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 irrevocable endowment, whether in cash or property, to be held perpetually in trust and used for a purpose serving Islamic sharia law (such as a religious school, charity, mosque, etc.). A waqf (pl. awqaf) is a permanent donation that can never be transferred, sold, or altered in function or purpose. Waqf (from the root waqafa, to cause something to stop and stand still) in Arabic means to halt or preserve. In this case, the function of the endowment is permanently channeled to an Islamic religious purpose in perpetuity.

West Jerusalem

Refers to the section of the city of Jerusalem that is west of the Green Line that was drawn in 1949 as part of the Armistice Agreement following the 1948 War and the division of the city between Israel and Jordan. Before 1948, this part of the city was commonly known as the “New City,” which was established at the end of the 19th century outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. After the 1948 Nakba, the parts of the city that came under Israeli control (i.e., West Jerusalem) were almost completely emptied of Palestinian Arab inhabitants, who were forcibly displaced or elected to seek temporary safety elsewhere. They fled to the West Bank and East Jerusalem, among other places, and then the state banned them from ever returning. Today, West Jerusalem encompasses an area that is much larger than its pre-1948 predecessor (the “New City”) and extends farther to the west, almost halfway to the Mediterranean Sea. The term came into more common usage after the 1967 War, because Israel occupied the eastern part of the city, and so the term was used to distinguish between the two parts of the city that were now both under Israeli control—the western (Jewish) side and the eastern (Arab) side.

Western Corridor

Refers to the neighborhoods and villages located on the western side of pre-1948 Jerusalem, including Lifta, Sheikh Badr, Deir Yasin, ‘Ayn Karim, and al-Maliha, among others, as well as the neighborhoods of the southern part of the city from Talbiyya down to the German Colony, the Greek Colony, Qatamon, and al-Baq‘a.

Western Wall

Jerusalem’s most important Jewish site, known in Arabic as the Buraq Wall. The shrine, believed by Jews to be the western wall of the Second Temple, begun by King Herod, also forms the western wall of the Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary/Temple Mount, Jerusalem’s most significant site for Muslims and the location of the most sacred site in Judaism, the Holy of Holies. However, for a variety of reasons enshrined in Jewish religious law and political and security agreements dating back to the Ottoman period, Jews are restricted from the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount, thus making the Western Wall the closest Jews can reach the Holy of Holies sanctuary. 

The Western Wall (or the Wailing Wall pre-1967 when Jews were said to mourn for it, because it was inaccessible since that part of Jerusalem was under Jordanian rule) once formed the northern border of the Haret al-Maghariba, home to a diverse community of Maghribi Muslims and Maghriebi-origin Muslim Palestinians  who were expelled when Israel razed the entire ancient neighborhood in 1967. Atop this demolished quarter of the Old City, Israel built the expansive and fortified Western Wall prayer plaza, attended today by large gatherings of Jewish worshippers. Its Palestinian and Arab character meticulously erased by Israel, the Western Wall was also the site of the 1929 Buraq Uprising, instigated by Palestinian protests against a provocative Zionist rally there, as well as against the increased Judaization of Palestine. 

White Paper

British policy paper published in May 1939 by Neville Chamberlain’s government in response to the Great Palestinian Revolt, which had started three years earlier, in April 1936. With the failure of the 1936 Peel Commission and the London Conference (held between February and March 1939) to bring about a negotiated settlement between the Palestinians and Zionists, the paper served as Britain’s official policy on Palestine until the dissolution of the Colonial British Mandate in 1948. Rather than partition, the paper recommended establishing a Jewish national home in an independent Palestinian state within 10 years. Furthermore, it limited Jewish immigration to Palestine to 75,000 immigrants over the course of five years and made further immigration contingent on Palestinian consent. Finally, it restricted the sale of more lands to Jews. Both Palestinians and Zionists rejected the White Paper, with the latter attacking several British government sites in Palestine and declaring a Jewish general strike on May 18. Ultimately, the White Paper’s policy was not implemented in Palestine, especially after Britain’s entry into World War II in September 1939. 

Wye River Memorandum

Signed in October 1998 between Israelis and Palestinians, establishing a new schedule for Israel’s redeployment from the rest of Area C. The Oslo II Agreement had established that Israel was to redeploy its military from Area C of the West Bank in three phases, but only one phase was completed. At Wye River in Maryland, the parties agreed to divide the second phase of Oslo II into three stages totaling 13 percent of Area C. Two percent of this land would become nature preserves in Area B, effectively preventing its use by Palestinians. Palestinians were to double down on their security coordination and stop “incitement.” In any case, Israel only completed 2 percent of this staged withdrawal.

In early 1999, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu froze the accord’s implementation, causing his opposition to withdraw from the government and bringing about new elections in May of that year.

The five-year interim period established by the Oslo Accords expired in May, 1999.