JERUSALEM AT A GLANCE

IMG 4585Without a doubt, Jerusalem is the most fascinating place in Israel, so if you have a very limited amount of time, plan to spend much of it there. Distances are not great in Israel, and it is possible to get quick taste of the desert, the Mediterranean coast, and even the Sea of Galilee.

Jerusalem, located on a plateau in the Judean Mountains between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea, is one of the oldest cities in the world. It is considered holy to the three major Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Israelis and Palestinians both claim Jerusalem as their capital, as Israel maintains its primary governmental institutions there and the State of Palestine ultimately foresees it as its seat of power; however, neither claim is widely recognized internationally.

The Old City of Jerusalem has history that stretches back more than 3000 years, although the present street plan dates largely from Byzantine times, and the encircling walls are from the 16th century. Within the walls, the Old City divides into four vaguely defined quarters - one each for the Armenians, Christians, Jews and Muslims. East and south-west of the Old City are the Mount of Olives and Mount Sion, both places traditionally linked with the last acts of Jesus Christ. To the north and west is modern Jerusalem. 

THE OLD CITY GATES AND THE RAMPARTS WALK

ramparts walkJerusalem’s walls were built in the first half of the 16th century (in part of the line of earlier walls) on the order of the Ottoman Sultan SULEYMAN THE MAGAIFICEBT. The 4-km circuit is pierced by eight gates, of which seven remain in current use. Until as recently as 1870, the gates were closed at sunset and opened again each sunrise.

Jerusalem is perfect city to explore on foot: it is small and compact, traffic is light, the pavements are rarely crowded, and there are plenty of sites to see and places to sit and rest. This is particularly true in the Old City, which, with the exception of just one or two roads, doesn’t allow for motor vehicles at all. Most streets are simply too narrow and meandering, and there are too many steps.

 One good way to gain an overview is to lake to the ramparts and views the crush of alleys, domes and towers from the top of the walls that enclose them. Visitors can walk along two section of the wall: from JAFFA GATE clockwise to Saint Stephen’s Gate (1 km), and from JAFFA GATE anti-clockwise to the Dung Gate (0.5 km). The section between St. Stephen’s Gate and the Dung Gate is closed to the public. There is a separate admission fee for each od the two sections of the Old City wall.

THE CHRISTIAN & ARMENIAN QUARTERS

christian quotterThe most visited part of the Old City; the CHRISTIAN QUARTER is a head-on collision between commerce and spirituality. At its heart is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the most sacred of all Christian sites. It is surrounded by such a clutter of churches and hospices that all one can see of its exterior are the domes and entrance façade. The nearby streets are filled with shops and stalls that thrive on the pilgrim trade.

To the south is the area traditionally inhabited by the Armenians, who have a long history in Jerusalem. The ARMENIAN QARTER is one of the quietest parts of the Old City. It grew to its current size in the 17th & 18th centuries, during the rule of the Turks. Both quarters are mainly served by Jaffa Gate. The area is also accessible from Sion and New Gates.

THE MUSLIM QUARTER

The MUSLIM QUARTER is the largest and most densely populated quarter of the Old City. It was first developed under Herod the Great and delineated in its present from under the Byzantines. In the 12th century it was taken over by the Crusaders, hence the quarter’s wealth of churches and other Christian institutions, such as the Via Dolorosa. In the 14th and 15th centuries the Mamluks rebuilt extensively, especially in the areas abutting the Haram Al-Sharif. The quarter has been in decay since the 16th century. It is served by Damascus, Herod’s and Saint Stephen’s gates.

THE JEWISH QUARTER

The Jewish Quarter, almost entirely rebuilt in fairly recent times, is one of the four traditional quarters of the Old City of Jerusalem. It is served by Dung Gate.

CHURCH OF SAINT ANNE

Church of St AnneThis beautiful Crusader church is a superb of Romanesque architecture. It is certainly the loveliest church in the city. According to Byzantine tradition, the crypt enshrines to home of the Virgin Mary and her parents Joachim and Anne. Next to it are the ruins of miraculous medicinal baths where clients of the god Serapis gathered in hope of healing; Jesus there cured one, a man ill for 38 years.

In 1192, Saladin turned the church into a Muslim theological school. There is an inscription to this effect above the church’s entrance. Later abandoned, the church fell into ruins, until the Ottomans donated it to France in 1856 and it was restored.

MONASTERY OF THE FALGELLATION

Owned by the Franciscans, this complex embraces the simple and striking Chapel of the flagellation, is located on the site where Jesus Christ was flogged by Roman soldiers prior to his Crucifixion.

On the other side of the courtyard is the Chapel of the Condemnation, the site popularly identified with the trial of Christ before Pontius Pilate.

