CBSN

Jerusalem On Edge For New Year's

Except for crowds of Christian pilgrims, who've come to celebrate the new millennium... and a half a million Moslems observing the holy month of Ramadan... And except for the thousands of Jews in the old city, who'll be starting Sabbath at the same time... New Year's eve in Jerusalem will be no different than any other day.

"We think that this subject has been overdramatized, overplayed, and we do not really think it helps," says Israeli police spokeswoman Linda Menuhin.

Even so, there will be 12,000 police and troops on duty (three times the regular force), and new security cameras at every holy site, CBS News Correspondent Richard Roth reports.

The problem is, the millennium mix of pilgrims and cultures is making it harder than ever to distinguish between who's dangerous and who's merely devout. It's difficult to identify a fanatic, among the crowds of faithful.

And that does make a difference, according to those who say that on the eve of the millennium, Israel's become edgy about ordinary devotion.

"There has been all this tension created about the pilgrims being here. And even if a Christian would sneeze in Jerusalem, somebody is ready to jump," says Christine Darg, ############.

Because religion is the spark for most deadly conflicts here -- like the battle on Jerusalem's temple mount three years ago. The police commander then says caution now is justified.

"This is really the most beautiful city in the world but it is simply like a volcano that can be very quiet, sleepy for many years till one morning, with no warning, it blasts," says Arye Amit, former commander of the Jerusalem police.

Friday may be just like any other day here. But that's precisely the reason they want to be ready.