Traveling to Jerusalem

Traveling to Jerusalem is a unique, spiritually charged experience. Jerusalem is sacred to all three of the monotheistic religions, and many Biblical events unfolded here. People of all faiths and cultures go about their daily activities on Jerusalem’s ancient streets. The city has warm weather, but it can get chilly at night, and can even snow in winter.

From Ben Gurion to Jerusalem takes about an hour by taxi, car, or shuttle bus. Accommodation ranges from ultra-luxury hotels like the King David Hotel to simple hostels, and historic hotels in the Old City. The best way to get around Jerusalem is on the convenient light rail, or by bus, but taxis can be pricey.

Things to do in Jerusalem include Old City sites like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Western Wall, Via Dolorosa, the Tower of David, al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Dome of the Rock.

Attractions outside Jerusalem’s Old City include the Mount of Olives churches, David’s Tomb, the Cenacle, Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, the Israel Museum, and the archaeological sites including the City of David. In the newer part of Jerusalem, you’ll find restaurants, bars, nightclubs, art galleries, and stores. Sample Jerusalem cuisine at the Machane Yehuda Market, home to several excellent restaurants. Jerusalem is a good place to base yourself for day trips to Bethlehem, Jericho, the Dead Sea, and Masada. 


Jerusalem at Night: 7 Spots You Really Should Visit

Jerusalem is an extraordinary city, and in this statement, we do not exaggerate - few people who visit here leave without feeling moved. Whatever your age, faith or cultural background, it’s a city that has the power to bewitch - at any time of the day or night. Whether you’re exploring the Old City, visiting Jerusalem museums, wandering the cobblestoned streets and narrow alleyways of its endless neighbourhoods, or simply sitting in a coffee shop, watching the locals walk by, you’ll be endlessly fascinated.Mount Scopus night view of Jerusalem, Israel.Photo bySander CrombachonUnsplashToday, we’re looking at things to do in Jerusalem by night, when sunlight gives way to dusk and, all over the city, landmarks light up. Whether it’s walking along the Via Dolorosa, en route to the Wailing Wall, strolling along Jaffa street, stopping off to grab a bite at Mahane Yehuda Market, or paying a visit to the extraordinary Israel Museum (which is open until 9 pm each Tuesday) we think you’ll remember your experiences for years to come.And one other thing - just like tourists are often concerned about the security situation in Israel, but once they arrive feel incredibly safe, the same is true of the streets of the capital. Whilst the city is ‘shared’ by Jews, Muslims and Christians, your risk of being robbed or hurt is much lower than in other major cities around the globe. Not to mention that the locals are incredibly friendly, and love to help, in the event that you need directions, assistance or simple advice!That means if you’re looking for something to see in Jerusalem at night, after the sun goes down, fear not - all you need to do is put on your walking shoes. Let’s take a look at some of the attractions in Jerusalem that await you, on a night tour of Jerusalem. You’ll have no trouble finding fun things to do in Jerusalem at night. Even better, none of these activities will cost you a dime.Let’s begin…Jerusalem skyline at night. Photo byLavi PerchikonUnsplash1. The Kotel / Western Wall / Wailing Wall, JerusalemThe Kotel (also known as the ‘Wailing / Western Wall’) is the holiest place in the world for all Jews and one to which most aspire to visit, in their lives. Located in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, it is an exposed section of a much longer retaining wall, which is 57 metres (187 feet) high. But this is not any wall - it is the remaining wall of the Second Temple, built by King Herod (known as the Master Builder of his time).The Western Wall is so holy to Jews because it lies close to Temple Mount (inside the wider compound of Al Aqsa Mosque) but because of visiting restrictions, the closest to it that Jews can pray is the Western Wall. Temple Mount is where Jews believe the third (and final) Temple will be built, when the Messiah comes, and for believers, it is the place where God manifests his divine presence. The Foundation Stone, within the Mount, is also the place Jews believe creation began and where Abraham was ordered to sacrifice his son, Isaac. This is why, when Jews pray, it is always in the direction of the Wall (and Mount). Entering into the large plaza and catching sight of the Western Wall is an extraordinary experience for anyone visiting Israel. Up close, you will see men and women (in different sections) touching the stones, swaying in prayer and placing notes to God within the stones’ crevices. The site is not just free but open 24 hours a day - the only ‘condition’ for entrance is a modest dress - women should not have bare shoulders or legs and men should cover their head with a kippah (if you do not have one, you will be given one at no charge).Truly, there is something magical about visiting this Wall after the sun has gone down. Illuminated, and with Jews there at prayer at all hours, it is a good place to sit quietly and in awe. The best night, arguably, to visit is Friday at dusk when many Jews gather there to dance, sing, and usher in Shabbat (their Sabbath). The prayers they offer have been recited by Jews for centuries, and sitting there gives you the ideal opportunity to learn more about this tradition, as well as enjoy the soulful melodies and even spontaneous dancing!People pray at the Western Wall at night.Photo bySander CrombachonUnsplash2. The Jerusalem Chords BridgeThe Chords Bridge (also known as the Bridge of Strings) is a cantilever cable-stayed bridge that, today, is one of the city’s most eye-catching landmarks. Visible from many parts of the capital, it sits at the entrance to the city (it is the first thing you see when you arrive by road) and is currently the tallest structure in Jerusalem.The Chords Bridge was designed by the Spanish architect and engineer, Santiago Calatrava, and took six years to build. With its 66 steel cables, its design is a fusion of old and new - much like Jerusalem. If you look at it from a distance, it resembles a ship’s sail but (as inspired by the Spaniard) it can also be interpreted as a harp (the harp that King David played in the Bible story) or a tent in the desert.Calatrava deliberately designed the building with pedestrians in mind (fun fact: he doesn’t own a driver’s licence) and the bridge, made of concrete, steel and Jerusalem stone - has a glass-sided pedestrian walkway. This means that you’re able to walk across it from Kiryat Moshe to the Jerusalem bus station area. Oh, and it’s also illuminated, which makes it even more beautiful to visit by night.The Jerusalem Chords Bridge by Santiago Calatrava. Photocredit: © Dan Porges3. Yemin Moshe, JerusalemOverlooking the Old City, Yemin Moshe is surely one of Jerusalem’s charming and picturesque neighbourhoods. It also has a wonderful history - it was one of the first residential neighbourhoods established outside of the Old City Walls, at the end of the 19th century.Yemin Moshe’s existence owes itself to the famous financier and philanthropist Moses Montefiore, who hailed from England. In his lifetime, he made seven trips to what was then Palestine and was so impressed with what he saw that he made vast financial contributions in order that medical clinics and educational institutions could be set up. On his final visit, he set up a fund to be used for the building of six neighbourhoods, to alleviate some of the unsanitary conditions within the Old City at that time. One of these was Yemin Moshe and, erected in 1892, it boasted synagogues, communal cooking facilities and 137 houses, not to mention stunning views over the Hinnom Valley.Today, it is truly an iconic Jewish neighbourhood, in which many artists live. They are bound by only one condition - that they maintain the quarter’s original character. So if you want to visit this beautiful area at night, feel free, but remember that it’s an area that’s quiet and genteel, so try to respect the privacy of its inhabitants. The ‘stand out feature’ of the neighbourhood, save for its cobbled streets and beautifully manicured gardens, is the famous Montefiore Windmill. Originally designed as a flour mill, it was used as an observation point in the War of Independence and has huge cultural significance for the neighbourhood.There’s a small building next door in which is a replica of the carriage Montefiore used to travel in, on his journeys. Yemin Moshe is also close to the King David Hotel and YMCA if you’re in the mood for a drink or dinner afterwards.Yemin Moshe neighbourhood, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin4. Mahane Yehuda Market, JerusalemThe Mahane Yehuda Market ("shuk" in Hebrew) isn’t just the best place in town to come and buy your fruits and vegetables - it’s also one of the hippest places to spend an evening. Located between Jaffa Street and Agrippas streets, it has two main open ‘passages’ and in between lots of narrow alleyways and, when night falls, you’re in for a treat.Historically, when the stall owners went home, the market was deserted but all that’s changed in the last 10-15 years, with the advent of a wide array of bars, cafes and live music. By far and away the best evening to visit is Thursday when it’s jam-packed with locals who don’t have to go to work the next day.There are so many places to grab a bite or drink that you’ll be spoilt for choice, but some of the ones we’d recommend include:Beer Bazaar - big microbrewery fans, this joint stocks over 100 different kinds of beer and plenty on tap besides. Que Pasa - the tapas here have become a big hit - although there’s no meat served, there are plenty of small fish, vegetable and dairy dishes, including mullet, porcini bruschetta, sardines and tortilla. They also host local musicians, giving you a chance to enjoy some live music.Meorav Yerushalmi - for all the carnivores out there, this is the best place in town to get a famous Jerusalem mixed grill. All of their delicious meat is stuffed into a pitta (salad and fries on the side!) The portions are enormous and the queues long and if you get there after 11 pm, they may well be sold out! Azura - this family-run, wallet-friendly spot has been in business for 25 years and we know why - they serve Iraqui, Kurdish and Tunisian dishes at a very decent price. Whether you want hummus, shakshuka, meatballs or chicken stew, you’ll leave sated and happy.A fruit stall at Mahane Yehuda Market, Jerusalem. Photo byRoxanne DesgagnésonUnsplash5. First Station (Tachana Rishona), JerusalemClose to the German Colony neighbourhood, the First Station is yet another place that’s hip and happening, both with locals and tourists. Historically, it was the last stop on a train line that ran from Jaffa to Jerusalem but fell into disrepair after the service was discontinued. In 2013, all that changed, when the site was renovated and transformed.Today, it’s a fantastic cultural and entertainment venue, where all kinds of city events, international festivals and food markets are held. The old rail yard is now covered with wooden decks and incorporates old parts of the architecture (the ticket hall, concourse and old station house). Inside, you’ll find pubs, restaurants, food stalls and vendors with their carts. There are many musical events and performances and, particularly in the summer months, it’s a wonderful spot to spend an evening.Colourful tents atFirst Station (Tachana Rishona), Jerusalem.Photo credit: ©Dmitry Mishin6. Mishkenot Shaananim, JerusalemAdjacent to Yemin Moshe, and meaning ‘Peaceful Dwelling’ this was Jerusalem’s very first neighbourhood, built outside the walls of the Old City, on a slope above the Sultan’s Pool, which affords you fantastic views of Mount Zion. Today, this historic spot is very popular with artists, and as you walk around you will see many venues showcasing culture and art. (There’s also a lovely guesthouse there if you’re looking for somewhere tranquil to lay your head!)The smaller of the original buildings is now home to the Jerusalem Music Centre and Convention Centre, an international cultural institution. Since Yemin Moshe is so close to it, many regard the two neighbourhoods as being ‘merged’. Just like its counterpart, Mishkenot Shaananim it is home to lovely gardens, charming narrow roads and wonderfully-restored residential buildings. And, of course, look out for the windmill!Mishkenot Shaananim neighbourhood, Jerusalem.Photo credit: ©Dmitry Mishin7. Kikar Safra, JerusalemThis city square, located in downtown Jerusalem, is home to the city’s municipality complex. Its exact location is the once ‘seam line’ between East and West Jerusalem, which was precisely why it was chosen - to demonstrate that the city should serve all residents. Built in 1993, it couldn’t be more different than the previous structure, which was constructed in 1867, in the Ottoman Empire era.At the primary entrance, from Jaffa Road, you will see a fountain, rows of palm trees and a huge sculpture named ‘Archimedes Screw’. Nearby is the Daniel Garden. The entire plaza is about 4,000 square metres and is surrounded by buildings all used by the city. Kikar Safra is a popular place for Jerusalemites to meet each other, and it’s also known for hosting fairs, festivals and political demonstrations. Fun fact: this square is the spot to which sports fans always flock when their city’s team wins a prominent basketball or football trophy. It’s also the spot where the largest Sukkah (huts roofed with branches) is built, each Fall, at the festival of Sukkot.Safra Square, Jerusalem.Photo credit: ©Dmitry Mishin
By Sarah Mann

