JERUSALEM - President Donald Trump on Wednesday officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move that could spark protests in Palestinian areas and across the Muslim world.
For decades, most of the international community, including the United States, has declined to officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital until a peace deal could be reached between Israelis and Palestinians, since both sides claim the city as a capital. The newest debates threaten to revive decades of controversy over international borders, possible peace deals and land claims.
But the conversation about Jerusalem is also, inevitably, a conversation about faith - and, specifically, about control of some of the holiest sites to Jews, Muslims and Christians.
The geography is stark. At the center of Jerusalem, in an area about twice the size of the Mall in Washington, D.C., sit three major holy sites: the Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in the world for Muslims; the Western Wall, part of the holiest site in the world for Jews; and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which marks the place where many Christians believe that Jesus was crucified, entombed and resurrected.
To understand what's going on in Jerusalem right now, it's essential to understand why the city feels so crucial at this moment to Muslims, Jews and many Christians.
Q: How did all of these holy sites end up in one place?
A: It depends on whom you ask. Jerusalem is central to the geography and events of the Hebrew Bible, and the Hebrew Bible has, in various ways, exerted profound influence on Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Between 587 BCE and 70CE, Jews built - and then saw destroyed - two temples in Jerusalem that were the center of their religious and communal life. Nearly 2,000 years later, Jerusalem and the Temple remain central to traditional Jewish thought and prayer.
Around the world, Jews pray facing Jerusalem. Many Jews believe that the Messiah will come, and the Temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem. And today, one of the old retaining walls of the Temple - called the Western Wall - is the principal worship site for Jews.
For Christians, Jerusalem is also the place where Jesus preached, died and was resurrected. Many also see the city as central to an imminent Second Coming of Jesus. Jerusalem is now a major pilgrimage site for Christians from around the world.
For Muslims, Jerusalem is a site of key events in the life of Jesus and other important figures. It's also the spot where, according to traditional interpretations of the Koran and other texts, the prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. Mohammed was carried from Mecca to Jerusalem, and then from Jerusalem into the heavens, where he conversed with prophets before returning to earth. For more than 1,300 years, there have been Muslim shrines in Jerusalem.
Q: Who actually controls the holy sites?
A: It's complicated. Over the years, Muslims and Christians have fought for control of the city. Most recently, Jordan controlled the land. In 1967, after a war with Jordan, Egypt, Syria and other Arab states, Israel captured the eastern half of Jerusalem, including the Old City that encompasses the major holy sites. Israel quickly razed the buildings in front of the Western Wall and reestablished it as a holy site.
The international community does not recognize Israel's jurisdiction over this territory, and much of the Old City's population is Palestinian. But the entire Old City, including its Muslim holy sites, is now within the broader area where Israel exercises final control.