against them.” (Exodus 19:22, 24). Moses is permitted to approach the presence, though with visible and not entirely reassuring alterations in his appearance (Exodus 34:29-35). At one point Moses is accompanied by the newly constituted priests, and it is here that the two norms of sanctity, the presence of God and behavioral holiness, come into play: the purity code, and particularly the stringent one required of the priests, is the only acceptable preparation for entering into the presence of the Holy. In the Torah the presence of the Holy One is random and arbitrary. Even His departure from the Tent of Presence [the Tabernacle], His chosen abode among the Israelites, is sudden and unexpected, a signal for the people to move on (Exodus 40:36). Once in the Promised Land, the emphasis on the presence of the Lord shifts from the Tent to the Ark housed within it. The Ark is noted in passing to be located at another holy place, Shiloh (1 Sam. 3:3), where “the Lord continued to appear,” (1 Sam. 3:3, 21) presumably in and around the Ark where “He is enthroned upon the cherubim” (ibid. 4:4). The Ark is captured by the Philistines, and “the glory of God departed from Israel” with it (ibid. 4:22). Even when the Philistines return the Ark, seventy Israelites of Beth Shemesh are struck down by their contact with it. “No one is safe in the presence of the Lord,” the Beth Shemeshites astutely observe (ibid. 6:19-20). The Ark, “which bore the name of the Lord of Hosts, who is enthroned upon the cherubim” (2 Sam. 6:2), next appears in the well-known story of David’s transfer of it from Baalath-Judah to the new capital city of Jerusalem, and once again there is a mortal casualty from accidental contact with the Ark (2 Sam. 6-7). In David’s day the Ark was housed in a tent (ibid. 7:17), where it remained until Solomon constructed a magnificent temple –almost as grandiose as his own palace– to serve as its home in Jerusalem, and to begin the process of converting Jerusalem into a holy city. Was Jerusalem a holy city before the arrival of the Israelites? The Israelite-riveted Bible is not generous with such information, of course, and we can only speculate, though without any degree of certainty. Where the ground beneath the speculation grows firmer, though once again the biblical account does not concede it, is that David chose to build his altar to the Most High –Jerusalem’s first certifiable Israelite holy place– at what is described as a “threshing floor,” whose Jebusite owner himself urges David to sacrifice and conveniently has at hand both the sacrificial animals and the fuel for a burnt offering. Our suspicion that with the threshing floor we are standing in the midst of a pre-Israelite holy place is supported, in part, by the conviction that holiness, and particularly the holiness associated with places, is endemic; that it survives changes of regimes, churches, and even gods. So it is not implausible that, if there was a Jebusite-recognized sanctity attached to sites in Jerusalem, at least some of those sites continued to be regarded as holy even under the far more jealous regime of the One True God. By the seventh century B.C.E. Jerusalem possessed in its Temple Israel’s sole certified holy place, though it is difficult to believe that the earlier sacred locales, high places, and tomb cult sites, like that of Abraham and his family at Hebron, lost either their cultus or their allure at Josiah’s decision to centralize formal liturgical worship in the capital. Josiah’s act was essentially political; it gave the Jerusalem Temple a monopoly on divine worship, which may have enhanced the prestige of the city but did not alter its status. But there were other events at work. The Northern Kingdom fell to the Assyrians in 722 B.C.E., and the passage of substantial elements of both Israelite population and Israelite territory –and its minor cult centers– into the domains of pagan rulers, and then the eventual erection of a rival temple on Mt. Gerizim in Samaria brought the focus of Jewish piety even more closely upon Jerusalem. We can read it out of the prophets: it was Jerusalem that was the symbol and center of their concerns for Israel; Yahweh would again choose Jerusalem (Zechariah 2:12), it is to Jerusalem and its Temple that “the glory of the Lord” will return at its restoration (Ezekiel 43: 4-6). The rise of the Pharisaic party and its program of ritual purity, and, above all, the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE finally shifted the emphasis away from the sanctifying presence of God to the holiness of ritual purity, even with respect to places. Mishnah Kelim 1: 6-9 provides us with a holiness map of Eretz Israel. There we learn that all of the land of Israel is holy, that the walled cities within it are more holy than the countryside, and that “within the wall (of Jerusalem) is more holy than they,” that is, than the other walled cities of Israel (Ibid. 1: 8). The only reason offered by the Mishnah for Jerusalem’s special status vis à vis the other walled cities of Israel is that “they eat there the lesser holy things and the second tithe,” which was not done elsewhere. This is to describe but not to explain; it seems clear, nonetheless, that even on this type of evidence, two things may be said of the holiness of Jerusalem: first, that, whatever the metaphysics of later theories of the city as the navel of the earth, Jerusalem’s sanctity was due in the first instance to the presence of the Temple there, just as the holiness of the Israelite encampment –and the banishment of certain activities to without its perimeter– was due to the Tent of the Presence in its midst; and second, that this temple-derived holiness was, unlike that of the Israelite encampment and the ancient Arabian taboo enclaves called haram or hawta, prescriptive rather than defensive. Jerusalem was not of limited access, as the inner courts of its Temple were, or as