The Old City of Jerusalem has within its walls holy places central to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. These include the Western Wall, built by King Solomon in the tenth century BCE as a retaining wall to support the Temple Mount; the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, commenced in the fourth century CE under the Emperor Constantine; and the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque, built after the conquest of Jerusalem by the Caliph Omar in the seventh century. The proximity of these sites reflects the close historical and doctrinal relationship between the three monotheistic religions.
Jews have lived in the land of Israel for nearly 4,000 years, going back to the period of the biblical patriarchs (c.1900 BCE). The story of the Jewish people, Israel, its capital, Jerusalem, and the Jewish Temple there, has been one of exile, destruction and rebirth. In its 4,000 years of history Jerusalem has been destroyed many times and many times reborn. There has always remained a Jewish presence in the land of Israel and in Jerusalem, and the Jewish people as a whole always dreamed of returning to and rebuilding it, a longing reflected in the concluding words of Israel’s national anthem, ‘Ha Tikvah’ (‘The Hope’):
“The hope of 2000 years: To live as a free people in our own land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem.”