Jerusalem (in the form Urusalem on the Tel-el-Amarna tablets; Yerushalaim, in Hebrew 'dwelling of peace;' Moslem El-Kuds, 'the Holy'), regarded as a holy city alike by Jews, Christians, and Moslems, long the capital of Palestine, stands 37 miles SE. (57 by rail) of its port Jaffa, on the Mediterranean shore of Syria. It stands - from 2364 to 2582 feet above the sea-level - on the spurs of two hills surrounded and divided by two valleys, once deep, now partly or wholly filled up with rubbish. The Eastern Hill was originally a rounded top crowned with the ' threshing-floor of Araunah,' and the rock and cave, probably a sacred site from time immemorial. The Western Hill, higher than the other by more than a hundred feet, was also bounded by steep slopes. Either hill was therefore a strong hill-fortress.
The history of Jerusalem covers a period of about 3500 years. Of these, 500 at least are prehistoric ; and of the 3000 years which remain, less than 500 show us Jerusalem independent, the capital of a free country, and the centre of a national religion. For 600 years longer the city was in the hands of the Israelites, but never wholly independent. Its name is found on an inscription 500 years at least before David (see also Gen. xiv. 18); it was besieged almost immediately after the death of Joshua, c. 1400 b.c. ; it was again taken by David about 1046 b.c. ; it was surrendered by Jehoiachin 597 B.C. ; it was taken from Zedekiah 586 b.c, and wholly destroyed. Fifty years later (536 B.C.) the edict of Cyrus enabled the people to return ; the temple was rebuilt; Ezra arrived 457 b.c, Nehemiah 445 b.c For 500 years after this Jerusalem knew not a single generation of peace. Internal factions tore it to pieces ; the city was the possession in turn of Persian, Macedonian, Syrian, Egyptian, and Roman. Under Antiochus the temple was consecrated to Zeus Olympios; and swine were sacrificed on the altars. But for the Maccabees, the religion of the Jews would have been abandoned and their nationality lost. The city was besieged, taken, and totally destroyed by Titus, 70 a.d. In the early centuries of Christianity the land was covered with monasteries, churches, and hermitages. The city contained the great group of churches of which the most splendid was Constantine's Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Persians came 614 a.d., sacked the city, and destroyed all the churches. During Moslem rule (637-1099) the Mosque el-Aksa was built, Justinian's great church of St Mary furnishing the principal edifice ; the Dome of the Rock was built; and, by order of the mad calif Hakem Bi Asur Illah, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was again destroyed. The next period is that of the Latin kingdom (1099-1244). In the last period Jerusalem is again under the Moslems (since 1244). It was in 1517 that the Turkish sultan Selim took Jerusalem. The principal buildings and monuments for which the explorer of the modern city has to look are the first, second, and third walls of the great temple itself; the royal towers of Phasaelus, Hippicus, Psephinus, and Mariamne; the Tyropœon Bridge ; Baris or Antonia; Ophel; the Tombs of the Kings ; and certain pools. The town was carefully examined by Sir Charles Wilson in 1865 ; and excavations were conducted by Sir Charles Warren in 1867-70, Major Conder in 1871-76, Clermont Ganneau in 1874-75, the Russians, the French, and the Germans. The site of the temple was apparently within the Haram area, which is defined by the ruins of its gigantic walls. There exists a long catena of evidence from the Bordeaux pilgrim of the 4th century to the present day, which leaves it impossible to doubt that the basilica erected by Constantine was on the site of the present Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The present city contains about 28,000 inhabitants, of whom half are Jews, a quarter Moslems, and the rest Christians of various denominations. There are three sects of Jews, the Sephardim, of Spanish origin; the Ashkenazim, of German or Polish origin, themselves divided into several sects ; and the Karaites. The Christians consist of Greeks, Armenians, Georgians, Copts, Syrians, Abyssinians, Latins, and Protestants. Lying among not very fertile mountains, the city has but little commerce, and practically no manufactures, although there is of course trade in curios and 'antiquities,' real or other. Of late years the town has grown beyond its walls, the dull, uniform, windowless one-storied houses stretching on every side. The climate has been compared to that of the south of France. Snow sometimes falls in January and February; rains begin in October and continue to fall at intervals till April, when a cloudless sky begins and lasts until October. There are now banks and hotels; the railway from Jaffa was made in 1890-93 ; and the number of pilgrims and tourists has increased.
See De Vogue's Temple de Jerusalem; Warren and Conder's Jerusalem (Palestine Exploration Fund, 1884); Mrs Oliphant's Jerusalem (1891).