Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies
Bar-Ilan University Ramat-Gan, Israel

Jerusalem: Life Throughout the Ages in a Holy City

Internet Educational Activities <sglick@iea.org.il>
17 Feb. 1997

Topography of Jerusalem

Jerusalem refers to different areas with varying dimensions over the course of history. The city grew and shrank over the centuries, moving somewhat as it went through cycles of building followed by wars and destruction. The ancient Jebusite city lies outside today's Old City walls.

Some 3,000 years ago, shortly before King David conquered the city, Jerusalem was a town of 3,000 souls located on a hillside and encompassing only 50-60 dunam (12-15 acres). King Solomon built his palace on the summit (known as the Ophel) and above it (on the hill today called the Temple Mount) he erected the First Temple. At its peak, towards the end of the Second Temple period (c. 70 C.E.), it encompassed an large area northwest of the present walls of the Old City. Until the 1860's there was no urban settlement beyond the walls.

Most great cities are blessed with strategic locations and/or natural resources. From Jerusalem's geography one would not have guessed that the city was destined for greatness. It has no natural resources, nor does it possess any other of the elements necessary for urban welfare: location on major trade routes, natural topographical defenses, water sources or fertile land.

Location. Jerusalem is situated on a range of hills running north to south between the Mediterranean to the west and the Jordan Rift Valley to the east. From the Jezreel Valley southward through Shechem (Nablus) and Ramallah the range is called the Hills of Ephraim. From Jerusalem southward through Bethlehem and Hebron down to Beer Sheva it is called the Judean Hills. The watershed runs through the heart of the range. Jerusalem is about 800 m. above sea level. The hills to the north (Shechem - 950 m.) and to the south (Hebron -1,000 m.) are higher than Jerusalem.


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