Jerusalem You have arrived at Jerusalem one of the oldest cities in the world, which is considered holy to the three major Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Throughout its long history, Jerusalem has been destroyed at least twice, besieged 23 times, captured and recaptured 44 times, and attacked 52 times. The part of Jerusalem called the City of David shows first signs of settlement in the 4th millennium BCE, in the shape of encampments of nomadic shepherds. According to the Bible, King David conquered the city from the Jebusites and established it as the capital of the united kingdom of Israel, and his son, King Solomon, commissioned the building of the First Temple. The holiness of Jerusalem in Christianity, is reinforced by the New Testament account of Jesus's crucifixion and resurrection there, followed by the founding of the Christian Church at Pentecost. In Sunni Islam, Jerusalem is the third-holiest city, after Mecca and Medina. As a result, despite having an area of only 0.9 km2 (3⁄8 sq mi), the Old City is home to many sites of seminal religious importance, among them the Temple Mount with its Western Wall, Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Jerusalem is situated on the southern spur of a plateau in the Judaean Mountains, which include the Mount of Olives (East) and Mount Scopus (North East). The elevation of the Old City is approximately 760 m (2,490 ft). The whole of Jerusalem is surrounded by valleys and dry riverbeds (wadis). The Kidron, Hinnom, and Tyropoeon Valleys intersect in an area just south of the Old City of Jerusalem. In biblical times, Jerusalem was surrounded by forests of almond, olive and pine trees. Water supply has always been a major problem in Jerusalem, as attested to by the intricate network of ancient aqueducts, tunnels, pools and cisterns found in the city. Since medieval times, the Old City of Jerusalem has been divided into Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Armenian quarters. In 2016, the total population of Jerusalem was 882,700, including 536,600 Jews (61%), 319,800 Muslims (36%) and 15,800 Christians (1.8%) There are so many resources for information and videos regarding the city of Jerusalem that they cannot be listed here, but a recent video from the Israeli Ministry of Tourism gives you a good flavour - Friends of the Holy Land’s mission is to support a sustainable Christian presence. Christian Community Ten Christian churches are formally recognized under Israel's system, for the self-regulation and state recognition of status issues, such as marriage and divorce: the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Armenian Catholic Church, the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Latin Church, the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, the Syriac Catholic Church, the Syriac Maronite Church, and the Syriac Orthodox Church. However, the practise of religion is free and there is no restriction on denominations. Messianic Jews in Israel are estimated at around 20,000. They are mostly classified "without religious affiliation" rather than Jewish or Christian. A key site for all Christians is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which encompasses the sites where Christ suffered his passion, died, was buried and rose from the dead. The following short videos courtesy of the Saxum Centre, take you through these moments: Good Friday - "Lord, I thank you for taking upon yourself the ultimate suffering for the sins of all people, of every age and every place. In your sufferings you have redeemed me and brought me life. May I be always mindful of this greatest act of love for me and never abandon the life you have won for me. Amen" Easter Sunday – Friends of the Holy Land work to support the vulnerable of all denominations in the area primarily with our partners headquartered in Jerusalem, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. The Anglican Church: The Protestant Churches arrived in the Holy Land in the 19th century, with the first Episcopal Bishop arriving in 1841.The first major initiative was that of the Anglican and Lutheran Churches, who worked together for several years under a single Bishopric in Jerusalem. Later, they each established churches and educational institutions, health care and more. Aside from construction in cities around Israel, the Cathedral of St. George and St George's Cathedral Close were built and serve the Anglican Archbishop of the Holy Land and the monumental Lutheran Churches on Mount of Olives (Augusta Victoria) and near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. There is a summary of the Anglican cathedral and college provided here and you can read more on their website here As you complete your journey there will be a change in the leadership of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem as Bishop Hosam Naoum will be installed on May 13 as the next Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem. We received a message of support from Bishop Hosam recently: “Thanks to the support of the Friends of the Holy Land, we have been able to meet some of the most pressing needs of these families, such as helping them pay for food, rent, medical needs, and tuition. We have done this both directly with the families, and indirectly, through the work of our many diocesan hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centres, and schools. At this blessed Season of Lent we are reminded of human suffering, especially the implications of COVID 19 pandemic. We continue to pray