World-renowned chef, best-selling author and Emmy-winning television personality Anthony Bourdain returns for the second season of CNN's showcase for coverage of food and travel. "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown" is shot entirely on location and premieres Sept 15 @ 9pm ET/PT. Follow the show on Twitter and Facebook. Bourdain's first stop: Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) -- Heaven and Earth are said to meet atop Jerusalem’s sacred mounts, but the city’s stony streets have seen more than their share of hellish violence.
King David subdued the Jebusites, the city's Canaanite founders. The Babylonians and Romans routed the Jews. Muslims booted the Byzantines. Christian Crusaders mauled Muslims and were, in turn, tossed out by the Tartars.
The Ottomans followed, then Britain, then Jordan, before finally, in 1967, the city came nearly full circle when Israel annexed East Jerusalem. That sparked another cycle of violence, this time between Israelis and Palestinians.
“It’s easily the most contentious piece of real estate in the world,” says Anthony Bourdain, who visits Jerusalem in the season premiere of “Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown,” which debuts Sunday night on CNN.
“And there’s no hope -- none -- of ever talking about it without pissing someone off.”
MORE FROM CNN: Exploring Jerusalem's Old City
Why would people argue about a holy place?
You might call it the Jerusalem Paradox: If the city wasn't considered so sacred, there'd be nothing to fight about.
But since the days of the Jebusites, more than 3,000 years ago, the otherwise unremarkable place has been called a portal to paradise, and everyone elbows for a closer look.
After all, how many places can list God on their guest registry? And Abraham, David, Solomon, the Virgin Mary, Jesus and the Prophet Mohammed as well.
“The city is chockablock full of places that have historical meaning for different groups of people -- and they are all contested,” said Samuel Heilman, a professor of Jewish Studies at Queens College in New York and author of “A Walker in Jerusalem.”
“Everybody’s story is just one of many,” Heilman said. “And so they not only try to make their story the right story, they try to delegitimize everyone else’s.”
Some Muslims say Jerusalem never housed a Jewish temple; some Jews argue that Mohammed never visited the sacred city, and the argument runs on and on … for centuries.
And it’s not just Muslims, Christians and Jews fighting each other. Sometimes the most serious squabbles erupt within the faith themselves. Want to see Christian monks fist-fight? Go to Jerusalem.
The good news is, all three Abrahamic faiths teach that the Messiah will eventually return to Jerusalem and sort the whole thing out.
Until then, here are the sacred city’s five most contested sites:
1. The Temple Mount
This broad platform in Jerusalem’s Old City is said to have hosted an almost unimaginable series of sacred events.
The rabbinic sages say that God gathered dust from this spot to create Adam, the first man, before setting him loose in the Garden of Eden.
Jewish tradition holds that the Temple Mount also contains Mount Moriah, where Abraham, the Hebrew patriarch, is said to have nearly sacrificed his son -- under God’s orders -- before an angel intervened.
Later, Solomon constructed the first Jewish Temple on the mount, including the Holy of Holies, a room that kept the Ark of the Covenant, which was said to contain the tablets on which God wrote the Ten Commandments.
Only the Jewish high priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies, where tradition holds he met with God on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. Rabbis say that Jews are still forbidden to step on the Temple Mount, for fear of intruding on the Holy of Holies.