Remembering the Jordanian Occupation of Jerusalem

May 26, 2020 | Gerald Steinberg
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Last Friday was Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day), the holiday that celebrates Israel’s capture, during the Six-Day War, of those parts of Jerusalem that had been seized by Jordan in 1948. Gerald Steinberg uses the occasion to reflect on the two intervening decades in the city’s history:

Jews have lived in Jerusalem continuously, and were the majority population in the decades before the 1948 war. [But] on May 28, 1948 the Jordanian army (also known as the Arab Legion) completed the capture of the Jewish Quarter. . . . All of the Jewish inhabitants were exiled—the ethnic cleansing was complete. Jews were prohibited from accessing the Temple Mount . . . or the Western Wall.

Even after the fall of the Jewish Quarter, the conquerors systematically desecrated all remnants of 3,000 years of Jewish Jerusalem. Fifty-seven ancient synagogues, libraries and centers of religious study were ransacked and twelve were totally and deliberately destroyed. Those that remained standing were defaced and turned into barns for goats, sheep, and donkeys. Appeals were made to the United Nations and in the international community to declare the Old City to be an “open city” and stop this destruction, but there was no response.

In addition, thousands of tombstones from the ancient cemetery on the Mount of Olives were used as paving stones for roads and as construction material in Jordanian army camps.

The armistice agreement that ended Israel’s War of Independence included a Jordanian guarantee that Jews would still be allowed access to their holy places, but it was at first ignored and then forgotten.

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