Top 25 Facts About The City Of Jerusalem
Originally published by Christine M in March 2020 and Updated by Ruth in August 2022
The City of Jerusalem has been characterized by conflict amongst nations for years. Also known as Yerushalayim, the holy city, Jerusalem is contested for its holy sites; Israel and Jordan each laid claim to it. Israel controlled the Western portions of it, while Jordan controlled East Jerusalem, until 1967.
The City of Jerusalem which had been divided for long was eventually unified in 1980 and is the Capital of Israel. It stirs up the warmth in the heart of Christians, Muslims and Jews alike. The histories of each of these three religions have their roots in Jerusalem.
Away from its religious history, this city has a lot to offer as you will discover in these Top 25 Facts about the city of Jerusalem. Without a doubt, the City of Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world.
1. The City of Jerusalem is Israel’s largest city
The City of Jerusalem is the largest city in Israel, its capital. It covers nearly 50 square miles and is a major cultural center with over 70 institutions teaching the arts. Jerusalem’s inhabitants’ number at least 801,000 people.
2. Jerusalem has been conquered more than 40 times
The City of Jerusalem has had many contenders, each wanting the city for themselves. It is located in a troubled region with wars along the lines of religion, culture, commerce, and politics. This history is quite a tumultuous one.
There have been sixteen wars fought over the city in its history, getting destroyed twice. The city has also been besieged 23 times and under attack 52 times, captured and recaptured 44 times. Persians, Romans, the Ottoman Turks, and the British have each at one time conquered Jerusalem.
3. The City of Jerusalem is a center of pilgrimage and an object of devotion for three religions
Christians know Jerusalem to be the place where Jesus suffered and also triumphed, while Muslims hold it as the goal of the Prophet Muhammad’s mystic night journey. It is the site of one of Islam’s most sacred shrines.
To the Jews, the City of Jerusalem is the focus of age-old longings, proof of prehistoric splendor and independence and a center of national reawakening.
With Judaism, Christianity and Islam having their roots in the City of Jerusalem, places of worship accommodating the three religions are found within the City.
Jerusalem boasts more than 50 Christian churches, 33 Muslim mosques, and 300 Jewish synagogues in the city. Each of the religions now coexists, and you can find religious sites spanning across all three religions, such as Temple Mount, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Dome of the Rock or Al-Aqsa Mosque, Western Wall, Via Dolorosa and Hurva Synagogue.
4. The City of Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives is the oldest active burial site in the world
Some of the greatest Jewish leaders, prophets and rabbis have been buried on Mt. Olives. This makes it the largest and most important Jewish cemetery in the world. Mount of Olives is home to more than 150,000 Jewish graves.
Jesus is said to have ascended to heaven from Mt. Olives. The Mountain also hosts the Garden of Gethsemane, Russian Orthodox Church of Maria Magdalene and the Church of All Nations.
Mt. Olives has been a site of Christian worship since ancient times and is today a major site of pilgrimage for the Eastern Orthodox, Catholics and Protestants.
The mountain has also unfortunately been involved in the territorial dispute between Israel, the Muslim nations as well as the Palestinian- Arabs. It has experienced some violence which Jewish mourners and visitors have had a taste of.
5. The City of Jerusalem is fully walled
Real estate in the City of Jerusalem is punctuated with high walls- it’s a fully walled city! The walls are about 2.5 miles long, 40 feet tall, and 8 feet thick. Such a high wall has the prospect for watchtowers. Spread out along the city of Jerusalem’s walls are 34 watchtowers.
The whole city was surrounded by a high wall in ancient times for its protection. You can get into the city via one of the seven gates along with it.
The City of Jerusalem also has a distinct look, thanks to the Municipal law requiring that all structures are covered in Jerusalem stone. This has ensured the preservation of the historical look of the city.
6. The City of Jerusalem has at least 60 museums
The City of Jerusalem boasts more than 60 museums! That sounds like a whole months’ plan should you be a visitor there. There are Art museums, Science museums, history museums and many others.
The famous Dead Sea Scrolls which the oldest Biblical manuscripts ever found are housed in the Israel Museum, and there’s an array of 450,000 photographs and 179 million pages of documents in the Holocaust museum and archive, Yad Vashem. You’ll barely have scratched the surface if you made stops at these two museums.
7. The City of Jerusalem has more than 1,500 public parks and gardens
For a city located in a desert area, the City of Jerusalem prides itself in quite some greenery. There are more than 1,500 public parks and gardens in Jerusalem. One can see flora and fauna, as well as just enjoy the greenery in them.