the environs of Mecca and Medina are to this day. Nothing particular was forbidden to the resident in Jerusalem as such; but a number of things had to be done –could only be done– within its juridically defined limits. The Mishnah mentions two, as we have seen, but we may make our own additions. In Temple times the central acts of the high holy days, the Bible’s own prescribed haggim, could be performed only in Jerusalem (Deut. 16:16). According to the original legislation, the Passover lamb, for example, had both to be slaughtered and eaten within temple precincts (Deut. 16:7; 2 Chr. 25:1-9), the latter act was eventually permitted anywhere within the city of Jerusalem. Thus Jesus might lodge in nearby Bethany, just as others camped in the fields around the city (Josephus, Ant. 17.217), but to celebrate the feast, it was necessary for his followers to go into the city and find a room within Jerusalem (Mk. 14:3, 12-13). For this principle to operate Jerusalem had obviously to be defined, perhaps simply by its walls, just as Eretz Israel was juridically defined for purposes of the full observance of the law. The first Christian holy place in Jerusalem appears in the Gospels themselves, in the rather precise localization of Jesus’ burial place. It was on the property of one Joseph of Arimathea, “near the place where he had been crucified…a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, not yet used for burial” (John 19: 41 and parr.). The topographical detail suggests that the place was remembered, and so almost certainly venerated, like other tombs in and about Jerusalem, from a very early date in the Christian era. The Gospels are filled with similar details that would allow at least a general identification of the sites in which various events in the life of Jesus occurred, though with no suggestion that there might be a cult attached to the place. At least as early as the second century there was a historical interest in visiting such sites. Though there were doubtless religious motives present, early travelers had history on their minds, Bible history, and not merely the life of Jesus. Whatever devotion the early Christians might have felt toward sites in Jerusalem and elsewhere connected with the earthly life of Jesus, the city itself had quite a different status for the new Christian community than it had for the Jews. Paul, in a famous passage in Galatians (4:21-27), drew a sharp distinction between Hagar and Sarah, two women who stood for two covenants: Hagar represented the Torah covenant and “the Jerusalem of today”; Sarah, on the other hand, was “our mother” and “the heavenly Jerusalem.” A “heavenly Jerusalem” was not a new notion –it appears in the apocrypha, most graphically perhaps in 4 Ezra 10:40-55– but in Paul’s use it is precisely the contrast, and the judgment, regarding the earthly and heavenly city, that had profound consequences in the Christian tradition. When Paul wrote the city was intact and the temple still stood, but after 70 CE Christian exegesis was confronted with a quite different state of affairs. “This is an allegory” Paul had announced at the beginning of the Galatians passage, and the Christian exegetes understood it as such. Though there were other understandings of the text, Origen projected Paul’s distinction back onto the Bible’s, and particularly the prophets’ references to Jerusalem, and forward to the Christians’ own hope of a restoration: it was not Jerusalem of Origen’s day of which they were speaking, but of a new heavenly city, “a spiritual vision of heavenly bliss.” As Origen put it in the Against Celsus (7:28): “Moses taught that God promised a holy land…to those who lived according to his law. And the good land was not, as some think, the earthly land of Judea.” That much must have been clear to all of his Christian contemporaries. Rebellious Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans not once but twice –the second time in 135 CE– and then quickly rebuilt by Hadrian as a spanking new –and ostentatiously pagan– metropolis of Roman Judea, a province from which the Jews were henceforth banned. Jerusalem once again had holy places, but they were now of the pagan variety. On the main forum in the Upper City there was a temple of Venus, and perhaps to the tutelary deity of the new Jerusalem, Jupiter Capitolinus. Though there were no Jews in the city, there was a small Christian community, now no longer Jewish Christians, however, but solely of the Gentile variety that was acceptable to the Romans and was becoming increasingly dominant in the churches. The new Aelia Capitolina, as Hadrian called his city, must have been attractive, as we can infer from his contemporary project at nearby Gerasa/Jerash, but it could hardly have enjoyed any great prosperity beyond imperial subsidy. From David’s day down to the Roman apocalypse, the chief industry, employer and money- and goods-magnet of Jerusalem had been the Temple. Without it, and without the Jews who were banned from the city in the wake of the insurrection of 135, Jerusalem would doubtless soon have sunk to the status of an inglorious, and overdressed, provincial town –the Romans preferred to rule from Caesarea on the coast– had it not attracted the pious attention of another emperor, the newly converted Christian Constantine. Through his agents –and his mother Helena, as tradition has it — he sought out, identified and enshrined at imperial expense the primary places in Jerusalem and elsewhere associated with the life of Jesus. The centerpiece of Constantine’s intent was his progressive efforts around the sites of Jesus’ execution and burial. The places seem to have been identified for him by the local Christian community in Jerusalem and they lay beneath a temple complex –Jupiter Capitolinus and Venus were both worshiped there– on the northern side of Hadrian’s forum in the Upper City. Constantine’s engineers excavated the area around the tomb –the original was carved into a rock or earth hillock– and surrounded the newly freed site, now converted into a shrine site, with a domed martyrium of an already familiar type (Eusebius, Life of Constantine, 3. 