The neighboring monastery building house the Studium Biblicum Francisanum, a prestigious instate of biblical, geographical and archaeological studies. Also part of the complex, the SBC Museum that contains objects found by the Franciscans in excavations at Capernaum, Nazareth, Bethlehem and various other sites.

LITHOSTRATOS / ECCE HOMO ARCH

IMG 1986 2The Lithostratos stone slab has grooves craved in it, which are variously interpreted as channels for rainwater or traction for horses. What is clear, though, is that the squares and triangles on the slabs were made by game-playing Roman soldiers. The floor has been dated to the time of Hadrian and therefore postdates Jesus, but it is still Fascinating and serves to bring to life the Gospel; account of soldiers gambling for Jesus clothes.

Just west of the entrance of the Lithostratos is the Ecce Homo Arch, where Pilate presented Jesus to the crowd saying “Ecco Homo” (Latin for “Behold the man”). The arch is part of a gate dating from Emperor Hadrian’s time and was given its present name in the 16th century.

VIA DOLOROSA

Located within the Old City of Jerusalem, Via Dolorosa (“Way of Grief” in Latin) is a path where Jesus was lead in agony, carrying the crucifixion cross. There are a total of 14 stations along this path, based on events that occurred on the way to the Golgotha hill, the site of crucifixion, which is located at the church of the Holy Sepulchre. The last 5 stations are inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE

215624.bBuilt around the site of Christ’s Crucifixion, Burial and Resurrection, this complex church is the most important in Christendom. The first basilica here was built by Roman emperor Constantine at the suggestion of his mother, St Helena.

The reconstructions and additions that have shaped this church over the centuries make it a complex building to explore. Its division into chapels and spaces allotted to six different denominations adds a further sense of confusion. The interior is dimly lit, and queses often form at Christ’s tomb. Nonetheless, the experience of standing on Christianity’s most hallowed ground inspires many visitors with a deep sense of awe.

THE STATUS QUO

Fierce disputes, lasting centuries, between Christian creeds over ownership of the church were largely resolved by an Ottoman decree issued in 1852. Still in force and known as the Status Quo, it divides custody among Armenians, Greeks, Copts, Roman Catholics, Ethiopians and Syrians. Some areas are administered communally.

HARAM ESH-SHARIF

Dome of the RockHara mesh-Sharif, the “Noble Sanctuary”, is a vast rectangular esplanade in the southeastern part of the Old City. Traditionally the site of Solomon’s Temple, it later housed the Second Temple, enlarged by Herod the Great and destroyed by the Romans. Left in ruins for more than half a century, the site became an Islamic Shrine in AD 691 with the building of the Dome of the Rock. Over the centuries other buildings have been added to this, the third most important Islamic religious sanctuary.

DOME OF THE ROCK

One of the fist and greatest achievements of Islamic architecture, the Dome of the Rock was built by the Omayyad caliph Abd el-Malik over the rock where Prophet Muhammad ascended to Heaven. Intended to proclaim the superiority of Islam and provide an Islamic focal point in the Holy City, the majestic structure now dominates Jerusalem and has become a symbol of the city.

ALEXANDER’S HOSPICE

Home to Saint Alexander’s Church, the central place of worship for Jerusalem’s Russian Orthodox community, the Alexander Hospice is built over ruins of the early Holy Sepulcher Church. Also preserved here are remnants of a colonnaded street and, in the church, part of a triumphal arch from Hadrian’s forum, begun in AD135

LUTHERAN CHURCH OF THE REDEEMER

Lutheran Church Redeemer 1The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer was constructed over the remains of the 11th century church of Saint Mary of the Latin’s. An even earlier church is thought to have existed on the site from the 5th century. The old cloisters, refectory, and original plan of the medieval church are preserved in the new church. Perhaps the most interesting part of the church though is the bell tower - the tallest in the vicinity. After climbing the 177 steps, visitors are rewarded wisth some great views over the Old City.

CHURCH OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIT

Founded in the 5th century, the Church of Saint john the Baptist is one of the most ancient churches in Jerusalem. After falling into ruin, it was extensively rebuilt in the 11th century, and aside from the two bell towers which are a later addition, the modern church is little changed. It can be easily spotted due to its distinctive silvery dome.

In 1099 many Christian knights, who were wounded during the siege of Jerusalem, were taken care of in this church. After their recovery they decided to dedicate themselves to helping the sick and protecting the pilgrims visiting Jerusalem. They founded the knights of the Hospital of Saint John and later developed into the military order of the Hospital.

THE MOUNT OF OLIVES

Rising on the eastern side of Jerusalem, the Mount of Olives offers magnificent views of the Dome of the Rock and the Old City of Jerusalem. Now best known as the scene of Christ’s Agony and betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane and His Ascension into Heaven, this prominent hill has always been a holy place to the inhabitants of the city.