4 Days in Jerusalem

“So, when travelling to Israel, how long do you need to spend in Jerusalem?” This is a question we’re asked constantly, in our role as tour operators in Israel, and the fact is, however much time you have, invariably you’re going to long for more. That’s because Jerusalem is quite extraordinary - a city that’s thousands of years old, with every crevice of its Old City walls oozing history. Home to three religions, whether or not you’re a believer, you’re going to find it hard not to be moved after you’ve walked the streets here.The Church of the Pater Noster, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockJerusalem has it all, you see. Historicalandarchaeological sites,museums, religious landmarks, attractions for kids, breathtaking views and restaurants. Many ‘Yerushalmis’ (the Hebrew word for Jerusalem residents) will tell you that they’re constantly discovering new things in their city. And as for the Old City - well, it might be small (less than one square kilometre) but at every twist and turn there’s something to turn your head.Jerusalem is many things - beautiful, complicated, intense, troubled, breathtaking, magical, exhilarating and awe-inspiring - and a must-visit city for anyone visiting Israel. But most tourists visiting the Holy Land have a limited time frame, so what are the top 10 attractions in Jerusalem?Today, we’re going to look at a potential Jerusalem itinerary for someone planning on spending four days in the Israeli capital, a guide of what to see and do in Jerusalem. Four days, in our opinion, is a good introduction…and hopefully, you’ll enjoy it so much, you’ll want to return.The Church of All Nations, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockDay 1. Arrival and looking aroundToday’s a day for getting settled in, perhaps having a stroll in downtown Jerusalem, grabbing some dinner at one of the city’s excellent restaurants then getting a good night’s sleep at one of the best Jerusalem hotels you pre-booked. If you have the time and energy, we’d definitely recommend a visit to the Israel Museum, which is close to the famous Jerusalem landmark of the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament).Within the museum, you’ll find (amongst other things) fine art, a sculpture garden, a model of Jerusalem at the time of the Second Temple and the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in the 1940s in the Judean desert and now housed in a stunning purpose-designed building. For dinner, why not treat yourself and book a table at the Mamilla rooftop restaurant, close to the Jaffa Gate? You can enjoy magnificent views of the Old City whilst feeling a fresh Jerusalem breeze on your face. The inner corridor of Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Photo byYanny MishchukonUnsplashDay 2. Getting acquainted with the Old City of JerusalemDay two is all about Jerusalem’s Old City. It might be small but - trust us - if you see even half of what we’re suggesting, you’ll have sore feet by the day’s end. This tiny area is full of iconic landmarks and, depending on your focus, you can spend hours at just two or three of them. Holy sites in Jerusalem are everywhere you look, but here’s some you shouldn’t miss: There are many churches in the Christian Quarter, the most famous of which is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Built on the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, inside you can marvel at the magnificent architecture (the wooden carved doors at its entrance are original, dating back to 326 CE!) the Rock of Calvary, and various chapels (Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Egyptian Coptic) in the magnificent complex.If you want to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, follow the Via Dolorosa, stopping at the Stations of the Cross.Or visit theChurch of St. John the Baptist - recognizable by its silver dome. The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, built in 1898, offers services in English, German, Danish and Arabic.The highlights of the Muslim Quarter have got to be the Suk (the Arab Bazaar) and Temple Mount. Wander the network of alleyways, shop for bargains and grab yourself a black coffee (flavoured with cardamom) and sit and watch the world go by, just soaking up the atmosphere. Whatever you want to take home with you can be found here, including local spices, soaps, embroidery, sweet treats, woodwork and all kinds of beautifully-decorated Armenian pottery.The third Station of the Cross,not far from the Ecce Homo, Jerusalem.Photo byJorge Fernández SalasonUnsplashTemple Mount, also known as Haram esh-Sharif, is dominated by the Dome of the Rock, built by the Umayyad caliphate in 691 CBE. One of theUNESCO World Heritage Sites in Israel, it is probably Jerusalem’s most famous landmark, because of its distinct golden dome.There are many things to see within the compound - fountains, prayer locations and arches - but access to non-muslims is limited so check in advance when visiting is possible, or take a Jerusalem Temple Mount & Dome of the Rock Tour with us, where an experienced guide can help you get the most out of the experience.In the Jewish Quarter, head first to the Western Wall (‘Kotel’ in Hebrew) which is all that is left of the Temple built by Herod the Great. Jews from around the world come to pray here and watching them touching the stones, silently, is a moving sight. For adventure lovers, you can take an underground tour of the Western Wall Tunnels or visit the Tower of David, an ancient Citadel close to the Jaffa Gate (housing a museum) and a symbol of Jerusalem.Another popular area is around the Cardo, which was the main thoroughfare in Jerusalem in Roman times. Stretching from the Damascus Gate to David street, it was built in the Byzantine period, in 6 CE, and some of its columns have even been restored, so you really can go back in time as you stroll along. If all this is a bit overwhelming, and you’re not quite sure what to focus on, why not opt for a mix of everything with our Jerusalem Old and New Tour.Christ Church, the Old City of Jerusalem.Photo byBig G MediaonUnsplashDay 3 - Mount of Olives and Mount ZionThe Mount of Olives lies east of the Old City, close to the Kidron Valley. There are a considerable number of holy sites there, including a number of impressive churches, so choose carefully! Christian sites on the Mt of OlivesAugusta Victoria Hospital - this church hospital lies on the north side of the mount, offering specialised medical care. Within the complex lies the Lutheran Church of the Ascension, identifiable by its 50-metre high bell tower, as well as a meeting centre and cafe for pilgrims.Church of Mary Magdalene - under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox church since the 1920s, it was built in 1888 by Tsar Alexander III to honour his mother. The traditional design of the roof (popular in 17th century Russia) includes seven distinctive gilded domes. Church of the Pater Noster is part of a Carmelite Monastery and on its walls are inscribed translations of the Lord’s Prayer in 140 different languages. Dominus Flevit Churchis a small Catholic Franciscan chapel, built on the ruins of a 5th-century Byzantine church. Its iconic design (tear-shaped and with its often photographed window) is down to the Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi.Garden of Gethsemane - this is the spot where Jesus prayed before his betrayal by Judas Iscariot and subsequent arrest. Scientists have discovered that the olive trees in its garden are some of the oldest in the world - around 2,000 years!The Garden of Gethsemane, Jerusalem. Photo byStacey FrancoonUnsplashMuslim holy sites on the Mt of OlivesThe Mount of Olives is holy to Muslims, as they believe it is the site where the Kaaba (the black stone located in Mecca) will return, in order to be reunited with the rock inside the Dome of the Rock (the spot at which Muslims believe the world was created) There is the tomb of Rabi’a al Adawiya,this cleric who introduced Sufism into the world of Islam, as well as the tomb of Mujir ed-Din, a medieval historian.Jewishholy sites on the Mt of OlivesJewish cemetery- Mount of Olives is home to a historic area used as a burial ground for Jews since biblical times. Some of the most important Kings of the Hebrew Bible are buried here and according to Jewish tradition, this is the site at which the messianic era will be ushered in.Tomb of the Prophets - according to tradition, this is where the last three Hebrew prophets are buried - Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi are buried. Mount of Olives, Jerusalem. Photo byAdam KringonUnsplashVisiting Mount ZionThis hill in Jerusalem, just outside of the Old City, is holy to Christians, Muslims and Jews and, in many senses, a metaphor for the entire Promised Land. Some of the sites you may want to explore on Mount Zion are:Christian sites on Mount ZionDormition Abbey - run by a Benedictine Order, this Catholic Abbey marks the spot where Mary, the mother of Jesus, was said to have died. Built by Kaiser Willhelm II, it has a distinctive round shape, a cone-shaped dome and a magnificent mosaic floor. The Protestant cemetery - established by Presbyterian missionaries, this is the final resting place of many Protestants, including Oskar Schindler. Made famous by the Steven Spielberg film, Schindler today is considered a righteous gentile by the State of Israel, for his heroism in saving 1,200 lives in the Holocaust.Dormition Abbey, Jerusalem.Photo byLevi Meir ClancyonUnsplashJewish sites on Mount ZionKing David's Tomb - sacred to Jews, this is the spot which is where it is believed David, the celebrated warrior King of Israel, is buried. The building in which it is housed is designed in Romanesque style and dates back to the time of the Crusades.The Chamber of the Holocaust (‘Martef HaShoah’) - this small Holocaust museum was opened before Yad Vashem in 1949. The walls of the courtyard and passages are covered with plaques that resemble tombstones and erected as a monument to over 2,000 Jewish communities destroyed by the Nazis. Muslim sites on Mount ZionThe Dajani Cemeteries - these three Muslim burial sites are owned by the Dajanis, historically one of Jerusalem’s most distinguished families. The Dajanis also own the compound where King David’s tomb is located (see above). Our tip: if you have a particular interest in the Jerusalem Christian sites on the Mount of Olives, then why not join our Footsteps of Jesus tour? And don't forget about the dress code visiting Jerusalem holy sites.King David’s Tomb, Mount Zion, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockAs night falls, why not head back into central Jerusalem, towards the famous Mahane Yehuda Market on the Jaffa Road? Bustling and chaotic by day - beloved by locals as the best place to buy fruits and vegetables - at night it’s transformed into a cafe and bar venue, where you can grab a drink or have a bite. It’s incredibly atmospheric and - in our opinion - one of the best places to get a sense of what Jerusalem is all about.There’s also the rooftop restaurant at Notre Dame, close to the Damascus Gate, where you can take in breathtaking views of the Old City. They have ‘cheese platters’ which you can pair with fine wines, traditional Middle Eastern food and also steaks/seafood. If you arrive at sunset, you’ll be grateful you did so!Man selling fruits at Mahane Yehuda Market, Jerusalem. Photo byTim MossholderonUnsplashDay 4 - Your ChoiceToday, we’re giving you a few different activity ideas, depending on your interests (and whether or not you’ll be taking kids along with you). City of David - if you’re curious to know where it all began, then why not take a City of David Jerusalem Tour? The original settlement of Jerusalem, it offers a number of attractions, including archaeological experiences in Emek Tzurim national park, walking tours through underground water tunnels that date back 3,000 years and a nighttime show named ‘Hallelujah’.Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum - this is Israel’s official monument/museum to those who perished in the Holocaust. Whilst not a ‘fun’ afternoon out, Yad Vashem is essential visiting for anyone interested in this dark period of Jewish history. The architecture of the museum is stunning and the Monument to the Children particularly moving. As solemn as it is, its emotional, historical and cultural significance cannot be underestimated.Jerusalem Biblical Zoo - for anyone with kids (or anyone who just loves animals) this zoo is a fabulous attraction. The birds and animals all live in conditions that replicate their natural habitats - from the African Savannah to the tropical rain forests. Jerusalem Biblical Zoo.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinThere’s also a ‘petting pool’ for youngsters and a children's zoo, where the kids can feed goats, sheep and rabbits. And just a short walk from the zoo is the Israel Aquarium, featuring all kinds of marine life from the Sea of Galilee, the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea.Before you settle into your last evening at your hotel, why not consider visiting the neighbourhood Ein Kerem for dinner? Located in southwestern Jerusalem, this charming hillside village is an oasis of greenery and one of the major Christian holy sites in Israel, since it is believed to be where John the Baptist was born. Ein Kerem’s streets are narrow and charming, filled with cafes, boutique stores, artist galleries and independent jewellery workshops, which you can explore, before heading off to one of their several stylish restaurants. The perfect way to end your last night in Israel’s capital.We hope this suggested Jerusalem itinerary is of help - and if you have less than four days to spare, why not try our 3-day classical Jerusalem package tour? In any event, however long you’re planning to spend in Israel’s capital, be prepared to be blown away…Happy travelling!Convent of the Sisters of Zion, Ein Kerem, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © Shutterstock
By Sarah Mann

