Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls (1981) 
(Site proposed by Jordan)

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As a holy city for Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Jerusalem has always been of great symbolic importance. Among its 220 historic monuments, the Dome of the Rock stands out: built in the 7th century, it is decorated with beautiful geometric and floral motifs. It is recognized by all three religions as the site of Abraham's sacrifice. The Wailing Wall delimits the quarters of the different religious communities, while the Resurrection rotunda in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre houses Christ's tomb. 

The Dome of the Rock (Arabic, Qubbat al-Sakhra), is a domed Muslim shrine in Jerusalem that stands on the traditional site of the Temple of Solomon (the first Jewish temple), the rock where, in the Biblical story of Abraham, Abraham had offered the sacrifice of his son Isaac to God. For Muslims, it is the third holiest site of pilgrimage (after Mecca and Medina), since it was also here that the prophet Muhammad is believed to have ascended into heaven to receive the commandments of God. 

Jordan 1982. The Dome of the Rock.

Palestinian Aughority 1994. The Dome of the Rock.

  • Jordan 1982. The Dome of the Rock.
  • Palestinian Authority 1994. The Dome of the Rock. 

Israel 1985. World Stamp Exhibition in Tel Aviv. Souvenir sheet. The Dome of the Rock. The Western Wall. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Christ's Tomb).

  • Israel 1985. World Stamp Exhibition in Tel Aviv. 
    • The Dome of the Rock. 
    • The Western Wall.
    • Church of the Holy Sepulchre. (Christ's Tomb). 
The Dome of the Rock remains essentially as it was when completed between 691 and 692 by the Caliph Abd al-Malik, although the roof has been renewed several times and other minor changes have been made, mostly to the surface decoration. 

Figured to be the earliest surviving monument of Islamic architecture and probably modelled on the nearby Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Dome of the Rock was built not only to commemorate Muhammad's ascension to heaven, but also to rival the splendor of Christian and Jewish sanctuaries already in Jerusalem. 

The building is octagonal in plan, with a large golden dome on top (the original dome was metal covered with gold leaf, but a 1961 restoration replaced this with gold-colored anodized aluminum). 

  • Malaysian stamp contributed by Mr. Eli Eyal (Israel). 

The surfaces, both inside and out, are covered in marble and mosaic patterning, much of it on the interior being highlighted with precious stones and gold. Centered under the dome, the Holy Rock itself may be seen, surrounded by an intricately carved wooden screen dating from 1199. 

Holy City of the Jews
According to the Old Testament, David brought the sacred Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem from Qiryat Ye’crim (a holy place of the time, west of Jerusalem) and installed it in a new tabernacle, built a royal palace and other buildings, and strengthened the city’s fortifications. Although David greatly expanded the Kingdom of Israel and made Jerusalem its capital, the city and the temple he built were quite modest. Solomon, his son and successor, improved the temple and enlarged the city. He built a city wall and many buildings on a scale of magnificence previously unknown in Israel. 
  • Israel 1971. Independence Day. Gates of Jerusalem. 
    • 18c: New Gate.
    • 15c: Jaffa Gate. 
    • 85c: Herod's Gate. 
    • 35c: Damascus Gate. 

Israel 1971. Independence Day. Gates of Jerusalem. New Gate, Jaffa Gate. Herod's Gate. Damascus Gate.

Solomon’s Temple was destroyed and the Jews exiled by the Babylonians in the year 586 bc. In 539 bc, Babylonia was conquered by the Persians (see Persia), who allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem the following year. The construction of a new temple, or Second Temple, was then undertaken on the ruins of the old. Jerusalem was captured by Alexander the Great in 333 bc, and after his death it came under the rule first of Egyptians and later of Syrians. 

Israel 1972. Independence Day. Gates of Jerusalem. Golden Gate. Lion's Gate. Zion Gate. Dung Gate.

The Syrian ruler Antiochus IV attempted to wipe out the Jewish religion by destroying a large part of Jerusalem in 168 bc. This caused a Jewish revolt under the leadership of Judas Maccabeus, a member of a priestly ruling family, the Hasmonaeans. 

He liberated Jerusalem from the Syrians in 165 bc and later extended Hasmonaean rule over a large part of Judea. Jerusalem became the destination of annual Jewish pilgrimage from the outlying area, since certain religious obligations could only be fulfilled in the temple. All Jewish sacred and secular law and power came to be concentrated in the city. 

