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Judaism
Jerusalem

Why do Jews consider the city of Jerusalem holy?

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February 13, 2015 8:53AM


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February 13, 2015 8:50AM

The holy land for Judaism is Israel, and the holy city is Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is the center of Judaism. It is important to Jews because it was the site of the Akeidah (Binding of Isaac, in Genesis ch.22) and was later the seat of the Davidic Kings, when King David, Israel's greatest king, founded the dynasty that ruled Judah for much of its history, making Jerusalem the capital of the United Kingdom of Israel during his reign and that of his son, King Solomon.

(See: Jewish history timeline)
Most importantly, it was the location of the First and Second Temples, where offerings were made to God and where His presence dwelt in the Holy of Holies (1 Kings ch.8) and was manifested in a number of miracles (Mishna, Avos ch.5).
Jerusalem is called the holy city by the prophets (Isaiah 52:1). It was where Jews would go three times a year to celebrate the holiest festivals (Deuteronomy ch.16). Even after the destruction of the Temple, the Temple Mount and adjacent Western ("Wailing") Wall, which still stands, is the holiest site in Judaism. It is hoped and prophesied (Ezekiel ch.40-44) that one day a third temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem and that the Messiah will come to it.

Jerusalem has become representative of the connection with the Divine. Jerusalem is also seen as the source of Divine Law, as demonstrated in many Jewish prayers: "Ki miTziyon tetze Torah udvar Hashem miYerushalayim - From Zion comes the Torah and the Word of God from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3).

Jerusalem is also representative of the Redemption of the Jewish people from their physical and spiritual exile, because this exile causes the melancholy that the Jewish people experience by being apart from God's presence. The Redemption, which Jews believe will be brought by the Messiah, will result in the Jewish people returning to Jerusalem.

According to ancient Hebrew tradition, Jerusalem is the site where God took the very earth from which Adam, the first man, was formed (midrash Rabbah 14:8). Read Genesis carefully; Adam was not created in the garden of Eden; he was taken there. Jerusalem, because it is the first place on Earth where the spirit of God dwelt, is considered a direct link to God.

Judaism is the oldest monotheistic religion and Jerusalem has been its only holy site for over 3000 years. King Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by invading Babylonians, and rebuilt at the same site (known as the Temple Mount) about 2500 years ago. It was then destroyed again when the Romans conquered Judea about 2000 years ago, killing a million Jews, and expelling and enslaving hundreds of thousands. All Jews who value their heritage feel ties to Jerusalem and the holy land, where so many of their people struggled for the freedom to practice Judaism. At the same time, Jews believe that all people should be welcome there, regardless of faith.

Jerusalem is the eternal Jewish city, and a symbol of a future time of peace. Jerusalem is also the focal point of prayer of the Jews. When they pray, wherever they are, they face towards Jerusalem (Talmud, Berakhot 30a), with love and longing. The sentiment is aptly expressed in Psalm 137: "By the waters of Babylon, there we sat and wept as we remembered Zion....If I forget you, Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its wisdom."

For thousands of years we remembered our exile and prayed for its end. Now at least we can do so from "up close."

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December 28, 2014 4:49PM

Because the Jews, being the chosen nation, were given the land of Israel by God, and Jerusalem is where the two Temples (and the third to come) stood/stand.

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It is the site in which the first and second Holy Temples were built. Today the only remains is a single wall known as the Kotel or Western Wall.