Top 15 Things to Do in Jerusalem

Jerusalem is an endless treasure trove of fascinating sites and attractions. A “top” list cannot do the City of Gold justice but to get you started here are the absolute must-see sites of Jerusalem.City of David excavations, Jerusalem, Israel.Photo credit: © Shutterstock1. Old CityMany of the individual top attractions of Jerusalem are within the Old City walls but in addition to the Old City highlights, there are many fascinating sites, narrow alleys, markets, and churches to discover. Wandering through the Old City is perhaps the best way to discover the Old City. Try following the Via Dolorosa, the route Jesus took carrying his cross to his crucifixion in Calvary where the Holy Sepulchre now stands. Shop for authentic souvenirs in the Muslim Quarter market and see the Armenian ceramics in the Armenian Quarter. The Old City walls were constructed under the Ottoman rule in the 16th century and it is possible to walk along the ramparts.In the 9th century, the city was divided into the four quarters of Armenian, Christian, Muslim, and Jewish neighborhoods. The Old City has drawn people of all faiths for thousands of years. It was here that Jesus was crucified, that the Jewish Temple stood, and where Muhammad traveled on his Night Journey. The Old City sites include Temple Mount, the Western Wall, Holy Sepulchre, and the Dome of the Rock; the Old City is a UNESCO World Heritage site.Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem. Photo byAdam KringonUnsplash2. Church of the Holy SepulchreThe Church of the Resurrection in the Old City Christian Quarter is located on the site of Calvary (Golgotha) where Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected. The Via Dolorosa leads to the church where the last four Stations of the Cross are located representing the final stages of Christ’s Passion. The church was completed in 326AD (but rebuilt, repaired, extended, and renovated several times) and since then has been a pilgrimage site for Christians from across the globe. Much of the church structure we see today dates back to the Crusaders who rebuilt the church. The building is shared by several Christian denominations each with its own chapels within the church. Highlights of a visit to the church include the Armenian, Greek Orthodox, and Ethiopian Orthodox chapels; Calvary; the Chapel of the Nailing of the Cross; the Chapel of Adam; the mosaic depicting Christ’s body being prepared for burial; the Stone of Anointing, where Jesus’ body was laid to be prepared for burial and the Rotund, a massive dome above the Chapel of Aedicule which holds the Holy Sepulchre and the Angel’s Stone, a fragment of the stone which sealed Jesus’ tomb. The extremely beautiful and ornate church is one of the largest in the world.Dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem. Photo byAdam KringonUnsplash3. Wailing WallThe Kotel, Western Wall, or Wailing Wall is the last remaining part of the ancient Jewish Second Temple which stood on Temple Mount until its destruction in c.70AD. The small stretch of wall which we call the Wailing Wall was part of the retaining walls of the temple constructed by Herod the Great in c.19BC. The temple on Temple Mount was the most sacred site in Judaism and following its destruction, the remaining wall became the most sacred site in the Jewish world. Looking at the wall you can see the large stone blocks on the lower section which date back to the original Herodian wall, smaller blocks in the middle section added during the Umayyad Era, and the smaller blocks on the top of the wall added during the Ottoman Era.The entire wall would have measured 488 meters long. The portion referred to as the Wailing Wall faces a large plaza in the Jewish Quarter while the rest of the wall is hidden behind other structures in the Muslim Quarter. There is a small section (8 meters) called the Little Western Wall still accessible within a tunnel. Jews gather throughout the day and night to pray at the Western Wall, it is the local synagogue for those Jews who live close by. It is a tradition to place a prayer note (with your private message to God) in between the stones of the wall. For a unique experience, you can take a tour of the Kotel Tunnels beneath the ground along the excavated hidden layers of the walls. You can join the hour-long tour from the Visitors Center on the Western Wall Plaza. Another interesting attraction alongside the Western Wall is the Generation Center which takes you on a journey following the existence of the Jewish people and giving you a unique view of the Western Wall.The Wailing Wall, Jerusalem. Photo byReiseuhuonUnsplash4. Temple MountHar HaBayit, HaMoriya, Haram al-Sharif, or Temple Mount is the most sacred site in Jerusalem for Jews and Muslims. The Jews value Temple Mount as the former site of their Holy Temple which was destroyed in c.70AD while the Muslims value the site because of several religious structures which stand here and the belief that Muhammad traveled here in his Night Journey as told in the Koran (although Jerusalem is not mentioned by name). Today entrance to the Temple Mount is monitored closely to avoid conflict between Jews and Arabs and it is usually only possible for non-Muslims to visit as part of a guided tour. Temple Mount is the site of the Dome of the Rock (the Noble Sanctuary with its famous golden dome and colorful mosaics), the al-Aqsa Mosque (thought to be the “Farthest Mosque” referred to in the Koran, it is the 3rd holiest Islamic site in the world) and the Dome of the Chain (an Ummayads era prayer house with a domed hexagonal structure and open arches). The mount is accessed through four gates, the paved trapezium-shaped area referred to as Temple Mount is in the eastern section of the Old City; it covers 37 acres and measures 488 meters by 470 meters by 315 meters by 280 meters. On the southern section of the western flank is the Western Wall where Jews worship on the other side of the wall.Dome of the Rock through the archway, Temple Mount, Jerusalem. Photo by Jorge Fernández Salas on Unsplash5. Mahane Yehuda Market250 market stalls and stores fill the lanes of Jerusalem’s most famous “shuk” or market. The market can be found between Jaffa Road, Agrippas Street, Beit Yaakov Street, and Kiach Street. There is a covered section down Eitz Chaim Street and an open-air market along Mahane Yehuda Street. Smaller streets bisect these two main streets each heavily ladened with food, produce, and goods. The Mahane Yehuda Market is well known for its many eateries, here you can find hidden gems, restaurants that count among the best in the city. The market is known for its lively atmosphere, frequent street entertainers, fresh produce, regular special events, and colorful dynamic atmosphere. Try sampling the roasted nuts, halva, pickles, olives, fresh baked goods and pick up some cheap household goods and casual clothing. For a slice of Israeli society visit Mahane Yehuda!Doughnuts for Hanukkah in Mahane Yehuda Market, Jerusalem. Photo byElisheva GoharonUnsplash6. Yad VashemThis museum is Israel’s official memorial to those who lost their lives in the World War II Holocaust. The Holocaust History MuseumYad Vashem is located on Mount Herzl next to the Jerusalem Forest; the expansive grounds have several memorials including the Children’s Memorial, the Hall of Remembrance, and the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations which commemorates non-Jewish heroes who helped hide or rescue Jews from certain death. The main museum building has a unique triangular or prism shape constructed out of concrete which cuts through the landscape and after passing through the exhibits visitors reach an opening overlooking the valley forests. A skylight extends through the entire “triangle” letting in natural light. The museum holds video testimonials featuring Holocaust survivors; a Hall of Names featuring the photos of 600 Holocaust victims lining a cone shape which goes both up and down to where there is a pool of water. The museum exhibits include authentic artifacts, photographs, documents, personal possessions, and the world’s largest collection of artwork created by Jews and other victims during WWII. Yad Vashem is the second most visited site in Israel after the Wailing Wall and admission is free.Memorial to the Deportees (Wagon or cattle car monument) at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Shutterstock7. Ein KeremIn southwest Jerusalem, just behind the Old City lies this picturesque ancient village which is now a neighborhood of Jerusalem. It is believed that John the Baptist was born here and many churches and monasteries have been established here for that reason. In addition to enjoying the many quaint coffee shops, specialty restaurants, lush greenery, and the traditional courtyard homes of Ein Kerem you can visit several sites. There are two Ein Kerem Churches of St. John the Baptist, one is a Catholic church constructed on the remains of former Byzantine and Crusader churches where you can see part of the surviving mosaic floor. The other church belongs to the Eastern Orthodox church and was built in 1894. The Church of the Visitation is thought to be built on the site of John the Baptist’s parent’s home. The present church was designed by well-known architect Antonio Barluzzi who also designed the Church of All Nations on the Mount of Olives. Other sites in Ein Kerem include Les Soeurs de Notre-Dame de Sion; the Russian Orthodox Gorny Convent and Mary’s Spring believed to be where Mary drank water and where Mary and Elizabeth met. Alongside the spring (which is actually the end of an ancient aqueduct) is a mosque and school.The historical streets of Ein Karem, Jerusalem, Israel. Photo byLaura SiegalonUnsplash8. David's TowerIt is hard to miss the sight of David’s Tower next to the Jaffa Gate of the Old City. The medieval citadel actually has no connection with King David; the present structure stands on the site of earlier Hasmonean, Herodian, and Christian fortifications. Herod altered the original Hasmonean fort towers and the northeastern tower (the Tower of Phasael) became known as the Tower of David by the Byzantine Christians who mistook it for the Palace of King David. The Turkish Muslim leaders also thought this was King David’s palace (1187) and the Mamluks made the same mistake destroying and rebuilding the citadel. During the Turkish Ottoman era the citadel was rebuilt and became a garrison and mosque; the minaret that is today referred to as the Tower of David dates back to the 16th century Ottoman Era. Under