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.


An Arabic nisba (a name that indicates a person’s place of origin, family, or tribal affiliation) referring to a person from Jerusalem (al-Quds). 

Martial Law

The substitution of military authority for civilian rule, often during periods of political conflict or natural disaster, and during which military commanders assume absolute power in governance and law enforcement. Though meant to be temporary, martial law can extend indefinitely, in which case civil liberties are often suspended. Britain declared martial law in Palestine on December 11, 1917, following General Edmund Allenby’s capture of Jerusalem from the Ottomans, days prior. Palestine remained under British martial law until 1920, when it transitioned to a form of British civil administration as part of the Colonial Mandate system.  

Over the course of the next three decades, though Britain did not officially reimpose martial law in Palestine, it governed Palestine with an iron fist, suppressing any political activism, as though it were under martial law. In 1931, following the 1929 al-Buraq Uprising, London issued the first Palestine (Defence) Order in Council, which provided the high commissioner with sweeping powers in the event of future emergencies, including, among other measures, the power to impose curfews, censorship, arrest, detention, and deportation with trial, as well as property expropriation. In September 1936, five months after the start of the three-year Great Palestinian Revolt, Britain invoked and expanded upon the 1931 Order in Council in the Palestine Martial Law (Defence) Order in Council. This law granted the high commissioner unchecked powers associated with martial law, including the power to try civilians in military courts.  

But it was Britain’s 1945 Defence (Emergency) Regulations that had the most lasting impact on Palestinians. The regulations granted British authorities in Palestine sweeping powers of warrantless searches, expropriation and demolition of property, censorship, detentions, and more. The new Israeli government incorporated the 1945 regulations in one of its first laws—the Law and Administration Ordinance of 1948—subjecting Palestinians under its rule to different forms of collective punishment under the pretext of an emergency. This law remains in effect to this day.


Classification of land under Ottoman and British Mandate law denoting land for public use, such as for roads; means “leftover”


Classification of land under Ottoman and British Mandate law denoting land which is not owned or used by anyone; vested in the government (“dead”)

Metropolitan Jerusalem

The 1,000 km sq planning region encompassing Jerusalem and its suburbs and hinterlands, including the Ramallah region in the north and the Bethlehem and Hebron region in the south, where Israel is developing and connecting rural Jewish settlements and satellite settlements to the urban core as well as to one another following various master plans.

See Greater Jerusalem

Military governor

A military official who exercises authority over civilian population in an occupied territory


Classification of land under Ottoman and British Mandate law denoting land leased from the state; also included common and communal lands; cultivation was required for the lessee to use the land; leaving the land fallow for more than three years would result in dispossession.

Moroccan Quarter

An ancient neighborhood of the Old City that stood where the prayer plaza is in front of the Western Wall today. See Haret al-Maghariba.

Mount Scopus enclave

Enclave in the eastern part of Jerusalem that came under United Nations protection between the 1948 and 1967 wars. After the division of Jerusalem into a Jordanian-controlled East and an Israeli-controlled West as an outcome of the 1948 War, the UN afforded Israel partial sovereignty over land on Mount Scopus. The enclave included Israeli-run institutions such as the The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Hadassah Hospital, as well as the Palestinian village of al-‘Isawiyya.


A Muslim legal expert tasked with giving rulings on religious matters


The head of an village or neighborhood in many Arab countries as well as Turkey or Cyprus, usually chosen by consensus or some participatory method such as an election; an Arabic word whose literal meaning is “chosen.” Can be styled as a first or last name together with the individual's given name (e.g., Mukhtar Ahmad or Ahmad Mukhtar). 


Classification of land under Ottoman and British law denoting privately owned land; individuals able to prove cultivation for 10 years were given a title (koshan) of ownership


Classification of land added under British Mandate law denoting lands under the control of the government by treaty, convention, agreement, or succession; lands acquired for public purpose; collectively held land, such as by a village

Muslim Brotherhood

Founded in 1928 in Egypt by Hassan al-Banna, the Muslim Brotherhood is the largest, oldest, and most influential Islamist society in the world. Its mission is to Islamize society. It advocates a return to the Quran and the Sunna as the basis for a healthy modern Islamic society. It works to this end through legal, social, and political means. It has Brotherhood affiliates in Jordan, Palestine, Kuwait, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, and Bahrain, and wields influence also in North Africa.

Mutasarrifate of Jerusalem

An Ottoman administrative demarcation, also known as the “sanjak” of Jerusalem, created in 1872 for the province of Jerusalem. The mutasarrifate included Jerusalem, Jaffa, Hebron, Beersheba, and Gaza, and, along with the sanjaks of Nablus and Acre to the north, formed the geographic region known as Palestine. Previously, the district had been part of the Damascus eyalet, a larger administrative division, but was separated and administered directly by Istanbul in 1841 before officially receiving its independent status in 1872. The mutasarrifate was dissolved upon Britain’s occupation of Palestine in December 1917.