  • Israel 1972. Independence Day. Gates of Jerusalem. Small size.  
    • 18c: Golden Gate.
    • 15c: Lion's Gate. 
    • 55c: Zion Gate.
    • 45c: Dung Gate. 
Roman Period
This power was eclipsed with the conquest of Jerusalem in 63 bc by the Roman general Pompey the Great. Herod the Great became king of Judea in 37 bc. During his administration, which lasted until 4 bc, Herod rebuilt the temple, constructed a fortress, and enhanced other elements of the city. The retaining wall built by Herod for the Temple Mount stands today as the Western Wall

After Herod’s reign, a series of Roman governors were installed. From ad 26 to 36 the governor was Pontius Pilate, who sentenced Jesus to be crucified for treason. The Jews revolted against increasingly oppressive Roman rule in ad 66, and they managed to hold on to Jerusalem in the face of siege until ad 70. In that year, the city was captured by Titus, son of the Roman emperor Vespasian, who destroyed the Temple, except for the Western Wall. 

  • Israel 1985. Stamp "The Western Wall", cut out from the above souvenir sheet. 

Israel 1985. "The Western Wall".

Israel 1985. "Church of the Holy Sepulchre" (Christ's Tomb).

The city suffered almost complete destruction during the rebellion (132-135) led by Simon Bar Kokhba, following which the Jews were banished from the city. Under the Roman emperor Hadrian, the city was rebuilt as a pagan city, and its name was changed to Aelia Capitolina. Although the city effectively retained Jerusalem as its name, it did not serve again as a capital until 1099, when it was captured by Crusaders. In the intervening years, Jerusalem gained stature in religious terms; in administrative and political terms, however, it remained relatively inconsequential. 

Under Roman rule, the city became a destination for Christian pilgrimage, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built during the reign of Constantine the Great (303-337). Roman support for churches and religious figures gave the city an increasingly Christian aspect. 

  • Israel 1985. Stamp "Church of the Holy Sepulchre", cut out from the above souvenir sheet. 

St. Vincent of the Grenadines 1997. 50th Anniversary of UNESCO. Dome of the Rock and the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.

Muslim Rule and the Crusaders
In 638, the city came under Muslim control following conquest by Caliph Umar I. The Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque were soon constructed on the Temple Mount, with the Dome of the Rock standing on the site of the First and Second Temples. The Seljuks, a Turkish dynasty, ruled Jerusalem harshly in the 11th century and continued to expand, especially toward Europe. 

Israel 1985. Souvenir sheet. Bas-relief, Ottoman Period.

In response to this expansion and Turkish control of places sacred to Christianity, Pope Urban II called the first of the Crusades, asking Christians to travel to the Middle East and fight to reclaim the Holy Land, especially Jerusalem. 

Jerusalem fell to the Crusaders under Godfrey of Bouillon in 1099. The Crusaders slaughtered many of the Muslim and Jewish residents and ruled with great cruelty until Saladin captured the city again for the Muslims in 1187. In 1517 Jerusalem was taken by the Ottomans, who ruled it until the 20th century. 

  • Israel 1985. Souvenir sheet. Bas-relief, Ottoman Period. 

In 637, the city came under Muslim control following conquest by Caliph Umar I. 

Jordan 1982. International Heritage of Jerusalem. Gate to the Old City. Jordan 1982. International Heritage of Jerusalem. Minaret. Jordan 1982. International Heritage of Jerusalem. Al Aqsa Mosque. Jordan 1982. International Heritage of Jerusalem. Dome of the Rock (1) Jordan 1982. International Heritage of Jerusalem. Dome of the Rock (2)

During the period of Muslim control, the city was always part of a broader territory, ruled from distant imperial capitals. Its economic fortunes fluctuated, but, in keeping with its marginal political status, the city was often poor and neglected. 

Its population grew slowly; estimates for the beginning of the 19th century are of fewer than 10,000 people. Much of the growth came from Jewish pilgrims who settled in the city, and by the mid-19th century Jews were once again the majority. As the population grew, there was increased pressure on the housing capacity of the Old City. Jews began to build neighborhoods outside the Old City’s walls, and nearby Arab villages expanded. 
  • Israel 1978. "TABIR" National Stamps Exhibition souvenir sheet. The sheet, including four stamps,  depicts Jerusalem according to a map of Madaba. 

Israel 1978. Souvenir sheet. Jerusalem according to a map of Madaba.

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Revised 21 jul 2006  
Copyright © 1999 Heindorffhus
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