Last updated on: 4/24/2015 | Author:

What Is the Significance of Jerusalem for Jews?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)


This site was archived on Aug. 3, 2021. The two-state solution is no longer the most popular solution among the jurisdictions involved. A reconsideration of the topic is possible in the future.

Daniel Pipes, PhD, Director of the Middle East Forum, in the Fall 2001 issue of The Middle East Quarterly titled “The Muslim Claim to Jerusalem,” wrote:

“The Jewish connection to Jerusalem is an ancient and powerful one. Judaism made Jerusalem a holy city over three thousand years ago and through all that time Jews remained steadfast to it. Jews pray in its direction, mention its name constantly in prayers, close the Passover service with the wistful statement ‘Next year in Jerusalem,’ and recall the city in the blessing at the end of each meal. The destruction of the Temple looms very large in Jewish consciousness; remembrance takes such forms as a special day of mourning, houses left partially unfinished, a woman’s makeup or jewelry left incomplete, and a glass smashed during the wedding ceremony. In addition, Jerusalem has had a prominent historical role, is the only capital of a Jewish state, and is the only city with a Jewish majority during the whole of the past century. In the words of its current mayor, Jerusalem represents ‘the purist expression of all that Jews prayed for, dreamed of, cried for, and died for in the two thousand years since the destruction of the Second Temple.'”

Fall 2001

Yitzhak Reiter, PhD, Professor of Middle East, Israel and Islamic Studies at the Ashkelon Academic College and Senior Researcher at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in his 2013 article for Israel Studies titled, “Narratives of Jerusalem and its Sacred Compound,” wrote:

“[The] Israeli story stresses the event that turned the ancient pagan urban space into a central city, a political capital, that is, a founding event which is purely Jewish: King David’s conquest of Yerushalayim or the City of David (Ir David), which then became the focal center of the Jewish nation…

Jerusalem has been the only capital of the Jewish people in their history and is considered as the holy city in Judaism. The Jewish meta-narrative tells of the yearning and longing of Jews in exile for 2,000 years to return to Zion, to re-build Jewish Jerusalem and to resurrect the Jewish Temple. Jerusalem assumes an important place in Jewish spirituality, reflected in Jewish liturgy, holidays, worship and in innumerable writings. The narrative highlights that the Jewish connection to Palestine remained consistently steadfast throughout the ages, with ongoing efforts to return, even if only to die and be buried on the Mount of Olives. All Jews, both in the holy land and the Diaspora, pray in the direction of Jerusalem; they mention its name constantly in their prayers, and end the Passover service with the words: ‘Next Year in Re-built Jerusalem.’ The idea or dream of returning to and rebuilding Jerusalem is mentioned at least four times in the blessings recited at the end of each meal.”


Marshall J. Breger, JD, BPhil, Professor of Law at Catholic University of America, in the Dec. 1994 Middle East Quarterly essay titled “The New Battle for Jerusalem,” wrote:

“Jerusalem holds a unique status in the Jewish tradition. Since King David, it has been at the center of the Jewish consciousness. Jerusalem is the ‘mountain of the Lord,’ the very core of the Jewish people through three millennia. The Mishnah (part of Jewish oral law) asserts that the divine presence (Shekhinah) has never left the Western Wall. In his daily prayers, the pious Jew thrice daily entreats the Lord to ‘return in mercy to Thy city, Jerusalem.’ Jerusalem is for Judaism not only a city encompassing holy places (as it is for Islam and Christianity); nor is it only, as for Christians, the spiritual city that is holy. Rather, it is the earthly city itself that is holy, both the land and (as the noted scholar and former chief rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook held) even the air. As with the concepts of the people of Israel and the Torah of Israel, the land of Israel is at the very essence of the Jewish belief system.

The city symbolizes both spiritual and national revival, so Israel’s national anthem, ‘Hatikvah’ (‘the hope’), naturally refers to a two-thousand-year yearning from the diaspora for Zion and Jerusalem. Nor is this yearning purely spiritual. Through the centuries, Jews settled in Jerusalem to live an existence of exceptional piety. Already in medieval times, elderly Jews traveled to Jerusalem to die and be buried in its hallowed ground. By 1844, Jews constituted the largest religious group in the city; by the 1870s, they were an absolute majority, which they have remained ever since.”

Dec. 1999

R.J. Zwi Werblowsky, D ès L, Martin Buber Professor Emeritus of Comparative Religion at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in a 2004 essay titled “Meaning of Jerusalem to Jews, Christians and Muslims,” wrote:

“For the Jewish people, Jerusalem is not a city containing holy places or commemorating holy events. The city as such is holy and has, for at least two and a half millennia, served as the symbol of the historic existence of a people hunted, humiliated, massacred, but never despairing of the promise of its ultimate restoration. Jerusalem and Zion have, become ‘the local habitation and the name’ for the hope and meaning of Jewish existence, and of its continuity from the days when, according to the authors of the biblical books, God spoke of a certain place that he would choose, to the days of the return which — however improbable it might seem — was never in doubt for the Jew. Understanding the symbolic function of Jerusalem in Jewish tradition, we come to see that even the avowed secularist’s use of this symbol has a measure of legitimacy about it, unparalleled in other traditions.”