Jerusalem’s Holy Sites

Timeline of the struggle over Jerusalem’s holy sites since 70 AD.

70: Romans destroy the Jewish Second Temple.

325–326: Roman Emperor Constantine builds the Church of the Sepulcher upon the site of Christ’s death and resurrection.

637: Arab army conquers Jerusalem; Caliph Omar Ibn El-Khattab refuses to pray within the Church of the Sepulcher, allowing for continued Christian worship on the site, and reopens the holy sites to Jewish worship; his successor Caliph Abd Al-Malik Ibn Marwan builds Dome of the Rock while Caliph Al-Walid Ibn Abd Al-Malik builds Al-Aqsa Mosque, marking the spot on the Temple Mount where the Prophet Mohammed departed on his Night Journey to heaven.

1193: Saladin’s son, Sultan Al-Afdal, endows the Magharbeh Quarter, which includes the Western Wall (Wailing Wall) of the Temple Mount as it is known to Jews, and the Haram Al-Sharif to Muslims, as a religious endowment under one Muslim jurisdiction that permitted access and worship.

1852: Ottoman Sultan Abdul Majid issues a decree that maintains shared rights of access, possession, and worship to the Church of the Sepulcher, the rooftop monastery of Dayr Al-Sultan, the Sanctuary of the Ascension of the Mount of Olives, the Tomb of the Virgin in Gethsemane, and the Church of the Nativity in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The decree establishes the principle of “status quo,” a legal arrangement over custodianship of holy sites in Jerusalem; the Western Wall, the Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount, the Cenacle on Mt. Zion, and Rachel’s Tomb were later included in the status quo arrangements.

1882: First Aliyah of Jewish mass immigration to Palestine begins following rise of Zionism in Europe.

1878: European powers confirm in the Treaty of Berlin that “no alteration can be made in the status quo in the holy places.”

November 2, 1917: British Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur James Balfour issues the Balfour Declaration promising support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine.

December 11, 1917: Ottoman army retreats from Palestine before a combined British- and Arab-led force. Upon entering Jerusalem General Edmund Allenby guarantees that the holy places will remain under existing religious custodianship arrangements.

1921: British authorities appoint Hajj Amin Al-Husseini as the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. He later becomes president of the Supreme Muslim Council, a body in charge of Islamic religious trusts (awqaf).

1920: League of Nations ratifies the British Mandate for Palestine, which calls for “putting into effect” the Balfour Declaration, and for “preserving existing rights and of securing free access to the Holy Places, religious buildings and sites, and the free exercise of worship.”

1922: Restorations of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque begin.

1924: The Grand Mufti and the Mayor of Jerusalem, Ragheb Basha Al-Nashashibi, pledge allegiance to Emir Sharif Hussein Bin Ali, the ruler of Mecca, as the legal custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem.

1928: Palestinian Arabs request that the British District Commissioner of Jerusalem enforce the boundaries between Jewish and Muslim worshippers along the Western Wall.

1929: Row over Jewish access to the Western Wall leads to Jewish protests and widespread Arab riots, resulting in two hundred and forty-nine casualties.

1930: British authorities establish the International Commission of the Wailing Wall, which concludes that Muslims are the sole owners and proprietors of the Western Wall and adjacent pavement, which combined are a waqf property. The Commission grants Jews full access and devotional rights to the Western Wall but restricts worship.

1936: The Arab Revolt erupts against British rule; British authorities strip Al-Husseini of his positions, and he flees to Lebanon.

1939: The MacDonald White Paper calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state within ten years, and declares that it is no longer British policy that Palestine should become a Jewish state.

July 22, 1946: Irgun, a radical Zionist group, bombs the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, headquarters of the British colonial administration, killing ninety-one people.

1947: Britain announces plans to withdraw from Palestine the following year. The United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) recommends the partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states, with Jerusalem placed under international trusteeship; the Arabs League rejects the partition plan.