for all victims of the virus and the healing and restoration of our nations in particular the living stones of the Holy Land.” In a virtual meeting where he reflected on his new position Bishop Hosam spoke on what gives him hope in the current crisis – you can watch him here The Roman Catholic Church in the Middle East is known as the "Latin Church", after the language of prayer in the past. During the Crusades, the Catholics built new churches, some of which remain fully intact today. These include the Church of St. Anne (according to tradition the birthplace of the Virgin Mary) and the most important - the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem. In the 14th century, the Franciscan Order came to the Holy Land. The Franciscan Friars renovated and built the holy sites as they were entrusted the custody of the Holy Land by the Pope. In the 19th century, the first Latin Patriarch since the Crusades settled in Jerusalem and with the help of dozens of communities of monks and Catholic institutions, filled the Holy Land with additional churches and monasteries. The current Patriarch is His Beatitude Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa who has lived in the Holy Land since 1990 and was previously ‘Custos’ of the Holy Land (head of the Franciscan Order) for 12 years. The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem administers 15 parishes in Jerusalem and Palestine, 6 in Israel, 31 in Jordan and 4 in Cyprus. You can find out more of their activities on their website - here or watch an older video which provides a full introduction to the Latin Church in the Holy Land - Pro Terra Sancta East Jerusalem A particular area of concern for the Latin Patriarchate is East Jerusalem, as of the 13 different church traditions present there, the Latin congregation is the largest community, comprising 55% of Christians living here. In 1967, Israel unilaterally annexed East Jerusalem to its territory; since that time Israeli policies have increasingly cut off East Jerusalem, once the focus of political, commercial, religious and cultural life for the entire Palestinian population of the occupied Palestinian territory, from the rest of the West Bank. These policies of deliberate underdevelopment and underservicing result in overcrowding, poverty and substandard infrastructure. A recent report shows these policies in action The Latin Patriarchate undertook a survey of the area in June 2019 which showed the extent of the poverty that the community of East Jerusalem faces. Three out of four children live below the poverty line according to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. Low wages, a high cost of living, and high unemployment puts the Christian community into the very poor to middle class. One out of four families receive social hardship provisions from churches or church-related organizations. Church and church-related organizations offer approximately 60-70 educational scholarships for needy students in local universities and vocational centres. Securing affordable housing is a particular problem for Christian families in Jerusalem. Only 30% own their apartments, 48% rent apartments, and 22% dwell in low cost “protected” church property. Legal status is another problem as there are hundreds of Christian families from Jerusalem who have been suffering from the “family reunification” law, issued on July 31, 2003, which prevents non-Jewish families from obtaining residency and entry rights in Jerusalem. This law also affects children born in the occupied Palestinian territories to parents who reside in East Jerusalem. As these problems became worse in 2020 due to the conditions caused by the pandemic, Friends of the Holy Land supported 45 families in East Jerusalem with emergency aid in partnership with the Latin Patriarchate. Education A major focus of both the Diocese of Jerusalem and The Latin Patriarchate is education to ensure the future of the Christian communities in the Holy Land. These operations are administered from their Headquarters in Jerusalem. The Anglicans administer 18 schools and colleges: 6 in Jerusalem and Palestine, 3 in Israel, 8 in Jordan and one in Lebanon. In the same way the Latin diocese administers 43 schools 13 in Palestine, 5 in Israel and 25 in Jordan. The Franciscans administer 15 schools in the area. This short video explains the rationale - Christian Arabs are one of the most educated groups in Israel. One of the factors behind this is the high level of the Christian educational institutions. Christian schools in Israel are among the best schools in the country, and while those schools represent only 4% of the Arab schooling sector, about 34% of Arab university students come from Christian schools, and about 87% of the Israeli Arabs in the high tech sector have been educated in Christian schools. Furthermore, despite the fact that Arab Christians only represent around 2% of the total Israeli population, in 2014 they accounted for 17.0% of the country's university students, and for 14.4% of its college students. The percentage of Arab Christian women who are receiving higher education is also higher than that of other groups. The unemployment caused by the pandemic has put at risk the ability of many Christian families to continue with their children’s education at these schools. We seek your help to support them and secure their children’s future. Time for you to move on although you should make a note to come back in person soon. The next place you will visit is Ramallah – about 13 miles away. See you there!