In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI described Jerusalem as ‘a crossroads for peoples of many different origins’. It has been such for thousands of years, indeed even before the birth of Jesus the city had suffered battles between Babylonians, Israelites, Philistines, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Macedonians, Maccabees and Romans.
Today, as well as being the spiritual centre of Judaism, it is the third holiest city in Islam. In Arabic, Jerusalem is most commonly known as al-Quds meaning ‘The Holy.’ Jerusalem is also of great importance to Jesus’s followers where more than a dozen Christian communities live side by side in (not always complete) harmony.
Jerusalem artichokes have nothing to do with Jerusalem. The French explorer Samuel de Champlain insisted they tasted like artichokes, hence the confusion.
They are well-known to cause flatulence. In 1621, John Goodyer wrote that ‘which way soever they be dressed and eaten, they stir and cause a filthy loathsome stinking wind within the body, thereby causing the belly to be pained and tormented, and are a meat more fit for swine than men.’
The Jerusalem artichoke is just about the only vegetable to come from North America (unless you count wild rice). Potatoes, tomatoes and peppers all originated in Central or South America.
The Jerusalem Cherry isn't a cherry (it’s a poisonous nightshade), the Jerusalem Cricket isn’t a cricket and Jerusalem Sage isn't proper sage. None of them is from Jerusalem.
Jerusalem means 'city of peace' in Hebrew. It's probably derived from the Hebrew ieru shalom.
Ten measures of beauty descended to the world, nine were taken by Jerusalem.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is one of the holiest places in Christianity and has been the site of pilgrimages since the 4th century.
Today it is looked after by six separate denominations of the faith, each of whom has its own parts of the building, as well as sharing communal areas. Coptic Christians and Ethiopian Orthodox followers, for instance, dispute one part of the roof, and so a Coptic monk can always be seen sitting on a chair placed on the roof to express this claim. A ladder at the church has been stood on a particular spot since at least 1757; none of the sects dares touch it in case they incur the wrath of one of the others
Jerusalem is at the centre of the oldest surviving medieval map found in England.
Trips to Jerusalem can lead to ‘Jerusalem syndrome' which has been recognised since the 1930s as a specific mental illness. It's described as 'a psychotic decompensation related to religious excitement induced by proximity to the holy places of Jerusalem'. These days, it affects between 50 and 100 tourists a year, many of whom think they are the Chosen One. One doctor, who found two patients who both claimed to be the Messiah, put them in a room together just to see what would happen. Each accused the other one of being an impostor.
One of the most effective ways to treat the syndrome is to get the person out of Jerusalem.
Tattoos used to be known as 'Jerusalem letters'. Pilgrims would get letters or symbols inked onto them when they visited the Holy Land.
When the future King Edward VII, rode into Jerusalem in 1862, escorted by 100 Ottoman cavalrymen, his greatest aim was to get a Crusader tattoo.