|Jerusalem Holy City for three world religions |
Jerusalem (Hebrew: jerushalayim, Arabic: al-Quds) is the capital of Israel with 732,000 inhabitants in 2007. However, the eastern part is claimed as the capital of a future state of Palestine by the Palestinians. Jerusalem is situated on the hills of Judea, at altitudes from 610 to 826 metres above sea level. The exposed position is underlined by its proximity to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, 68 kilometres away and the Jordan Valley at the Dead Sea (420 m above sea level NN). Jerusalem has an area of 126.4 km² and a population density of 5,791 inhabitants per square kilometre. Jews represent about 64 percent of the population, Muslims 32 percent and Christians, a minority of 2 percent.
Monuments and neighbourhoods
Since the 16th century, the city has been enclosed by a city wall. Built under the Ottoman ruler Sultan Suleyman, it gives this part of town, with its Jewish, Christian, Armenian and Muslim quarters, its present form. Within these walls, the sacred sites of the three monotheistic world religions lie in a confined area. The eastern part is dominated by mountains on a plateau (Arabic: ash haram sharif, the "noble sanctuary"), the golden Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the symbols of the old town. After Mecca and Medina, it is one of the most important Islamic holy sites, as it is a traditional setting of the nocturnal rapture of the Prophet Mohammed, linked to the later tradition of his legendary journey to heaven. According to Jewish tradition, it was the location of both the first and the second temples destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans. The west wall or "Wailing Wall" of the former Jewish Temple Mount, an important place of worship for Jews, is immediately adjacent to the "ash sharif haram". The "topographic" sides of the Palestine conflict Judaism here and Islam there-is particularly tangible in this place. Consequently, a religious narrative is superimposed on the political conflict, which refers to a country of two peoples.
Nearby is the Holy Sepulcher from the 4th Century. According to Christian tradition, it is the crucifixion site and grave of Jesus Christ. The Via Dolorosa leads the last Stations of the Cross to the church. There are eight gates from different eras on/at the old city wall. The Golden Gate that leads to the Temple Mount was closed under the Ottoman rule, according to Jewish tradition; it will be opened again with the second coming of the Messiah.
Other places with religious or spiritual significance are located outside the old city. According to Jewish tradition, Mount Zion in the southwest is the grave of King David and according to Christian tradition, is where the last supper of Jesus took place in the vicinity at Gethsemane in the east, the location of Jesus' arrest. The Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives, which was developed over the centuries at the former Temple Mount and the Muslim cemetery at the foot of the "ash sharif haram", are to be mentioned here.
Emergence of the new town
Outside the old city, in the west, there is a Jewish new town and in the east, an Arab new town, both with their own residential and business centres. The history of the Jewish new town started at the end of the 19th Century. With the rise of the Zionist movement, empowered Jews migrated to Jerusalem. Due to the increasing lack of space in the Jewish neighbourhood, a new neighbourhood had to be built outside the old city. Built from the 1870's, MeaShe'arim is still the centre of Jewish orthodoxy with prayer rooms, synagogues and yeshivas, in which life, especially on the Sabbath, is still directed by the rules of Torah and Talmud.
There are other parts of the city: in the west, Mahan Yehuda has currently one of Israel's largest open food markets and north Habucharim, a settlement from the second half of the 19th Century, consists mainly of wealthy Jews from Bukhara and Persia. In the south, Emek Refaim was originally founded by Christian Pietist from Swabia, with the nickname of "German Colony". Residential buildings, cinemas and numerous trendy cafes now characterise the face of this neighbourhood. The same applies to Rehavia, where the urban area is largely inhabited by European immigrants since 1920's. In the west, Givat Shaul and Romema close up this city belt. Situated south of there is today's government quarter/district with the Israeli parliament, the Knesset and the Museum of Israel. The buildings of the Hebrew University, was moved from Mount Scopus to this area after 1949, as it was no longer freely accessible.
The topographical situation of Jerusalem, gives the impression of a city built on several hills. After 1967, the Jewish neighbourhoods have been extended particularly to the north, south and east. With Ramat Eshkol and Givat Hamivtar emerging as purely residential areas, the complex of the former Hebrew University on Mount Scopus has also expanded.
The Arab neighbourhoods outside are in the eastern half of Jerusalem, in the Muslim Quarter of the old town. The Arab Town, with its shopping and office centre at the Salah ad-Din main street, stretches just north of the old town wall. Other major residential areas are generally connected through various service and retail industries. Topographic circumstances and political history, have also contributed to the urban development here.
A. Wittstock; Ü: C. Fleming
Keywords: border crossing checkpoint church city city centre colonisation conflict education fragmented city inner city Israel judaism mosque neighbourhood neighbourhoods occupation old town religious conflict residential area segregation synagogue the main business centre wall
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