The Crusades

Why do Jews, Christians, and Muslims all claim the same Holy Land?

Palestine, in southwest Asia, at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, is the Holy Land of Jews, since it was there that Moses led the Israelites after he led them out of slavery in Egypt (c. twelfth century B.C.) and where they subsequently established their homeland. It is the Holy Land of christians because it was where Jesus christ was born, lived, and died. And it was the Holy Land of Muslims, because the Arab people conquered Palestine in the seventh century and, except for a brief period during the crusades, it was ruled by various Muslim dynasties until 1516 (when it became part of the Ottoman Empire). Palestine, which covers an area of just more than 10,000 square miles, is roughly the size of Maryland.

Palestine’s capital, Jerusalem, is also claimed as a holy city by all three religions. Jews call it the City of David (or the City of the Great King) since it was made the capital of the ancient kingdom of Israel in about 1000 B.C. Christians regard it as holy because Jesus traveled with his disciples to Jerusalem, where he observed Passover. It is the site of the Last Supper, and just outside the city, at Golgotha, Jesus was crucified (c. 30 A.D.). Muslim Arabs captured the city in 638 A.D. (just after Muhammad’s death), and, like the rest of Palestine, it has a long history of Muslim Arab rule. Jerusalem, which is now part of the modern state of Israel, is home to numerous synagogues, churches, and mosques. It has also been the site of numerous religious conflicts throughout history.


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