28, 40). Eastward lay an open courtyard, and there, in its southeastern corner, was the hillock Golgotha, the site of Jesus’ resurrection. Abutting this and running eastward all the way out to the cardo or main north-south avenue of Jerusalem, Constantine had constructed an enormous and sumptuously decorated aisled basilica, whose atrium court and monumental entryway opened onto Hadrianic Jerusalem’s main thoroughfare. In Herod’s day Jesus was crucified outside the city walls, but Constantine’s complex of shrines stood at the busy commercial heart of fourth century Jerusalem. There had been Christian shrines and cult stations before; the Christian cult of the martyrs, for example, long antedated Constantine’s enshrinement of the Jesus sites in Palestine, and when the Christians emerged from the catacombs, their public martyria were in fact modelled on the imperial mausolea of the day. But Constantine’s activity had an almost immediate effect on Christian pilgrimage to what now became the Christian Holy Land, not in the covenantal sense understood by the Jews, or even as an eschatological locus, as some early Christians believed, but a land hallowed by Jesus’ historical presence there, now certified by Constantine’s identifications and enshrinements. One could now touch and see the actual places where Christ had done his redemptive work. The newly adorned sites soon became public knowledge thanks to pilgrims’ enthusiastic accounts of their visits to the holy places. More, the glory that accrued to Constantine –much of it due to his historian and encomiast Eusebius– marked only the beginning of a sustained burst of Christian holy place enshrinement in Jerusalem and environs that lasted into the sixth century. Among Eusebius’ other works is one written before Constantine’s activity and entitled Onomasticon or “On the Names and Places Among the Hebrews.” As the title indicates, the inspiration was biblical, the same desire for a more precise knowledge of the Jewish Holy Land that had motivated both Origen and Jerome. But Constantine’s enshrinement of the holy places associated with Jesus turned the visitors’ attention away from what was now called the “Old Testament” to a whole new range of sacred sites connected with New Testament figures and events. Christian pilgrims continued to visit Jewish holy places, but they were now chiefly those associated with the prophets or with a typological interest for Christians. And, equally importantly, the Jerusalem holy places were very early on knit together into a stational liturgy, Christian commemorative rituals celebrated publicly at specified times at specified places in and around Jerusalem. The places were already sanctified by their historical identification; now their holiness was fortified and enhanced by Christian ritual. We have a rare and precious picture of the enshrined Christian holy places in Jerusalem in the mosaic floor map in the sanctuary of a church in Madaba in Jordan. The date is sometime about 580 CE, and the well-preserved Jerusalem cartouche on the map shows the walled city of the sixth century with its churches and shrines highlighted in gold; Constantine’s church, called the Anastasis or Resurrection, shines like a medallion from the midst of the city. Unhighlighted, unmarked and almost unidentifiable, is the site of the Temple on the southeastern side of the city (the upper right, slightly distressed part of the cartouche). Judaism’s holiest of holy places, “God’s holy mountain,” was, on the witness of the map’s ambiguous iconographical vacuum and the eyewitness testimony of Christian pilgrims who visited the site, nothing more than a field a ruins during the entire period from the Roman destruction down to the Muslim rebuilding projects in the seventh century. And there were some few Jewish pilgrims, a few hardy souls –it must have been a dangerous enterprise under any circumstances, Roman or Christian– who bought or stole their way into the forbidden Jerusalem and up onto the Temple Mount. The observant and well-informed Jerome knew they came on the Ninth of Ab, the anniversary of the destruction of both temples, “a piteous crowd, woebegone women and old men weighed down in rags and years…” Jerome was not only observant; he was also a theologian: “…all of them showing forth in their clothes and bodies the wrath of God.” (On Zephaniah 1:15-16). The wrath of God, or perhaps simply the gods of war, descended upon Jerusalem in the form of Persian armies that in 614 CE finally broke through Byzantine provincial defenses they had been battering for centuries. Jerusalem was occupied and briefly handed over to vindictive Jewish mobs who burned churches but do not seem to have done any substantial damage to the chief of the Christian shrines, the Church of the Anastasis. What the Persians did was considerably more shocking to Christian sensibilities: they carried off to Ctesiphon Christendom’s primary relic, the remains of Jesus’ Cross. The discovery of the True Cross had by then entered into Christian legend. Constantine’s mother Helena had discovered three crosses, and the indictment (titulus) nailed to Jesus’ Cross, in the excavations for the basilica; the one on which Jesus was crucified was identified by a miraculous cure. When the European nun Egeria visited Jerusalem in the late fourth century, she witnessed what had already become a ritual of veneration for this famous relic. On the Friday before Easter, the anniversary of Jesus’ death, the remains of the Cross and the titulus were brought forth in a gold and silver box, removed from their container and put on a table before the bishop of Jerusalem. He was seated at Golgotha in front of a silver replica of the