The New Student's Reference Work/Jerusalem

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Jeru′salem, the “Holy City” of the Jews, stands 2,364 to 2,582 feet above the sea, on the spurs of two hills, surrounded and divided by two valleys, once deep, now partly or wholly filled with rubbish. Both hills were strong natural fortresses. The weakness of the place for defense lay in its poor supply of water. The city was known under its name Jerusalem at least 500 years before David captured it (c. 1045 B. C.). The conquest of the city by the Israelites proved incomplete; before the time of the Judges it again was the “City of the Stranger.” When at last won by David, the Lower City was joined to the fortress of the Upper Hill, and the whole surrounded by a wall.

The history of Jerusalem covers 3,500 years. Of these, 500 years lie back of reliable history. Of the other 3,000 years, less than 500 show us Jerusalem independent. For 600 years longer the city was in the hands of the Israelites, but never wholly independent. Jerusalem, the “city of peace,” sustained 17 sieges. Twice it was entirely destroyed, its buildings being torn to the ground. There is no city in the world whose soil has so often been drenched with the blood of its people. From B. C. 536 to A. D. 70 Jerusalem was torn to pieces by factions, and came into possession of Persians, Macedonians, Syrians, Egyptians and Romans, The city was besieged, taken and razed to the ground by Titus in 70 A. D.

Its after history may be divided into four periods. The first comprises early centuries when the land was covered with Christian monasteries, churches and hermitages. The Persians in 614 captured the city and destroyed the churches. Then the Moslems appeared in 637 and the gates were thrown open without a blow. The second period includes the rule of the Moslems (637–1099). The third period is that of the crusaders (1099–1244). After 87 years of continuous war Jerusalem was lost, and the crusaders never retook it. The last period is that of Turkish or Moslem rule (since 1244). The seven hundred years covered by this period have for the greater part been years of peace.

The main buildings and monuments for which the explorer has to look are the first, second and third walls of the great temple; the royal towers; the Tyropœon Bridge; Baris or Antonia; Ophel; the tombs of the kings; and certain pools. It would be strange, if much would be left of the city of Herod, to say nothing of the city of Solomon. There is, however, more than might have been expected — more in proportion than is left of old Rome — far more than is left of Tyre. Carthage or Corinth. Excavations have been made by the English, Russians, French and Germans. The old tombs of the kings, part of David’s first wall, the area which was the site of the temple and the Pool of Bethesda are certainly known, and the sites of many other features of the old city are probably known. However, scholars are not agreed as to the site of the Holy Sepulchre, which has long been a vexed question.

The present city, the chief town of a Turkish province, has a population of over 80,000, of whom half are Jews, a quarter Moslems and the rest Christians. Of late years it has grown outside its walls, the windowless, one-storied houses stretching on every side. There are banks, hotels and a railroad to Joppa. See Warren and Conder’s Jerusalem and Besant and Palmer’s Jerusalem, the City of Herod and Saladin.