I. Geographical location:
Jerusalem is located at a longitude of 35? east and a latitude of 31? north on a chain of hills running eastward and ranging from between 720 metres (m) to 800 m above sea level. The city is about 52 kilometres (km) from the Mediterranean, 22 km from the Dead Sea, 250 km from the Red Sea (Mustafa 1989), 150 km from Akka, 65 km from Nablus, 36 km from Hebron, 62 km from Jaffa, 88 km from Amman, 390 km from Damascus, 528 km from Cairo, 388 km from Beirut and 865 km from Baghdad (Jaber 1996; Al Farhan 1975; Al Dabbagh 1975).
The city is characterized by its strategic location; its natural defensive lines include a system of valleys in the east (Suleiman, Sitna Merriam or Yahu Shafat valleys), west (Wadi Eljabaneen) and south (Wadi Alrababeh). The level area in the north was the main access route for most military raids and attacks on the city (Al Farhan 1975). All those who conquered the city, such as Naboukheth Nasser, Alexander, Bombay and Omar Bin Al Khattab, entered the city via the northern access (Mahmoud 1984).
The topography of the city also enhances its military stronghold because of its being surrounded by mountains, namely, Al Tour mount in the east at 830 m above sea level overlooking the Jordan Valley, Samuel mount in the west overlooking the Coastal Strip, Al Masharef or Scopus mount in the north that reaches Ramallah, and Al Mukkaber mount (named as such because Omar Bin Al Khattab called out "Allahu Akbar" when he conquered the city) in the south reaching Bethlehem. These early warning sites enabled the army to defend the city (Mahmoud 1984; Jaber 1996).
II. Holy places:
Jerusalem is highly respected and revered by the followers of the three faiths-Moslems, Christians and Jews-because most of the prophets and messengers either lived in the city or had been there at one time or another such as Abraham, Jacob, Isaac, Jesus, Yahya, Zakaria and Saleh, peace be upon them. Stories indicate that Adam was buried in a cave between Jerusalem and Abraham's shrine, and Noah's ark is believed to have told him that "this is the place of your sons-Sam who built the city and ruled it" (Bin Mohammed [date unknown]). Moreover, Abdullah Bin Omar said, "Beit Al Maqdes had been built by the prophets, peace be upon them, and the angels had prostrated all over the city". Muqatel Ben Suleiman said, "The prophets and angels had prayed all over the city" (Al Suyouti [date unknown]).
The Islamic faith confirms the belief in all prophets and considers this one of its articles of faith to believe in all previous faiths, as mentioned in the Holy Qur'an in Surah Al Imran, verses 3 and 4, "Allah has sent you the Book to believe in the previous faiths, and He had sent Al Torah and Al Injeel (the Psalms) as a guide for the people." Also, in Surah Al Shoura, verse 13, "Allah has shown you the true religion which was oracled to Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus to follow this belief and not disperse." Consequently, the holy and sacred places in the Jerusalem are (Al Zein 1988):
Al Aqsa Mosque: It was the second mosque built by Abraham, peace be upon him, after he had built the Kaabah. Al Aqsa means "the farthest" and it was named so because it is far away from Mecca and it was the destination of Mohammed's Al Isra'a journey.
The Dome of the Rock: It was taken as a mosque and altar by Abraham (peace be upon him) and as a mosque by Jacob. Yusha'a took the dome as a meeting place made by Moses (peace be upon him) in the chaos. David and Suleiman also took it as a mosque and finally it was the starting point of Al Miraaj, the journey by Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings be upon him) up to the heavens (Mustafa 1989).
Al Buraq: This is the wall that surrounds Al Aqsa Mosque from the west. It is an indivisible part of the sanctuary. It is called the Wailing Wall by the Jews, who believe that the so-called Al Haykal was built there by Herodes in 18 BC and thereafter destroyed by Titus in 70 CE.
Concerning the Christians, Al Qeyameh Church was built by Queen Heliana in 335 CE. This is where they discovered the cross upon which Jesus Christ was believed to have been crucified. This Church is considered to be the most revered place for Christians. The Jews are still searching for Al Haykal, built by Suleiman, especially in the area (Al Zein 1988).
