The status of the city remained a central issue in the dispute between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs, who claim east Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. For all three faiths it is a holy city, a centre of pilgrimage, and an object of devotion.
Despite a rapidly changing demography, Jerusalem has retained a diverse and cosmopolitan character, particularly in the walled Old City with its Armenian, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim quarters: Arabs in traditional and modern attire; Christians, Western and Oriental, in their infinite variety of secular garb and monastic vestments; Jews in casual and Orthodox dress; and hosts of tourists combine in colourful, kaleidoscopic patterns.
Jerusalem has a mixed subtropical semiarid climate with warm dry summers and cool rainy winters.
The average annual precipitation is about 24 inches (600 mm), and snowfalls—which in some years do not occur—are generally light.
The modern unified city is the largest municipality in Israel or the West Bank and is the heart of an urban agglomeration that spills outside the city limits into adjacent areas of both jurisdictions.
At the centre of the modern municipality is the Old City, a walled medieval enclosure of less than half a square mile (roughly one square km), from which the entire city has grown.
Although Israel’s actions were repeatedly condemned by the UN and other bodies, Israel reaffirmed Jerusalem’s standing as its capital by promulgating a special law in 1980. For Jews throughout the world it is the focus of age-old yearnings, a living proof of ancient grandeur and independence and a centre of national renaissance; for Christians it is the scene of Jesus’ agony and triumph; for Muslims it is the goal of the Prophet Muhammad’s mystic night journey and the site of one of Islam’s most sacred shrines.
To the east the city looks down on the Dead Sea and across the Jordan River to the arid mountains of eastern Jordan (the biblical mountains of Moab).
To the west it faces the coastal plain and the Mediterranean Sea, about 35 miles (60 km) away.
Those most commonly seen are the hooded crow, jay, swift (which nests in old walls and buildings), and bulbul. In the winter, starlings and white wagtails roost in the thousands at various points in the metropolitan area.
However, goldfinches and linnets, formerly numerous, now rarely appear.The persistent mingling of Hebrew, Arabic, English, and other languages in the streets brings to mind the multicultural and political complexities of life in this revered city.