Cross set up there and the faithful filed by, each bowing to kiss the Cross and the titulus. This is what the Persians carried off in its container to their capital in Iraq in 614 CE. The Emperor Heraclius devoted the next couple of years to mounting a counter offensive against Persians, and late in the next decade his efforts were crowned with success. The Persian defenses collapsed as rapidly as had the Byzantine’s a decade earlier. Heraclius entered Ctesiphon in triumph, and in 630, a full year after the end of the war, the emperor carried the remains of the Cross, still sealed in its container, with great solemnity, to its accustomed place on Golgotha, where it remained until the time of the Crusades. Given the nature of the city and its importance in Christendom, the seventh century fall of Jerusalem was a frightening and ominous event, redeemed only in part by the body of legend and cult that began to grow up around the True Cross in the wake of Heraclius’ restoration. News of the event may even have reached into the heart of Arabia; so, at least some read the obscure allusion in the opening lines of Sura 30 of the Quran: “The Romans have been defeated in the nearer land,” followed by what appears to be prediction, “and after their defeat they will be victorious in a few years…” (Quran 30:2-3). Whatever the reference, the lines reflect one of the Quran’s few adversions to the larger world beyond Mecca and Medina. The point is of some importance since it speaks to Muhammad’s knowledge of, and interest in, Jerusalem. Later biographical accounts connect the Prophet with Jerusalem in two important regards: first, he prayed toward Jerusalem before changing his practice and facing toward the Kacba in Mecca during his early years in Medina; and most traditional glosses on Quran 17:1 (“Glory be to Him who carried His servant by night from the holy shrine (al-masjid al-haram) to the distant shrine (al-masjid al-aqsa)…”) identify the “distant shrine” with Jerusalem and construct out of it the famous story of Muhammad’s night journey, whether in a dream or waking, to the Jews’ and Christians’ Holy City. In 638 CE the Muslims stood before Jerusalem. The city capitulated without a struggle, its surrender negotiated by its Christian bishop into the hands of no less, the Muslim tradition insists, than the Caliph Umar. The stories grow even denser in detail after the Caliph’s entry into the city. According to some versions, Umar requested to be taken to “the mihrâb of David,” that is his place of prayer, or, possibly, his palace,” and when shown the Church of the Resurrection, he refused the identification. Eventually he was taken up to the Temple Mount, still a ruin covered with refuse. Satisfied that this was in fact the holy place of Jerusalem, Umar ordered the site cleared and at its southern end built Jerusalem’s first mosque, a somewhat makeshift building that could house 3,000 worshippers. So Jerusalem remained for about half a century, a city with an overwhelmingly Christian population still in untroubled control of their holy places, a Muslim occupying force of a few thousand that worshipped in their mosque atop the Temple Mount, and, now once again after some five hundred years, Jewish inhabitants. As the Karaite Salman ibn Yeruham recalled it some three hundred years later, “When by the mercy of the God of Israel the Rum [the Byzantines] departed from us and the kingdom of Ishmael [the Arabs] appeared, Jews were permitted to enter and reside there. The courts of the (House of the) Lord were handed over to them, where they prayed for a number of years.” If that meant that the returned Jews were permitted to pray atop the Temple Mount itself –or even at the entries leading into it– the privilege did not last very long. Because of their own intemperate behavior –Salman is doubtless laying the blame at the feet of the rival Rabbanite faction– they were restricted to one entry and then eventually banned from approaching any of the gateways to Herod’s platform. The Christians were treated more formally. It was they who negotiated the surrender terms, which included, in the form reproduced by the Muslim historians, a guarantee of their persons, their churches and their freedom to practice their rituals. It was not very different, in fact, from the surrender terms given to most of the voluntarily surrendered cities. The earliest Muslim inhabitants of the city may have been –pace the reports on Umar’s enthusiasm for the Temple Mount– either ignorant or indifferent to their newly occupied holy city. But toward the last decade of the seventh century there was a dramatic reversal in that attitude. To that point there were only two holy places in Islam, the temenos/haram at Mecca around the Kacba, the House of God, and a similar haram at Medina, and set in its midst, though unconnected with the haramization of the city and hardly yet enshrined, was the tomb of Muhammad. But the Caliph Abd al-Malik (r. 685-705) undertook the construction of a third. The Dome of the Rock atop Herod’s platform, which bears Abd al-Malik’s signature and the dedication date of 692 CE, is quite unlike any other building in Islam. Umar’s earlier mosque at the southern end of the platform was simply that: a prayer and assembly hall functionally identical with every other such in Islam. But the Dome of the Rock (Qubbat al-Sakhra) is unabashedly a shine, an octagonal domed building constructed around and over an outcropping of the base rock from under Herod’s platform. There is as yet no satisfactory answer as to why the Caliph built such a shrine or what is the significance (or history) of the rock it so gloriously commemorates. Was its purpose to divert pilgrimage from Mecca, as some have maintained, or, more plausibly, to rival, and in some sense replace, the Church of the Anastasis, the primary Christian holy place in full view westward across the valley in the Upper City. The problem