Jerusalem Before Israel: 49 Fascinating Photos Of Life In The Arab Holy City

Old Jerusalem Grocers Shop
Ramallah Girls Talking
Jaffa Gate Before Israel
Yemenite Jew
Jerusalem Before Israel: 49 Fascinating Photos Of Life In The Arab Holy City
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Few places have gone through as many changes as Jerusalem. As the holy city of every Abrahamic religion, it has been the site of wars and conquests for centuries. It passed through the hands of countless kingdoms and countless people — and gone through massive changes each time.

The last great change happened in 1948, upon the foundation of Israel. Since then, Jerusalem has been claimed by both Israel and Palestine. It is a city split in half, divided between Muslims and Jews, in the center of a war that has raged on for decades.

Before Israel, however, the old Jerusalem was a very different place. For hundreds of years before the state of Israel was formed, Jerusalem was an Arab city. It spent hundreds of years under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, as a city distinctly filled with that empire's people and culture.

Then, in 1915, the old Jerusalem started to change. The British took control of the city, filling it with troops and police that kept the Arab population under their thumb. European immigrants started to pour into the city, especially through the growing Jewish Zionist movement. Over the next 25 years, the population tripled.

The area, under British control, was now ruled as part of a new state called Mandatory Palestine, consisting of the regions of modern Palestine and Jordan. The area became, increasingly, a land filled with both Arabs and Jews, living side by side. Conflicts started to grow, though, as both the Jews and the Arabs believed that the British had promised Jerusalem to them.

The Arabs who had lived there for years led protests and revolts against their changing city, and, after an influx of Jewish immigrants poured into the city in the wake of World War II, the area turned violent, erupting into a war that still rages today.

But before Israel, there was a different Jerusalem – one all but forgotten, that, today, lives on only in photographs.


After this look at the old Jerusalem, for more glimpses into the cultures that once were, check out 1970s Iran before the Islamic Revolution or the Inuit before forced relocation.

Mark Oliver
Mark Oliver is a writer, teacher and father whose work has appeared on The Onion's StarWipe, Yahoo, and Cracked, and can be found on his website.
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