the British Mandate (1917-1948) the citadel was restored and used for cultural events and following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War the citadel became the property of the Arab Legion and was once again used as a military fortress until the Israeli victory in 1967.Today the Tower of David houses a museum and is used for exhibitions, concerts, and cultural events. The museum is housed in the guardrooms of the original citadel and in the courtyard, you can see archaeological ruins. The museum uses diverse state-of-the-art techniques to tell the story of Jerusalem in chronological order from 3200BC to the 20th century AD. The Tower of David is the site of Jerusalem’s Night Spectacular sound and light show “Babylon Exile.” Sophisticated special effects are used to project images on the surrounding ancient stones which come alive with images of the past.The 1:100 scale aluminum model depicts the structure of the Jerusalem citadel including the minaret which is called the “Tower of David. Photo credit: ©Dmitry Mishin9. Mount of OlivesThe Mount of Olives is a two-mile-long ridge with three summits facing the Old City across the Kidron Valley. This holy mount is known to most Christians as the site where Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Flevit super illam); where he taught his disciples (including the Olivet Discourse); as the site of his betrayal and arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane and where Jesus ascended to heaven in Acts 1:9-12. In the Old Testament, the mountain is referred to when David fled from Absalom (II Samuel 15:30) and in many other references. The mount has been a sacred Jewish burial ground since antiquity and verses in Zachariah refer to it as the place where the resurrection of the dead will begin after the Messiah has arrived. For this reason, many Jews wish to be buried here and it is the final resting place of many famous Jewish figures including Chaim ibn Attar. Today the mount is home to several landmarks; the Arab neighborhood of At-Tur stands on the mountain’s summit and to the north is the Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Brigham Young University Jerusalem Center. On the Mount of Olives you can visit the Church of All Nations, with its stunning colorful mosaic on the façade; the Church of Mary Magdalene, a magnificent Russian Orthodox Church with gold onion-domes; Dominus Flevit Church which marks where Jesus wept and the Chapel of the Ascension, a shrine marking where Jesus ascended to heaven 40 days after his resurrection. The Church of the Pater Noster stands on the site thought to be where Jesus taught the disciples the Lord’s Prayer. Ceramic plaques line the walls bearing the Lord’s Prayer in different languages. Other structures on the Mount of Olives include the Augusta Victoria Hospital; Orson Hyde Memorial Garden; the Seven Arches Hotel and the Garden of Gethsemane.View of the Temple Mount and of Mount Olives Jewish cemetery. Photo byRobert ByeonUnsplash10. Mount ZionSouth of the Armenian Quarter of the Old City is the highest point of ancient Jerusalem, Mount Zion. The mount is mentioned in both the Old and New Testament and the name has become synonymous with the city – the City of Zion. The biblical events believed to have occurred here include the last supper, where Jesus appeared before the high priest for judgment; where the Virgin Mary fell asleep (on the site of the present-day Dormition Abbey), and the site of the ancient Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-29). During Christ’s lifetime, Mount Zion would have been a well-to-do residential neighborhood within the City Walls. The name “Mount Zion” has been used to refer to a number of locations including Temple Mount. The mount is also the traditional burial place of King Davidalthough it was the Crusaders who built the present David’s Tomb which stands on Mount Zion. Gradually over time, the tomb came to be accepted as the real burial place of David. King David is also a respected figure in the Islamic faith. When the walls of the Old City were built under the Turkish Sulieman the Magnificent in the 16th century the Sultan heard that Kind David’s tomb had been left outside of the walls and so he had the architects of the walls beheaded. Inside Jaffa Gate, you can see two stone graves said to be those of the architects. Today visitors to Mount Zion can visit King David’s Tomb and above it the Room of the Last Supper. There is also the Chamber of the Holocaust, a small Holocaust museum; the Catholic cemetery where Oskar Schindler is buried (of Schindler’s List fame); Dormition Abbey; andSt. Peter in Gallicantu (traditional location of the house of Caiaphas).Dormition Abbey, Mount Zion, Jerusalem, Israel.Photo credit: ©Dmitry Mishin11. Mea ShearimOne of Jerusalem’s oldest neighborhoods, Mea Shearim is home to ultra-Orthodox Jews or Haredim. This was the 5th settlement outside of the Old City walls established in 1874. The name means 100 gates or hundredfold and is thought to either come from a biblical verse or the fact that the neighborhood once had 100 gates. The neighborhood has narrow stone lanes and streets with small courtyards and homes entered through gates in the stone walls that line the streets. On your walk through the neighborhood, you will notice signs requesting “modest dress.” Visitors to this part of the city should respect the local residents by wearing modest clothing. Women should were tops with sleeves, not show a lot of cleavages and wear skirts below their knees. Men should not wear vests or shorts. During Shabbat (from sundown on Friday to sun up on Saturday) the neighborhood is in darkness. Visitors should also avoid using mobile phones, taking photos, or smoking in the neighborhood. A visit to Mea Shearim will give you an insight into an insular community that lives by the rules of the ancient Torah.Two Orthodox Jews burying a genizah at the Jewish Cemetery on Mount Olives. Photo byZoltan TasionUnsplash12. Israel Museum This comprehensive museum complex is Israel’s national museum. The Israel Museum covers a wide range of historic periods and artwork. In the permanent art galleries, you can see Israeli art, contemporary art, modern art, European art, design, photography, prints, drawings, and architecture, exhibits on world culture, and the Billy Rose Art Garden. The archaeological section covers discoveries from the Land of Israel, Islamic near Eastern excavations, the development of the alphabet, neighboring cultures, coins, and glass through the ages. A permanent section deals with Jewish art and life including traditional Jewish cultures from around the world, illuminated scripts, and the cycle of the Jewish year. There is a children’s wing where exhibits are geared towards younger visitors and there are regular activities for families (especially during Israeli school holidays). A highlight of the museum is the Shrine of the Book; a uniquely shaped building housing the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Aleppo Codex. There is also an impressive scale model of Jerusalem during the Second Temple Era. This is the ultimate Israeli museum for art and history so if you visit one museum in Israel it should be this one.Kurdish hat belonging to Jews from Kurdistan, now in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Photo byLevi Meir ClancyonUnsplash13. Kidron Valley This valley lies between the Mount of Olives and the walls of the Old City. Here you can see ancient tombs and olive trees. The valley was once a deep ravine and defensive border for the original City of David. King David would have run through here when fleeing Absalom (II Samuel 15:23) and Jesus would have walked here when visiting the village of Bethany and the Garden of Gethsemane. During the Second Temple period, a large bridge is believed to have spanned the valley connecting the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives. Three monuments face the Old City walls. The Pillar of Absalom (King David’s rebellious son) is a tall ornate tomb hewn out of the rock face with a pointed roof. The Tomb of the Sons of Hezir has columns supporting a frieze and an inscription identifying this as the tomb of the biblical figure and his sons. The Tomb of Zachariah is next in line, it is a free-standing cube decorated with columns and topped with a pyramid-shaped roof. The Tomb of the Virgin Mary is at the foot of the Mount of Olive and is thought to be the burial place of Jesus’ mother. Today a church marks the site where rock-cut underground caves have been excavated. Visitors can descend 47 steps into the tomb and see an excavated sarcophagus uncovered here.Kidron Valley, Jerusalem, Israel.Photo credit: © Shutterstock14. City of DavidJerusalem as a whole is often referred to as the “City of David” but actually the original City of King David was located outside the Old City walls opposite the Dung Gate overlooking the Kidron Valley. Excavations have uncovered remains of the city along a ridge called the Ophel. The excavated buildings date back to the Jebusite and Israelite eras of the 10th century BC and although as yet no discovery has tied the ruins with King David the site has been named the City of David. Visitors must take a guided tour of the site. The visit includes a 3D presentation; a view of the excavated City of David from an Observation Deck; a visit to the royal compound of First Temple Jerusalem (Area G); Warren’s Shaft (an underground tunnel connecting the citadel to the Gihon water source) and a visit to the Siloam Pool of the Second Temple Era. Tours leave from the Visitors Center at the entrance to the City of David. There are three different themed tours titled Ascend to Zion, Family Tours of Biblical Jerusalem, and Enchanted Jerusalem.15. Haas PromenadeHaas promenade connects the neighborhoods of East Talpiot and Talpiot. The promenade continues on to connect with the Sherover and Goldman Promenades making one continuous public park area. The promenade looks down on the Old City and you can see as far as the Dead Sea. It is thought to be the biblical site where Abraham was shown Mount Moriah where he was to sacrifice his son Isaac. Although the site has seen historic events unfold it is famed for the view more than anything else. From here you can see the Dome of the Rock taking center stage, the walls of the Old City, Arab villages, olive groves, pine trees, and the Hills of Judea in the distance.Entrance to City of David, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © Shutterstockto credit: © Shutterstoc
By Petal Mashraki

