The City of Jerusalem is the largest city in Israel and the capital of the country. Some 956,849 people call the city home. The first settlement of the area took place between 4500 and 3500 BCE, making Jerusalem one of the oldest cities on Earth. With so much history, there is a wealth of sites of historical and cultural importance throughout the city. Ready to learn more? From its walls to its wars, and everything in between, here are some of the most interesting facts about Jerusalem.
7 Interesting Facts about Jerusalem
1. Jerusalem is a holy site for the Abrahamic faiths
Jerusalem is a holy site for all three Abrahamic faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. There are more than 50 Christian churches, 33 Muslim mosques, and 300 Jewish synagogues in the city. The three religions coexist in the city and you’ll find important sites representing all of these faiths, for instance, Temple Mount, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Western Wall, Via Dolorosa and the Hurva Synagogue.
2. Walls surround Jerusalem
Jerusalem is a fully walled city. The walls around the city are roughly 2.5 miles long, 40 feet tall, and 8 feet thick. There are 34 watchtowers along the walls, and there are seven gates for traffic. The walls that exist today were built circa 1537–1541 on the order of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Empire.
3. One of the world’s oldest graveyards is in Jerusalem
Home to more than 150,000 Jewish graves, the Mount of Olives is the largest and most important Jewish cemetery in the world. The cemetery is over 3,000 years old, making it one of the oldest known human graveyards in the world. When Jewish pilgrims reach the Mount of Olives, many take some dirt away with them to scatter on the graves of their loved ones buried around the world. In Judaism, it is believed that the resurrection of the dead will begin on the Mount of Olives.
4. Jerusalem has been captured many times
The City of Jerusalem’s history is quite a tumultuous one. So far, sixteen wars have been fought over the city and the city has been besieged 23 times and attacked 52 times. It has also been captured and recaptured 44 times. Persians, Romans, the Ottoman Turks, and the British have each at one time conquered Jerusalem. Jerusalem has also been destroyed at least twice.
5. Jerusalem is home to the holiest site for 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.
6. The Western Wall is in Jerusalem
Over 2,000 years old, the Western Wall is a limestone wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is a sacred site to the Jewish people and many come to the wall to pray on a daily basis. It is a very popular tourist site, attracting millions of visitors every year who shove hand-written notes for God into the spaces in the wall.
7. Jerusalem has more than 2,000 active archaeological sites
Jerusalem was founded in 1010 BCE, but there’s evidence of settlements dating back to 4500 BCE. This means people have continuously lived in Jerusalem for more than 6,500 years. As a result of its long history, there are more than 2,000 active archaeological sites in Jerusalem.