Jerusalem is a holy city to three major faiths–Judaism, Christianity and Islam–and figures prominently in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Since 1004 BCE, when King David established Jerusalem as the capital of his kingdom, there has been a continuous Jewish presence in Jerusalem, the holiest city in Judaism. Following the building of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the designation of other holy sites by Constantine the Great in 333 CE, Jerusalem became a destination of Christian pilgrimages. During Umayyad rule from 661 to 750 CE, the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque were built on the site where the Jewish Temples had once stood, and Jerusalem became the third holiest city in Islam.
Jews have constituted the largest ethnic group in Jerusalem since 1820. During the 19 years when Jordan occupied eastern Jerusalem and its holy sites (1948-1967), Jerusalem was divided. Jews were expelled from eastern Jerusalem and barred from visiting their holy places.
Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol sent a message to King Hussein of Jordan saying Israel would not attack Jordan unless he initiated hostilities. When Jordanian radar picked up a cluster of planes flying from Egypt to Israel, and the Egyptians convinced Hussein the planes were theirs, he then ordered the shelling of West Jerusalem.
It turned out the planes were Israel’s, and were returning from destroying the Egyptian air force on the ground. Meanwhile, Syrian and Iraqi troops attacked Israel’s northern frontier. Had Jordan not attacked, the status of Jerusalem would not have changed during the course of the war.
Once the city came under fire, however, Israel needed to defend it, and, in doing so, took the opportunity to unify its capital once and for all. On the third day of the war, June 7, 1967, Israeli Defense Forces paratroopers seized control of the Western Wall, the remnant of Solomon’s temple.
In an emotional moment, General Rabbi Shlomo Goren, the chief chaplain of the IDF blew a long note on the Shofar (rams horn), announcing the release of the Western Wall and the old city of Jerusalem.
As a result of the Six Day War, the entire city of Jerusalem and its holy sites came under Jewish control. Israel reunified the city, extending Israeli law, jurisdiction and administration to the parts previously occupied by Jordan. The Israeli Knesset passed laws to protect holy sites and ensure freedom of worship to all, and offered Israeli citizenship to Jerusalem’s Arab residents, most of whom declined.