Our first full day in Jerusalem, we started with our guide, Amikam Yechezkely, from the Haas Promenade Lookout Point, which provided a stunning panoramic view of the old and new cities. You can get a very good sense of where the major points of interest are, such as City of David, Temple Mount, Dome of the Rock, Hurva Synagogue, Mount of Olives, Mount Zion, and so on.
The Old City
Today, Jerusalem is made up of the Old City and modern Jerusalem. Our hotel in modern Jerusalem is situated so that we could see the walls of the Old City from our window. It was a short walk through a modern tourist mall with high-end shops and restaurants through Jaffa Gate into the Old City.
Jaffa Gate also known as the Gate of the Prayer Niche of David is stone entrance into the Old City of Jerusalem. Just inside are entrances into the Christian Quarter (left), Muslim Quarter (straight) and the Armenian Quarter (right).
Old City Quarters
Each quarter has it’s own culture, personality, and flair. We bought beautiful hand-made and hand-painted plates in the Armenian Quarter. Browsed the spices, clothing, and silver work in the Muslim quarter, and walked among Christian tourists uwho had come to walk the 12 stations of the cross through Jerusalem.
A good way to get an overview of Jerusalem and its Christian and Muslim Quarters is to pay a small fee to walk along the walls. This is called the Ramparts Walk and you see a lot of the “back” of Old Jersusalem on the inside of the wall and the beautiful landscaping and buildings outside of the wall.
Temple Mount is a walled area in the southeastern section of the Old City where you can visit the Dome of the Rock in the northern section, the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the southern section, and the Western Wall in the Southwestern section.
The Western Wall is the holiest site in Jerusalem, and is what is left from the Second Jewish Temple, which was built at the end of the first century B.C.E. This is a popular place for Bar Mitzvahs, and we were there on one of the days when Bar Mitzvahs were happening all day one after the other.
The Wall has a men’s side and a women’s side. The Bar Mitzvahs start with music, dancing, and a parade of the boy, male members of his family, and their male guests over to the male side of the Western Wall. Women can follow up to the point where the men’s side begins, then they either stay outside or head over to the women’s side.
Our guide and my husband went to the men’s side, which was larger and where the Bar Mitzvahs were taking place. I wandered over to the women’s side where several rows of women gathered at the wall to pray, beseech blessings, and engage in davening (a tradition where the men or women rock forwards and back while reciting Jewish prayers).
I notice some chairs along the divider between the men’s and woman’s side, so I stood on one and peeked over. From our side, some of the women were throwing handfuls of candies over the divider to the men and boys on the other side.
Tefillin are worn by observant Jews during weekday morning prayers. The arm-tefillin is worn on the upper arm with the strap wrapped around the arm/hand, hand and fingers. The head-tefillin is placed above the forehead. Tefillin are worn as a sign and remembrance that God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt.
And you shall bind them upon your arm as a sign, and they shall be a reminder between your eyes.
Tzidkiyahu (Zedekiah’s) Cave also known as Solomon’s Quarries is a 5-acre underground white, coarsely crystalline and thickly bedded limestone quarry that runs the length of five city blocks under the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. It was carved over a period of several thousand years and is a remnant of the largest quarry in Jerusalem that stretches from Jeremiah’s Grotto and the Garden Tomb to the walls of the Old City.
Ancient Jerusalem was built on a hill about 4,000 years ago well before there were any walls to divide Old Jerusalem from modern-day Jerusalem. About 3,000 years ago, King David conquered Ancient Jerusalem to make it his royal city (City of David). The appeal for King David was its perennial water source, that it was easy to defend, and the fact that it was central to the Israelite tribes. The City of David is outside the walls of today’s Old City.
Over the millennia, Ancient Jerusalem expanded and towards the end of the eight century BCE, refugees from the Kingdom of Israel left the Kingdom of Israel, flocked to Jerusalem, settled in new areas built on the Western Hill, and constructed a wall around the hill. About a hundred years later, the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and razed it to the ground.
Romans, Byzantians, Jews, and pagans came, built, and left. And then in the during the early Muslim period in the 11th century, the southern wall was diverted north and left the City of David outside the city limits. And over the years the location of the City of David was forgotten..
Jewish settlement renewed on the hill towards the end of the Ottoman period. In 1885 a large group of Yemenite Jews settled in the area. Archaeological exploration began towards the end of the 19th century which led to many discoveries on the hill and to the identification of the City of David and the ancient core of Jerusalem. This area soon became the most excavated mound in the history of archaeology.
We attended two evening concerts at the Jerusalem Center of the Performing Arts, which is a short cab drive from our hotel. They were having and International Oud festival.
Zohar Fresco: Tof Miriam on November 14, 2015. The Tof Miriam (frame drum) is one of the most ancient drums in the world. This drum was central to Jewish culture and played at ceremonies and festive occasions, holidays, and the Sabbath.
You can hear some oud music by Yair Dalal at his website.
Dinner with a Friend
We met up with a friend, Yuri Feldman, who is a professor and researcher in the Applied Physics Department at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He took us to a fantastic Georgian restaurant for dinner called Kangaroo. Odd name for a restaurant, let alone a Russian restaurant? Definitely. He has done some interesting research in the field of dielectric spectroscopy.
Mount Of Olives is a mountain ridge outside and to the east of the Old City. It’s named for the olive groves that used to grow there, and is a 3,000-year-old Jewish burial area.
Damascus Gate is an entrance to the Old City on the northwestern side. We passed through and found many people there. There were some finely dressed men asking for money on behalf of their synagogues to feed the poor, and others of lower intention simply looking for an opportunity to get money from tourists. It was easy to spot the difference.
Rachel’s Tomb is considered to be the burial place of the Hebrew matriarch Rachel. It is located at the northern entrance of Bethlehem.
Kidron Valley is a valley to the east of the Old City that separates the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives. It is worth driving up to the ridges that overlook the valley for the beautiful panoramic views. The valley extends east through the Judean Desert towards the Dead Sea.
Israel Museum: This is the largest cultural institution in Israel. We had a few hours to spend here. You really need a couple of days. They have a very extensive archaeological collection. Plus, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jewish art, the insides of some fantastic temples, and much, much more.
St. Andrews Church is a memorial to the Scottish soldiers who were killed fighting the Turkish Army during World War I.
L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art is noteworthy for it’s extensive clock and watch collection. In addition, there are nine galleries that explore the beliefs and art of Islamic civilization. These galleries are organized in chronological order.
Chagall Windows are in the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem. These are 12 works of stain glass by Marc Chagall that are on display in the medical center. Chagall drew his inspiration for the individual windows from the Bible.
Founded by Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, the Hadassah Medical Organization pioneered the development of standards and practices of health care in Israel.
Its main focus and its health care activities are in Jerusalem, and its heritage and emotional links are deeply rooted in the land of Israel and its people.
Hadassah Medical Organization is also a bridge to peace. It forges links between patients of all nationalities, races and religion who come to its doors for healing.
— From the About page on the medical center website.
Machane Yehuda food Market is a lot of fun if you enjoy seeing what the local people have for sale for eating, wearing, and decorating their homes. This market is in an area where the ultra-ultra-orthodox Jews live. The streets are clean and quiet as everyone goes about their day-to-day lives.