Top 10 Attractions in Jerusalem

There are so many things to see and do in Jerusalem that narrowing down the list to just 10 is almost impossible – but someone has to do it! If your time in the City of Gold is limited then you will need to pick and choose only the best attractions and activities in Jerusalem.Tourists in Jerusalem Biblical Zoo. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinJerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel and a sacred city in the Christian, Muslim, and Jewish faiths. Over the course of thousands of years, Jerusalem has remained a truly eternal city and one with certain magic which can only really be understood when you there surrounded by biblical, Byzantine, Crusader, Ottoman, and modern historical sites.1. Old City, JerusalemOk, so this is a bit of a cheat, as the Old City of Jerusalem is one site with many attractions. Within the ancient Old City walls are the top attractions of the city and the most important Christian, Muslim, and Jewishholy sites. In addition to the most famous sites, there are many hidden gems, markets, stores, excavated Roman ruins, synagogues, and churches in the Old City of Jerusalem. You can follow the Via Dolorosa, visit David's Tower, see a Sound and Light Show or walk the Ramparts.Church of the Holy Sepulchre – This huge church was consecrated in 335AD and holds the last five Stations of the Cross, the Stone of Anointing, Calvary, the holy tomb or sepulcher where Jesus was buried and resurrected, and many small chapels. The church marks the end of the Via Dolorosa, the route Jesus took through the Old City towards his crucifixion.Western Wall – The Kotel (Wailing Wall) is a segment that has survived from the original Second Jewish Temple which was destroyed in 70AD. Today Jews pray at the Western Wall as they do in synagogues. This holy site is the closest Jews can get to the site on Temple Mount where the Temple once stood. You can place a prayer note between the large limestone blocks which make up the wall. You can visit the Western Wall Tunnels running beneath the Old City along part of the Wall which is hidden underground.Temple Mount – The Jewish Holy Temple stood here almost 2,000 years ago and today it is the site of the Dome of the Rock, Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Dome of the Chain. It is the holiest Jewish site and the holiestMuslim site in Israel. The Koran tells of Mohammed reaching the al-Aqsa Mosque after the Night Journey and of Muhammad’s ascent to heaven from the stone which is within the Dome of the Rock.Dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin2. Holocaust Museum Yad Vashem, JerusalemPerched on Mount Herzl overlooking the forests and hills of Jerusalem is this memorial to those who lost their lives in the Holocaust. The Holocaust Museum includes a Children’s Memorial, Hall of Remembrance, Museum of Holocaust Art, a sculpture garden, and the Garden of the Righteous Among Nations. Here you can see filmed testimonials from people who were in the Nazi concentration camps as well as thousands of authentic artifacts from the camps and the Holocaust period. The museum building has a unique design that leads you through the Holocaust story with multimedia exhibits, provocative displays, and somber photographs and documents.3. Mahane Yehuda Market, JerusalemGet a taste of Jerusalem’s “shuk” a marketplace with all the character, color, flavors, and aromas of the Middle East. The Mahane Yehuda market is spread over several lanes and stalls are loaded up with fresh produce, baked goods, spices, nuts, dried fruit, and even household items and clothing. There are several eateries in the market where you can try some authentic Jerusalem cuisine.4. Israel Museum, JerusalemIsrael’s national art and archaeological museum exhibits a vast range of Israeli and international art and artifacts. Among the gems of the Israel museum, there is the oldest artwork in the world, a Youth Wing, fine art, pieces by Rembrandt, Chagall, Pissarro, Henry Moore sculptures, and a special section devoted to Jewish Art and Life. On the grounds of the museum is a model of the 2nd Temple and the Shrine of the Book, where you can see the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest copy of the Bible in the world.Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, Jerusalem. Photo by Snowscat on Unsplash5. Mount of OlivesLike the Old City, this site holds several attractions. The mount stands alongside the Old City; it has been used as a Jewish cemetery for over 3,000 years. The mount features several sites from the New Testament. Among the landmarks on the Mount of Olives is Augusta Victoria Hospital; the Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene with its distinctive gold onion domes; the Seven Arches Hotel and the Dome of the Ascension which holds a stone with the last footprint of Jesus before he ascended to heaven. For a great view of the city visit the observation promenade on the Mount of Olives.Church of the Pater Noster – This church stands where Christ taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer. The present church bears plaques featuring the Lord’s Prayer in more than 100 different languages.Church of Dominus Flevit – From here Jesus looked out over Jerusalem and wept. The present tear-shaped church was built in 1955 and has a window overlooking the Old City so that visitors can experience the same view that Jesus would have seen.Garden of Gethsemane – Here it is believed that Jesus came to pray just a few hours before his capture by the Romans and subsequent crucifixion.Church of All Nations – The Basilica of Agony built in 1924 is recognizable from afar by its large colorful mosaic above the entrance portico and its 12 grey domes on the roof. The church marks the site where Jesus prayed on the night of his arrest.Burying damaged Jewish prayer books, Mount of Olives Jewish Cemetery. Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash6. Jerusalem Biblical ZooAt Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, you can see animals that are mentioned in the Old Testament as well as endangered species. The zoo covers 62 acres and is designed with lush gardens and trees. There is a man-made lake, pools, waterfalls, and a miniature train. The animal enclosures are without conventional bars and cages but rather recreate the animal’s natural environments. Over 2,000 animals live at this zoo and by each enclosure, you can see the quote from the Bible which mentions the featured animal.7. City of DavidThe original City of David established in the 10th-9th century BC existed outside the present Old City walls. Today the site has been excavated to reveal water tunnels that brought water to the city and the remains of a city. Visitors can follow Hezekiah’s tunnels, see the remnants of homes from the biblical period and the remains of a Canaanite fortress. This is an exciting experience as you walk through the dark tunnels with water at your feet from Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam8. Knesset – Israeli Parliament BuildingYou can visit this important building and take a look from the outside or take a tour of the interior. Tours are held on Sunday and Thursday at 8:30 am, noon, and 2 pm, they last an hour and are free but remember to bring your passport. You don’t need to book in advance for one of these tours. On the tour, you’ll get an overview of the workings of the Israeli parliament as well as get to see the magnificent works of art and photography on the Knesset walls. The Knesset holds several valuable pieces including works by Reuven Rubin, Kedma, and Moshe Castel. The tour stops at the Chagall Hall, Knesset Library, Plenary Chamber, and other architecturally interesting points in the building. At the moment, only virtual tours are possible.Mahane Yehuda Market. Photo by Roxanne Desgagnés on Unsplash9. Mount ZionMount Zion is located on the edge of the Old City. Like the Old City and Mount of Olives, you can see several attractions on Mount Zion. The most significant sites are the Room of the Last Supper where Jesus ate with his disciples on the night of his arrest and the Tomb of David where King David is said to be buried. Other must-see attractions on Mount Zion include the Dormition Abbey, the Chamber of the Holocaust, and a Catholic cemetery where Oskar Schindler (of Schindler’s List) is buried.10. Ein KeremThis ancient village is built on a hillside surrounded by hills, olive groves, vineyards, and forests. It is the traditional site where John the Baptist was born and one of Jerusalem’s most picturesque neighborhoods. It is an idyllic green area with quaint stone houses, courtyard cafes and restaurants, and several small churches and monasteries. Ein Kerem landmarks include the Church of St. John the Baptist; Church of the Visitation; Les Soeurs de Notre-Dame de Sion Russian Orthodox Convent and Mary’s Spring.Liked this article? Join a One Day tour to Jerusalem Old & NewDormition Abbey, Mount Zion.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin
By Petal Mashraki

