Within the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem are four (unequal and vaguely defined) quarters – Jewish, Moslem, Christian and Armenian, the latter also Christian. The Moslem quarter is the largest, stretching across the entire south eastern part of the Old City.

The majority of the permanent residents of the Old City are Moslems but this was not always so. There were many Jewish homes and synagogues but some Jews were evicted during Arab riots in the 1920’s and 1930’s and the remainder when the Old City came under Jordanian control in 1948.

In addition to those Jews now living in Jewish property forcibly abandoned in 1948 there are also a few Christians and a small Romany community of Moslems who are not Arabs and who are not well-treated by their fellow co-religionists.

Despite the name, the Moslem Quarter is also the site of many important Christian sites, including the Church of St. Anne, the Convent of the Sisters of Zion, and the Ecce Homo Church. Although part of the Via Dolorosa passes through the Moslem quarter there are not many other tourist attractions and most of the people in the narrow alleys are Moslem residents going about their daily lives.

Most of the shops and the markets are stocked with meat, food, clothes and everyday needs. From the many music stores one can hear the popular Arabic songs. For those who do wander into the Moslem quarter, the humus, baklava and knafeh pastries are a mouth-watering temptation.

The first Moslems who come to Jerusalem in the 7th century were responsible for much of the destruction of the many Byzantine churches, some of which were restored during the brief Crusader period and then destroyed once again. It was in the 7th century that the Dome of the Rock was built on the ruins of the Second Temple and the El Aqsa mosque at the southern end of the Temple Mount, Haram el Sharif to Moslems.

Access to the Temple Mount for non-Moslem visitors is limited to twice a day and only through the Mughrabi gate, next to the Kotel, the Western Wall. Exit is possible through the two northern gates, which are close to the Church of St. Anne, or the two western gates which lead directly into the Moslem Quarter.

The main entrance to the Moslem quarter is through the Damascus gate where an excavation has restored the 2nd century Roman gateway. A walk along the ramparts of the Old City wall between the Damascus and Lion gates gives a different view of the Moslem quarter and affords an opportunity to peep into the courtyard of the homes below.

Text content copyrights: Bein Harim Ltd., Beryl Ratzer (www.ratzer.com)

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