8. Some of the olive trees in Jerusalem are more than 800 years old
The Olive tree is written about in the Bible- the Garden of Gethsemane where it is believed that Jesus prayed before his crucifixion has many olive trees. It is also an important component of the Jewish and Israeli culture throughout history.
What is fascinating is that some of these trees are about 900 years or older! The olive tree grows as a small tree or large shrub with oblong, pale, silvery-green leaves, which stay on the tree year-round. Olive tree trunks often become gnarled and twisted into interesting shapes as the tree grows older. If from Jerusalem, the next olive in your drink or the olive oil in your salad may have come from a tree more than twice your age- Jerusalem’s Olive trees are the oldest in the world.
9. The City of Jerusalem hosts more than 26 wineries
A number of stories in the Bible involve wine drinking, made from wine presses. Modern winemaking processes may be used today, but the wine culture in Israel and Jerusalem is only fortified. The City of Jerusalem holds an annual wine festival, where the more than 26 wineries in and around Jerusalem are free to exhibit.
10. The City of Jerusalem’s Biblical zoo features Bible animals
The Biblical zoo is located in the Malha neighbourhood in the City of Jerusalem. Famous for its Afro- Asiatic collection of wildlife, the zoo is quite popular. It logged a record 738,000 visitors in 2009.
The Bible has featured some of the animals that can be found in this zoo, hence the novelty. The zoo has also successfully bred endangered species such as the golden lion tamarin monkey. The Biblical zoo is one of Israel’s top attractions.
If visiting the zoo, you could also make a point of visiting the gazelle sanctuary that’s located less than a mile from the Old City Walls. The park is a first in Israel but modelled after the Central Park in New York City and Hampstead Heath in London.
Here you can enjoy the natural beauty, as well as other activities, offered such as tours, workshops and lectures on topics pertaining to nature, planting trees and other donor activities,
11. The City of Jerusalem has an American football stadium
American Football is garnering interest in Israel, but as expected, much more popular in America. It is played at the amateur and international competition levels in Israel.
Israel’s first regulation-sized American football field was opened in 2017 in Jerusalem and was donated by the Kraft family, owners of the New England Patriots.
Located near the Machane Yehuda outdoor market, the sports complex is a multimillion-dollar facility built in partnership between the Krafts, the city of Jerusalem and Israel’s lottery authority.
12. The City of Jerusalem is one of the world’s fastest-growing high- tech hubs in the world
In 2015, Time magazine named the City of Jerusalem one of the world’s fastest-growing hi-tech hubs. This was quite the achievement as Jerusalem had been considered economically and socially outdated, and fundamentally challenged due to its unique geopolitical and social constructs.
2012 saw a growth in startups in cutting- edge sectors such as image processing and virtual reality to around 600 from a mere 200.
13. The City of Jerusalem is a festive city
From Purim, Passover, Lag b’omer, Shavuot, Hanukkah, Eid ul-Fitr, Christmas among others, the City of Jerusalem is a great place to be and experience the festivities as the city and homes light up for the various festivals, some traditional, others modern.
Jerusalem hosts more than 30 festivals annually, spanning across religions and disciplines such as art, opera, film, books and wine tasting. The Maccabiah games, for instance, is a sporting event that opens up to many other events at the same time such as jazz festivals and Israeli folk music.
14. The City of Jerusalem’s King David Hotel has international repute
This five-star hotel is the chosen venue for hosting heads of state, dignitaries, and other personalities during their visits to Jerusalem. The King David Hotel has hosted Elizabeth Taylor, Winston Churchill, Prince Charles, Hillary Clinton, and Madonna, among other dignitaries.
15. The City of Jerusalem is the birthplace and home to celebrities
It is with pride that residents of a city identify with celebrities with whom they have similar roots. And rightly so as these celebrities put the City on the map by way of their achievements.
Actress, Oscar winner and filmmaker Natalie Portman, who is of Israeli and American descent were born in Jerusalem.
Novelist Amos Oz and screenwriter Emmy award-winning writer and Director Gideon Raff had their homes in Jerusalem.
16. The City of Jerusalem hosts Israel’s second-largest Pride Parade
With more than 25,000 marchers, Jerusalem hosts Israel’s second-largest Pride parade annually. The annual event is a highlight for the city of Jerusalem’s vibrant LGBT community, fighting for their rights and for equality. This vibrant march marks the start of pride month events in Israel and consequently Jerusalem.