Guide to the Jerusalem Old City

If you were to choose just one place to visit while in Israel it should be the Old City of Jerusalem. Packed within the 450 year old city walls is 1km² holding some of the country’s top attractions.The Old City is an exciting, exotic, spiritual and fascinating world of narrow cobbled alleys, mosques, churches, eateries, markets and more. The Old City remains as it was thousands of years ago and people still live and work here in the ancient buildings. Among the wonders of the Old City are the most important Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious sites in the country.Brief History of JerusalemJerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world and getting an overall understanding of the history is extremely useful for anyone visiting the City of Gold. As you tour the various sites you’ll hear names of historic periods, leaders, and events so this brief history of Jerusalem will help you get some perspective. It was here in Jerusalem that the ancient Jewish temples were built and where Jesus often visited and eventually was crucified. Golgotha, the site of Jesus's crucifixion is within the Old City marked by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. King David conquered Jerusalem from the Jebusites in the 11th century BC and established his kingdom. Muslims took the city in 637AD and in 1099AD the first Christian Crusaders arrived. The city changed hands several times and saw pilgrims arriving to various religious sites. The Old City walls we see today were built under Ottoman leader Suleiman the Magnificent in the 1500s. Up until 1860 all of Jerusalem was within the Old City walls, then the first neighborhood beyond the walls was established and the new city grew into the modern metropolis we see today. But within the Old City walls, time seemed to stand still. From 1848 to 1867 the Old City was ruled by Jordan and no Jews were allowed to visit or live in the Old City until it was retaken by Israel in the Six-Day War. Jews returned to the city and it was repopulated with people in all four of the Old City’s quarters. The city has remained a tourist attraction and a pilgrimage site for Muslims visiting Temple Mount, Christians visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and Jews visiting the Western Wall.Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinThe Timeline of Major Events in the History of Jerusalem3500 BC – First signs of human settlers.c.1800 BC – Jerusalem mentioned in Egyptian texts.1010-970 BC – Reign of King David, during this time he declares Jerusalem Capital of United Israel.970-931 BC – Reign of King Solomon, during this time the First Temple was constructed in Jerusalem (957BC) on Temple Mount, and the county was divided into Israel and Judah.837-800 BC – Reign of Hezekiah, King of Judah, during this time the underground waterways from Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam were dug to bring water to the city.597 BC – Babylonians, led by Nebuchadnezzar II captured Jerusalem.586 BC – Due to rebellion Nebuchadnezzar II destroyed the city, including the First Temple, and exiled many inhabitants including Jews who were sent to Babylon.537 BC-332 BC – The Persian Period. Persians ruled under Cyrus who encouraged Jews to return to Israel and begin work on rebuilding the Temple. 521 BC-516 BC – The Second Temple was completed. 445 BC – City walls are rebuilt. 332 BC-167 BC – Hellenistic Period. Alexander the Great conquers Palestine, taking it from the Persians.167 BC-63 BC – Hasmonean Period. With the Maccabean Revolt led by Mattathias, the Maccabean War is started and Jewish Priest Judah Maccabee takes over Jerusalem and restores the Temple which had been profaned under the earlier non-Jewish leaders. 63 BC -324 AD – Roman Period. Romans capture Jerusalem but the Hasmoneans continue to rule under Roman protection. 40 BC – Herod is appointed King of Judea and reigns as Herod the Great. Under Herod, they began rebuilding the Temple.Sculpture of King David playing the harp, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Shutterstock1 AD – Jesus of Nazareth born in Bethlehem.26 AD – Pontius Pilate appointed as Roman procurator of Judea.c.33 AD – Jesus is tried and crucified in Jerusalem.41 AD-44 AD – Agrippa King of Judea rebuilds the city walls. 63 AD – The Second Temple is completed. 66 AD-73 AD – Jewish Revolt against the Romans, during this time the Temple was destroyed (70 AD) by Titus. 132 AD-135 AD – Following the Bar Kochba War Jerusalem became the Jewish capital once again. 135 AD – Roman Emperor Hadrian captured and destroyed the city, built new city walls, and expelled Jews from the capital.324 AD-638 AD – Queen Helena, mother of Roman Emperor Constantine comes to Jerusalem and sets about identifying the locations of famous biblical events. She initiated the construction of several churches on holy sites including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, constructed in 335 AD. The Jews are permitted to return to Jerusalem (438); the city is captured by the Persians and the Jews are expelled (614) and then the Byzantines recapture the capital (629).638 AD-1099 AD – Muslim Period. During this time the Caliph Omar comes to the city and the Jews are allowed to return. The Dome of the Rock is completed (691) and the al-Aqsa Mosque is completed (701). Under Caliph al-Hakim many synagogues and churches were destroyed.1099 AD-1244 AD – Crusader Period. Godfrey de Bouillon captures Jerusalem, and Baldwin I is declared King of Jerusalem. 1187AD – Saladin, a Kurdish General, takes Jerusalem from the Crusaders and allows Jews and Muslims to return to the city. 1192 AD – Richard the Lion Heart attempts to capture Jerusalem but having failed makes a treaty with Saladin allowing Christians to pray at the holy sites.Dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Shutterstock1219 AD – Sultan Malik-al-Muattam has the city walls destroyed.1244 AD – The Turks capture Jerusalem from the Crusaders once and for all.1260 AD-1517 AD – Mamluk Period. During this period the Mamluks capture Jerusalem; Nahmanides the great Jewish thinker arrives from Spain and established Jewish learning centers (1267AD); Marco Polo passes through and the Black Death plagues the city.1517 AD-1917 AD – Ottoman Period. The Turkish Ottomans peacefully take over the city and Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent rebuilds the city walls which have not stood for over 300 years. The walls include the city gates and Tower of David which remains today.1700 AD – Under Rabbi Yehuda HaHassid the Hurva Synagogue was built. 1860 AD – First Jewish settlements outside the city walls to escape overcrowding and disease. 1917-1948 British Mandate Period. The British led by General Allenby enter the city and lay their claim to the land. The construction of the Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus begins.1947 –1949 – With the announcement of the UN resolution to partition Israel into an Arab State, Jewish State and Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem civil war breaks out. This resulted at the end of the British Mandate and the Israeli War of Independence. Egypt, Syria, and Jordan fight against the Jewish State which is just coming into shape. The Israel-Transjordan Armistice Agreement (April 1949) gives Transjordan control of East Jerusalem. 1949 – Establishment of the State of Israel. 1967 – Six-Day War between Israel and Jordan, Israel captures the Old City which had been under Jordanian rule since 1949, and the Old City is united.Old City market, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinOverview of the Old CityThe Old City is surrounded by fortified walls and it is possible to walk along the ramparts. Visitors enter the Old City through the wall’s seven gates (there are actually eight gates but one is closed). The Old City is divided into four uneven quarters – the Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Armenian quarters. The division is not with walls but rather the quarters flow one onto the other.In each quarter there is a distinct character; you’ll see people in traditional dress in each of the quarters – Hasidic Jews in their black coats and black hats in the Jewish Quarter, nuns, monks, and friars in their habits in the Armenian and Christian Quarters and in the Muslim Quarter the traditional keffiyeh headdress and long kaftan-type jellabiyah. In each of the quarters, you can buy souvenirs, taste ethnic food and see art and architecture unique to that quarter’s culture, religion, and history.Christian QuarterThe Christian Quarter in the northwestern of the Old City has the New Gate, Jaffa Gate, Damascus Gate, and the junction of David Street and Souk Khan el-Zeit at its corners. This quarter is home to approximately 40 holy sites but the star of the quarter is without question the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The church is a beautifully ornate and cavernous structure with many small chapels and intricate artwork. Muristan fountain in the Christian Quarter; Old City of Jerusalem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockThe church dates back to at least the 4th century and houses the site where Jesus was crucified at Calvary, the tomb where he was buried and resurrected, and the last four Stations of the Cross. The church is shared by the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Armenian Orthodox churches as well as the Syriacs, Ethiopians, and Egyptian Copts to a lesser extent.Jewish QuarterJews have inhabited the Jewish Quarter almost continuously since the 8th century BC. Parts of the Jewish Quarter have been excavated to reveal ancient Roman remains including the Cardo, which would have been the colonnaded main street during Jesus’ lifetime. The star of this quarter is the Western Wall; the last remaining part of the Second Temple which was destroyed in 70AD.The Western Wall (Kotel) opens up to a large plaza and Jews come from across the globe to worship here. Local Jews worship at the Western Wall as they would at a synagogue. You can place a prayer note with your personal message to God between the large stones of the Western Wall.Jewish Quarter, Jerusalem. Photo credit:Photo credit: © ShutterstockMuslim QuarterThe largest quarter of the Old City is home to the Muslim population (and a few Jewish families). It has narrow cobbled lanes that are a bustle of activity. Within this quarter there is the Temple Mount, this is where the ancient 1st century Jewish Temple stood, and today it is the site of the beautiful Dome of the Rock which covers the Foundation Stone from where Muhammad is believed to have ascended to Heaven.The Dome of the Rock has a distinctive golden dome which is a symbol of the city. Also on Temple Mount is the al-Aqsa Mosque, Muhammad’s destination in the Night Journey, and the Dome of the Chain a free-standing dome and the oldest structure on Temple Mount. The Western Wall Tunnels run beneath the Muslim Quarters and the Muslim Quarter has several Roman and Crusader remains. The Muslim Quarter has a lively market or “shuk” where you can find a huge range of goods. The Via Dolorosa runs through the Muslim Quarter and is home to the first seven Stations of the Cross.Armenian QuarterThis is the smallest quarter of the Old City. It is home to Christian Armenians who arrived in Jerusalem in the 4th century AD when Armenia adopted Christianity and Armenian pilgrims came to visit the holy sites and settled here. The Armenian Quarter centers on St. James Monastery and the 4th-century Cathedral of St. James which houses the Jerusalem Patriarchate of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Armenian Quarter, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin(Pop trivia: This is where Kanye West and Kim Kardashian held their daughter, North’s christening in 2015). The Armenians have their own distinct culture, religious traditions, and language. The Jerusalem Armenians are famed for their distinctive hand-painted tiles, tile murals, and handmade ceramics. You can buy ceramics in several stores in the Armenian Quarter and see street signs made from the brightly painted Armenian tiles.And Now for Something Special in the Old City….Dei res-Sultan Ethiopian Monastery accessed via the 9th Station of the Cross on the roof of a medieval annex in the Christian Quarter.Shopping in the Old City Market.Walking the Ramparts of the Old City walls.The Tower of David (Jerusalem Citadel) at Jaffa Gate, a museum, archaeological site, and sound and light show.Mamilla luxury shopping street – Northwest of Jaffa Gate.Follow the Via Dolorosa retracing Jesus’ route as he carried his cross towards Calvary.Join today our wonderfulJerusalem Old City TourСapers growing on the wall of a house in Jerusalem. Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin
By Petal Mashraki