November 29, 1947: The General Assembly of the United Nations (UNGA) adopts Resolution 181 reiterating UNSCOP’s recommendations for Palestine’s partition and the international status of Jerusalem as corpus separatum or “separated body.”

December 1947–June 1948: Jewish militias spur Arab exodus from Jerusalem.

May 14, 1948: In Jerusalem, David Ben-Gurion, chairman of the Jewish Agency, declares an independent State of Israel; at midnight, the British Mandate over Palestine officially ends. Several hours later, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria invade Israel.

May 28, 1948: Arab forces capture the Old City, destroying synagogues, schools, and homes in the Jewish Quarter, while the Haganah and Israeli forces drive Arabs out of West Jerusalem. Israel’s provisional government declares West Jerusalem a “territory occupied by the State of Israel.”

June 11, 1948: Israel defeats Arab armies and under an armistice agreement signed between Israel and Jordan a year later, Jerusalem is split into a Jordanian-controlled East and an Israeli-controlled West until 1967.

December 11, 1948: UNGA Resolution 194 calls for the cessation of hostilities, the return of Palestinian refugees, and the internationalization as well as demilitarization of Jerusalem to preserve free access to, and protection of, the city’s holy sites.

May 11, 1949: Israel becomes a UN member, and reiterates its commitment to internationalize Jerusalem.

December 13, 1949: Israel moves its official seat to West Jerusalem.

1950: Jordan annexes the West Bank and East Jerusalem, granting citizenship to their populations.

July 20, 1951: Palestinian militants assassinate King Abdullah of Jordan while visiting the Haram Al-Sharif.

1953: The Jordanian cabinet meets in East Jerusalem for the first time, and shortly afterwards, the parliament convenes there. King Hussein of Jordan announces Jerusalem as the second capital of Jordan, upgrading its status from municipality to trusteeship.

1964: The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is founded at a congress in East Jerusalem.

June 5, 1967: The Six-Day War breaks out. Israel captures East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan.

June 7, 1967: Israeli troops capture the Old City from Jordan and raise the Israeli flag over the Dome of the Rock; Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan claims sovereignty over the Haram Al-Sharif, but grants the Waqf full administrative control; Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol declares that “no harm whatsoever shall come to the places sacred to all religions.”

June 11, 1967: Six hundred and fifty inhabitants of the Magharbeh Quarter of the Old City are evicted and their homes demolished to create a plaza in front of the Western Wall. Two historic mosques are destroyed.

June 27, 1967: The Knesset expands the municipality boundaries of Jerusalem to include East Jerusalem and surrounding Arab townships and villages; the Jordanian Waqf retains responsibility of administering Jerusalem’s Muslim holy sites; Knesset passes the Protection of Holy Places Law protecting the freedom of access and prohibiting any form of desecration to the holy places.

August 1967: Israeli army chaplain Rabbi Shlomo Goren holds a prayer service with fifty Jews at Al-Aqsa Mosque, leading to a skirmish with Palestinian guards; a ministerial committee upholds the government decision to bar Jewish worshippers from entering the Temple Mount, and the Israeli Chief Rabbinate restates religious ban on visiting and praying on the site;Israel designates the Old City of Jerusalem, including the Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount and the Western Wall, as antiquities, thus prohibiting construction and demolitions without authorization from Israeli authorities.

November 22, 1967: The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) unanimously adopts Resolution 242 calling for Israeli withdrawal from areas occupied in the latest war.

1969: Israel conducts archeological excavations under and around the Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount, sparking anger across the Muslim world.

August 1969: Australian tourist Denis Michael Rohan attempts to set fire to Al-Aqsa Mosque.

September 1969: In response to the arson attempt, leaders from twenty-four Muslim-majority countries form the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to “safeguard the interests of the Muslim world.”

1970: Israel intensifies property confiscation and archaeological excavations funded by settlers, leading to the digging of thirteen tunnels under and around the Haram Al-Sharif.

