JERUSALEM - Thousands of Israelis are expected to visit the capital during Jerusalem Day for the calmest holiday the city has enjoyed in years.
The holiday celebrates the return of the Old City and the Western Wall to Israeli sovereignty during the Six Day War.
In preparation, the city has been decked out in flags, and memorial sites and city thoroughfares have been cleaned. The ever-present roadwork that regularly snarls city traffic was halted for Sunday and Monday in honor of Jerusalem Day.
Events marking 38 years since the city was reunified began at 2 p.m. Sunday, with a formal ceremony recognizing outstanding police and IDF officers.
At 5:30 p.m, a parade set out from City Hall toward Sacher Park featuring soldiers, dancers, actors and others. Dignitaries expected for the parade include Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lopolianski, President Moshe Katsav, government ministers and Knesset members.
Mourning in Arab neighborhoods
There will be no celebrations in Arab neighborhoods of eastern Jerusalem. Jerusalem-area villages such as Isawiyya, Jabel Mukaber and the Shuafat refugee camp hung black flags Sunday with slogans such as "Jerusalem, capital of Palestine."
In honor of Jerusalem Day the municipality published encouraging statistics such as:
- More than 10 percent of Israeli citizens are Jerusalem residents. In the past year, Jerusalem has produced more babies that Tel Aviv, Haifa and Rishon Lezion combined.
- 53 percent of Jerusalem residents are under 24, making it the youngest city in Israel. However, the statistic suggests the validity of the long-held assumption that once young people hit 24, they leave the city for other places.
The real estate market in Jerusalem is thriving. During the first quarter of 2005 there was a 96 percent rise in the number of apartments sold in comparison with the same period in 2004.
In the tourist industry, there was a 40 percent rise during the month of April in the city's hotel occupancy rate as opposed to April of last year.
For the record, Jerusalem has 212 traffic lights, 51,500 streetlights, 1,425 public parks and about 2,000 archeological sites.
The most popular name for first grade boys is Daniel; most popular for girls are Eden or Shira. For Arab students, the most popular boys name is Muhammad, while Aya is the most popular choice for girls.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has announced his intention to submit a program for the city's development for government approval, intended to stem the tide of young people and businesses leaving the city. The planned budget is NIS 40 million (about USD 9 million) a year.
The development program includes scholarships and other benefits for students who choose to stay in Jerusalem after completing their studies, education and child-rearing grants to families, and tax breaks for business owners who agree to move their businesses to the capital.
Major projects such as a light rail, new water and sewer systems in downtown, and a new entrance road to the city are designed to improve traffic and accessibility, as well as spur economic development. A high-speed rail link between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv is set for 2008 or 2009.
Along with the day's events, concerts, fireworks, lectures and parades are scheduled throughout the next 24 hours.