Easter in Jerusalem

For Christians, there is no doubt that Easter is the most spiritual holiday in their religious calendar - yes, it even trumps Christmas in the sacred stakes! Why? Because this is the time of the year that the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus, the son of God, is commemorated and celebrated. They last for a period of time known as ‘Holy Week’ commemorating the events before and after the crucifixion.Easter celebration.Photo by freestocks on UnsplashIn late March or early April each year (depending on the calendar), thousands of pilgrims from all denominations descend upon Jerusalem for a period like no other. Taking place within the walls of the Old City, and at the Garden Tomb (which is open for visits throughout Holy Week (8:30 am to 12 noon and 2 pm to 5:30 pm) they recreate scenes from the last week of Jesus’s life, culminating in a solemn procession on Good Friday and a great celebration on Easter Sunday. Let’s take a look at how the week unfolds and some of the rituals the make Easter in Jerusalem so special and moving for Christians…Palm SundayPalm Sunday always falls one week before Easter. It is the first day of’ ‘Holy Week’ and is a festival that commemorates Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. According to all of the Gospels, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and was greeted by his followers who all waved palm branches to celebrate. Historically, the palm branch may have been a symbol of victory and triumph and the donkey seen as an animal of peace (not war, as would have been a horse).Today, in the Old City, pilgrims recreate this scene as part of the Jerusalem Palm Sunday Procession Tour Beginning at the Mount of Olives, descending into the Kidron Valley and Gethsemane Garden, pilgrims walk solemnly through the Lions' gate and into the Old City. They proceed along the Via Dolorosa where Jesus walked his last steps before arriving at the cross. All along you hear cries of ‘Hosanna’ from the crowds. The procession is led by leaders of the Catholic Patriarchate (in brown robes), the Latin Patriarch (in purple robes) and the Greek Archbishop (in black robes). All along the way, the route is lined with Christian pilgrims (both local and those who have travelled from across the world) reciting blessings and singing songs. It is a very colourful and interesting ceremony, which culminates at St. Anne’s Church.Palm Sunday Procession. Photo by Brady Leavell on UnsplashMaundy ThursdayMaundy Thursday is also known as Holy Thursday and its name derives from the Latin ‘mandatum’ which means ‘command’. This ties up with Jesus’ commandment to his disciples “Love one another, as I have loved you.” This day, in essence, commemorates three major events:1. It is the day Jesus and his disciples sat down to eat the Last Supper. During this meal, Jesus took bread and wine and shared them with everyone at the table. Today, Christians around the world of all denominations continue to use bread and wine in their services of worship (such as the Eucharist and Mass). 2. Furthermore, on Holy Thursday, according to the Gospel of John, Jesus washed the feet of his apostles. This act has different meanings - to show that as an important person, Jesus practised humility and love to others. Some Christians also regard it as a way of seeking reconciliation with someone before taking communion. Today, there is a traditional Washing of the Feet ceremony carried out in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.3. Finally, this is the day in which Jesus was betrayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, after being betrayed by Judas. This was, for sure, a pivotal moment in Christianity.Today. In Jerusalem, pilgrims celebrate Maundy Thursday at the Room of the Last Supper (the Upper Room), located on Mount Zion. Some even hold an all-night vigil there, remembering Jesus’ hours in Gethsemane. In terms of the churches themselves, a Pontifical Mass (Supper of the Lord and Mass of the Chrism) is held at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre early in the morning. In the afternoon, in and around the Old City, there are pilgrimages from one church to another followed by services of the Washing of the Feet. Typically, the route of procession passes by the Church of All Nations, through the Lions' Gate, into the Old City and along the Via Dolorosa. All along the way, pilgrims sing songs in a number of languages and pray. Room of the Last Supper. Photo credit: © ShutterstockGood FridayGood Friday (also known as Holy Friday and Great Friday) is a very solemn - and incredibly important - day in the Christian calendar, marking the death of Jesus by crucifixion at Calvary (Golgotha). Many members of the various Christian denominations attend church services, abstain from eating meat and even fast. In the Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican tradition, there is a service held between 12 and 3 pm, called ‘The Three Hour’s Agony’ (alluding to the hours Jesus was on the cross).In Jerusalem, each year, thousands of pilgrims descend on the Old City early in the morning, either to be part of the procession itself (tickets are numbered, limited and much sought after) or to pack the streets for a view. The procession itself is a recreation of the route Christ took, retracing his final steps on his way to the cross.The procession begins at the Mount of Olives, entering through the city walls and tracing its way along what is known as the Via Dolorosa (in Latin, ‘The Path of Sorrows’). Known as ‘the Way of the Cross’ it begins at 11.30 am at Station.1. The Stations of the Cross (14 in all, 8 en route and 6 in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre) refer to various images relating to Christ’s journey and his suffering as he walked this path.Mount of Olives. Photo credit: © ShutterstockIn the Old City, many pilgrims carry wooden crosses, sing hymns as they walk and often stop to recite prayers at each station. This is to symbolically offer ‘reparations’ for the insults and suffering that Jesus had to endure on his last journey which is estimated to have lasted 1.5 km (from Gethsemane to Calvary). The atmosphere is solemn and charged - many Christians, afterwards, describe it as one of the most moving moments of their lives. At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the service is broken down into several parts: the Liturgy of the Word (carried out in silence). The Great Intercessions, the Adoration of the Cross, Communion (or Mass). Within this time, the liturgy will also include readings of the Gospel Passion narrative. After the ‘Three Hour’s Agony’ service - between 12 midday and 3 pm - vespers are read, to commemorate the time Christ’s body was taken down from the cross.Traditionally, on Good Friday, many Christians in Jerusalem will not eat meat or even fast entirely (to show their sorrow), will not perform any work, including washing clothes, breaking ground or playing with children. Since сhurches of the Old City of Jerusalem are open for the entire day, some pilgrims will spend much of the evening or night in contemplative prayer.A pilgrim in Via Dolorosa. Photo credit: © ShutterstockHoly SaturdayFor Orthodox communities, this day is known as Holy Saturday (‘Saturday of Light’) and each year in Jerusalem, it is commemorated with a ceremony named the Holy Fire Ceremony. This is held in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre - it is a popular ritual that is well attended by Christians from across the denominations.According to Orthodox tradition, at this time a blue light emanates from the tomb of Jesus and rises up from the marble slab (upon which his body was placed for burial). It is believed that the light forms a column of fire and, as a result, candles can be lit from it, both for the clergy and pilgrims in attendance. It is also thought that this ‘Holy Fire’ will not burn them and can be used to spontaneously light other candles and lamps in the church.In the darkness, the Patriarch kneels in front of the stone, and the crowd waits anxiously. When he emerges, with two candles lit, his audience breaks into applause and cheers with joy. The dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.Photo credit: © ShutterstockEaster SundayThe final day of the Holy Week culminates in enormous celebrations - commemorating the day that Christ rose from the dead. In Jerusalem, celebrations begin early - at 7 am - with the entry of the Latin Patriarch into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. An hour later, the Mass of Resurrection is held and this includes a procession around the Rotunda. The service begins in darkness and one by one candles are lit. The Priest will state ‘ Christ is risen’ and the congregation will respond "He is risen indeed". All heads of the various Churches in Jerusalem will wear their brightest robes, in celebration, and bells will peal out. People pray individually and collectively. Protestants celebrate with an Easter sunrise service at the Garden Tomb.The week following Holy Week the Orthodox Christians (including Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Syrian and Russian Orthodox) celebrate Easter with similar ceremonies and services. Without a doubt, if you are thinking of making a trip to Israel, a visit at this time of the year is highly encouraged. Springtime is beautiful in the Mediterranean and, combined with the rituals enacted in this special week, you will have the opportunity to witness something quite unique in Jerusalem - something that is sure to stay with you for the rest of your life.The best wat to visitholy Christian sites in Jerusalemis to join one ofChristian Day Tours.Inside the Church of Holy Sepulchre.Photo credit: © Shutterstock
By Sarah Mann

