SUNDAY, MAY 20: Jerusalem! The holy city is named more than 600 times in the Bible and remains vital to all three of the Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Yet, today’s celebration—the 45th annual Yom Yerushalayim—is primarily a Jewish holiday. Each year (as seen in the photo at right of an earlier Jerusalem Day rally) Israeli flags wave and thousands celebrate the Israeli conquest of the entire city during the 1967 Six-Day War.
This year, Israeli news reports are crowing about a statistical study showing that the city’s Jewish population is strong in numbers. A new research report is compiled each year by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies and is released to coincide with Jerusalem Day. While this year’s new report does show strong trends in tourism and in the city’s Jewish population, some groups are concerned about these trends. In particular, Christian leaders are concerned about the ever-shrinking population of their faithful in Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem Post reports the top-line conclusions: “By the end of 2010, Jerusalem’s population was 789,000 residents: 504,000 of them Jews (64%) and 285,000 Arabs (36%.). In terms of religion, 492,000 were Jewish (62%); 273,000 Muslim (35%); and 15,000 Christian (2%).” And: “During 2010, the birth rate among Jews in Jerusalem was 4.2% compared to 3.9% for Arabs.”
This is widely reported in Israeli media as optimistic news for ongoing Jewish control of Jerusalem as a united city. Of course, critics of these Israeli efforts see this from a different perspective—as evidence of successful Jewish dominance in a city that many people still hope will be shared by Israel and Palestine.
LOOK AT THE NEW JERUSALEM POPULATION DATA YOURSELF
The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies provides a wide array of charts and diagrams from the newest population study. Visit the Institute’s website to find all of them in many categories. To provide a quick overview of most interest to American readers, ReadTheSpirit suggests you start by looking at these eight diagrams from the study:
RECALLING JERUSALEM’S REUNIFICATION IN 1967
As is always the case each year on Yom Yerushalayim, millions of Jews around the world recall the triumphant reunification of the city in 1967. Jewish control of the city truly has opened up the holy sites in inspiring ways, especially the area around the Western Wall, which is a surviving remnant of the ancient Jewish temple’s foundations in the central “old city” of Jerusalem. News media, once again, are publishing the stirring news photos from 1967 of Jewish soldiers pulling off their helmets in awe at their presence near the Western Wall.
Today, observances incude memorial services, parades, lectures and assemblies to teach both young and old about Jerusalem. (Get Jewish perspectives from Aish.com and the Jerusalem Post.) Many Jewish schools outside of Israel mark Yom Yerushalayim, too.
BACKGROUND ON 1967: Twenty years earlier, in 1947, international leaders proposed a plan that would declare Jerusalem an international city for 10 years, at the end of which Jerusalem residents would decide to become part of either a Jewish state or an Arab state. One year later, Israel declared its independence—and neighboring Arab nations attacked the fledgling nation. At the end of that Arab-Israeli War, Jerusalem was officially divided between Israel and Jordan. (Learn more from My Jewish Learning.) Then, in 1967, another major war broke out, a conflict that still is hotly debated by all sides to this day. In a nutshell: Arab countries surrounding Israel appeared to be on the verge of attacking once again. However, a surprise Israeli attack devastated Arab air forces and proved to be the key in this Israeli victory. Since 1967, Israel has exercised control over Jerusalem, especially the sacred “old city” in its heart.
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.