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Here’s What You Should Know About Jerusalem

Photo: The New Arab

Jerusalem is a city that has holiest sites in the world’s Abrahamic religions, home to a divided population and is a centre-stage for politics.

Here are the things that you must know about the place:

Current status

Israel captured Palestinian East Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967 and later annexed it. However, the move was rejected by the international community, but Israel declared the city its undivided capital.

Most of the countries have denied the claim and have their embassies in the commercial capital Tel Aviv. The city’s eastern sector contains some of the sites holiest to Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

Divided population

The city’s population is divided among Israeli Jews, Muslims, Christian Palestinians and the Jewish population itself, with over a third of the city’s 542,000 adult Jewish residents defining themselves as ultra-Orthodox, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.

Palestinians in Jerusalem – both Muslim and Christian – have Israeli residence and access to services. Most Palestinians do not partake in municipal elections and cannot vote in parliamentary elections. NGOs in support of them denounce what they describe as the unequal distribution of resources and services in east and west Jerusalem.

Secular life

The city hosts the Palestinian National theatre, which is among the rare Palestinian institutions located in Jerusalem. Israeli authorities do not allow the Palestinian Authority to operate in the city.

Israel’s premier education facility, the Hebrew University, whose founding fathers include Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud is also located in Jerusalem.

Tourism capital

More than 75% of the tourists who entered Israel visited Jerusalem in 2016. Muslim pilgrims visit al-Aqsa mosque, considered as the third holiest site in Islam. The compound is known to Jews as the Temple Mount, their holiest site.

Among the most popular destinations were the Western Wall along with the Christian holy sites at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Via Dolorosa, all in the walled Old City.

Jerusalem Syndrome

It is a rare place which has a psychiatric condition named after it. The rare condition affects tourists who come to visit holy sites of Christianity, Judaism and Islam and suddenly find themselves overwhelmed by it all, believing themselves to be characters from the Bible, Dr Grigory Katz, a psychiatrist at Jerusalem’s Kfar Shaul Mental Health Centre and an expert on the syndrome, has said.

Many of those affected tend to believe they are Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary or some other character from the Bible, but symptoms don’t tend to last long, and medication can help bring patients back to “normalcy” within days.

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