Allah the Most High has honoured and glorified certain areas from around the globe as places of worship where good deeds (hasanat) are multiplied. This is evident in both the Holy Qur'an and the Sunnah. The most honourable and glorious places are Mecca (the hometown of Prophet Mohammed, peace and blessings be upon him, and the place of revelation and the Ka'aba), Medina (Prophet Mohammed's refuge, grave and mosque) and Jerusalem, which is connected to both the foregoing places by the nocturnal journey of Al Isra'a and Al Miraj (Shappeir 1987). These three places are blessed by Allah; This is mentioned in the first verse of Surah Al Isra'a in the Holy Qur'an. Blessed means the increase and growth of benevolence andthe Godly providence, taken from the Holy Qur'an, Surah Al Anbiyya, verse 71 (Al Asfahani 1961).
Spiritual Blessings: (Shappeir 1987). Jerusalem is spiritually blessed for several reasons. First, it is the hometown of many prophets, the place where angels have descended, the burial place for many prophets, the land of Resurrection and the place where the Day of Judgement (or Doomsday) will be executed. For example, Abraham, Lot, Moses, David and Solomon (peace be upon them) lived on this land. Also, as mentioned in the Sunnah, "Angels have descended there for purposes of revelation". Touba for Al Sham (Syria) says that Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings be upon him) says, "Where the Angels are present spreading their wings to protect that land." Moreover, it is the land of the prophets because all of the prophets were gathered to pray behind Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings be upon him) when he took Al Isra'a journey. This means that Prophet Mohammed is the leader of all the previous prophets and his message is the last message of revelation. Furthermore, it is the land where the Day of Judgement (or Doomsday) and the Resurrection will take place; this is what Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings be upon him) said when he was asked about Jerusalem. This is further proof that Jerusalem is divinely blessed and highly glorified and respected by all believers and religious people. Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings be upon him) emphasized this when he said, "I saw the Light going toward Al Sham, so it is the Land of Faith, and a refuge from trouble."
Another aspect of this blessing is that the residents are considered fighters (Mujahedeen) because this land has been the centre of the nations' conflicts. Prophet Mohammed says, "All of the residents of Al Sham are fighters (Mujahedeen) for Allah's sake in every city, town or frontier." Finally, the people of Jerusalem will be victorious as long as they follow the right way. Regarding this, Prophet Mohammed says, "There is always a group of Muslims following the right way and oppressing their enemy till Allah's order comes; it was said, 'Where are they?' The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, 'Around Jerusalem'." Moreover, Prophet Mohammed says, "The people of Al Sham are Allah's whip on the earth to revenge the infidels, and the hypocrites will never overcome the believers; the hypocrites will die sadly."
Perceptible Blessing: (Shappeir 1987). Beside the spiritual blessing, there is the perceptible blessing such as the central geographical location in the Arab and Islamic world--a juncture between the continents. This location made the city a hometown to most of the prophets and faiths, and a military centre, especially when Alexander invaded Egypt. Amr Bin Alass invaded Egypt, too. Its seaports were utilized to conquer the islands of the Mediterranean by Muslims. Moreover, Palestine is rich in agriculture because there is plenty of water and the soil is very fertile, especially around Jerusalem, which is surrounded by various kinds of fruit orchards and olive trees. Olives are the most important crop of the land. The land itself is surrounded by the Mediterranean, the Dead Sea, the Red Sea and Lake Tiberias, along with several rivers and springs.
Holiness: The holiness of Palestine is evident in the Holy Qur'an. Moses told his followers, "Oh my people, enter the holy land, which Allah has assigned to you, and turn not back (in flight) for then you will be returned as losers" (Holy Qur'an, Surah 5 [Al Ma'idah], verse 21). The word "holy" means "sanctified and pure", thus Palestine has been called "The Holy Land". Palestine is the home of Al Aqsa Mosque, the Dome of the Rock, the cradle in Bethlehem, and Al Qeyameh Church in Jerusalem (Shappeir 1987). Since the city is holy and sacred, any form of oppression, transgression or arrogance is unacceptable. The city has never contained idols; any nation that flaunts morality-namely the Persians, the Romans, the Jews and even the Muslims when they quit their religion-would never stay for long on its land. This land rejects wrong beliefs wherever it may lie. Moreover, Al Dajjal (the Anti-Christ) will not enter this land, nor will he enter Mecca or Medina. Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings be upon him) says, "Al Dajjal will overcome the whole earth except Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem, where all believers will be besieged, then Allah will defeat him; even the trunk of the tree shows the believers where the infidels are" (Shappeir 1987).