PEOPLE PRAY beside the Wailing Wall, or the Western Wall, in the Old City of Jerusalem, in 1948. In Jewish tradition, it is believed to hold the remains of the Second Holy Temple. Muslims, who refer to it as the al-Buraq wall, believe that it was where Muhammad tied al-Buraq, the steed on which he rode into heaven. The Western Wall is part of a large compound that houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Temple Mount—sacred sites for Muslims and Jews—and is a point of immense territorial conflict between the communities.
In November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution that proposed the partition of Palestine. The Arab community rejected the plan on the grounds that it denied them self-determination, and, in the weeks that followed, this disagreement caused several clashes between Jewish and Muslim groups. On 4 January 1948, the Wailing Wall was the site of one such battle, as Arabs allegedly attacked Jewish quarters in the vicinity in retaliation after Jews threw grenades at their riflemen. The same day, an explosion at the Arab National Committee headquarters in Jaffa killed at least 15 people. There has been intermittent violence in the area for decades since.
In December this year, the US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel sparked international controversy for its blatant disregard of the Arab community’s claim to the city as a capital. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation dismissed the decision as “null and void,” and declared East Jerusalem the capital of Palestine. Weeks after Trump’s announcement, a majority vote in the United Nations General Assembly backed the international consensus that Jerusalem’s status could only be determined through a peace deal between Israel and Palestine.