Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Old City of Jerusalem

The Old City (Hebrew: העיר העתיקה‎, Ha'Ir Ha'Atiqah, Arabic: البلدة القديمة‎, al-Balda al-Qadimah, Armenian: Հին Քաղաք, Hin K'aghak) is a 0.9 square kilometer (0.35 square mile) walled area within the modern city of Jerusalem. Until the 1860s this area constituted the entire city of Jerusalem. The Old City is home to several sites of key religious importance: the Temple Mount and its Western Wall for Jews, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Christians, and the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque for Muslims.

Traditionally, the Old City has been divided into four uneven quarters, although the current designations were introduced only in the 19th century.Today, the Old City is roughly divided into the Muslim Quarter, the Christian Quarter, the Jewish Quarter and the Armenian Quarter. Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the Old City was occupied by Jordan. During the Six Day War in 1967, which saw hand to hand fighting on the Temple Mount, Israel occupied the Old City alongside the rest of East Jerusalem.

In 1980, Jordan proposed the Old City to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site List.It was added to the List in 1981. In 1982, Jordan requested that it be added to the List of World Heritage in Danger.In 2011, UNESCO issued a statement reiterating that it views East Jerusalem to be "part of the occupied Palestinian territory, and that the status of Jerusalem must be resolved in permanent status negotiations."

Al-Aqsa Mosque (Arabic:المسجد الاقصى al-Masjid al-Aqsa,also known as al-Aqsa, is the third holiest site in Sunni Islam and is located in the Old City of Jerusalem. The site includes the silver domed mosque along with the Dome of the Rock), also referred to as al-Haram ash-Sharif or "Noble Sanctuary," is the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, the place where the Temple is generally accepted to have stood. Muslims believe that Muhammad was transported from the Sacred Mosque in Mecca to al-Aqsa during the Night Journey. Islamic tradition holds that Muhammad led prayers towards this site until the seventeenth month after the emigration, when God directed him to turn towards the Ka'aba.

The al-Aqsa Mosque is believed to have been built from ancient times, according to Muslim belief 40 years after the Ka'bah. In the seventh century its walls were renovated by the Rashidun caliph Umar, but was rebuilt by the Ummayad caliph Abd al-Malik who also commissioned within Al-Aqsa compound the building of the basment, gates and other structures such as the Dome of the Rock, the work was only completed and finished by his son al-Walid in 705 CE. The subsequent Muslim dynasties have paid attention to this enclave and have renovated its structures after the many earth quakes especially in the Abbasid and Fatimid periods. During the periodic renovations undertaken, the various ruling dynasties of the Islamic Caliphate constructed additions within al-Aqsa Mosque’s enclave, such as its dome, facade, its minbar, minarets and the interior structure. When the Crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099, they used different part of al-Aqsa Mosque as either residence, stables or churches, but its function as a mosque was restored after its recapture by Saladin. More renovations, repairs and additions were undertaken in the later centuries by the Ayyubids, Mamluks, the Supreme Muslim Council, and Jordan. Today, the Old City is under Israeli control, but the mosque remains under the administration of the Palestinian-led Islamic waqf.

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