The Old City is a 0.9 square kilometers (0.35 sq mi) walled area within the modern city of Jerusalem. Until 1860, when the Jewish neighborhood, Mishkenot Sha'ananim, was established, this area constituted the entire city of Jerusalem. The Old City is home to several sites of key religious importance: the Temple Mount and its Western Wall for Jews, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Christians, and the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque for Muslims. It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site List in 1981.
Traditionally, the Old City has been divided into four uneven quarters, although the current designations were introduced only in the 19th century. Today, the Old City is roughly divided into the Muslim Quarter, the Christian Quarter, the Jewish Quarter and the Armenian Quarter. Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the Old City was occupied by Jordan and the Jewish residents were evicted. During the Six Day War in 1967, which saw hand to hand fighting on the Temple Mount, Israel occupied the Old City alongside the rest of East Jerusalem. Today, Israel controls the entire area, which it considers as part of its national capital. In 2010, Jerusalem's oldest fragment of writings was found outside of the Old City's walls.
According to the Bible, before King David's conquest of Jerusalem in the 11th century BCE the city was home to the Jebusites. The Bible describes the city as heavily fortified with a strong city wall. The city ruled by King David, known as Ir David, or the City of David, is now believed to be southwest of the Old City walls, outside the Dung Gate. His son King Solomon extended the city walls and then, in about 440 BCE, in the Persian period, Nehemiah returned from Babylon and rebuilt them.
During the era of the crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, there were four gates to the Old City, one on each side. The current walls, built by Suleiman the Magnificent, have a total of eleven gates, but only seven are open. Until 1887, each gate was closed before sunset and opened at sunrise. As indicated by the chart below, these gates have been known by a variety of names used in different historic periods and by different community groups.
- Muslim Quarter
- Christian Quarter
- Armenian Quarter
- Jewish Quarter
- Moroccan Quarter