Jerusalem plays a central role in the spiritual and emotional perspective of the three major monotheistic religions. 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:
And 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. For all three faiths it is a holy city, a center 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 colorful kaleidoscopic patterns. Synagogues, churches, mosques, and dwellings in various styles make up the city’s unique architectural mosaic. Sunlight falling on the white and pink stone used for all construction gives even quite mundane buildings an aura of distinction.
The scent of cooking and spices, the peal of church bells, the calls of muezzins from minarets, and the chanting of Jewish prayers at the Western (Wailing) Wall all add flavor to the life of the city.
The absence of vehicular traffic within most of the Old City helps preserve its special character. In recognition of its central place in the traditions and histories of numerous peoples, the Old City was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1981. Yet outside the walls Jerusalem is in every sense a modern city, with its network of streets and transportation, high-rise buildings, supermarkets, businesses, schools, restaurants, and coffeehouses. 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