During its long and often brutal history, control of the city of Jerusalem has changed many times. Its religious significance remains a key obstacle to peace between Israelis and Palestinians – both wish to establish their capital there.
Every Friday thousands of Muslims come to what they call the noble sanctuary to pray. Just below Jews also gather in front of the wailing wall, the only remaining relic of the ancient temple of Soloman. It remains one of the most sacred holy places for Jews and Arabs, and the two religious sites continue to bear witness to clashes. In 2000 a visit by Ariel Sharon to the site the Jews call Temple Mount sparked a violent response. Arabs saw it as a clear provocation with the incident setting off the second intifada. In 1967, Israel captured East Jerusalem, which had been under Arab control since 1948. From an Israeli point of view, the victory brought reunification and the city’s holy sites back under Jewish control. “We have returned to our holy sites, and we’re never going to leave,” declared General Moshe Dayan on arriving at the wailing wall. A string of UN resolutions and the fact that no other country has recognised Jeruselem’s annexation have certainly done little to change Israel’s way of thinking. Today, out of around 750,000 inhabitants, more than a quarter of a million Arabs live in East Jerusalem. The building of a giant barrier along the West Bank, as well as a ring of Jewish settlements, makes access to and from the old city for Palestinians increasingly difficult. Indeed, one could say their dream capital has become an impregnable fortress.