Jerusalem walls offer glimpse of city’s richness

What would Jerusalem be without its walls? Poets have sung of them since ancient times, they are mentioned in the Book of Psalms, and they have shadowed conflicts past and present.

The current golden limestone walls date back to the 16th century. Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent ordered the iconic ramparts built after his father, Selim the Grim, brought Jerusalem under Turkish rule in 1517.

In this Friday, May 19, 2017 photo, Armenian school kids play in the soccer field located next to Jerusalem's Old City Walls at the Sts. Tarkmanchatz Armenian School of Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

The city remained under Ottoman rule for 400 years, until British Gen. Edmund Allenby marched through the Jaffa Gate on Dec. 11, 1917, the start of 30 years of British rule.

Over the course of its tumultuous 3,000-year history, Jerusalem’s Old City has had many masters, from the ancient Persians and Babylonians all the way up to the modern states of Jordan and Israel. There have been almost as many walls, some torn down by wars or earthquakes.

In this Tuesday, June 27, 2017 photo, Palestinians ride on horses during the Eid al-Fitr holiday outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Today, the 2.5-mile (4 kilometer) circuit around the Old City walls brings visitors face-to-face with Jews, Muslim and Christian Arabs, Armenians, men and women of the cloth and tourists from around the globe.

But the Old City, its walls and its famed religious sites — holy to Jews, Christians, and Muslims — are once again at the heart of a renewed conflict. Both Israel and the Palestinians lay claim to the 215 acres (less than one square kilometer) bound by the walls.

In this Tuesday, June 27, 2017 photo, Palestinians celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Israel captured the Old City, which was part of Jordanian-controlled east Jerusalem, in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel later annexed the entirety of east Jerusalem, a move which the international community doesn’t recognize. Palestinians seek east Jerusalem and the Old City as the capital of their future state.

These conflicting claims have erupted into violence numerous times in the past. On Dec. 6, President Donald Trump declared Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital, enraging Palestinians and much of the Muslim world. Although Trump said his declaration did not prejudge the outcome of negotiations on the city’s final borders, it was seen by the Palestinians as siding with Israel and led to several weeks of violence.

In this Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017 photo, people walk along the Jerusalem's Old City walls, next to Jaffa Gate. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

But in the shadow of the walls, day-to-day life flourishes. Families picnic, worshippers pray, hawkers peddle souvenirs and snacks, and artists use the sand-hued stone as their canvas.

Associated Press photographer Oded Balilty looks at daily life along Jerusalem’s historic Old City walls.

In this Tuesday, June 27, 2017 photo, Palestinians ride on horses during the Eid al-Fitr holiday outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

In this Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017 photo, members of Holy Land Bikers group gather in Jerusalem Old City before riding their motorbikes to Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

In this Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017 photo, a man prays facing Jerusalem's Old City walls between Jaffa Gate and Zion Gate. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

In this Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017 photo, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man plays his violin during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, at Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem Old City. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

In this Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017 photo, a young girl waits for her family to cross the Zion Gate in Jerusalem Old City. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

In this Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017 photo, Israeli Arab Christian school kids play on inflatables games in De La Salle school basketball yard surrounded by the Jerusalem's Old City walls next to the New Gate in Jerusalem Old City. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

In this Thursday, July 6, 2017 photo, Israeli police officers search a Palestinian man next to the New Gate in Jerusalem Old City.  (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

In this Tuesday, June 27, 2017 photo, Palestinians ride on horses during the Eid al-Fitr holiday outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

In this Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017 photo, an Israeli soldier on their weekend time off carrying their unloaded M-16 rifle as they tour in Jerusalem Old City. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

In this Saturday, May 20, 2017 photo, a view of Jerusalem Old City and Damascus Gate, Saturday, May. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

In this Monday, May. 15, 2017 photo, a woman plays on a harp at Jaffa Gate In Jerusalem Old City. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

In this Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017 photo, people walk in and out Jerusalem's Old City seen through the Old city walls in Jaffa Gate. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

In this Wednesday, May 24, 2017 photo, Israelis carry national flags outside the Old City's Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, during Jerusalem Day which marks the 50th anniversary of Israel's capture of the city's eastern half from Jordanian control during the Six-Day War in 1967. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

In this Tuesday, July 25, 2017 photo, Palestinians pray as Israeli border police officers stand guard at the Lion's Gate in Jerusalem's Old City. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

In this Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017 photo, a view of Jerusalem Old City seen from the Jerusalem Ramparts Walk. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

In this Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017 photo, people buy from a grocery store located between Damascus Gate and the Flowers Gate in Jerusalem's Old City. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

In this Wednesday, May 24, 2017 photo, backdropped by the Silwan neighborhood of east Jerusalem, people tour the Jerusalem Ramparts Walk on Jerusalem's Old City walls. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

In this Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017 photo, Israelis walks along the Jerusalem Old City walls during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

In this Wednesday, July 19, 2017 photo, Palestinians gather for prayer outside the Lion's Gate following an appeal from clerics to pray in the streets instead of inside the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, in Jerusalem's Old City, until a dispute with Israel over security arrangements is settled. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

In this Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016 photo, people walk next to Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)


Text from the AP news story, Jerusalem walls offer glimpse of city's richness, by Ilan Ben Zion and Oded Balilty.

Photos by Oded Balilty