Jerusalem is renowned as the Holy City and attracts some 3.5 million pilgrims and visitors each year. Here are some revealing facts about this ancient-modern city:
Jerusalem, almost anyone in the world knows of it, yet to truly know it you must travel its winding roads, enchanting alleyways, and breathtaking historic routes and sites, take in its beauty, majestic visages and splendor, soak in the sacred ambiance of the city in its entirety and of its religious sites in particular, and indulge yourself in its famous Humus served in one of the numerous excellent local restaurants. Seriously, don’t pass on the Hummus.
Founded over 5,000 years ago (around 3,000 BC) and home to the Wailing Wall and to a multitude of other sacred sites to all three major religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Jerusalem is the largest city in Israel and is haven to some 800,000 people living within its bosom.
Being the largest city in Israel and its capital, all branches of the government: legislative, judicial, and executive, have taken permanent residence in its midst. Consisting of an extremely diversified population, including orthodox Jews, secular Jews, Muslims, Christians, young families, the elderly, and so on and so forth, the city offers an effervescent cultural life and scenery. Another one of Jerusalem’s attractions for both domestic and foreign visitors is its many museums. Such is the Israel Museum which is one of the world’s leading museums for art and which features, among other items on display, a carved female figurine considered to be the oldest artwork in the world. This inviting and unique character draws tourists from all over the world (2.6 stays in 2009 for an instance) who dwell in one of the 10,000 available hotel rooms spread throughout the city.
THE HISTORIC CONNECTION
Jerusalem first appears in the Bible in Genesis 14:18 when Abraham met with the high priest Melchizedek “King of Salem.” The Biblical Ir Salem – or city of peace, is the most coveted and fought over city on Earth, having changed hands seventeen times throughout its history.
Genesis 22 relates the story of the Sacrifice of Issac on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. This same site served as the Holy of Holies in the Temple of Solomon and subsequently in the Second Temple. In modern times, this location is known as the Temple Mount and contains the Western (Wailing) Wall, the last remnant of the Second Temple.
Jerusalem is the wellspring of monotheism and is revered by Jews, Christians and Moslems. Today, members of all faiths enjoy complete religious freedom in the Holy City under Israeli rule.
With the exception of short periods of expulsion from the Holy City, and in spite of the long Diaspora period following the destruction of the Second Temple, the Jewish people have maintained a continuous presence in Jerusalem ever since King David purchased it from the Jebusites 3,000 years ago. For centuries, Jews all over the world have expressed their desire to return to Biblical Israel by reciting “Next year in Jerusalem” in prayer.