17. The City of Jerusalem is a charmer for tourists
Tourism in the City of Jerusalem is a big contributor to its economy. It is one of the major sources of income, with at least 3.5 million tourists visiting the city every year.
With a unique city like Jerusalem, the tourist attraction is predictable- Jerusalem is a city of tradition, religion, and history, but also of modern culture and heritage. Take for instance the fabulous but chaotic Mahane Yehuda Market, that will have locals and tourists alike thronging it, for its variety of food, color, and noise. Tourists have also flocked Jerusalem’s eateries for the best hummus and other local cuisines.
18. The City of Jerusalem prides itself in the Kippah
Dozens of Kippah shops dot the city of Jerusalem, selling an array of them for every occasion. These have evolved from the basic black Kippah to intricately designed ones of different colors.
The Kippah is a skull cap worn by men to as a covering for their heads in reverence to God when praying.
This might be a great souvenir to take back home with you if visiting Jerusalem.
19. The City of Jerusalem has emergency response teams on bikes
With the narrow streets and steep hills of Jerusalem, medical emergency response teams on bikes were god sent. Israel was the first country in the world to deploy a fleet of electronic bikes to congested urban areas. Jerusalem was a beneficiary due to its terrain, and streets that would get congested.
This is a great assurance to have, that an e-bike medical response team could weave through traffic to get to you when in the City of Jerusalem in need of medical aid.
20. The City of Jerusalem was the first to run a light rail
Adding on to its first, Jerusalem was the first city in Israel to operate a light rail. A track runs across the heart of the city, making transport to the various regions in Jerusalem easier. There is a tram that one can catch every ten minutes.
When he visited Jerusalem, Neil Armstrong said of it “I am more excited stepping on these stones than I was stepping on the moon.” The City of Jerusalem is quite a charmer, with its historic and religious sites, natural sites, heritage tourism, adventure tourism, and ecotourism among other noteworthy assets.
Despite its tumultuous past, the City of Jerusalem still offers a lot- a city one deserves to visit at least once in their lifetime.
21. It snows in Jerusalem
It is not uncommon to snow in Jerusalem in winter, and even the summer nights still can get chilly. Most of southern Israel is considered a desert and the central part of the country, which includes the Jerusalem area, is characterized by a warm semi-arid climate.
However, at the elevation of over 700 meters above sea level at almost 2,500 feet, Jerusalem tends to stay much cooler than her coastal sister, Tel Aviv.
22. Bethlehem city can be seen from Jerusalem
Jerusalem and Bethlehem are two distinct cities, so one would expect them to be separated by quite some distance. But in reality, you could even walk over from one to the other.
However, before getting to the other city you will have to cross a security crossing
23. Significant parts of Jerusalem do not belong to Israel
Most of the land in Israel is administered by the Israel Land Authority (ILA). The land can be leased to private persons for most practical purposes, but the ILA still holds considerable power over it.
However, there are important pieces of land that are in fact fully owned by other entities, especially churches. Much of the current population of Jerusalem is living on land that is owned by various Christian denominations.
24. Jerusalem is home to the holiest site for the Jewish believers
The Temple Mount is the holiest site for Jewish believers due to it being the site of the First and Second Temples of Jerusalem. The Babylonians destroyed the First Temple in 587–586 BCE and the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in 70 CE.
The Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem is actually the western retaining wall of the Temple Mount compound. This wall is considered sacred due to its proximity to the site of the Holy of Holies, which is the inner sanctuary of the Tabernacle and the most sacred location in the Temple for the Jewish people.
Due to the restrictions on Jewish people entering the Temple Mount platform, the Western Wall is the closest they can get to the Holy of Holies.
25. The name Jerusalem is a combination of two Hebrew words
The name Jerusalem is a combination of two Hebrew words, yireh (will see) and shalem (peace, wholeness).
At the time of the binding of Isaac which took place in Jerusalem on what would later become the Temple Mount, after the angel tells Abraham not to sacrifice his son, The Torah continues: “And so Abraham named that place ‘God will see,’ as it is said to this day, ‘On the mountain, God will be seen. In Hebrew, “will see” translates as yireh.
Beforehand, this city was known as Shalem (Salem). Together these two words make Yerushalayim or Jerusalem (in English). The Lubavitcher Rebbe points out that yireh shalem also has an alternate meaning: “complete awe.” Upon entering this city, a greater and more palpable awe of God is felt.