- "Oh, Jerusalem of gold, and of light, and of bronze..." goes the popular song. But it was another metal that towered above the Jerusalem landscape during the meeting of the International Society for Zinc Biology (ISZB; http://www.iszb.org/), held at Mishkenot Sha'ananim, a whisper away from the Old City walls. More than 100 scientists gathered on 1 to 5 December 2009 to discuss their research on the biology of this metal. Zinc is a double-edged sword. Zinc supplementation accelerates wound healing and growth and promotes an effective immune response. On the other hand, zinc deficiency leads to growth retardation and impaired learning and memory function, and has been linked to mood disorders. At the cellular level, however, uncontrolled increases in zinc concentrations can lead to neuronal cell death and may be involved in neurodegenerative disorders. Through regulation of various intracellular signaling pathways, zinc can accelerate cell growth and possibly contribute to cancer. However, despite the physiological and clinical importance of this metal, research on the molecular basis of these effects is still in its infancy. The 2009 ISZB meeting provided a venue for investigators working on various zinc-related issues to share their thoughts and ideas and to promote the growth of this field.