The U.S. government’s proclamation “officially recognizing Jerusalem as [Israel’s] capital” and subsequent decision to relocate the United States Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has both rocked and captivated the world.
Despite being challenged by the majority of member nations at The United Nations General Assembly, the U.S. held steadfast to its plans to move the embassy — a move that is unfolding this month to coincide with Israel’s 70th anniversary celebration.
With the agreement and disagreement in mind, many people might be wondering why Jerusalem is such a point of contention — and why the city remains so important to Christians, Jews and Muslims, alike. PureFlix.com series and films like “Israel, A Journey Through Time” and “Israel: The Womb Of The Kingdom Of God” help tell that story — and, below, we also recount some of the fascinating details behind Jerusalem’s significance.
To begin: Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities on Earth, with religious connections dating back to 1050 B.C. when King David conquered the locality. After that, the Temple on the Mount was built, as USA Today noted.
Today, the Western Wall — a portion of that temple — remains a holy place for Jews. Meanwhile, the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque are nearby on the Temple mount. The site is the location where Muslims believe that Muhammad ascended, thus making the area vitally important to Islamic adherents.
It’s basically the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina, as Reuters reported.
Adding to the Jewish roots there is the fact that the area is also believed by Jews to be the place where Abraham readied himself to sacrifice his son Isaac (as you know, God stepped in and that sacrifice didn’t happen). Jews call the city Jerusalem, while Arabs refer to it as Al-Quds (“The Holy”).
Also, for Christians, Jerusalem is remembered as the place where Jesus walked and was crucified. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is also believed by many to be the location of Christ’s tomb, according to USA Today.
Take those religious issues and mix them into the political landscape and you can easily see why there’s chaos. Consider that Israel has long called Jerusalem its capital, though Palestinians also believe that the eastern portion of the city should be the center of their future independent state. The two sides have been battling over the land for eons.
CNN has a bit more on that history:
The United Nations partition plan drawn up in 1947 envisaged Jerusalem as a separate “international city.” But the war that followed Israel’s declaration of independence one year later left the city divided. When fighting ended in 1949, the armistice border — often called the Green Line because it was drawn in green ink — saw Israel in control of the western half, and Jordan in control of the eastern half, which included the famous Old City.
During the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel occupied East Jerusalem. Since then, all of the city has been under Israel’s authority. The city marks “Jerusalem Day” in late May or early June. But Palestinians, and many in the international community, continue to see East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Until this month, the U.S. had joined the rest of the world in refusing to take sides on the matter. But that changed with America’s recent decision to move the embassy — a decision that CNN said could “inflame tensions in the region and unsettle the prospects for peace.” Others, though, believe it is a step in the right direction, as it reflects Israel’s government-recognized capital.
Either way, considering the history and the religious connections to the city, it’s no surprise that there’s controversy.
Currently, there are 86 embassies in Tel Aviv and none in Jerusalem — but that will change when the U.S. relocates its facility there. Guatemala and Honduras will join the U.S. in relocating their embassies to Jerusalem. The U.S. State Department recently announced the following information about the embassy move:
The Embassy will initially be located in the Arnona neighborhood, in a modern building that now houses consular operations of U.S. Consulate General Jerusalem. Those consular operations, including American citizen and visa services, will continue at the Arnona facility without interruption, as part of the Embassy. Consulate General Jerusalem will continue to operate as an independent mission with an unchanged mandate, from its historic Agron Road location... In parallel, we have started the search for a site for our permanent Embassy to Israel, the planning and construction of which will be a longer-term undertaking.
Despite this most recent decision, the U.S. government’s handling of the issue has historically been quite complicated. A U.S. law passed in 1995 called for the embassy to be moved to Jerusalem, but the past three presidents have enacted waivers to delay such a move, citing security concerns, as CNN reported.
Up until now, the central idea is that the U.S. and other countries should maintain a neutral position and allow the Israelis and Palestinians to hash out the issue amid ongoing peace efforts. Since the founding if Israel, the U.S. has said that “no state has sovereignty over the city of Jerusalem” — a policy that continued until now.
President Donald Trump had, in the past, repeatedly expressed his belief that the embassy should be moved to Jerusalem and that Israel’s view on the city should be honored.
For more about Israel’s biblical significance, check out PureFlix.com series and films like “Israel, A Journey Through Time” and “Israel: The Womb Of The Kingdom Of God.” You can also watch thousands of other family friendly and Christian movies on PureFlix.com for free with your one-month trial.
This story originally appeared on Faithwire.com.