The city of Jerusalem was the center of faith for three major world religions. For the Jews, it was their homeland. It had been promised to them by Jehovah, whom they believed had covenanted with Abraham to give him the land of Israel. To the Muslims, Jerusalem was the location where the Prophet Muhammad had ascended into heaven. After Makkah and Medinah, Jerusalem was Islam’s third most holy city. To the Christians, Jerusalem was both the location of Christ’s birth and the location of his death. It is also the location of much of the New Testament.
This Holy Land was conquered by Islam in the 600s A.D., and would remain in their control for many centuries to come. In 1095 A.D., Pope Urban II called for volunteers to travel to Jerusalem and fight to take it back from the Muslims. He called their mission a crusade. The word “crusade” comes from the word Crux, which means “cross” in Latin. Those who volunteered for the crusade would be called crusaders, meaning that they took the cross of Jesus upon them.
This crusade would be the first of nine total crusades that Christians would carry out as they attempted to control Israel territory.
These crusaders were promised that they would receive eternal life if they died while fighting non-Christians. As a result of the rhetoric, these Christians killed thousands of non-Christians, including Jews and Muslims, as they traveled to Jerusalem. In some cases, they slaughtered entire Jewish communities.
After two years of traveling in the desert, the crusaders finally reached Jerusalem. They laid siege upon the city, surrounding it for two months. Finally the city fell and the crusaders entered, killing almost all of the non-Christians who inhabited the city; men, women and children.
Europeans would control many parts of Israel and the surrounding regions for a little over 200 years. During this time, Muslims made slow but steady efforts to regain control over Jerusalem. Eight more crusades would follow in an effort to keep control over the city in the hands of the Europeans. In 1291 A.D., the Muslims captured the last European stronghold in the area. European leaders lost interest in the area, and the crusades came to an end.