National Geographic : 1983 Apr
"Our families helped us," Joseph said, when I asked him about the cost. He makes a good living as an environmental designer, but ... "If you don't have families to help, it is very difficult to find a good place to live." A flat in Ramot, or Gilo, or Maale Adu mim on the way to Jericho now costs the equivalent of $50,000. The government will lend a qualified buyer as much as two thirds; the rest has to be negotiated with the seller. With inflation now at 130 percent a year, prices keep rising. Still, it is far more difficult to find an apartment to lease. Some so-called key money flats are held by longtime tenants who cannot be dislodged while alive if they meet the rent payments. The lucky ones live in the old sections of Talbeiya (formerly middle- and upper class Arab houses, the best in town) and Rehavia, a pleasant, shady, Jewish section where establishment types years ago found large, comfortable places at low monthly rentals and are fixed in them for life. They can even pass on the lease as part of their inheritance. Like other young Jerusalemites I met, the Korens were weighed down by the air of ten sion that inhabits the country, the recurrent warfare, and the lack of upward mobility in Israeli society. "Until very recently, the average age of the Knesset," he told me, "increased by one year during each year of its existence." What makes it all bearable is to live in Je rusalem. "If I couldn't live in Jerusalem, I wouldn't live in Israel!" is a remark I heard a dozen times. A deep attachment to the place, some feel ing that it is truly important, begins to deep en in the soul, and then you know that Jerusalem will stand in the door some spring morning, with her golden stones and flow ers, her intimate friendship with God and Allah, her vivifying beauty and melancholy ruin, and call your name. FOR CENTURIES before the British captured it in 1917, the city was a Turk ish backwater, a place of poor sanctuar ies, poorer pilgrims, dirt streets, and garbage dumps. Outside the walls, the tsarist Russians started to (Continued on page 506) 498 The Old City ACRED CITY, Jerusalemis a focus offaith for a third of the world's population. Within walls built by the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the mid-1500s, the city's four quartersreflect both the commonalities and divisions amongJewish, Christian,and Muslim beliefs. ForJews, Yerushalayim is both Holy City and symbol of nationhood.Here Solomon built the first Temple, and, in Roman times, King Herod aggrandizedthe second on the site now occupied by the Dome of the Rock. In Islamic belief, the ascension of Muhammad to heaven took placefrom the same spot, making Al-Quds, The Holy, the third most revered city in Islam, after Mecca and Medina. To Christianfaithful, the Old City is filled with reminders of the life of Christ.He entered Jerusalemin triumph; through its streets, along the Via Dolorosa,He carriedthe Cross to Golgotha,the place of Crucifixion, believed to have been where the Churchof the Holy Sepulchre now stands. Armenian Christianshave held residence in the city since the fourth century, considering Jerusalema spiritualhavenfor a people who have no sovereign territory of their own.