Churches for Middle East Peace: Jerusalem

Posted on May 15, 2018

CMEP believes that the status of Jerusalem must be resolved as part of a comprehensive peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians and would support the recognition of the Holy City as the capital of both Israeli and Palestinian states.

Known in Hebrew as Yerushalayim and in Arabic as al-Quds, Jerusalem’s multi-religious landscape includes the sacred sites of the three major Abrahamic religions–Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. But attempts to claim exclusive right to the city have resulted in generations of conflict. In order to resolve these disputes, the Ottoman sultans instituted a series of agreements beginning in 1622 to preserve the status quo in Jerusalem, the latest of which was decreed by Sultan Abdulmecid I in 1852. The terms of the Status Quo remain in place today and guarantee all faiths access to their holy sites. Within the past year, however, increased security measures at al-Aqsa mosque, a legal dispute involving Greek Orthodox properties at Jaffa Gate, and changes in Israeli municipal tax law have raised concerns about the viability of the Status Quo going forward. CMEP advocates policies that respect the religious liberty of all peoples and urges Israeli and Palestinian leaders to ensure the access of Jews, Muslims, and Christians to their holy sites in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is also the city of two peoples. Both Israelis and Palestinians rightfully regard Jerusalem as central to their national identities. For this reason the 1948 United Nations partition plan set aside Jerusalem to be an international city. However, following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the city was divided between Israel and Jordan. The historic Old City–home to the Temple Mount, the Noble Sanctuary, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre–lay within Jordanian East Jerusalem. The 1967 War saw Israeli forces capture East Jerusalem along with the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, and Sinai Peninsula. In 1980, the government of Israel officially annexed East Jerusalem, a decision that the international community, until President Trump’s December 2017 announcement, has not recognized. During the Oslo Peace Process, Jerusalem was reaffirmed as a “Final Status Issue,” owing to its particularly contentious nature. CMEP believes that the status of Jerusalem must be resolved as part of a comprehensive peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians and would support the recognition of the Holy City as the capital of both Israeli and Palestinian states.

Facts at a Glance

(Source: Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, 2016)

Population of Jerusalem Municipality: 865,700
Jewish Israeli population: 542,000 (62.6%)
Religiosity Among Jerusalem Jews: 33% Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox), 27% Traditional, 20% National Religious (Orthodox), 20% Secular
Palestinian population: 323,700 (37.4%)
Palestinian Muslims: 281,000 (32.5%)
Palestinian Christians: 14,000 (1.6%)
Population of East Jerusalem: 472,900
Jewish Settlers in East Jerusalem: 192,000

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