The Crusades originally had the goal of recapturing Jerusalem and the Holy Land from Muslim rule and were launched in response to a call from the Christian Byzantine Empire for help against the expansion of the Muslim Seljuk Turks into Anatolia . The term is also used to describe contemporaneous and subsequent campaigns conducted through to the 16th century in territories outside the Levant  usually against pagans, heretics, and peoples under the ban of excommunication for a mixture of religious, economic, and political reasons. Rivalries among both Christian and Muslim powers led also to alliances between religious factions against their opponents, such as the Christian alliance with the Sultanate of Rum during the Fifth Crusade.
Middle East Geography
A. Jerusalem: Population 750,000 Jerusalem is the holiest city in Judaism and has been the spiritual center of the Jewish people since c. 1000 BCE, when David the King of Israel first established it as the capital of the united kingdom of Israel, and his son Solomon commissioned the building of the First Temple in the city.
The Western/Wailing WallThe name “Wailing Wall” stemmed from the Jewish practice of coming to the site to mourn and bemoan the destruction ofthe Temple. During the 1920s with the growing Arab-Jewish tensions over rights at the wall, the Arabs began referring tothe wall as al-Buraq. This was based on the tradition that the wall was the place where Muhammad tethered hismiraculous winged steed, Buraq.
Jerusalem is also considered a holy city in Christianity and containsa number of significant Christian sites. Islam regards Jerusalem as itsthird-holiest city. Despite having an area of only 0.9 squarekilometer (0.35 square mile), the Old City is home to sites of keyreligious importance, among them the Temple Mount, the WesternWall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Dome of the Rock andal-Aqsa Mosque.
Church of the Holy SepulchreThe site is venerated by many Christians asGolgotha, (the Hill of Calvary), where the NewTestament says that Jesus was crucified, and issaid to also contain the place where Jesus wasburied (the sepulchre). The church has been animportant pilgrimage destination since at least the4th century, as the purported site of the death andresurrection of Jesus. The capture of Jerusalem by the Crusaders on 15 July 1099 1. The Holy Sepulcher 2. The Dome of the Rock 3. Ramparts Altar of the Crucifixion
Dome of the RockThe Dome of the Rock is an Islamic shrine and major landmark located on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It was completed in 691-692, makingit the oldest existing Islamic building in the world. The sites significance stems from the religious beliefs regarding the rock, known as theFoundation Stone, at its heart. It was constructed over the site of the Second Jewish Temple which was destroyed during the Roman Siege ofJerusalem in 70 CE. Under Jordanian rule of Jerusalem, Jews were forbidden from entering the Old City. Israel took control of the Dome of theRock during its victory in the Six-Day War in 1967.
Al Aqsa Mosque:Al-Aqsa Mosque is an Islamic holy place in the Old City of Jerusalem. The site that includes the mosque (along with the Dome of theRock) is also referred to as al-Haram ash-Sharif or "Sacred Noble Sanctuary", a site also known as the Temple Mount, the holiest sitein Judaism. Widely considered as the third holiest site in Islam, Muslims believe that the prophet Muhammad was transported fromthe Sacred Mosque in Mecca to al-Aqsa during the Night Journey. Islamic tradition holds that Muhammad led prayers towards thissite. According to Islamic belief, the Prophet Jacob, son of Isaac, was the first to build the Mosque as a House of God.
Mt. SinaiAccording to tradition, this is the mountain where God gave laws to the Israelites.
B. The Sinai Peninsula At the beginning of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Egyptian forces entered the former British Mandate of Palestine from Sinai to support Palestinian and other Arab forces against the newly declared State of Israel. For a period during the war, Israeli forces entered the north-eastern corner of Sinai. With the exception of the Palestinian Gaza Strip, which came under the administration of the All- Palestine Government.
The Dead SeaThe Shoreline is at 1,386 ft. below sea level. The lowest spot on the Earth’s surface
C. The Suez CanalOpened in 1869, this 120 mile long waterway connects theMediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. In 1956 EgyptianPresident Gamal Abdel Nasser took control of the canalfrom Britain, intending to finance the dam project usingrevenue from the canal. This led up to the Suez Crisis, inwhich the UK, France and Israel invaded Egypt.
D. Beirut, LebanonAfter the collapse of the Ottoman Empire following World War I Beirut, along with the rest of Lebanon, was placedunder the French Mandate. After Lebanon achieved independence in 1943, Beirut became its capital city. It remainedan intellectual capital of the Arab world and quickly became a financial center for much of the Arab world and majortourist destination. This era of relative prosperity ended in 1975 when the Lebanese Civil War broke out throughoutthe country. During most of the war, Beirut was divided between a Muslim west part and the Christian east.A particularly destructive period was the 1982 Israeli invasion, during which most of West Beirut was under siege byIsraeli troops. began on 6 June 1982, when the Israel Defense Forces invaded southern Lebanon. The Government ofIsrael decided to launch the military operation after the assassination attempt against Israels ambassador to theUnited Kingdom, Shlomo Argov, by the Abu Nidal Organization, a mercenary organization opposed to the PLO.
Damascus, SyriaDamascus is the capital of Syria. Currently, the city hasan estimated population of about 1,669,000.2013 Syria in Ruins
Tel Aviv, IsraelPopulation 400,000 (3.2 million metro) 40 miles W of Jerusalem
Amman, JordanPopulation 2 million 50 miles east of Jerusalem
5. The Golan Heights The Golan Heights is a plateau and mountainous region at the southern end of the Anti-Lebanon Mountains and remains a highly contested land straddling the borders of Syria and Israel. The Golan Heights has been under Israeli control since the Six Day War in 1967. In 1981, Israel passed the Golan Heights Law, which extended Israeli law and administration throughout the Israeli-occupied territory, a move which was condemned by the United Nations Security Council.
The River JordanThe Jordan River is a river in the Middle East flowing to the Dead Sea. It is one of the worlds most sacred rivers. In Judaism, the riverserves as the eastern border of the "Eretz Yisrael", the Land of Israel. In Christian tradition, Jesus was baptized here by John theBaptist.
6. Gaza StripJust 25 miles long and 8 miles wide, it is hometo more than 1.5 million Palestinians.The shape of the territory was defined by theArmistice Line following the creation of Israel in1948 and the subsequent war between theIsraeli and Arab armies.Egypt administered the Strip for the next 19years, but Israel captured it during the 1967Arab-Israeli war and Gaza has been under Israelicontrol since then.
7. The West BankThe West Bank, is a Palestinian territory undermilitary occupation by Israel since the end of theSix-Day War in 1967.Israel began building a 420 mile barrier in andaround the occupied West Bank in 2002.Israel says the barrier is the only way to defendagainst a wave of suicide bombings byPalestinian militants which shook the country inthe early years of the intifada, or uprising, whichbegan in 2000.