Jerusalem (Yerushalayim in Hebrew and al-Quds in Arabic) is the capital of Israel and it is also the largest city in Israel. It is situated on a cluster of hilltops and valleys between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea.
Jerusalem is the holy city for three of the world's main religions, namely Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The greatest concentration of religious and historical sites is in the Old City. The area inside the Old City wall is divided into quadrants named after their traditional, dominant ethnic communities. These quadrants are the Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and Armenian quarters.
The Jewish Quarter is in the southeast quadrant of the Old City and contains the Zion Gate, south of which is Mount Zion and King David's Tomb. It also contains Dung Gate.
Jews settled here when they returned to Jerusalem in the 15th century. Today the Jewish Quarter is an upper-middle-class neighborhood, with an almost exclusively Orthodox Jewish (and largely American) population.
There are quite a few places of interest within the Jewish Quarter. Some of them being the Yishuv Court Museum (It has a small exhibition which depicts life in the Jewish Quarter before 1948), the Broad Wall (this is the remains of the Israelite wall that encircled the City of David, the Temple Mount and the Upper City), and the Israelite Tower (it is part of the same defense system as the broad wall).
The Armenian Quarter is in the southwestern part of the Old City and shares the Jaffa Gate with the Christian section. It is home to Jerusalem's small Armenian Christian population.
Some interesting places to visit are the Armenian Compound (this is a city within a city and it is home to about 1000 Armenians), and the Mardigian Museum (The museum chronicles the history of Armenia from the beginnings of its Christianization in 46 AD to the Turkish genocide of one and a half million Armenians in 1915).
Christian Quarter (which includes the Via Dolorosa)
The Christian Quarter is situated in the northwest and contains the New Gate, and it shares the Jaffa Gate with the Armenian section on the southwest, and the Damascus Gate with the Muslim section on the north. It surrounds the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which is believed to be the site of Jesus' crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.
The Via Dolorosa (or Path of Sorrow) is the route that Christ followed from the site of his condemnation to the site of his crucifixion and grave. Each event on the walk now has a chapel commemorating it and together these chapels comprise the 14 Stations of the Cross. The present route was mapped out during the Crusader period and spans the Muslim and Christian Quarters.
Some places of interest include the Tower of Antonia (considered by some to be the place where Christ started his last walk), The Church of the Holy Sepulchre (this marks Golgotha, also called Calvary, the site of the Crucifixion), Chapel of Mary Magdalene (it recalls the place where Jesus appeared to her after his resurrection) and the Pool of Bethesda (The sick wait beside the pool for an angel to disturb its waters. Apparently the first person in after the angel would be cured).
Muslim Quarter (excluding Via Dolorosa)
The Muslim Quarter is in the northeastern portion of the Old City, and it contains Herod's Gate, St. Stephen's Gate, and the Golden Gate, west of which is located the Mount of Olives and the garden of Gethsemane. The Muslim Quarter is the largest and most populated quarter in the Old City. It also has architecture from the Ayyubid and Mamluk periods.
Here the places of interest include the Khan as-Sultan or Al Wakala (this is a remarkable preserved Crusader-period caravanserai which provided lodging for merchants and their donkeys.), the Turba Turkan Khatun (Tomb of Lady Turkan), and the Tankiziya Building (This building was built by a Mamluk slave who worked his way up to become governor of Damascus in 1312, and then descended down to imprisonment and execution in Alexandria 30 years later.).
Model Map of Old City
Suleiman the magnificent built the present walls of the Old City in 1542. The city had been without walls since 1219, when Al Muazzan tore them down to prevent the Crusaders from seizing a fortified city.
The city has eight gates, some of which have three names: Christian/Latin, Jewish/Hebrew, and Muslim/Arabic.
The eight gates are the Jaffa Gate, (this gate is in the west wall) New Gate, Damascus Gate, Herod's Gate (these three are in the north wall), St. Stephen's Gate, Golden Gate, (these two are in the east wall) Dung Gate (this gate got it's name because in medieval times dumping dung there was considered an especially worthy act.), and the Zion Gate (these two are in the south wall).
Tower of David Ruins
The Citadel (Tower of David)
The citadel was built by Herod the Great as a royal palace, and as the western defense of Jerusalem. It was protected by walls and by three huge towers. The tower also provides a fantastic vantage point for surveying Jerusalem. The fortress was spared in the year 70 A.D. by Titus to be used as barracks for the Tenth Roman Legion. Still visible at the base are the massive Herodian blocks.
The citadel was restored by the Crusaders and by the Mamelukes in the 12th and 14th century. Suleiman the Magnificent restored it in 1540 and most of the present structure dates from then.
The citadel is also known as the Tower of David as it is said that Herod built his palace on the site of an earlier fortress built by King David.
The Temple Mount (Al Haram ash-Sharif in Arabic and Har Ha-Bayit in Hebrew) is a 35- acre area in the southeastern corner of the Old City. The hill is central today to Judaism and Islam and it served as a holy site for at least ten ancient religions. It is traditionally identified with the biblical Mt. Moriah, where God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. King Solomon built the First Temple here in the middle of the 10th century BC. King Nebuchnezzar then destroyed it in 587BC.
