Theme Week Jerusalem, Al-Quds and The Holy, many names for one of the oldest cities in the world

Saturday, 19 October 2013 - 01:00 pm (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Theme Weeks, UNESCO World Heritage, Union for the Mediterranean
Reading Time:  5 minutes

The Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosque © Sheepdog85/cc-by-sa-3.0-de

The Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosque © Sheepdog85/cc-by-sa-3.0-de

Jerusalem/al-Quds, located on a plateau in the Judean Mountains between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea, is one of the oldest cities in the world. It is considered holy to the three major Abrahamic religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Israelis (Jerusalem Law) and Palestinians both claim Jerusalem as their capital, as Israel maintains its primary governmental institutions there and the State of Palestine ultimately foresees it as its seat of power; however, neither claim is recognized internationally (United Nations Security Council Resolution 478, International positions on Jerusalem and United States recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel). De jure, Tel Aviv (were all foreign embassies are located at) remain to be Israel’s capital, even though it is de facto West Jerusalem. The city has 800,000 inhabitants. During its long history, Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times. The oldest part of the city was settled in the 4th millennium BCE. In 1538, walls were built around Jerusalem under Suleiman the Magnificent. Today, those walls define the Old City, which has been traditionally divided into four quarters—known since the early 19th century as the Armenian, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Quarters. The Old City became a World Heritage site in 1981, and is on the List of World Heritage in Danger. What is particularly striking about the decades-long “capital dispute” is that Jerusalem before 1920 was a lot, but above all a small settlement without a capital function. In this respect, there can be no “justified claim” be given on the city. It was not until the British Mandate of Palestine that the mandate headquarters was moved to Jerusalem, so that Jerusalem became the capital of British Palestine. Scientifically proven is that the city has been one of several spiritual centers for several thousand years. However, at the beginning there was neither Christianity, Judaism nor Islam.

On May 14, 2018, the Provisional US Embassy was opened in the offices of the US Consulate General in Jerusalem. The building is located in the Arnona neighborhood, centered on the City Line, which has survived to this day due to the repeatedly annulled Jerusalem Law by the UN, running through Jerusalem as part of the Green Line, and thus partially in the part that was defined as a No man’s land in 1949. Even if it was pure symbolism, especially since the construction of the new embassy building will take years and until then the vast majority of embassy staff will continue to remain in Tel Aviv, while only the ambassador and some personal employees commute. The plain announcement of the embassy move caust massive Palestinian protests, which in turn leads to 58 killed Palestinians (including children) and another 2,500 wounded by the Israelis (New York Times, 14 May 2018: Israelis kill dozens of Palestinians in Gaza protesting U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem).

Today, the status of Jerusalem remains one of the core issues of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, West Jerusalem was among the areas captured and later annexed by Israel while East Jerusalem, including the Old City, was captured and later annexed by Jordan. Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan during the 1967 Six-Day War and subsequently annexed it. Currently, Israel’s Basic Law refers to Jerusalem as the country’s “undivided capital”. The international community has rejected the latter annexation as illegal and treats East Jerusalem as Palestinian territory occupied by Israel. The international community does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and the city hosts no foreign embassies. They are located in Tel Aviv. The City Line, part of the Green Line, runs directly between the western wall of the Old City in East Jerusalem and the Mamilla Mall in West Jerusalem.

Mount of Olives © flickr.com - David Lisbona/cc-by-2.0 Old City walls and Mamilla Avenue at night, with the "City Line"/"Green Line" inbetween © Navot Miller/cc-by-sa-3.0 Temple Mount with Dome of the Rock - Aerial view © Godot13/cc-by-sa-3.0 The Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosque © Sheepdog85/cc-by-sa-3.0-de Yad Vashem - Hall of Names © David Shankbone/cc-by-sa-3.0 Knesset Building © flickr.com - Joshua Paquin/cc-by-2.0
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Old City walls and Mamilla Avenue at night, with the "City Line"/"Green Line" inbetween © Navot Miller/cc-by-sa-3.0
All branches of the Israeli government are located in West Jerusalem, including the Knesset (Israel’s parliament), the residences of the Prime Minister and President, and the Supreme Court. West Jerusalem is home to the Hebrew University, Yad Vashem and to the Israel Museum with its Shrine of the Book. The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo has ranked consistently as Israel’s top tourist attraction for Israelis. Historically, Jerusalem’s economy was supported almost exclusively by religious pilgrims (including their own religious mental phenomena), as it was located far from the major ports of Jaffa and Gaza. East Jerusalem‘s religious landmarks today remain the top draw for foreign visitors, with the majority of tourists visiting the Western Wall and the Old Cityin East Jerusalem, but in the past half-century it has become increasingly clear that Jerusalem’s providence cannot solely be sustained by its religious significance. Although many statistics indicate economic growth in the city, since 1967 East Jerusalem has lagged behind the development of West Jerusalem. Nevertheless, the percentage of households with employed persons is higher for Arab households (76.1%) than for Jewish households (66.8%). The unemployment rate in Jerusalem (8.3%) is slightly better than the national average (9.0%). Poverty in the city has increased dramatically in recent years. According to a report by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), 78% of Palestinians in Jerusalem lived in poverty in 2012. Despite all the quarrels between Israelis and Palestinians, including Jerusalem, there are always very positive events. One of them goes through the stomach: An Israeli and a Palestinian left their home countries in order to build a future for themselves in London. There they opened a restaurant and became cookbook authors. As if it couldn’t be otherwise, the cookbook is then called Jerusalem.

During the British Mandate, a law was passed requiring all buildings to be constructed of Jerusalem stone in order to preserve the unique historic and aesthetic character of the city. Complementing this building code, which is still in force, is the discouragement of heavy industry in Jerusalem; only about 2.2% of Jerusalem’s land is zoned for “industry and infrastructure.”

Here you can find the complete Overview of all Theme Weeks.

Read more on Jewish News, 12 March 2019: Jerusalem’s cable car: Moving in the wrong direction, Haaretz, 4 October 2019: Jerusalem Is Becoming a Jewish Disneyland, NYT’s Architecture Critic Warns, DW, 24 August 2020: Ancient Jerusalem was smaller than believed, Haaretz, 15 April 2021: The Master Plan for Building in Jerusalem? Preserve a Jewish Majority, Haaretz, 8 June 2023: King David’s Jerusalem Wasn’t Where We Thought, New Study Argues, Via Dolorosa, LonelyPlanet.com – Israel and the Palestinian Territories – Jerusalem, itraveljerusalem.com, TouristIsrael.com – Jerusalem, The German Colony in Palestine, LonelyPlanet.com – Jerusalem, Wikitravel Jerusalem, Wikivoyage Jerusalem and Wikipedia Jerusalem (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.

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