Jerusalem, or Al Quds (القدس), is the centre-stage of the Palestinian story. One of the oldest cities in the world, Jerusalem’s economy was historically supported almost exclusively by religious pilgrims, as it was located far from the major ports of Jaffa and Gaza.
Both Palestinians and Israelis claim Jerusalem as their capital. During the Partition Plan of 1948, the British (in classic colonial style) envisioned the city as divided between a Palestinian state and a new Jewish state. When the Palestinians did not accept the plan, Israel instead took control of West Jerusalem and declared itself a Zionist State, exclusive to its Jewish population. War erupted, and with time, Israel has cemented full control of both West Jerusalem, along with East Jerusalem and many major parts of the Arab territory allotted to the future Palestinian State.
Paradoxically, Zionism recoiled from Jerusalem, particularly the Old City. First because Jerusalem was regarded as a symbol of the diaspora and a rallying point for Palestinians, and second because the holy sites to Christianity and Islam were seen as complications that would not fit in with the narrative of the creation of an exclusively Jewish state with Jerusalem as its capital. Perspectives would shift as a right-wing religious Likud party took control of Israel. Spurring a growing far-right Jewish Settler population in its rhetoric, under the Likud Jerusalem gradually became center of a cultlike devotion that had not existed before.
Today, the ethnic composition of Jerusalem’s population has remained about 30 percent Palestinian – but are in no way equal to their Jewish neighbours. Identification cards are regularily revoked, and police crackdowns on any form of dissent or Palestinian nationalism are regular. From its high seat, the Palestinians of Jerusalem take on lives as outcasts in their own land, a minority of second-class citizens. In Jerusalem, new Palestinian leaders are being born. In Jerusalem, the heart of hearts, the Palestinian story takes shape.