October 6, 1973: Syrian and Egyptian forces launch a surprise attack on Israel, beginning the October War, or Yom Kippur War.

1974: Arab League designates the PLO as the “sole, legitimate representative of the Palestinian people;” UNGA adopts Resolution 3236 recognizing the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and calling for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories, including those in East Jerusalem.

1976: Jerusalem’s magistrate court acquits eight Jewish youths charged with praying at the Temple Mount; demonstrations and riots occur in East Jerusalem and the West Bank for two weeks until the Jerusalem District Court overturns the decision.

March 25, 1979: Rumors that a group of Israelis were planning to pray at the Temple Mount sparks a general West Bank strike and mass protests.

1980: The European Economic Community adopts the “Venice Declaration” stating it “will not accept any unilateral initiative designed to change the status of Jerusalem;” the Knesset adopts the Basic Law declaring Jerusalem as the “eternal and undivided” capital of Israel; the UNSC adopts Resolution 478 rejecting Israel’s claims to East Jerusalem as “null and void.”

1981: UNESCO adds the Old City to the World Heritage List.

1982: UNESCO adds the Old City to the List of World Heritage Sites in Danger; an Israeli soldier opens fire at the Dome of the Rock, killing two and wounding at least nine, and setting off riots in Jerusalem and the West Bank; Israeli forces invade Lebanon.

1983: Main entrance to the Department of Islamic Waqf in Jerusalem collapses, exposing extensive Israeli excavations under the Muslim Quarter.

1987: The First Intifada breaks out and lasts until 1990.

July 31, 1988: Jordan severs its legal and administrative ties to the West Bank, but East Jerusalem is explicitly excluded; PLO adopts the Palestinian Declaration of Independence, and accepts Resolution 181.

November 15, 1988: PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat declares the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

1990: The Temple Mount Faithful, a Jewish orthodox movement, attempts to lay a cornerstone for a new Jewish temple on the Temple Mount, sparking protests and riots that leave twenty-two Palestinians dead.

1993: Arafat and Israeli Labor Party Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin sign the Oslo Accord, providing for interim self-government arrangements in the West Bank and Gaza, and a framework of negotiations on the final status of Jerusalem within five years.

1994: The Palestinian Authority creates the Ministry of Religious Affairs to govern the Muslim waqfs; Israel and Jordan sign the Wadi Araba agreement recognizing Jordan’s “historic role” as custodian of Jerusalem’s Muslim holy places.

1995: In a speech to the Knesset, Prime Minister Rabin says that a united “Jerusalem is not subject for compromise” and will forever remain under Israeli control; U.S. Congress adopts the Jerusalem Embassy Act, ordering the American Embassy in Israel to be moved to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv by May 31, 1999. President Bill Clinton waives this requirement in June 1999 and subsequent American presidents continue to do the same; Rabin is assassinated by an Orthodox Jewish student.

1996: Israel opens a tunnel that runs underground along the Western Wall, sparking riots that leave three Palestinians dead in the Old City. In response, the Waqf freezes coordination with the Israel Antiquities Authority; the Jordanian Waqf begins the unauthorized construction of a mosque in an area underground the Haram Al-Sharif known as Solomon’s Stables; the opening of Netanyahu Tunnel or Bab Al-Qataneen tunnel to the public in 1996 ignites what is known as the “Tunnels Revolt,” which results in the death of more than seventy-five Palestinians and sixteen Israelis; Israel opens a second exit to the Hasmonean tunnel running along the Western Wall plaza, triggering riots.

September 28, 2000: Israeli Likud Party leader Ariel Sharon visits the Temple Mount, sparking mass demonstrations and the Second Intifada, which continues for five years and leaves approximately three thousand Palestinians and one thousand Israelis dead.

