110 Interesting Facts About Jerusalem: The Holy City

Fun facts about Jerusalem

Jerusalem is a sacred center of three major religions. It is known for its Biblical history, the crucifixion of Jesus, and as the focal point of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Find out what else the “City of Peace” is famous for with these interesting facts about Jerusalem. Also, don’t miss these fun facts about Israel!

General Jerusalem Facts

  • Both Israel and Palestine claim Jerusalem as their capital. Israel’s government institutions are there, while the state of Palestine plans to make someday the city its capital (both claims have limited international recognition).
  • Jerusalem is the largest city in Israel, and if considered part of Palestine, also the largest.
  • While Tel Aviv is Israel’s economic and technological capital, Jerusalem is its cultural and governmental capital.
  • Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world. It has been inhabited for as long as 7000 years.
  • It is regarded as a holy city by the three major Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
  • It is located on a plateau in the Judaean Mountains between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea.
  • If Palestine’s West Bank is shaped like a tall, skinny head, Jerusalem sits right in its mouth.
  • Jerusalem sits at the same latitude as Shanghai, China.
  • It is antipodal (on the opposite side of the world) to Mataura, French Polynesia.
Buildings of modern area of Jerusalem
The modern city of Jerusalem
  • Jerusalem is the largest city in Israel and/or Palestine, with a population of 971,800 (metropolitan 1.3 million).
  • Jerusalem is similar in population size to Fort Worth, Texas.
  • The highest temperature ever recorded in Jerusalem was 42°C (107°F) in 2020, while the lowest was −19.94°F (-6.7°C) in 1907.
  • Jerusalem is 700 meters above sea level. Even though deserts surround it, it sometimes snows there.
  • Jerusalem has a long history with many possible meanings and origin stories. It most likely means “foundation of Shalem,” the god of dusk in the Canaanite religion.
Old buildings on the side of a hill in Jerusalem
The Old City of Jerusalem
  • Because the god’s name has the same root word as the Hebrew word for peace, Jerusalem is often called the “City of Peace”.
  • The official abbreviation for Jerusalem and the Jerusalem International Airport (no longer in use) is JRS.
  • Some common nicknames for Jerusalem are: Ir ha-Kodesh (The Holy City) and Bayt al-Maqdis (House of the Holiness).
  • People from Jerusalem are called Jerusalemites.
The flag of Jerusalem
The city flag of Jerusalem
  • The flag of Jerusalem is similar to the national flag, with two horizontal blue stripes on a white background. Instead of the Star of David, the city’s seal is at the center. The seal has a Lion of Judah on a shield. The shield has markings like the Wailing Wall and olive branches on either side.
  • Jerusalem has five sister cities: Marseille (France), Ayabe (Japan), Prague (Czech Republic), New York City (USA), and Kyiv (Ukraine).

Interesting Facts about Jerusalem Places

  • The status of Jerusalem is complicated. After the 1948 Israel-Arab War, the city was divided into West Jerusalem (owned by Israel) and East Jerusalem (owned by Jordan, now West Bank). Few states recognize the whole city as belonging to one or the other.
  • The Old City of Jerusalem, the ancient walled city, is in East Jerusalem. It contains four Quarters (Muslim, Christian, Armenian, and Jewish).
The golden Dome of the Rock and Temple Mount in color, with the city of Jerusalem around it in black and white
The Dome of the Rock at the center of the Temple Mount
  • The Old City also contains the Temple Mount. Where Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock are located. Dome of the Rock is the second oldest mosque in the world after the Grand Mosque in Mecca.
  • These mosques were built on the site of two earlier Jewish Temples: Solomon’s Temple and the Second Jewish Temple.
  • The “Rock” in the name refers to the Foundation Stone. Jews believe the creation of the world began here, while Muslims believe Mohammad began his Night Journey there.
  • A hole in the corner of the rock goes down to the Well of Souls, which some believe was the hiding place of the Ark of the Covenant.
  • The plaza on which the Temple Mount sits is surrounded by retaining walls, one of which is the Western Wall or “Wailing Wall.” The wall dates back over 2000 years and is the most sacred site for Jews, who stand before it and pray.
Crowds of people at the Wailing Wall, with Dome of the Rock visible on the left
The Wailing Wall
  • Via Dolorosa is the street people believe Jesus walked to his crucifixion. It is a pilgrimage place and people sometimes reenact his walk there.
  • There are 8 gates to the Old City, 7 of which are still used. Until the late 1800s, the gates were closed every night.
  • Mount of Olives is a mountain ridge to the east of the Old City that once was really covered in olive trees. Several events in Jesus’ life took place there. It is also the site of a 3000-year-old Jewish cemetery, oldest active cemetery in the world, with 150,000 graves and growing.
  • There are more than 2000 active excavations taking place in Jerusalem.
A monument consisting of many stone slabs at the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem
Monument to child victims of the Nazis at the Holocaust Museum
  • One of Jerusalem’s most famous attractions outside of the Old City is the Holocaust Museum (Yad Vashem). It contains more than 179 million pages of records and 450,000 photos about this tragic period in history.
  • There are more than 60 other museums in Jerusalem.
  • The tallest building in Jerusalem is Azrieli Sarona Tower, which has 61 floors and stands 782 ft (238.5 m) tall.
  • Other iconic buildings and landmarks in Jerusalem include the Ahava (LOVE) Sculpture at Israel Museum, The Knesset building (Israel’s Parliament), and The Shrine of the Book (which houses Dead Sea Scrolls).
  • Jerusalem is home to 300 Jewish synagogues, 33 mosques, and over 50 Christian churches.
  • Jerusalem has more than 1,500 public parks and gardens—a lot of greenery in the desert!
Trees on the side of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem
The Mount of Olives
  • In Jerusalem, some olive trees are well over 800 years old.
  • More than 26 wineries can be found in and around Jerusalem.
  • Less than a mile from the Old City walls is an animal refuge called Gazelle Valley.
  • A variety of animals that appear in the Bible are housed at the Tisch Family Biblical Zoo. It is one of the country’s top attractions.
  • The largest and most famous shopping mall in Jerusalem is Centro Comercial Malha. It has 260 stores and an all-kosher food court.