of the rock is more difficult to solve. Eventually the Muslim tradition was inclined to connect it with the touchdown of Muhammad’s “night journey” of Sura 17: 1, but that does not appear to have been the original impulse. Too many other indices point to a biblical inspiration, to the site of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, or to the mysterious “foundation stone” mentioned in the Mishna Yoma 5: 2 in connection with the Temple. A Christian pilgrim from Bordeaux saw the Jews anointing a “pierced rock” on the Temple Mount in the fourth century, and Jewish legend was eventually filled with stories about a rock on the Temple Mount, though the chronology makes it difficult to say whether they were influencing the Muslim imagination or the other way round. Whatever the Umayyads’ plans for Jerusalem, religious or political, they were ended when the dynasty fell in 750 and their successors, the Abbasids, chose to rule from Baghdad, where the only holy place was the Caliph’s sacrum palatium. Jerusalem’s still small Muslim population is almost invisible, but Christian pilgrims continued to come to the city –and often remarked favorably on the Muslim administration. We have a valuable document in the anonymous Memorandum on the Houses of God and Monasteries in the Holy City written for Charlemagne about 800. It shows the Christian holy places, and particularly the Anastasis well staffed with monks and nuns, many of them from outside Palestine and even from Europe. Christian affairs appear to be normal under the new religious regime, though two elements bear notice. The Patriarch of Jerusalem had to pay the Muslins for religious privileges –the Christian holy places were now part of the Muslim income in Jerusalem– and Charlemagne, a European Christian ruler, now had a decided and acknowledged stake in Jerusalem. Jews had no holy place in Jerusalem save the site of the former Temple, to which they had partial access, as we have seen. But interest in the city was growing, sometimes spontaneously, sometimes through outright efforts to draw other Jews to the Holy City. Aliya, immigration to Palestine, was an important issue for Jerusalem Jews in the ninth and tenth centuries, particularly in the light of the rivalry between the Karaite and Rabbanite communities there. Pilgrimage too was encouraged, and with some success. Many of the pilgrims –they were called, perhaps under the influence of the Arabic hajji, hôgegîm– were from the Arab lands and they generally came to Jerusalem for the Sukkoth festival. They assembled, whether by preference or by necessity is not clear, on the Mount of Olives, whence they descended and circumambulated the Temple Mount, praying aloud at each of the gates. The ceremony and the assembly on Olivet were done with the consent of the Muslim authorities, but only after payment of a fee. Jewish pilgrims, who were of modest means and travelled under modest circumstances, were not much marked by the Muslim inhabitants of either Jerusalem or Palestine. Not so the Christians. European Christians sometimes came with great pomp –and sometimes paid the price, as in the Bedouin massacre of the pilgrimage à la grande luxe led by Bishop Arnold of Bamberg in 1065 — but eastern Christians too often made little effort to conceal their sometimes ostentatious piety. The pilgrimage caravan that left Cairo for Holy Week in Jerusalem “departed with great and expensive display, much in the fashion of pilgrims departing for Mecca,” the historian Ibn al-Qalanisi reported, and one interested observer was the eccentric, and possibly deranged, ruler of Egypt, al-Hakim (r. 996-1021), who became so outraged at the display that in 1009 he ordered the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. So it was, or nearly so, and with important consequences: news of the atrocity soon reached Europe where it further fueled a growing concern about the Christian holy places, and its reconstruction introduced, now on a significant scale, the principle of foreign intervention in the affairs of Muslim Jerusalem. Al-Hakim’s agents of destruction left a good part of the rotunda surrounding Jesus’ tomb intact, though the tomb itself seems to have been destroyed as well as whatever construction there was at Golgotha. What was entirely swept away was most of Constantine’s great basilica stretching from the site of the Crucifixion out to the cardo, the main Roman avenue of the city. It remained in a ruined state until 1030 when the local Christians petitioned the Byzantine ruler Constantine IX Monomachus (r. 1042-1055) for financial assistance in its reconstruction. It was agreed, obviously with the approval of the Muslim authorities, and the new, truncated Anastasis was completed in 1048. In 1063 the emperor once again came to the assistance of the Jerusalem Christians, but this time for a price, a price exacted from the Muslims. He would pay for the reconstruction of the city wall around the Christian quarter, but only on condition that “none but Christians should be permitted to dwell within the circuit of the wall which they proposed to erect by means of the imperial donation.” It was the beginning of a new era. “Up to that time the Saracens and Christians dwelt together indifferently,” William of Tyre remarks. But the Muslims had now to vacate the quarter –in effect, the entire northwest quadrant of Jerusalem the city– leaving only the Christians to live there, and they, in turn, were governed in most matters by the Patriarch, the metropolitan bishop of Jerusalem, who now had standing behind him a Christian emperor in Constantinople. The Christian quarter apart, Jerusalem was then ruled from Egypt by the Ismacili Shicite dynasty of the Fatimids that had seized control there and in Palestine in the tenth century. In 1071 they were replaced by the Turks. We cannot be sure what actual difference that made in the city, but the change of regime did not