November 3, 2000: Israeli forces ban Palestinians under the age of 45 from entering the Haram Al-Sharif, later easing access restrictions to certain groups.

November 14, 2000: Israel’s mayor of Jerusalem, Ehud Olmert, announces construction of settlements will be resumed in East Jerusalem.

November 23, 2000: Dozens of employees from the Islamic Waqf conduct a sit-in protest in the Al-Aqsa area, and make demands to allow Muslim worshippers access during Ramadan to which Israeli authorities comply.

December 7, 2000: Over one hundred American rabbis issue a statement saying there is no religious text requiring exclusive Jewish sovereignty over the Temple Mount.

December 23, 2000: President Clinton issues parameters for a peace settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians, outlining a position on Jerusalem that would divide the city between the Palestinian and Jewish communities according to demographics. Both parties accept the parameters with reservations.

January 27, 2001: The Taba talks conclude without reaching a final settlement but both sides agree to return to the pre-1967 borders, and discuss a “Holy Basin” in Jerusalem with distinct international status.

2002: Arab League adopts the Arab Peace Initiative calling for peace between all Arab countries and Israel in exchange for Israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 borders and a Palestinian state in East Jerusalem.

2003: A Hamas suicide bomber dressed as an Orthodox Jew blows himself up on a bus in central Jerusalem, killing sixteen; the Middle East Quartet issues a Road Map to Peace that would establish a Palestinian state by 2005 on the condition that Israel return to the pre-1967 borders, enforce a settlement freeze, and reach a final settlement on Jerusalem; Israel re-opens the Magharbeh Gate, the entrance to the Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount, and permits access to non-Muslims.

2007: Palestinians and Israelis agree to implement the roadmap for peace at the Annapolis Conference in Maryland, based on the Clinton Parameters, including the territorial division of Jerusalem and the international supervision of its holy sites.

2009: Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat introduces a Master Plan, codifying development plans for West and East Jerusalem as a single municipality until 2020; a rightwing Jewish conference calls for the construction of the “Third Temple” to become a third Jewish holy site in Jerusalem; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces a ten-month settlement freeze, excluding East Jerusalem and existing construction in the West Bank.

2010: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemns Israeli plans of construction of 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem.

2011: In response to Israel’s settlement drive in the West Bank, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas submits a letter to the UNSC requesting the recognition of Palestine as an independent state.

2012: The UNGA votes to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state; in following remarks, Abbas refers to Jerusalem as the “eternal capital of the state of Palestine.”

2013: King Abdullah II of Jordan and Abbas sign an agreement reiterating Jordan’s role as defender and custodian of the Muslim sites in Jerusalem.

October 2014: Palestinians ask the UNSC to set a deadline of November 2016 for Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem; following an assassination attempt on rightwing rabbi Yehuda Glick, Israeli forces close the Haram Al-Sharif.

November 2014: Two Palestinians attack a synagogue in West Jerusalem, killing four Israelis and a policeman, and sparking clashes across Jerusalem that result in the injury of nearly eight hundred Palestinians; Israeli forces briefly enter Al-Aqsa Mosque while chasing Palestinian protestors; Jordan recalls its ambassador from Tel Aviv in protest while Prime Minister Netanyahu pledges not to alter the status quo.

December 19, 2014:  Nearly sixty thousand Palestinians pray at the Haram Al-Sharif and then march through the Old City in protest of Israeli policies.

May 2015: Approximately thirty thousand Jews parade through the Old City celebrating Jerusalem Day, Israel’s victory in the 1967 War; Prime Minister Netanyahu pledges never to let the city be divided.

September 2015: Israeli police ban two grassroots Palestinian groups from making visits to the Haram Al-Sharif; Israeli forces clash with Palestinians taking sanctuary in Al-Aqsa Mosque to circumvent Israeli restrictions to access, leaving one hundred and ten Palestinians injured; six-hundred and fifty Jewish activists tour the holy site on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, and a wave of knife attacks, carried out by Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, begins.

