Jerusalem Contested

The Holy City changed hands many times before the War of Independence.

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A Separate Peace

While the general shape of divided Jerusalem was established by the end of the Mandate--with the Jews controlling most of the Jewish areas of the city and the Arab forces controlling most of the Old City and some of the new Arab districts--the exact lines would be determined by the war. The Arabs set siege upon Jewish Jerusalem, and in late May the remaining inhabitants of the Jewish quarter left, surrendering it to Arab control. The siege wore on and the stores of food and water in the new city also dwindled--a ceasefire, called by the U.N. in early June, likely saved the Jews from being starved out of Jerusalem. During this ceasefire Mt. Scopus was also declared a demilitarized zone.  In contrast, the second ceasefire, which came into effect in mid-July, probably preserved Arab control of the Old City. There would be two more ceasefires before the Arabs finally admitted defeat that fall, formalizing, for the time being, the lines of division. The Arabs residing in West Jerusalem fled, and would not be permitted to return.

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Lili Kalish Gersch

Lili Kalish Gersch is Director of Literature, Music & Dance at the DCJCC. She was the Managing Editor of