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Pre-reading Questions:
1. Where is Jerusalem?
2. What kinds of religious gruops are in Jerusalem?


Brief description:
As a holy city for Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Jerusalem has always been of great symbolic importance. Among its 220 historic monuments, the Dome of the Rock stands out: built in the 7th century, it is decorated with beautiful geometric and floral motifs. It is recognized by all three religions as the site of Abraham's sacrifice. The Wailing Wall delimits the quarters of the different religious communities, while the Resurrection rotunda in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre houses Christ's tomb.
Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls (UNESCO World Heritage Centre)

Reading Passage
Capital of (C) with 650,000 inhabitants (2003 estimate). East Jerusalem, with about 300,000 is internationally recognized as Palestinian territory, but remains under Israeli rule, and will apparently stay this way in the foreseeable future.

Jerusalem lies about 55 km to the east of the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, and 25 km from the Dead Sea. It lies about 825-900 metres above sea level on the Judea-Samaria mountain range. The climate is subtropical, with warm and dry summers (24ーC in August) and rainy winters (10ーC in January). Some years Jerusalem even (D) covered by snow. Annual rainfall is about 500 millimetres.

Jerusalem is divided into an old city, a new city and satellite towns scattered around it on all sides. On the eastern side, the towns have been built on land taken away from its rightful (E) owners, and filled with Jewish families, with the aim of making a return of East Jerusalem to Arab control as difficult as possible.

Jerusalem has had a Jewish majority since the late 19th century, and West Jerusalem has at no point in history been an (F) city. Jews represent the majority in some parts of the old city, but was prior to 1948 the largest group in the entire old city. Today, the Palestinians make up the majority in the old city.Jerusalem is linked to Tel Aviv on the coast by highways and railways. Jerusalem International Airport lies in occupied Palestine, to the north.

Being the most holy city in Christianity and Judaism, and the 3rd holiest in Islam, Jerusalem is clearly the most important religious city in the (G). The importance is exacerbated with some of the sanctuaries occupying virtually the same areas, and that the status of Jerusalem is one of the most tense issues in the Jewish/Arab conflict.

It was with the construction of the Temple of Jerusalem in the 10th century BCE that Jerusalem became the central city of Judaism.

Christianity, which is a continuation of Judaism, adheres to Jerusalem both because of its Jewish roots, and also because they believe that this is the main scene of the acts of Jesus and the ground where he was crucified.

In Islam, Jerusalem's importance is due to a tradition saying that Muhammad went on a celestial journey from the spot where the ruins of the Jewish temples was and where the Dome of the Rock later was erected. But Islam also adheres to Jerusalem because it claims to be the true version of Judaism and Christianity, hence both the Jewish temple and the life of Jesus is theoretically a part of the history of the religion of Islam. But the latter reason is strained in modern times, when Muslim leaders have focused on emphasizing the distance between Islam on one side and Judaism and Christianity on the other.

By itself, Jerusalem has played a surprisingly small role in the (H) development of all the (I) religions. For Islam, Jerusalem is virtually unimportant, as most of the theological institutions of the formative first centuries were in Mesopotamia, Iran, Egypt and Arabia. For Judaism, most of the theological work has been in the many diasporas, and Europe has been a far more important arena for the development of the religion than Jerusalem. The people considered by Christianity to be the earliest Christians (see Jesus-Judaism) had already left Jerusalem or had never lived there during the period where Christianity came to be defined as an independent religion from Judaism. But Jerusalem has always been important as a symbol in all these religions.

Coexistence between religious groups have predominantly been peaceful, but at times of political instability tensions between the groups have resulted in riots and violence. Today, the old city is divided into (B) zones, one Muslim (the largest), one Jewish and two Christian.

All holy places and religious communities are administered through the Ministry of Religious Affairs. There are special desks for every major group. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel has its headquarters in the synagogue at Hekhal Shelomo. Muslims administers their issues through the Council of Waqf and Muslim Affairs (Sunni orientation) created in 1967.

The Christians are (J) into a number of different orientations, and Jerusalem is the seat of 3 resident patriarchs of Eastern Orthodox churches, and there are many archbishops and bishops as well as embassies of most Christian sects. The main denominations share control over the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Tips etc.




Wailing Wall



in the foreseeable future

Tel Aviv









the synagogue

Web Sites

UNESCO World Heritage Centre
The Israeeli Government's Official Website
Jerusalem/Al Quds from LookLex Encyclopaedia > World Heritages > Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls

by Masato Koyama, Aoyama Gakuin College of Economics

© 2008