Terminology in the Jerusalem context can be complex and also controversial. Words and their meanings shape narratives. Our Lexicon goes beyond standard definitions and also offers, where applicable, nuanced shades of meanings that matter to Palestinian Jerusalemites.


A Zionist paramilitary organization, set up by a Labor Zionist party in 1920, that actively established Jewish settlements in and supported illegal Jewish immigration to Palestine. (In Hebrew, Haganah means “defense.”) Its purpose was to fight Arab resistance to Jewish settlement in Palestine. It was outlawed by the British Mandate but remained active. Until the end of World War II, its activities could be described as moderate when compared to the activities of the Stern Gang and Irgun, which it regarded as terrorist. After the war, however, the British refused to allow immigration to Palestine, and the Haganah turned to terrorism. It bombed bridges, railroads, and ships used to deport illegal Jewish immigrants. After the UN voted to partition Palestine in 1947, the Haganah acted as the army of the Zionist movement and fought both Mandate forces and Palestinian militias. By the time the State of Israel was declared, the Haganah controlled not only the areas allocated to the Jewish state by the Partition Plan, but also Jaffa and Acre. On May 31, 1948, it was dissolved by order of the provisional government of Israel, its members becoming the core of the state army. Its name is incorporated into the official name of the Israeli army, Tzva Haganah le-Yisra’el (translated as Israel Defense Forces). Haganah commanders who had careers in Israeli politics include Yigal Allon, Moshe Dayan, and Yisrael Galili.


Hamas—the Arabic acronym for Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya (Movement of Islamic Resistance)—is a Palestinian political party and Islamist national movement, founded in 1987 in the Gaza Strip after the outbreak of the First Intifada. Ideologically and organizationally, it is modeled after the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt.


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Colloquialization of a common medieval Arabic term, hara (pl. harat, hawari), used for both street (or alley) and quarter (or section of a town). Not used on its own but rather together with the neighborhood name. See Haret al-Maghariba,Haret al-Sa‘diyya, Haret al-Sharaf

Haret al-Maghariba

Haret al-Maghariba (“Moroccan neighborhood” in English) was a centuries-old neighborhood in the Old City of Jerusalem adjacent to the Western Wall that was home to approximately 650 people and 100 families. On June 10, 1967, days after Israel occupied Arab Jerusalem, it was entirely demolished by contractors hired by the Jerusalem municipality on the direct orders of Mayor Teddy Kollek.

Sources differ on the roots of the neighborhood’s name. Some sources indicate that the entire neighborhood was the Islamic waqf of King al-Afdal, one of Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi’s 17 sons. Other sources say that the neighborhood was named after the Moroccan pilgrims who visited al-Aqsa Mosque, or that Moroccan religious students stayed in the neighborhood.

The neighborhood was located next to al-Buraq Wall, or what has become the Western Wall complex. The city rushed to demolish 135 homes and historic structures in the al-Maghariba neighborhood and turned it into an open square in the newly expanded Jewish Quarter. Today’s Jewish Quarter was built on the lands of the al-Maghariba and al-Sharaf neighborhoods.

Haret al-Sa‘diyya

A neighborhood (haret) located within Jerusalem’s Old City walls between Herod’s Gate/Bab al-Zahra and Damascus Gate/Bab al-Amud (see The Gates of the Old City). Haret al-Sa‘diyya (or “Sa‘diyya neighborhood” in English) was named after Bani Sa‘ad (“offspring of Sa‘ad”), i.e., the Sa‘adi family. This family was one of the tribes that came to Jerusalem with the Muslim conqueror Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi in the 12th century. According to a 2018 al-Quds newspaper interview with Abed al-Qader al-Bukhari (b. 1933), a resident of this neighborhood, the largely Kurdish neighborhood also had several other names. It was also called al-Mashariqa (“Orient”) neighborhood after the Eastern Christians who inhabited it during the Crusader era. The neighborhood is also abundant with antiquities, including the Red Minaret Mosque, Sheikh Rehan Mosque, Convent of the Sisters of Zion, Indian corner (zawiya), Salhiya school, Mawlawia corner, the mosque and tomb of Sheikh al-Shuyoukh Ali al-Khilouti, Sheikh Lulu Mosque, and the mosque and tomb of Sheikh Shaky Makki.  

Haret al-Sharaf

An Old City north-to-south haret that used to lie adjacent and parallel to the now-demolished Haret al-Maghariba; named after the mausoleum of Sharaf al-Din Musa, a Jerusalem notable buried in the vicinity in the 14th century. The neighborhood formerly had Muslim and Jewish inhabitants. Today its location falls in the middle of the Jewish Quarter and it is known as Misgav Ladakh (Hebrew), or Sharaf or Maydan Street.


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Hebron Protocol

An agreement on arrangements for the Palestinian city of Hebron signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as part of the Oslo Accords. Also known as the Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron, the agreement stipulated Israel’s military redeployment from 80 percent of the city while maintaining a small Israeli settlement in the heart of the Palestinian urban area and religious center. Signed on January 17, 1997, the protocol gave the Israeli military 10 days to redeploy from H-1, while H-2, where several hundred Israeli settlers had occupied Palestinian homes, would remain under Israeli control. The Palestinian market and Shuhada Street near the settlement were to remain open. The rest of Shuhada Street remains closed and emptied of Palestinian residents.

Herod’s Gate

The English name for one of the seven open gates in the wall of the Old City of Jerusalem. See also Bab al-Zahra

See The Gates of the Old City for more detailed information.

Holy Basin

A term coined in 2000 during the Israeli–Palestinian negotiations (Camp David II) by Israeli negotiators who sought to differentiate the center of the city with its holy sites from the remainder of the city. Originating in a European need to define the “original” landscape described in the Bible  and growing out of earlier European, colonial, and particularly British planning traditions, the term “Holy Basin” refers to the Old City (with its holy sites) and the open environs around it, including Silwan to the south of the Old City and the Mount of Olives to its east.  

In 1974, the Israeli government established the Jerusalem Walls National Park around the Old City, covering an area of 1,100 sq km that became prohibited for building. The park was situated in a “special zone” of 10 km sq of territory in East Jerusalem only, abutting the Holy Basin and extending over Palestinian villages and neighborhoods including Sheikh Jarrah, Wadi al-Joz, al-Tur, Silwan, Abu Tor, and Ras al-Amud. 

Israel and several settler organizations, including Ateret Cohanim, have been displacing Palestinians from the Holy Basin and settling Jews in their place for decades under the pretext that the basin contains important Jewish historic and religious sites. 

Variously referred to as: Old City and environs, antiquity zone, archaeology zone, special zone, old City basin, Old City visual space, historic basin, religious basin, and heritage zone.