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.

Nabi Musa Riots

Violent clashes between Palestinians and Jews that broke out in the Old City of Jerusalem between Sunday, April 4, and Wednesday, April 7, 1920. The annual, week-long Nabi Musa festival gathered Muslim pilgrims in Jerusalem on the Friday before Good Friday to journey to the Nabi Musa maqam, or shrine, near Jericho. This celebration became an occasion for intercommunal clashes after the 1917 British occupation of Palestine and the rise in Zionist influence. On the morning of April 4, a large crowd of Palestinians gathered in the city center to commence the festival. Prominent Palestinian nationalists gave speeches to the impassioned crowd, promoting Arab nationalism and denouncing Zionism. Jewish bystanders threw stones at the crowd, sparking riots that spread to the Jewish neighborhoods of the Old City. As violence escalated, colonial British Mandate officials imposed a curfew on Monday, but they were not able to restore peace for two more days. In the end, 5 Jews and 4 Palestinians were killed, 216 Jews and 23 Palestinians were injured, and about 300 Jews were evacuated from the Old City. 




Literally, the “Catastrophe” in Arabic; a term Palestinians use to refer to the deliberate and systematic expulsion of about 750,000 Palestinians from Mandate Palestine by Zionist militias (and later, the Israeli army) and the establishment of Israel in 1948. The mass expulsions and flight for safety were accompanied by the depopulation and destruction of more than 400 towns and villages across Palestine, the property confiscation of those who had been ethnically cleansed from their homeland, and the passage of laws banning their return. Palestinians commemorate the depopulation of Palestine (Nakba Day) on May 15, the day after Israel proclaimed its independence, but they also view the Nakba as an ongoing process, not a time-limited event.


Literally, the “setback” or “defeat” in Arabic; a term Palestinians use to refer to the 1967 War, by the end of which Israel had occupied the remainder of historic Palestine—the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip—as well as Syria’s Golan Heights and Egypt’s Sinai. This resulted in the displacement of about 300,000 Palestinians, about a third of whom had already been displaced once during the 1948 Nakba, and brought millions of Palestinians under Israeli military occupation, which continues to this day. Viewed as the continuation of the Nakba.

National Guidance Committee (1967)

A Palestinian leadership committee formed on July 24, 1967, in the aftermath of the 1967 War and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza. The first NGC was chaired by Sheikh Abdel Hamid As-Sayeh, a respected sharia judge. The NGC denounced the Israeli annexation of the city and launched a public appeal to preserve its Arab character. In September that same year, Israel deported As-Sayeh; his successor, Rawhi al-Khatib, was soon deported as well, in 1968, which fatally weakened the NGC.

National Guidance Committee (1978)

A Palestinian leadership committee that was established in 1978 inside the occupied West Bank and Gaza to oppose both the Egyptian-Israeli Camp David Accords and Israel’s new Likud government. It was the second such body with this name (see National Guidance Committee [1967]). It was led by mayors of major cities and included journalists, labor and professional unions, women’s and student organizations, businesspeople, and religious figures. Although the NGC adopted a stance of peaceful protest and institution building, calling for independence, the Likud government (which came to power in 1977) saw it as a threat and launched attacks on the mayors in particular and the NGC as a whole. In November 1979, Israel jailed Bassam Shak‘a, the mayor of Nablus, and issued him with a deportation order for refusing to connect the city’s water and electricity to Israeli utilities. While Shak‘a was able to fight this order in court, the mayors of Halhoul and Hebron were deported the following May. In June 1980, car bombs severely wounded the mayors of Nablus and Ramallah. On August 31, 1980, Israel froze the elections of municipal councils and subsequently created the Civil Administration as a unit within the COGAT. Banned by Israel in 1982, the NGC dissolved soon after.

New Gate

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

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


An Arabic term denoting a name that indicates a person’s place of origin, family, or tribal affiliation (see, e.g., Maqdisi)

Nonresidential settlement

Built to provide economic and cultural functions for adjacent residential settlements. Different types include industrial parks, which may be built to house industry (such as the Mishor Adumim settlement), or settlements that have both housing and industry (such as the Atarot settlement). Israeli national parks in the occupied West Bank are another type and are built under the guise of preservation, while simultaneously confiscating Palestinian lands. National parks are usually managed by sub-governmental administrations, such as the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and serve adjacent residential settlements. The Emek Refaim National Park is an example of this kind of settlement. Finally, touristic settlement parks are built by the state, the municipality, or settler organizations in cooperation with the state and municipality. Their aim is to contribute to the economic growth of settlements and settler organizations, while emphasizing the Jewish people’s historic connections to the region at the expense of Palestinian Arab history, which has simultaneously disappeared. Examples include the City of David archaeological settlement, built on the lands of Silwan and the Haniya Spring Park, a recreational area created on the lands and remaining buildings of al-Walaja village.