The Jebusites dug tombs here as early as 2400 BC, as later did the Jews, Christians and Muslims. For visitors, to take in all the sights, it is recommended to start at the top, near the Mosque of the Ascension, and walk downhill to the Tomb of the Virgin. The Old City views are best in the morning.

RUSSIAN CHURCH OF ASCENSION

HI203 241This is the church of a still active Russian Orthodox convent. The bell tower, a prominent landmark on the Mount of Olives, was built tall enough to allow pilgrims too infirm to walk to the River Jordan to see it from afar.

Two Armenian mosaics were found during construction. A small museum was built over the most beautiful, which is fragmentary and dates from the 5th century AD; the other, complete and of slightly later date, is in the Chapel of the Head of John the Baptist, inside the church. An iron cage on the floor shows where John’s head was supposedly found.

MOSAUE OF ASCENSION

The first Chapel was built here around AD 380 to commemorate Christ’s Ascension. It had three concentric porticoes around an uncovered space, where the dust miraculously formed the image of Christ’s footprints. The Crusaders rebuilt the chapel as an octagon and the column bases of a surrounding Crusader portico are still visible outside. By this time, the footprints, now set in stone, were venerated here and the right imprint remains to this day. The chapel became a Muslim shrine after Saladin’s conquest 1187.

PATER NOSTER CHURCH

Pater Noster Church is the traditional site where Jesus taught His Disciples the Lord’s Prayer. Today, the 19th century church and its cloister are famous for the tiled panels inscribed with Pater Noster in the almost all the languages of the world, including Arabic and Chinese.

PALM SUNDAY (ROAD)

Jesus rode in triumph on a donkey descending the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem, an event mentioned in all four Canonical Gospels. Palm Sunday is a Christian moveable feast that falls on the Sunday before Easter.

DOMINUS FLEVIT CHAPEL

israel attractios jerusalem holy places dominos pelvit church165937500Its name meaning “The Lord Wept”, this chapel stands where medieval pilgrims identified a rock as the one on which Jesus sat when he wept over the fate of Jerusalem. The chapel was designed in the shape of a teardrop over a 7th century chapel. The view of the Dome of the Rock from the altar window is justly famous.

CHURCH OF SAINT MARY MAGDALENE

This Russian Orthodox Church is pleasantly set among trees, and the seven gilded onion domes are among the most striking features of Jerusalem’s skyline when viewed from the Old City. The domes and other architectural and decorative features are in Muscovite style.

CHURCH OF THE NATIONS

The Church of All Nations is also known as the Church of the Agony because it is built over the rock in the Garden of Gethsemane on which Christ prayed the night before he was arrested. Outside, the gilded mosaic scene decorating the pediment also depicts the Agony. Next to the church is the surviving part of the Garden of Gethsemane with its centuries-old olive trees.

TOMB OF THE VIRGIN

The first tomb was cult in the hillside here in the 1st century AD. The cruciform crypt as seen today, much of it cut into solid rock, is Byzantine. By the 5th century, an upper chapel had also been built. The Tomb of Mary stands in the eastern branch of the crypt, which is decorated with icons and sacred ornaments typical of Orthodox Christian tradition.

THE KIDRON VALLEY

kidron valley 1271The kidron valley separates the Old City from the Mount of Olives. Near Gethsemane the valley is also known by its Old Testament name, the valley of Jehoshaphat (meaning “Yahweh judges”, Yahweh being the Hebrew name for God), where it was believed the dead would be resurrected on the Day of Judgment. For this reason, the valley sides are densely and the crowd with Christian, Jewish and Muslim cemeteries.

BETHHAGE

Located on the eastern part of the Mount of Olives, Bethpage is the place of the celebration of the beginning of Jesus messianic entrance into the Holy City while the disciples and the crowd enthusiastically sang “Hosanna”.

BETHANY

In the Bible, Bethany was the name of a village near Jerusalem mentioned in the New Testament as the home of the siblings Mary, Martha, and Lazarus and, according to the Gospel of John, the site of a miracle in which Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Also known as al-Eizariya, Bethany is located about 1.5 miles (2.4km) east of Jerusalem on the south-eastern slope of the Mount Olives.

MOUNT SION

Located on a southwestern hill outside the Old City of Jerusalem, Mount Sion is traditionally linked with the final days of Christ and believed by many to be the site of King David’s tomb. Mount Sion is revered by Jews, Muslims and Christians alike. Legend has it that Suleyman the Magnificent architects left it outside by mistake.

THE UPPER ROOM “HOLY CENACLE”

6a0120a610bec4970c017c3811c64e970b 500wiThe Upper Room (the Hall of the Last Supper / Coenaculum) is the place where Jesus Christ shared the last supper with his Disciples before His death. THE ROOM OF THE LAST SUPPER is unadorned apart from the Gothic arches dividing it.

