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Word Count: 494
Jerusalem one the worlds oldest and holiest cities was in December 1949 proclaimed by the state of Israel to be its capital The city plays a central role in the spiritual and emotional perspective of the three major monotheistic religions For Jews throughout the world Jerusalem is the focus of age-old yearnings a living proof of ancient grandeur and independence and a center of national renaissance for Christians it is the scene of their Saviours agony for Muslims it is the goal of the prophet Muhammads mystic night journey and the site of Islams most sacred shrines For all three faiths it is a center of pilgrimage- the Holy City the earthly prototype of the heavenly Jerusalem To the east Jerusalem looks down on the Dead Sea and across the Jordan River to the arid mountains of Jordan to the west it faces the coastal plain and the Mediterranean Sea about 58 kilometers away The main north-south road bisects the city in its course along the watershed between the coastal plain and the Great Rift Valley of the Jordan River and links Nabulus to the north of Bethlehem Hebron and Beersheba to the south The west-east road from Tel-Aviv crosses the Jordan north of the Dead Sea A newer transversal road leads westward from Jerusalem eventually converging on the Ben-Gurion Airport at Lod Lying on the watershed between the relatively rainy Hills of Judaea and the dry Jurdaean desert Jerusalem has both Mediterranean and Irano-Turanian vegetation The various red and brown Mediterranean soil formed by the different types of limestone chalk covering the hills support as many as 1000 plant species The earliest traces of human settlement in the city area found on a hill to the southeast are from the late Chalcolithic Period and Early Bronze Age 3000 BC Excavations have shown that a settlement existed south of the Temple Mount and a massive town wall was found just above the Gihon
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