improve the tales of Muslim atrocities reaching Europe. It was the emotional response to such stories –the defilement of altars and churches, the forced circumcision of Christians, the expropriation of churches– compounded, to be sure, with many other motives both sacred and profane, that set in train the holy war against the infidel called the Crusade, or, as the Christians preferred to call it, “a pilgrimage in arms.” The call for the Europeans’ Crusade went forth at Clermont in November of 1095, to take the road to “the land which…was given by God into the possession of the Children of Israel,” that is, the New Israel that is Christendom; to Jerusalem, “this royal city situated at the center of the world, now held captive by His enemies, and now in subjection to those who do not know God, to the worship of the heathen.” The pious mission of the Crusaders came to its cruel end in the summer of 1099, and the blood-drenched city they took must have appeared neither holy nor royal to its conquerors. Some Jews had fled, many others were ransomed, and the last Muslim defenders had been slaughtered. The Crusaders set about the expropriation of the holy places: the Christian ones from the hands of the startled Greeks, Armenians and eastern Christians who had neither summoned the Crusaders nor fought with them against the Muslims; and the Islamic shrine and mosque atop the Temple Mount. The Dome of the Rock was converted into a church (Templum Domini) and the Aqsa Mosque, called by the Crusaders the Templum Solomonis, briefly became the dwelling of the new Latin ruler of the city and then, when the king moved his palace to the western gate where Herod had lived, the headquarters of the Knights Templars, a monastic order of knights pledged to the defense of the holy places. They newly enshrined the place identified with Jesus’ Last Supper on Mount Zion, and the site of the home of Mary and her parents Anna and Joachim north of the Temple Mount and just inside St. Stephen’s Gate. They were obviously in possession of the remains of the True Cross since they carried it into their final battle against the Muslim forces of Salah al-Din at Hattin in Galilee in July, 1187. It worked no miracles on this occasion, however; the Crusaders were routed and the relic –“a prize without equal since it was the supreme object of their faith”– fell into the hands of the Muslims. Salah al-Din retook Jerusalem in October, 1187, but not until he had gathered up support from a largely indifferent Muslim world that either ignored the Crusaders or regarded them as a temporary affliction on an otherwise troubled landscape. Muslim consciousness about the sanctity of Jerusalem was raised by the appearance of a new literary genre, or rather, the application of an old genre, tracts in praise of a city, to Jerusalem. Works “On the Merits of Jerusalem,” for the most part Prophetic sayings praising the Holy City and attaching blessings to visits made or prayers said there, began to be recited in the mosques of Aleppo and Damascus. The effects of this propaganda were long term. For the first time Muslims began to look upon the city itself as holy. The Frankish attack appeared more than an act of war; it was a sacrilege. The Muslims, particularly those of Syria and Palestine, never forgot or forgave. Henceforward Muslims were willing to die for what had now come to be regarded as the third holiest city in Islam. Once in possession of Jerusalem, Salah al-Din immediately ordered reappropriation of the Muslim holy places. The Dome of the Rock and the Aqsa Mosque were restored to their original form –the Crusaders had covered the rock under the dome with marble and adorned the walls with pictures, while the Templars had made a number of modifications in the Aqsa. A more difficult issue was what to do with the principal Christian holy place, the Anastasis. There was a lively debate. Some of the Sultan’s counselors were for razing it to the ground; but there were others who somewhat better understood the nature of holy places: “It is not the visible building but the home of the Cross and the Sepulcher that is the object of worship. The various Christian races would still be making pilgrimage here even if the earth had been dug up and thrown into the sky.” Less noted by both the Christian and Muslim historians of the era was Salah al-Din’s creation of what would eventually turn out to be an entirely new set of holy places in Jerusalem. Both Salah al-Din and his predecessor Nur al-Din were devoted Sunnis, devoted to the cause of a Holy War directed not only against the Christians, the nature of whose long-term danger to Islam was uncertain, but against the Ismacili Fatimids whose radical view of Islam profoundly threatened the Sunni consensus. The response of both men was to vigorously take up arms against the Franjis but to confront the Shicites with aggressive intellectual warfare directed at producing an educated Sunni rabbinate, the culama, formed on the principles of traditional, that is, Sunni, Islam. To achieve this end, the Sunni rulers used a new institution, the law school (madrasa). Thus the convent next to the former Church of Saint Anne –the church itself was turned into a mosque– was converted into the Salah a-Din Madrasa and was supported, like the Crusader institution that preceded it, from the income of shops in Jerusalem’s principal market street. The grandeur, allure and, in the end, the extension of the Muslim holy places in Jerusalem was the result of an institution and a set of historical circumstances that turned the robber barons of their day –the Egyptian military fief holders called Mamluks, for whom Jerusalem was a favored place of exile — into veritable Carnegies and Rockefellers of piety. Salah al-Din’s dynasty of the Ayyubids lasted until 1250 when they were replaced by their own former military slaves, the Mamluks, who ruled their domains, including Jerusalem until 