CHURCH OF THE DORMITION

Crowned by a tall bell tower and done with four corner turrets, the Church of the Dormition the Mount Sion hilltop. The large, airy, white-stone church stands on the site where the Virgin Mary is said to have fallen into an “eternal sleep”. After Christ’s death, according to Christian tradition, His Mother went to live on Mount Sion until herself died.

SAINT OETER IN GALLICANTU

Standing to the east of Mount Sion, this church commemorates the traditional site of Saint Peter’s reported denial of Christ which fulfilled the prophecy, “Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice”.


IN & AROUND JERUSALEM


GARDEN TOMB

jerusalem graden tomb signTowards the end of the 19th century the British general, Charles Gordon, of Khartoum fame, was visiting Jerusalem and started a dispute among archaeologists. He argued that this skull-shaped hill was the Golgotha referred to in the New Testament and that the real burial site of Jesus Christ was here and not at the Holy Sepulcher. Excavations and further study found the unearthed ancient tombs to date back to a different period with entirely differ configuration from those is use in Christ’s time. However, this place is well worth a visit if only for the lovely garden regardless of its authenticity.

MONASTERY OF THE CROSS

Stranded in the middle of a large area of scrubland, ringed at its outer perimeters by main roads and modern buildings, this solitary Byzantine monastery has the look of a place that time forget and urban planners ignored. Its high, buttresses walls emphasize still more its seclusion and reflect its once precarious position outside the Old City. According to tradition, it marks the spot where the tree grew that was used to make Christ’s cross.

EIN KAREM

Ein Karem 4A picturesque village, Ein karem “the vineyard spring” has strong biblical associations. According to Christian tradition, John the Baptist was born and lived here. The village boasts several fine churches and monasteries connected with His life.

The Franciscan CHURCH OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST is built over the ruins of earlier Byzantine and Crusader structures. Steps inside the church lead down into a natural cave, known as the Grotto of the nativity of Saint John, which tradition connects with the birth of the Baptist.

The CHURCH OF THE VISITAION commemorates the Virgin Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, mother of john the Baptist, who was then pregnant, an episode depicted in mosaic on the church’s façade. The courtyard walls are lined with tiled panels inscribed with the Magnificat, Mary’s hymn of thanks, in +42 languages.

SAINT JOHN IN THE DESERT: After the Sanctuaries of the Visitation and of the birthplace of Saint John the Baptist, the hermitage of Saint John in the Desert commemorates the place where the Precursor found refuge after fleeing from the Massacre of the innocents (the killing of all first-born sons, ordered by King Herod). It includes the Sanctuary, the Grotto, the spring and the Tomb of Elizabeth. According to tradition, the grotto is where Elizabeth hid with her infant son to escape from the Massacre of the Innocents.

LATRUN

2945The name Latrun is possibly a corruption of “LE toron des Chevaliers” (Castle of the Knights). The Trappist Monastery in Latrun is dedicated to Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows.

Located near Latrun, MINI ISRAEL is a park with about 350 miniature models of historic, archeological, cultural, religious, and /or ethnic importance to Judaism, Christianity and Islam in the Holy Land.

EMMAUS

The tradition accepted and followed by the Franciscans of the Holy Land identifies this sanctuary with memory of the appearance of the Resurrected Lord to the two disciples of Emmaus, Cleopas and Simeon.

RAMLEH

The Catholic Church of Ramble is dedicated to Joseph of Aramathea and Nicodemus, who arranged for the burial of Jesus following the crucifixion.

THE ISRAEL MUSEUM, JERUSALEM

Israel Museum entry nighttime1The Israel Museum, Jerusalem contains some of the Holy Land’s finest art and archaeology. The museum’s various art collections cover a wide range of periods and artistic disciplines, while its archaeology collection constitutes the largest section of the museum.

SHRINE OF THE BOOK: Built to house the Dead Sea Scrolls and other important artifacts, the intriguingly shaped shrine of the Book has become a symbol of the whole museum. The distinctive dome is intended to imitate the lids of the jars in which the scrolls were found. It is the most visited part of the museum.

Another wing worth seeing is the MODEL OF ANCIENT JERUSALEM during the second Temple period (AD 66).

A branch of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, and the ROCKFELLER ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM has Byzantine and Islamic-type decorative motifs. It contains thousands of artifacts arranged in chronological order, ranging from prehistoric times to the Ottoman period, including a 9000-years old statue from Jericho, gold jewelry from the Bronze Age, and much more. It also houses the extraordinary collection of antiquities unearthed in excavations conducted in the country mainly during the time of the British Mandate.