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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. According to Yehoshua Ben-Arieh, “In the second
half of the nineteenth century and at the end of that century, Jews
comprised the majority of the population of the Old City …” (Jerusalem
in the Nineteenth Century).
Martin Gilbert reports that 6,000 Jews resided in Jerusalem in 1838,
compared to 5,000 Muslims and 3,000 Christians (Jerusalem: Rebirth
of a City). Encyclopaedia Britannica of 1853 “assessed the Jewish
population of Jerusalem in 1844 at 7,120, making them the biggest single
religious group in the city.” (Terence Prittie, Whose Jerusalem?).
And others estimated the number of Jewish residents of Jerusalem at the
time as even higher.
Until about 1860, Jerusalem residents lived almost exclusively within
the walls of the Old City, in east Jerusalem. Between 1860 and 1948,
Jews lived in both eastern and western Jerusalem.