Destruction and Desecration of Religious Sites
Upon its capture by the Arab Legion, the Jewish Quarter of the Old City was destroyed and its residents expelled. Fifty-eight synagogues–some hundreds of years old–were destroyed, their contents looted and desecrated. Some Jewish religious sites were turned into chicken coops or animal stalls. The Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives, where Jews had been burying their dead for over 2500 years, was ransacked; graves were desecrated; thousands of tombstones were smashed and used as building material, paving stones or for latrines in Arab Legion army camps. The Intercontinental Hotel was built on top of the cemetery and graves were demolished to make way for a highway to the hotel. The Western Wall became a slum area.
Jordan’s Illegal Annexation
In 1950, Jordan annexed the territories it had captured in the 1948 war–-eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank. The April 24th resolution declared “its support for complete unity between the two sides of the Jordan and their union into one State, which is the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, at whose head reigns King Abdullah Ibn al Husain…”
While Great Britain and Pakistan were the only countries that recognized Jordan’s annexation – all other nations, including the Arab states, rejected it — Great Britain recognized only the annexation of the West Bank. It never recognized either Jordan or Israel’s sovereignty over any sector of Jerusalem, viewing both Jordan’s 1950 annexation and Israel’s annexation of west Jerusalem as illegal.
Religious Restrictions and Denial of Access to Holy Sites
In direct contravention of the 1949 armistice agreements, Jordan did not permit Jews access to their holy sites or to the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives.
Article VIII of the Israel Jordan Armistice Agreement (April 3, 1949) established a special committee which would “direct its attention to the formulation of agreed plans and arrangements” including “free access to the Holy Places and cultural institutions and use of the cemetery on the Mount of Olives.” Nevertheless, and despite numerous requests by Israeli officials and Jewish groups to the UN, the U.S., and others to attempt to enforce the armistice agreement, Jews were denied access to the Western Wall, the Jewish cemetery and all religious sites in eastern Jerusalem. The armistice lines were sealed as Jordanian snipers would perch on the walls of the Old City and shoot at Israelis across the lines.
Israeli Arabs, too, were denied access to the Al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, but their Muslim sites in eastern Jerusalem were respected.
While Christians, unlike Jews, were allowed access to their holy sites, they too were subject to restrictions under Jordanian law. There were limits on the numbers of Christian pilgrims permitted into the Old City and Bethlehem during Christmas and Easter. Christian charities and religious institutions were prohibited from buying real estate in Jerusalem. And Christian schools were subject to strict controls. They were required to teach in Arabic, close on Friday, the Muslim holy day, and teach all students the Koran. At the same time, they were not allowed to teach Christian religious material to non-Christians.