Published:  03:52 AM, 07 December 2017

Six things to know about Jerusalem


One of the oldest cities in the world is yet again the focal point of the upheaval in the Middle East, with US President Donald Trump's plan to recognize Jerusalem as capital of Israel.

1. Jerusalem is sacred to the followers of three major faiths
Despite covering only 0.35 square miles the walled Old City in Jerusalem has an exceptionally high concentration of holy sites and monuments and is sacred to the world's Jews, Muslims and Christians.

For Christians, who number about 14,000 - or 2% - of Jerusalem's population, the city is the site of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Garden Tomb, both purported sites of Jesus's resurrection, attract worshippers from around the world.

For Jews, who comprise 62% of the population, Jerusalem is the holiest city in the world. It is the capital of the ancient Israelite kingdom and the former location of the Jewish temples. For

Muslims, who make up more than a third of Jerusalem's population, the city is one of Islam's holiest sites, after Mecca and Medina. Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammad was transported from Mecca to Jerusalem during his Night Journey to heaven.

2. The demand for equal access to the holy shrines is a source of tension

Non-Muslims are not permitted to pray on the Temple Mount as part of a long-held tradition, which has been upheld even after the 1967 takeover of East Jerusalem by Israel. Non-Muslims are allowed to visit in between Muslim prayer times but are not allowed to pray, but the ban is sometimes violated, particularly around major Jewish holidays. Muslims see these visits as provocative.

3. Jerusalem has a history of being divided and was split into two for nearly twenty years
In the last hundred years alone, the city has been controlled by the Ottoman Empire, Great Britain, jointly by Jordan and Israel and since 1967, wholly by Israel.

In 1947, the United Nations General Assembly voted to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, with an autonomous Jerusalem under international supervision.

In 1948, the British departed and the state of Israel was proclaimed. For nearly two decades, barbed wire, concrete barriers and land mines divided the city. Many Palestinians fled areas of West Jerusalem under Israeli control while Jews fled the areas of East Jerusalem under Jordanian control.

In 1967, Israel forcibly reunified Jerusalem, occupying East Jerusalem, including the Old City, during the Six Day War. U.N. Security Council Resolution 478 condemns Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem as a violation of international law.

In 1980, the Knesset (Israel's Parliament) claimed a reunited Jerusalem as its undivided capital. The international community, including the U.S., does not recognize this and maintains embassies in Tel Aviv.

4. The city's growth and movement of people have presented new challengesFor hundreds of years Jerusalem was a crowded and impoverished walled city. Now it is a sprawling metropolis with over 800,000 inhabitants with the Old City at its center.

5. In times of relative peace, Palestinians and Israelis cross between areas easilySome Israelis take advantage of cheaper shopping in the East and cheaper services such as car repair. Palestinians study at the Hebrew University and work in the service sector in the West. Although there is a Palestinian hospital, major surgery for both groups takes place at the main Israeli hospitals.

6. Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have different citizenship rights from IsraelisMost Jewish residents of Jerusalem are citizens of Israel while Palestinians are mostly permanent residents, a status with fewer rights. Most Palestinian residents of other parts of Israel (those conquered in 1948) are Israeli citizens but in Jerusalem Palestinians tend to have a special Israeli ID rather than citizenship. In viewing the Israeli presence as an occupation, most Palestinians reject any role in municipal politics, which reduces their role even further in the city.


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