October 2015: Violent confrontations and attacks between Palestinians, Israeli settlers, and security forces escalate with numerous stabbing attacks and shootings, causing Israeli authorities to issue a 48-hour ban on Palestinians entering the Old City and install metal detectors at checkpoints; the Palestinian Red Cross reports that through the month of October Israeli forces shot and wounded about 2,617 Palestinians with live and rubber-coated steel bullets; the IDF records seventy-five attacks against Israelis and eight hundred and seventeen instances of protest.

October 24, 2015: Jordan and Israel agree that surveillance cameras be installed around the Haram Al-Sharif; Netanyahu issues a statement reiterating Israel’s commitment for maintaining the status quo of worship.

November 2015: Prime Minister Netanyahu approves the resumption of settlement building in East Jerusalem after a two-year freeze; Israel’s Chief of Police imposes a formal ban on visits to Temple Mount by Israeli lawmakers.

February 2016: The Middle East Quartet reiterates its concern that Israel’s continued expansion of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is “imperiling the viability of the two-state solution.” Its report finds that Israel built more than three thousand homes between 2009 and 2014 for 200,000 settlers living in East Jerusalem.

March 2016: Israel’s security cabinet approves a proposal to resume construction of a “security fence” separating Jerusalem from the West Bank.

May 2016: The Jerusalem municipality orders the Islamic Waqf to halt construction on bathrooms in the northern section of the Haram Al-Sharif.

June 10, 2016: After an attack in Tel Aviv that left four Israelis dead, Israeli authorities bar Palestinian men under the age of 45 from visiting the Haram Al-Sharif, temporarily freeze the entry permits of more than eighty three thousand Palestinians, and suspend Gazans’ weekly trips to East Jerusalem for the day.

June 26, 2016: Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan permits Jews and non-Muslims to visit the Haram Al-Sharif during the last ten days of Ramadan, sparking three days of clashes that leave fourteen Palestinians and one Israeli police officer injured.

June 27, 2016: Following an attack against Jewish visitors touring the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount, Israeli forces raid the site, leaving at least twenty-nine Muslim worshippers injured; as clashes ensue, Israeli police close the site to non-Muslims.

July 3, 2016: The Israeli government approves plans for about eight hundred new housing units in East Jerusalem and a West Bank settlement.

August 4, 2016: Israeli authorities arrest several Islamic Waqf employees for planning maintenance work at the Haram Al-Sharif without permission from the Israel Antiquities Authority.

January 15, 2017: French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development Jean-Marc Ayrault hosts an international conference in Paris in an attempt to jumpstart peace talks.

July 14, 2017: Three Arab Israelis open fire near the exit of the Haram Al-Sharif, killing two police officers; Israel closes the site, preventing Muslim worshippers from attending Friday prayers for the first time in seventeen years.

July 15, 2017: Prime Minister Netanyahu announces that the Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount complex will reopen the next day following the installation of metal detectors and security cameras.

July 16, 2017: Muslim worshippers refuse to enter the Haram Al-Sharif complex in protest of the new security measures, and prayers are held in the streets outside; clashes ensue from July 16–20.

July 21, 2017: Israeli police close off the Old City to men under 50, and mass protest prayers and demonstrations are held throughout the Old City and the West Bank, leading to clashes in which three Palestinians are killed; Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas freezes all contact with Israelis until security measures are reversed.

July 22, 2017: Sweden, France, and Egypt request an urgent meeting of the UNSC to discuss the crisis in Jerusalem while more clashes result in the death of two Palestinians.

July 25, 2017: Israeli officials remove metal detectors from entrances to the Haram Al-Sharif, replacing them with CCTV cameras.

July 27, 2017: Clashes break out as thousands of worshippers enter the complex following the removal of recent Israeli security measures.

July 28, 2017: Palestinians return to Friday prayers at the Haram Al-Sharif.

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