The Second Temple was built in 516BC. In 20BC, King Herod rebuilt the temple and enlarged the Mount, reinforcing it with four retaining walls. Parts of the southern, eastern, and western retaining walls still stand.
The Umayyad Caliphs built the two Arab shrines that still dominate the Temple Mount: The silver-domed Al Aqsa Mosque, and the beautiful Dome of the Rock.
Dome of The Rock
Dome of the Rock
The Dome of the Rock is also known as the mosque of Omar. It was built at the end of the 7th century, by the Ommayad, Caliph Abd el Malik Ben Merwan. The Caliph wanted to make Jerusalem a place of Moslem devotion instead of Mecca, since a rival Caliph had been established there. Merwan spent all the taxes of his province Egypt for seven years on the construction of the mosque. The mosque ranks in sanctity after that of the Kaaba and the tomb of the prophet in Medina and it is the oldest and most exquisite Moslem shrine in the world.
The dome of the mosque is made of a special aluminum bronze alloy that shines like gold under the brilliant sun of Jerusalem. The mosque has been restored many times during the centuries, but each time it has kept its outline. The biggest and last restoration began in 1958 and was completed in 1964.
The Western Wall (Wailing Wall)
The Western Wall is the holiest shrine of the Jewish world. It is revered as the last relic of the last Temple. The Western Wall is part of the wall the Herod built around the second Temple in 20BC.
During the Roman period, Jews were not allowed to go to Jerusalem. During the Byzantine period they were allowed to go once a year on the anniversary of the destruction of the Temple to lament the dispersion of their people and weep over the ruins of the Holy Temple, hence the name Wailing Wall. The custom of praying at the wall continued for centuries. From 1948 - 1967, when the wall was in the Jordanian section of the city, Jews were not allowed to visit the wall. After the Six Day War, the Wailing Wall became a place for national rejoicing as well as a place of worship.
Old City Walls
Near the Old City
Mount Zion (Har Tzion) rises outside the city walls opposite Zion Gate and the Armenian Quarter. It is the eastern-most hill of Jerusalem and it lies between the Kidron and Tyropoeon valleys. It is also know as the Temple Mount and has long been considered the site of the Tomb of David, the Last Supper, and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The name Zion is derived from the Jebusite fortress called Zion, which was first seized by King David when he conquered the eastern territory. During the seize of the Jewish Quarter in 1948, the area around Zion Gate was the scene of some of the fiercest fighting in Jerusalem.
In order to protect Jerusalem's water supply from invading Assyrians, King Hezekiah cut a tunnel into the solid rock to channel the water of the Gihon Spring located outside the walled city into the pool of Siloan (Silwan in Arabic and Silo'am in Hebrew), which was within the walls of the city. The outlet was then closed and hidden from the eyes of the invaders. Jerusalem was saved because the Assyrian army had to give up because of thirst and pestilence.
The tunnel is roughly shaped into an "S" and measures about 600 yards. The workmen began at each end and accomplished a remarkable engineering feat to meet in the middle within 4 feet of each other. The Gihon fountain, which is also called the fountain of the , is one of Jerusalem's earliest sources of water. The Jebusites used its water by means of a gallery leading to a shaft. This was the shat through which David's commandos broke into the city and took it from the Jebusites.
The Kidron Valley begins at the foot of Mount Scopus to the Northwest of Jerusalem and slopes down, separating the Mt. of Olives from the city of Jerusalem.
In the Kidron Valley there are four ancient tombs which are taken for the tombs of Absalom, Josaphat, St. James and St. Zacharias. The architectural style of the tombs however, show otherwise. It shows that the tombs belong to an earlier period which is the Hellenistic period, and were probably erected by private families. According to local tradition, the Kidron Valley will be the site of the last Divine Judgement. This belief has made the Kidron Valley a huge necropolis in which, Jews, Moslems, and Christians alike choose to be buried.
The Mount of Olives
The Mount of Olives (also known as Mount Olivet) is located east of Jerusalem across the Kidron Valley. It offers a magnificent view of Jerusalem because its summit is 300 feet higher than the city. One can also see the Judean Hills as far as the Dead Sea and the mountains of Moab on the east side.
Its name is derived from a grove of olive trees that stood on its western flank. The ridge has three summits.
The northernmost, which is often called Mount Scopus, is the site of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1918). On the central summit there is a village that was once called Olivet, but is now named at-Tur (Arabic, meaning "the mount"). At the top of the summit stands a Muslim chapel, on the supposed site of the Ascension of Christ. On the slope is also the site at which, according to tradition Christ wept over Jerusalem during his triumphal entry into the city. High on the slope are a Carmelite church and convent near the site of a church built by St Helena.
Jews believe that the Messiah will arrive in Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Tradition holds that the thousands of people buried there will be the first to be resurrected upon his arrival.
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