1517. The Mamluks were outsiders, Circassians captured or bought as boys outside the Abode of Islam, converted to Sunni Islam and trained solely to be professional soldiers. Now they were rulers as well. Piety may have been the motive, or a thirst for legitimacy but the Mamluks poured wealth collectively into the Hajj to Mecca and individually into the embellishment of their capital city of Cairo and their Holy City of Jerusalem. In Jerusalem they lined the western and northern sides of the Haram al-Sharif, and the streets leading into it, with madrasas and with Sufi hostel-convents. And as they had done in Cairo, they supported these with the institution of waqf, the sacralization of an income producing property whose usufruct is dedicated in perpetuity to the building and/or support of some pious cause, in this case Jerusalem’s growing number of law schools and convents, their staffs and residents. It is not the economics of the endowment system that concern us here, but the sacralization in the first instance of the donated property –which might be anywhere in the Islamic world — but the endowed building, which became, in effect, a holy place, not because of either its site or its function but because it was rendered sanctified –and inalienable– by an act of the donor’s will. The Mamluks brought a new, quite artificial and short-lived, prosperity to Jerusalem, but something else is in evidence as well in the pilgrim reports of the period. A profound hostility had crept into Muslim-Christian relations, at least the Palestinian Muslims –though it was probably broader than that– and those alien Christians from abroad who continued to visit the holy places. And the Christian clergy likewise returned as permanent residents. In 1291 Pope Nicholas IV successfully petitioned the sultan that some Franciscans be permitted to return to Jerusalem. In 1300 St.Louis’ brother Rupert of Apulia came to Jerusalem in person and begged Sultan al-Nasir to “give” him –the privilege cost Rupert 32,000 ducats– the Church of the Cenacle (Upper Room) on Mount Zion as well as the Virgin’s chapel inside the Holy Sepulcher, the tomb of Mary in the Kedron Valley and the Cave of the Nativity. Once again the local clergy were dispossessed and the Franciscans took their place; the Franciscan superior was confirmed by Rome as “Guardian of Mount Zion,” later, “Custodian of the Holy Land,” a position that effectively gave him a Muslim-certified jurisdiction over, and responsibility for, every European pilgrim to the Holy Land, which later included some very irritated Protestant visitors. The Jews of Jerusalem, who had about 250 households in 1480, constituted a separate quarter in the southern part of the city, wedged between the Armenians on the west and the Muslims to their east. Their life was not easy, but their poverty and near invisibility shielded them from the hostility generated by the Crusades and the Jerusalem Muslim regime’s chronic need for money. It was chiefly this latter that caused the Muslim authorities to regulate –and charge for– access to the only income-bearing holy places in the city, the complex within the Holy Sepulchre. Meanwhile, inside the church there were ongoing problems with dissident Christian groups jockeying for territorial advantages that were sometimes calculated in inches. When the Ottomans replaced the Mamluks in Jerusalem in 1517, they soon learned to take profit from the competition and to play one group off against another in the heated struggle for possession of slivers of the Anastasis complex. The chief players were now the Greeks, Armenians and Latins, in that order of affluence and importance; lesser, or less affluent, communities like the Georgians, Copts, Nestorians and Jacobites were pinched into the corners –the Abyssinians had to be content with the roof, and the Protestants arrived far too late to find any foothold at all — or forced to sell out under an accumulating load of debt. Finally, even the Ottomans had had enough. First in 1757, and then more definitively in 1852, the Ottoman Sultan issued a decree, “to serve constantly and forever as a permanent rule,” defining everyone’s place within the church –with pride of place going to the Greeks– with an adjuration that they should remain precisely there. It came to be called the “status quo ante.” The “status quo” of 1852 is perhaps as close to a permanent rule as Jerusalem has ever had. It was affirmed by the succeeding British, Jordanian and Israel administrations of Jerusalem, but in their day the problem of the holy places was no longer that of the Christian ones –the Ottoman diktat had effectively solved that– but rather those of the Jews, whose claims challenged Muslim ones, and then of the Muslims, whose claims challenged Jewish one. Juridical bodies, whether individual like the Ottoman Sultan or corporate like the League of Nations, often enter where no theologians, or even the notoriously more brazen anthropologists, would dare to tread. In November of 1949, for example, when it was still young and perhaps foolish, the UN took it upon itself to tote up -and thus, of course, implicitly define, the number of holy places in Jerusalem. It found that there were precisely 30: 15 Christian, 11 Jewish and 4 Muslim. It is not certain what exactly they were counting –churches? synagogues? mosques? There were scores of Muslim law schools and convents in Jerusalem whose waqf charters precisely separated them from the profane, and particularly from the profane hands of government, whether Muslim or Israeli. In 1967 all of these Muslim holy places fell into the profane hands of the Israeli conquerors of the Old City, including the two most inflamatory holy places of all, the Haram al-Sharif, the “Noble Sanctuary,” with the Dome of the Rock and the Aqsa Mosque atop it. The earlier Ottoman decrees had effectively frozen the Christians in place –a very favorable place from the Greek