Jerusalem Day Celebrates City’s Jewish Ties and Diversity

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Israelis sing and dance at the Flag Parade while entering the Old City through Damascus Gate on Jerusalem’s Day, celebrating the 55th anniversary of Israel’s victory and the reunification of its capital. A large number of police officers ensures the public's safety and security. Jerusalem, May 29, 2022. Photo by Eytan Schweber/TPS
By Pesach Benson • 18 May, 2023

Jerusalem, 18 May, 2023 (TPS) — Jerusalem Day celebrates Jewish ties to the holy city.

The day is held on the anniversary of the Israeli capital’s reunification during the Six-Day War of 1967.

The Jewish connection to Jerusalem go back to Biblical times. Jewish tradition considers the Temple Mount the holiest spot in the world, the site of the First and Second Temples. The Foundation Stone which is inside the Dome of the Rock, is assumed by many to be the spot where the Ark of the Covenant sat inside the Holy of Holies, the first place where earth appeared on the third day of creation, and the spot where Abraham prepared his son Isaac as a sacrifice.

The city is around 5,000 years old and holds immense significance for Jews, Christians and Muslims, with holy sites such as the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Periodically, including this year, the holidays of Passover, Easter and Ramadan overlap, drawing surges of pilgrims to the city.

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Jerusalem is also a melting pot of cultures, traditions and ethnicities. The city has sizable communities of Jews from North America, North Africa, Ethiopia, Russia and former Soviet countries, and other Arab countries. Catholic, Protestant, Armenian and Eastern Orthodox Christian communities add to the civic tapestry. Arab communities make up nearly 40 percent of the city’s population.

Jerusalem’s historic Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a microcosm of the city’s diversity. Within its ancient walls, one can wander through narrow alleys lined with bustling markets, each representing a different cultural and religious enclave.

According to figures released by the Central Bureau of Statistics, Jerusalem’s population of 984,500 residents makes it Israel’s largest city as of December 2022. Breaking down the figures, the CBS said that 60.8 percent of the city is Jewish and 39.2% is Arab. Almost 30% are Haredi, or Orthodox Jews. In addition, 30% of the city’s population is under the age of 15.

Despite Jerusalem’s ancient and religious background, Jerusalem has also emerged as a thriving hub for technology and innovation. The city hosts numerous other startups, tech companies and research institutions, particularly in the fields of biotechnology, healthcare, and cybersecurity.

Best known of these companies is Mobileye, which develops autonomous driving technologies and advanced driver-assistance systems. It was founded in Jerusalem in 1999 by Hebrew University Professor Amnon Shashua. In 2017, Mobileye was sold to Intel for $15.3 billion, the largest ever acquisition of any Israeli tech company. Its headquarters remain in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem’s diversity is also reflected in the architecture. Visitors to the city will see Byzantine, Crusader, Templar Mamluk, Ottoman and other influences on buildings old and new, as well as Arab arches and minarets and Russian Orthodox onion domes. In other neighborhoods, one will find Bauhaus or post-modern buildings.

Since 1967, Jerusalem’s political status has been contentious, with Israel regarding the city as unified under its sovereignty. In Jerusalem’s 5,000-year history, the city was only divided when Jordan held eastern neighborhoods from 1948-1967. Most countries refuse to recognize Jerusalem’s status as Israel’s capital city, keeping their embassies in Tel Aviv. Currently, the US, Guatemala, Honduras and Kosovo have embassies in Jerusalem.

Nonetheless, visiting diplomats still meet with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem.

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