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Jerusalem, Israel

Updated on January 16, 2012

Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and a holy city to Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Jerusalem stands 2,620 feet above sea level on a ridge, between the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean. It is a city of great antiquity (at least 3,000 years old) and great beauty, with a profusion of Jewish, Christian and Muslim shrines.

Following the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948, the city was divided into east and west zones, held by Jordan and Israel respectively. East Jerusalem and its suburbs were officially made part of Israel after the brief Arab-Israeli war of 1967, and the mainly Arab population made Israeli citizens.

The walled Old City, at the heart of East Jerusalem and occupying most of the area of the biblical Jerusalem, is a maze of cobbled streets, courtyards, ancient houses, markets and religious monuments. After 196 7 Israeli public services were extended into East Jerusalem and new light industries were established. However, the old way of life, centering on the street markets and traditional handicraft workshops, remains very much unchanged.

Approximately 75% of Jerusalem's population is Jewish and inhabits West Jerusalem. Modern architectural styles predominate here, though some homes are still built along traditional lines using locally-quarried pink stone. Israel's parliament, the Knesset; the new campus of the Hebrew University; the vast Hadassah Medical Center, and the Israel Museum are among the many important institutions in West Jerusalem. Jerusalem has various light industries.

The city is predominantly a religious and cultural center, attracting students, tourists and pilgrims from all over the world to such places of religious and historical interest as the Via Dolorosa, along which Christ bore the cross; the Haramesh-Sherif, a Muslim edifice containing the Dome of the Rock; and the famous Jewish shrine, the Wailing Wall.

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