Jerusalem Economy and Society Facts

  • Jerusalem’s economy has for centuries been based on religious tourism and the services sectors.
  • 60% of Jerusalemites are Jewish, while 37% of Jerusalemites are Palestinian. Only about 1.7% are Christian.
A sign on a stone wall in the Old City of Jerusalem that says Via Dolorosa in three languages
Via Dolorosa, where Jesus walked, written in Hebrew, Arabic, and English
  • Jerusalem has been the site of dozens of Palestinian suicide bomb attacks. These started in 1989, peaked from 2001 to 2003, and have tapered off since.
  • The Jerusalem-based PCRI (Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information) is Israeli and Palestinian-run and tries to bring the two nations together.
  • The crime rate in Jerusalem is ranked 36.48 by the Crime Index, similar to Calgary, Canada or Moscow, Russia. It is twice as safe as Detroit, USA. Despite its reputation for conflict, the city is actually quite safe.
  • 58% of children in Jerusalem lived below the poverty line in 2020.
Expansive view of Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a wall around it
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • The Ben Gurion Airport (the country’s main airport, which is closer to Tel Aviv), served 20 million passengers in 2022. It is named after the country’s first prime minister.
  • Jerusalem received 4.47 million tourists in 2019, making it the 55th most visited city in the world.
  • Three quarters of all tourists to Israel visit Jerusalem.
  • The most popular newspaper in Jerusalem is the Jerusalem Post, or JPost.
  • Facetune, one of the first ever apps for editing your profile photos, was developed by Jerusalem-based Lightricks.
  • TV shows filmed in Jerusalem include Fauda, Dig, and Shtisel.
  • Movies filmed in Jerusalem include Kingdom of Heaven, Jeruzalem, Risen, Mary Magdalene, and Valhalla Rising.
  • More than 30 festivals are held annually in Jerusalem, including everything from opera and film to literature and wine tasting.
A large bowl of Jerusalem mixed grill, a meat dish
Jerusalem mixed grill, a dish invented in Jerusalem
  • The most popular sport in Jerusalem is football, followed and basketball.
  • Some of the most famous teams from Jerusalem include Beitar Jerusalem F.C. and Bnei Sakhnin F.C. The former team is the only one is Israel to have never signed an Arab player, and its fanbase is known for being anti-Arab.
  • The Kraft family, owners of the Kraft Group (not to be confused with Kraft Foods) and New England Patriots, sponsored the first official regulation-sized American football field in Israel, which was unveiled in Jerusalem in 2017.
  • Orez Shu’it is a dish that was invented in Jerusalem. It’s made of white beans in tomato sauce over rice.
  • Another is Jerusalem mixed grill, with several restaurants in Maahane Yehuda Market claiming to have invented it.

