In Box

The World's Most Controversial Cultural Sites

Where ancient history meets modern politics.

The Temple Mount
One of the holiest sites for both Judaism and Islam, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is the spot where the world was first created according to Jewish tradition and the site where Mohammed ascended to Heaven according to the Quran. It's long been a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and access to the site, including its famous Al-Aqsa mosque, is tightly controlled by the Israeli government. The site has been the setting of clashes between government security forces and Palestinian worshippers, as well as hard-line Jewish nationalists, who favor rebuilding the temple, destroyed by the Romans around 70 A.D.

The Amarnath Caves
Every year, hundreds of thousands of Hindus make the long pilgrimage to these caves, high in the Kashmir Valley, which contain an ice stalagmite said to resemble the god Shiva. Unfortunately, the site lies smack in the middle of the insurgency-racked state of Jammu and Kashmir. In 2000, 30 pilgrims to the caves were massacred by Kashmiri separatists. More recently, massive protests erupted when the Indian government attempted to allocate land from Jammu and Kashmir to house Hindu pilgrims visiting the shrine. Local Muslim activists, who described the plan as "Israel-like," eventually won their case.

The David Gareja Monastery Complex
This complex includes rare frescoes dating back to the eighth century and is considered one of the most historically important sites in Georgian Orthodox Christianity. Thanks to a Soviet-era cartographical quirk, however, half of it is located in Azerbaijan. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Georgia has been pushing to have the border shifted to allow Georgian monks -- and the public -- full access to the site. But owing to the area's military significance, Azerbaijan has been reluctant to part with it. Despite several rounds of negotiations, the situation remains unresolved. "There is no room for territorial exchange. There are no negotiations over this issue," Azerbaijan's deputy foreign minister has said.

Tawang Monastery
Both the regional center of Tibetan Buddhist life -- it's where the current Dalai Lama sought refuge immediately following his flight from Tibet in 1959 -- and the largest monastery in India, Tawang is today located in the Indian-Tibetan border state of Arunachal Pradesh. But Beijing argues that the region's historical links to Tibet should make it part of China. The Chinese government has for decades placed pressure on the monastery, ranging from outright invasion during the 1962 Sino-Indian war, when Chinese soldiers damaged large portions of it, to more recent diplomatic protests surrounding a 2009 visit by the Dalai Lama.


In Box

The New New Europe

How the crisis is reshaping the continent.

The Irish Exodus: With its GDP falling nearly 8 percent in 2009, Ireland's emigration rate is currently the highest in the European Union. Between April 2009 and 2010, 65,300 people left the Emerald Isle, the most since 1989.

Back to Turkey: Germany's economic growth has remained impressive compared to its European counterparts, but inequality continues to rise and lower-income workers have seen stagnating wages. This may be why, after five decades of steady Turkish immigration into the country, 38 percent of ethnic Turkish graduates from German universities now say they want to return to the country their families left behind. More than half claim they don't feel at home in Germany. Some of this may be due to Islamophobic sentiment in Germany, but many are also looking to participate in Turkey's recent economic boom -- the country had the third-highest growth rate in the G-20 last year.

Come home, Poland: More than half of the 1.5 million Polish workers who left for Britain since 2004, taking advantage of the new freedom of movement under the European Union, have now returned home, according to the Migration Policy Institute. This shouldn't be surprising: Poland's growth rate of 3.8 percent was stronger than any country in Western Europe last year, while British unemployment hovered around 8 percent.

The end of open borders? In May, Europe's interior ministers voted to allow countries once again to put emergency guard posts at some border crossings. The new rules mark the first major reversal in the trend toward more open borders that had been the signature achievement of European integration for 16 years.

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