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Jerusalem Middle Ages, Caliphates and Ottomans

In the Middle Ages, Jerusalem neared its decline until it reached its downfall. Although in the beginning, it was recognized by the Byzantine Empire as a major city, it continued its success under the control of the Muslim in the early centuries. However, it was during the reign of Fatimid Caliphate in the 10th century when the population of Jerusalem decreased in number. There was only half remaining from an estimate of 200,000 during the conquest of Christians in the year 1099.

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Christians massacred a number of the population, although the remaining people recovered rather quickly during the establishment of the kingdom of Jerusalem. However, in 244 AD, the city was back to having less people at about 2,000 when the Khwarezmi Turks took over once again. After this, Jerusalem never again regained having more than 10,000 people up to the 16th century.

In 638, Jerusalem became one of the very first nations conquered by the Caliphate. In historical sources, Umar came to the city to receive the key from Sophronius, who was an Orthodox patriarch of Greek origin. He also invited the Muslims to pray and show their reverence to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. As for Umar, he decided to pray at a distance from this Church, to prevent the temple from being endangered. About 55 years later, a new mosque credited to Umar was constructed to commemorate the place where he prayed.


Umar allowed the Jews to observe their religion and live a free life in Jerusalem after the fall of the holy city. At least 60 years after the dynasty of the Umayyad initiated the building of the Dome of Rock on the Temple Mount of Jerusalem. While there were no details about Jerusalem from the Qu’ran, there were accounts in the hadith that mentioned Muhammad’s ascension to heaven in Jerusalem during his Night Journey. A dome with an octagon figure was ordered to be built in the site where it was believed that Muhammad went up to heaven. Another construction was made in Jerusalem, and it was the Al-Aqsa, which was a mosque that also pays tribute to the “Night Journey” of Muhammad.

The history of Jerusalem continues to the time of the rule of the Ottoman in the land. In 1517, the Ottoman Turks arrived to Jerusalem and conquered it, and they maintained control of the land up to the 20th century. While there were no other controls by the Europeans in the Holy City, the presence of Christianity remained. In fact, there was an increase in the presence of Christians in Jerusalem during the restoration of the Orthodox Churches in the land, under the rule of the Turkish Sultan. Communities were also strengthened during the time of the Ottoman Era.

This era presented the expansion of Jerusalem outside the walls of the Old City. This was intended to address the overcrowding issue which was a significant problem during that time. Neighborhoods were formed, which included the Sha’ananim and the Russian Compound, in 1860.

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