Famous People from Jerusalem

  • Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which is less than 10 km from Jerusalem, in modern-day West Bank. The Last Supper was in Jerusalem, as well as his crucifixion.
  • Other famous ancient/Biblical Jerusalem residents included King David, Solomon the Great, Isaiah, and Herod the Great.
  • Jerusalem-born celebrities whose names you might recognize are actresses Natalie Portman and Daniella Kertesz, actor Lior Raz, writer Amos Oz, and director Gideon Raff.
Painting of The Last Supper
The Last Supper took place in Jerusalem
  • The indie pop band missFlag is from Jerusalem.
  • The hard rock band Jerusalem takes its name from the city but is actually from England.
  • Elizabeth Taylor, Prince Charles, Winston Churchill, Madonna, and Hillary Clinton, have all stayed at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel.

Jerusalem History Facts

  • Around 2000 BCE, Jerusalem is first recorded with the name Rusalimum in documents from the Middle Kingdom of Egypt.
Exterior wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem
Ancient walls of the Temple Mount
  • Around 1000 BCE, Jerusalem is attacked and taken by King David. The capital of the Kingdom of Israel, also known as the City of David, is established in Jerusalem.
  • In biblical times, Jerusalem was surrounded by forests of almond, olive and pine trees.
  • In 900 BCE, Jews build the First Temple of Jerusalem (Solomon’s Temple).
  • 50 years later, many return and build the Second Temple of Jerusalem.
  • In 19 BCE, the Wailing Wall and other walls around the Temple Mount are constructed under Herod the Great, a Roman-Jewish leader. He also expanded the Second Temple, among other large scale building projects.
Bricks of the Wailing Wall with notes stuffed between them
Prayers stuffed into spaces in the ancient Wailing Wall
  • Jerusalem becomes part of the Roman empire is 6 CE.
  • In 30 CE, Jesus is crucified under the Roman governor Pontius Pilate.
  • In 70 CE, the Romans destroy much of the city, including the Second Temple.
  • In 635 CE, Umar, the father-in-law of Mohammad, conquers Jerusalem. The city becomes Muslim for the next 1300 years.
  • Dome of the Rock is built from 688 to 692.
  • From 1000 to 1200, a series of Crusades take place, with the goal of removing Jerusalem from Muslim rule.
  • In 1516, Jerusalem becomes part of the Ottoman Empire, based in Istanbul.
A mosque with people walking around it
Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount
  • In 1799, Napoleon plans to take Jerusalem but never makes it that far.
  • In the late 1800s, Jews across Europe create a movement aiming to move back to their homeland, called Zionism. In 1897, Jerusalem is chosen as the capital for the new Jewish state.
  • In 1920, the first Arab-Israeli conflict takes place in Jerusalem, called the Nabi Musa Riots.
  • In the early 1930s, the city’s population reaches 100,000.
  • King David Hotel opens in 1932, becoming the city’s most famous hotel. In 1946, Zionists plant a bomb there, killing 91 people.
  • In 1948, Israel is formed and West Jerusalem is formally recognized as Israeli territory. Jerusalem is divided between Israel and Jordan as a result of the Armistice Agreement.
Aerial view of the border wall between Israel and Palestine
Wall between Israel and Palestine
  • In 1949, Jerusalem officially becomes the capital of Israel.
  • In the following years, thousands of Jews arrive in the city from Europe.
  • In 1953, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) relocates to Jerusalem.
  • In 1967, Jerusalem’s Old city is captured by Israeli forces. Israel announced free access to all its holy sites. They clear the Moroccan Quarter to create the Western Wall Plaza and rebuild the Jewish Quarter.
  • In the late 1980s, the city’s population surpasses 500,000.
A staircase going down between two stone buildings in the Old City of Jerusalem
Alleyway in the Old City
  • In 2000, Pope John Paul II is the first pope to visit the city. He prays at the Western Wall.
  • Also in 2000, Israel and Palestine fail to agree to the status of Jerusalem and talks break down. After Israeli PM Ariel Sharon visits the Temple Mount, the Second Intifada erupts, with an escalation in suicide bombs.
  • A brand-new, 225,000-square-foot facility for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) is completed in 2002.
  • Pope Francis travelled to Jerusalem in 2014 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first papal visit there. While there, he met with the leaders of Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority. The Pope pleaded repeatedly for peace in the area during his visit.
A light rail train driving in Jerusalem
The Jerusalem Light Rail
  • In 2017, US President Trump recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, resulting in Palestinian protests.
  • After years of improvement, the UN calls 2022 the deadliest year for Palestinians in 16 years, starting from a visit by the Israeli Minister for National Security to holy sites in Jerusalem.
  • In March 2020, a holocaust survivor in Jerusalem became the country’s first COVID victim.
  • In 2023, TIME magazine named Jerusalem as one of the world’s most extraordinary travel destinations.

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