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Wednesday Dec 06 2017

Four things to know about Jerusalem

Jerusalem has once again stirring powerful emotions around the world after US President Donald Trump recognised the city as Israel’s capital.

JERUSALEM: Jerusalem has once again stirred powerful emotions around the world after US President Donald Trump recognised the city as Israel’s capital today (Wednesday).

Here are five things to know about the divided city:

Current status

Israel seized control of Palestinian East Jerusalem from Jordan during a 1967 war and later annexed it. The move was never recognised by the international community but Israel declared the city its undivided capital.

The Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

No countries, except for the United States, have accepted Israeli sovereignty and have their embassies in the commercial capital Tel Aviv instead.

The city’s eastern sector contains some of the sites holiest to Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

Divided population

Jerusalem’s population is divided not only between Israeli Jews and Palestinians, but also within the Jewish population, 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.

The ultra-Orthodox are the fastest growing segment in the city, with over two-thirds of elementary school children enrolled in their schools in Jerusalem.

Palestinians in Jerusalem have Israeli residency 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

Alongside the religious sites, institutions and people, Jerusalem is host to Israel’s top higher education facility, the Hebrew University, whose founding fathers include Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud.

The Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Sam Spiegel Film and Television School and Nissan Nativ acting studio are some of the institutions that draw Israel’s most talented artists.

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

Tourism capital

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, 78 percent of the three million tourists who entered Israel in 2016 visited Jerusalem. 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.

Other popular tourist sites are Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem and the Israel Museum, home to a collection of nearly 500,000 objects of art and archaeology, ancient and modern, including the Dead Sea Scrolls which date back more than two millennia and include some of the earliest texts from the Bible.

Muslim pilgrims visit the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third-holiest site in Islam. The compound is known to Jews as the Temple Mount, their holiest site.