EVERYONE likes to celebrate a birthday. And the old lady of the Middle East is no exception. Jerusalem is 3,000 years old this year and looking younger than she has in centuries. No more is Jerusalem the broken, ransacked city of the Book of Lamentations, written more than two millennium ago; no more is it the divided city of the middle of the 20th century. The City of David is united again. The holy sites and historic monuments of three major world religions are open again to worship by Jew, Muslim and Christian alike. It is, Israel's tourist industry believes, the year to make good the 2,000-year-old promise, 'Next year in Jerusalem'. That promise is usually recited at the festival of Passover. But because not everyone can get to Israel in a single week, any time of the year will do. The welcome in the Holy City will be the same whatever your beliefs or lack of them. Special events for the Jerusalem celebrations go on right up to the end of the year with concerts and exhibitions. Italian film director Franco Zeffirelli will present an audio visual spectacular and the Berlin Opera will perform a new production of Fidelio in the beautiful surroundings of the city's Sultan's Pool. The celebrated Indian conductor Zubin Mehta will lead the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra in a concert inspired by the musical verses of the Bible's Book of Psalms. The greatest psalmist of them all, and the greatest Jerusalemite, King David, will be honoured in December with a concert by some of the world's leading violinists, among them Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zuckerman. But Jerusalem has much more to offer than cultural events and holy sites. Its beauty is enhanced by the beige colour of the Jerusalem Stone in which its modern buildings are clad - and from which the ancient buildings were constructed. And although the restored beauty of the Old City reminds us that this was the city of Jesus and Mohammed as well as of David, you do not need any religious links to enjoy its attractions. Jerusalem's restaurants and street-food stalls are a match for any in the Middle East. The souk, the Arab market of the Old City, is full of exotic treasures. And, of course, as a record 2.17 million tourists discovered last year, there is plenty more to see once you leave the capital. Jerusalem is the gateway to a country of spectacular scenery and climatic extremes. From the snowy slopes of Mount Hermon and the green hills and valleys of the Galilee, to the Negev Desert, the Dead Sea (at the bottom of a spectacular rift valley 400 metres below sea level and overlooked by the massive fortress of Massada, where a band of Jewish zealots held out against besieging armies of the Roman Empire) and the year-round seaside sunshine Eilat, Israel has something for every traveller. Yet the country is only 400 kilometres from one end to the other. Plenty of scope for taking advantage of the Middle East Peace Process, fitting in a side trip to Jordan or Egypt - and making 'peace-tourism' the reality that nearly all the countries in the region hope it will be.