point of view. The Jewish holy places were not included in those firmans, but during the Mandatory period the British found it expedient to freeze them as well under the same convenient rubric of status quo, “as you were.” The Muslim holy places, on the other hand, were obviously never an issue in Muslim Jerusalem, whether Ottoman or Jordanian, nor even under the Mandate since no one was contesting them. The British had, however, constituted a “Supreme Muslim Sharica Council” to administer the Muslim courts, the waqf properties and the Haram. But in the summer of 1967 the Israelis held all of those elements in their own hands and the Muslim administrative structure created by the British had disappeared. In the first flush of victory some Israelis rushed up to the Temple Mount to pray, and soon after Rabbi Shlomo Goren set up an office there and announced his intention to initiate regular prayer services. A crisis was in the making. Then on June 17, 1967, Moshe Dayan, the Israeli Minister of Defense formally handed over the Temple Mount to the Muslim authorities. The Israel government and the Israeli people eventually affirmed his decision, and history has so far shown that it was a wise one. Eventually, the chief rabbinate of Israel has, for its own halakhic reasons, made the area taboo for Jews. The principal Jewish holy place in Jerusalem in late medieval and early modern times is the Western Wall of the Temple, and it provides a not untypical example of how a Jerusalem holy place begins with the presence of God and ends up in the hands of lawyers. At the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians in the 6th century BCE, many Israelites were convinced that God’s enhoused presence, His Shekinah, had gone elsewhere. He would return, Ezekiel promised (44:1-4), and presumably so He did, to the Second Temple of Zerubbabel and Herod. But what occurred in 70 CE? in 135? Where was God’s Shekinah, His sacred presence that gave sanctity to the precinct? We have seen that Jews defied the Roman ban and returned to the Temple Mount after the destruction, but it was not to sacrifice, nor perhaps even to pray, but to lament the misfortune that had fallen upon the place. The midrashim of the seventh century CE maintained that the Presence of God had never left the Western Wall, but they were almost certainly referring to the western wall of the city and not, as understood in the sixteenth century, the western face of Herod’s platform. This is not to suggest that the Temple site ceased to be revered by Jews; they simply were not permitted to enter it. It was on the Mount of Olives that the Jews assembled for Sukkoth, and it was there, some suggested, that the Shekinah had come to rest. It is not easy to trace the subsequent growth of the tradition, but by the sixteenth century the Jerusalem Jews had found a new place to pray –with the appropriate adjustment of the earlier rabbinic exegesis– in the narrow open space between the towering western face of Herod’s platform and the house of the nearby Muslim mosque and Moroccan quarter. And squatters’ rights had in effect been established. Squatters’ rights are the stuff of dreams, however, not of reality. In the nineteenth century, after a progressive liberalization of the municipal administration of Jerusalem –Muhammad Ali had established the first city council there– and the growing backing of the Jerusalem Jews by some of their European coreligionists, the tiny piece of ground called the Western Wall –1,290 square feet to be exact — grew into a major source of contention between the Jews and the Ottoman authorities. Under other circumstances the two sides might have taken up arms, but this was a Muslim time in a Muslim land and so the issue invariably ended up in court, a Muslim court, which equally invariably found against the Jews. In the wake of World War I it was no longer a Muslim land, however, but a British one, at least in a mandatory sense. The British had their own courts, but they preferred, as we might today, an International Commission, whose findings, which continued to restrict Jewish access and usage, were incorporated into Palestinian law by an Order in Council in 1931. The next change was a cataclysmic one, the Israeli conquest of the Old City; not only were the tables turned, but the entire city. Quickly, the Moroccan quarter was bulldozed away and the space before the wall broadened out. The Muslims appealed to the 1931 Order of Council, but that was, quite obviously, a dead letter. What was vigorously alive, however, was the argument among Jews about whether the site was a holy one or a historical one. It was both, obviously, but the real question was who had jurisdiction, the Ministry of Religious Affairs, who wanted to convert it into a synagogue, the Department of Parks, who wanted to preserve it as a landmark, or the archaeologists. To pray or to dig at the foundations of Herod’s temple? The answer was –as UNESCO sputtered ineffectively in the background– the usual pragmatic Israeli one, a little of both, with a strict, though imaginary, line of demarcation between the sacred Torah stands and the profane bulldozers. Despite the June 1967 Israeli “Law of the Holy Places” guaranteeing both protection and access, the question of these Jerusalem sites hangs suspended like a sword over future negotiations regarding the city. Access is not possession, nor even control. During the Mandate the Jews had pleaded that the Western Wall was a res Dei, the possession of God and so not subject to barter, sale or even control. In a sense, all of Jerusalem, and all the multiplying holy places within it, are res Dei. But in the past the designation has never protected such from the lex Caesaris, and there is little reason to think that it will in the future, whoever the Caesar may be.
Originally published in Nitza Rosovsky, City of the Great King: Jerusalem from David to the Present” (1996)