Old City walls offer glimpse of Jerusalem’s richness
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Photo essay

Old City walls offer glimpse of Jerusalem’s richness

Amid conflict and controversy, day-to-day life flourishes in the ancient Holy City

  • In this photo from December 23, 2017, people walk along the Old City of Jerusalem's walls, next to Jaffa Gate. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
    In this photo from December 23, 2017, people walk along the Old City of Jerusalem's walls, next to Jaffa Gate. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
  • In this photo from May 19, 2017, 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)
    In this photo from May 19, 2017, 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)
  • In this photo from December 19, 2017, a man prays facing Jerusalem's Old City walls between Jaffa Gate and Zion Gate. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
    In this photo from December 19, 2017, a man prays facing Jerusalem's Old City walls between Jaffa Gate and Zion Gate. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
  • In this photo from December 31, 2016, people walk next to Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
    In this photo from December 31, 2016, people walk next to Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
  • In this photo from June 27, 2017, Palestinians ride on horses during the Eid al-Fitr holiday outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
    In this photo from June 27, 2017, Palestinians ride on horses during the Eid al-Fitr holiday outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

AP — 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.

The city remained under Ottoman rule for 400 years, until British Gen. Edmund Allenby marched through the Jaffa Gate on December 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.

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.

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

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 photo from December 23, 2017, off duty Israeli soldiers carry their rifles as they tour in Jerusalem’s Old City. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Israel captured the Old City, which was part of Jordanian-controlled East Jerusalem, in the 1967 Six Day 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.

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

These conflicting claims have erupted into violence numerous times in the past. On December 6, US President Donald Trump declared Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital, drawing praise from almost all Israel’s political leaders and 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 photo from December 24, 2017, members of the Holy Land Bikers group gather in Jerusalem’s Old City before riding their motorbikes to Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. (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.

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

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

In this photo from May 20, 2017, a view of Jerusalem’s Old City and its Damascus Gate. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this photo from December 20, 2017, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man plays his Violin during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, at Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this photo from December 23, 2017, people walk in and out Jerusalem’s Old City, as seen trough the Old city walls in Jaffa Gate. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In photo from September 2, 2017, 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 photo from December 21, 2017, 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. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
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