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Summer exposure to the sun’s rays in Jerusalem is intense because of the lack of clouds and the low humidity but also because the sun reaches such a high angle (80° above the horizon) at that season. Its elevation ensures the free mixing of surface air, and, apart from automobile exhaust, pollutant sources are few, for there is little heavy industry.

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The absence of vehicular traffic within most of the Old City helps preserve its special character.

In recognition of its central place in the traditions and histories of numerous peoples, the Old City was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1981.

Although Israel’s actions were repeatedly condemned by the UN and other bodies, Israel reaffirmed Jerusalem’s standing as its capital by promulgating a special law in 1980. For Jews throughout the world it is the focus of age-old yearnings, a living proof of ancient grandeur and independence and a centre of national renaissance; for Christians it is the scene of Jesus’ agony and triumph; for Muslims it is the goal of the Prophet Muhammad’s mystic night journey and the site of one of Islam’s most sacred shrines.

The status of the city remained a central issue in the dispute between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs, who claim east Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. For all three faiths it is a holy city, a centre of pilgrimage, and an object of devotion.

Sunlight falling on the white and pink stone used for all construction gives even quite mundane buildings an aura of distinction.

The scent of cooking and spices, the peal of church bells, the calls of muezzins from minarets, and the chanting of Jewish prayers at the Western (Wailing) Wall all add flavour to the life of the city.The hot dry desert wind, called khamsin, from the Arabic word for “fifty,” as it is said to come some 50 days per year), is fairly common in autumn and spring.Average daily humidity is about 62 percent in the daytime but may drop 30 to 40 percent under conditions.However, goldfinches and linnets, formerly numerous, now rarely appear.Also often observed within the city are the lesser kestrel and the Palestinian sunbird.Jerusalem stands on hills at an elevation of 2,575 feet (785 metres).

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