Holy Sites in Jerusalem

Jerusalem is one of the world’s great cities and home to three major world religions - Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. The city is packed full of holy sites, making it a popular pilgrimage destination for thousands of people. Here, we look at some of the most important holy sites to these three religions, and what makes them so special to their followers.The Wailing Wall, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockChristian Holy Sites in JerusalemMultiple DenominationalHoly Sites in Jerusalem1. Church of the Holy Sepulchre - The place at which Jesus’s crucifixion, burial and resurrection took place, this magnificent ancient church is one of the holiest sites for Christian pilgrims. Erected by Constantine the Great in 326 AD, it contains the tomb of Jesus, the anointing stone and Golgotha itself.It is overseen jointly by the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and Roman Catholic according to a complicated ruling named ‘the Status Quo’. Since the 7th century, the Muslim Nusaybah family has been the impartial doorkeeper, using a key made of iron, which is 30 cms long. This enormous structure can hold up to 8.000 people. Its bell tower dates back to the 12th century.2. Tomb of the Virgin Mary - At the bottom of the Mount of Olives, nestled in the Kidron Valley, Christians from both the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic denominations believe that this is the burial place of Jesus’s mother, Mary.Catholic (Roman and Eastern)Holy Sites in Jerusalem3. Church of All Nations- This is thought to be the place at which Jesus prayed before he was arrested by the Romans. Inside you can see gold mosaics, depicting his despair. Its round dome and Corinthian columns let you know this was once a Byzantine structure. 4. Garden of Gethsemane - In Christian history, this garden is loaded with meaning as it is apparently the spot at which he prayed to God before being arrested by the Romans. Gethsemane means ‘olive press’ in Aramaic and the garden has several olive trees. It is located at the foot of the Mount of Olives.Church of the Holy Sepulchre.Photo credit: © Shutterstock5. St Anne's Church - Built on the ruins of a Byzantine church, this Crusader-era church is located near the Lion’s Gate. Its thick walls liken it to a fortress and It has a simple interior with an asymmetrical design and cross-vaulted ceilings. Today, it belongs to the French government and is managed by the ‘White Fathers.’6. Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu - This Roman Catholic church can be found just outside the Old City Walls, on the slopes of Mount Zion. In Latin, ‘Gallicantu’ means ‘cock-crow which harks back to the Disciple Peter’s rejection of Jesus (‘before the cock crows’ - Gospel of Mark). Today, visitors can see a golden rooster perched at the top of the sanctuary, reminding them of this biblical passage. 7. Church of the Pater Noster - Dating back to the time of Emperor Constantine, and found on the Mount of Olives, according to tradition this is where Jesus taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer. ‘Pater Noster’ in Latin means ‘Our Father’ and inside this Carmelite church, that credo is painted on ceramic tiles, in different colours and writing styles, in 130 languages.8. Dormition Abbey - Situated on Mount Zion, just outside the Old City walls, this distinctive 5th-century Benedictine structure is renowned for its round dome and lovely mosaic floor. Due to its size, it is one of Jerusalem’s most prominent churches; moreover, tradition says that it was on this spot that the Virgin Mary died. 9. Via Dolorosa - In Latin, ‘Via Dolorosa’ means ‘the Way of Sorrows’ and this historic route through the Old City is indeed laden with sorrow, as it commemorates Jesus’s walk towards his crucifixion. Along the way, there are ‘Stations of the Cross’ where he stopped to rest and each Easter, on Good Friday, thousands of Christian pilgrims retrace his steps, culminating at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The route is also commemorated each Friday afternoon by the Catholic church.10. Dominus Flevit Church - This Franciscan church on the Mount of Olives is known for its beautiful window which gives visitors an astonishing view of the Old City. Designed by Antonio Barluzzi, an Italian architect, it is shaped like a teardrop, to symbolise the grief of Christ. Dominus Flevit, in Latin, means ‘ The Lord Wept’.Dominus Flevit Church.Photo credit: © ShutterstockOrthodox Holy Sites in Jerusalem1. Church of St. Alexander Nevsky - Built over the remains over what is believed to have been the ‘Judgement Gate’ where Jesus passed, en route to his crucifixion, this Russian Orthodox Church was built between 1896-1903 and named after the Russian military leader Nevsky.2. Convent of the Ascension - located at the highest point of the Mount of Olives, this Byzantine-style church was built in 1870 and has a prominent bell tower and olive groves. Nearby is the Chapel of John the Baptist, with an ancient mosaic floor, commemorating the actual place that his head was found. 3. Cathedral of St. James - This 12th century Armenian Apostolic Church is located inside the Old City and is dedicated to two saints - St. James the Great and St. James the Less. It has an ornate interior decorated with gilded altars, paintings and mosaics. 4. "Deir es-Sultan" - This Coptic Orthodox Monastery is situated on the rooftop of the Helena Chapel in Holy Sepulchre, in the Old City’s Christian Quarter. The site’s heritage is contested by the Ethiopian Church and arguments continue to this day as to which denomination retains ultimate control.5. Saint Mark’s Monastery - This Syriac Orthodox monastery and church is believed to have been the place where the Last Supper of Christ and his disciples took place. The relics of many saints can be found inside.Candles in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinProtestantHoly Sites in Jerusalem1. The Garden Tomb - This non-denominational site is particularly popular with Anglicans and Evangelicals as a possible location for the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Close to the Damascus Gate, this pretty garden was unearthed in 1867 and holds an empty ancient tomb.2. Church of the Ascension at the German Augusta Victoria Foundation - This German Evangelical Church stands at the highest point in Jerusalem - almost 850 metres above sea level - and was dedicated in 1910 at the request of Kaiser Wilhelm. Built in the "Wilhelminian-Byzantine style" it contains beautiful ceiling paintings and mosaics. 3. Lutheran Church of the Redeemer - The second Protestant Church in Jerusalem, this German Evangelical Church was built on land given to King William I of Prussia and dedicated on Reformation Day in 1898. It was built in a neo-Romanesque style and has a simple interior.4. St. George's Cathedral - This Anglican/Episcopal church is located in Sheik Jarrah, East Jerusalem, close to the Garden Tomb, It was built by the fourth bishop of the diocese, George Blyth.5. St Andrew's, aka the Scottish Church - As part of the Church of Scotland, St. Andrews was built as a memorial to Scottish soldiers killed fighting the Turks in World War I. As well as running a guesthouse (with its famous Scottish breakfast) the Church of Scotland oversees the running of the Tabeetha school in Jaffa and the Scots Hotel in Tiberias.The Garden Tomb. Photo credit: © Dan PorgesJewishHoly Sites in Jerusalem1. Tomb of King David - One of the most sacred sites for Jews, the tradition that says King David was buried here dates back to the 9th century. Located on Mount Zion, today it is run on a ‘synagogue model’ with the tombstone in the interior room. There are separate entrances for men and women and the rooftop is an excellent observational point.2. Mount of Olives Jewish Cemetery- Situated on the Mount of Olives, this noble cemetery is over 500 years old and between 70.0000 and 140,000 people are buried here, including notable Zionist leaders and rabbis. It also contains the tombs of three prophets Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. Jews come from across the globe to pray and pay respects at this cemetery.3. Western Wall - The Western Wall (‘Kotel’ in Hebrew) is the last remaining structure of the Second Temple and a place of extraordinary religious, historical and emotional significance to Jews. An open plaza, men and women pray there (in separate sections) and across the world, Jews continue to pray in its direction. Made of huge quarried stone, its structure is smoothed and chiselled.4. Temple Mount- According to Jewish tradition, this is where previous temples were built and where the Third Temple will, one day, be built. It is the holiest site for Jews who turn this way in prayer. It is also a hotly contested site, between Jews and Muslims and often a flashpoint for outbreaks of violence. Inside is the Foundation Stone, and according to Jewish sages, it was from this rock that the world was created. 5. Cave of the Ramban - Located in the Kidron Valley, this cave is believed by some Jews to be the traditional resting place of Nahmanides (also known as the Ramban) who was a distinguished scholar in the Middle Ages. The Kidron Valley, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockIslamic Holy Sites in JerusalemThe Arabic name for Jerusalem is 'Al Quds' which means 'the Holy One'. Its holiest shrines include:1. Haram ash-Sharif- The Temple Mount complex is extremely holy to Muslims, as it is thought to have been the place Mohammed made his ‘Night Journey’ flying over Jerusalem en route to Mecca. It contains the Al-Aqsa Mosque (which is characteristic of early Islamic architecture) the Dome of the Rock (the first Muslim masterpiece, built in 687 CE and is a prominent theme in Islamic Art) and the Well of Souls (Islamic tradition believes that on Judgement day, this is the place that the spirits of the dead will come). It also houses the Dome of the Chain (where the Last Judgement will take pale, with a chain allowing passage only to the righteous and turning away sinners) the Fountain of Qayt Bay - a beautiful structure with stone carvings and intricate calligraphy - and Madrasa al-Ashrafiyya, an Islamic madrasa built in 1480, in Mamluk style.2. Al-Khanqah al-Salahiyya Mosque - Located in the Christian Quarter of the Old City, this sits on the former sites of the Latin Patriarch. After the Crusaders surrendered to Saladin in 1187, it was transformed into a mosque and a minaret was subsequently built in 1417. The mosque's facade is beautiful and decorated with stones that are a feature of the Mamluk architectural style of that time (a combination of black and white stones).3. Al-Yaqubi Mosque - Once the Crusader Church of St. James Intercisus, this building was transformed into a mosque after 1187, when Saladin captured the city. Situated close to the Jaffa Gate, this small building is named after Sheik Yaquob al-Ajami - lookout for the lovely enamel name plaque on the wall. 4. Mosque of Omar - Next to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in the Christian Quarter, is the Mosque of Omar, which is easily noticed by a 15-metre high minaret. The building was erected to mark the spot where Caliph Omar prayed since he would not enter a Christian church. The mosque was renovated in the 19th century, after an earthquake in 1458.5. Dome of Ascension - Located close to the Dome of the Rock, this free-standing dome denotes the spot where Mohammed, Islam’s greatest prophet, ascended to heaven. The dome is covered with marble slabs but what makes it really noticeable is that, above it, is a small dome in the shape of a crown. The Dome of Ascension is also part of Mohammed’s ‘Night Journey’ when he flew across the sky, passing Jerusalem, en route to Mecca.Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © Shutterstock
By Sarah Mann

Get to Know Jerusalem

The best way to get to know Jerusalem is to spend several days exploring both independently and with an organized Jerusalem tour. Some of the sites and attractions you can discover for yourself while others are better seen with a knowledgeable guide on one of the many Jerusalem day tours. Here are a few ideas on how you can get to Jerusalem.Statue of King David at the entrance to King David's Tomb, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © ShutterstockSee the Highlights of JerusalemBefore you start delving into the unusual and unique attractions of Jerusalem it is worth seeing the top 10 Jerusalem attractions that all visitors to the city should see. Among the top 10, there are the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Mount of Olives, and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum. Although there are some Jerusalem attractions that all travelers will want to see, your personal top 10 will depend on your interests. If you are a Christian traveler you will probably be drawn towards the churches on the Mount of Olives; the Room of the Last Supper and Via Dolorosa among other biblical sites. Jewish travelers will want to include other landmarks in their top 10 Jerusalem attractions, for example, the City of David; Knesset, and theSephardi synagogues of the Old City.Mount of Olives with ancient tombs. Photo credit: © ShutterstockJerusalem Old City GuideIf your time is short and you can only go to one place in Jerusalem then it has to be the Old City. Within the 16th century stone walls, the 1km² city holds Jerusalem’s top attractions. The Old City is also home to the most important Christian, Jewish and Muslim landmarks – the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; the Western Wall and Temple Mount, home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock. Spend your time exploring the narrow lanes of the Old City. In the Armenian Quarter see the exquisitely painted ceramics; in the Christian Quarter follow the Via Dolorosa and see where Jesus was crucified; in the Muslim Quarter shop in the traditional market and in the Jewish Quarter see ancient synagogues, museums and beneath the Temple Mount walls.Temple Mount, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © ShutterstockAttractions in New Jerusalem Don’t miss out on the attractions in New Jerusalem. Many tourists, especially those short on time concentrate all their sightseeing in the Old City but New Jerusalem has much to offer. Visit the ultra-religious neighborhood of Mea Shearim; the colorful Mahane Yehuda Market; the Knesset; the Chagall windows; the Bridge of Strings; the Israel Supreme Court and the Jerusalem Israel Museum. New Jerusalem has some incredible malls and the lively Ben Yehuda pedestrian street with outdoor cafes. There are plenty of art galleries, parks like the Wohl Rose Park and the Haas Promenade where you can get an overview of the city. Visit the 130-year restored First Jerusalem Train Station that is now a hip cultural and culinary hub and spend some time in a local café people-watching.Church of all Nations, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockJerusalem Machane Yehuda MarketIf you really want to experience the lively atmosphere of local Jerusalemites then head for the Mahane Yehuda Market. You’ll find stalls selling fresh produce, baked goods, pickles, spices, fish, meat, eggs, and about every other type of food you can imagine. Not only that but the market, which has both outdoor and covered sections is home to excellent restaurants. Some of the market eateries are run by top Israeli chefs and others serve up traditional dishes from around the world. Try Ethiopian pita bread; a Georgian pastry; British fish and chips or Spanish tapas. In addition to food, the market sells household goods, fashion items, and more. Be sure to visit the “doctor” who serves up freshly squeezed fruit drinks made with unusual ingredients that are said to have therapeutic properties whether you want to treat a sore back or a broken heart!Gethsemane Garden, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockGet to Know Jerusalem NeighborhoodsAlthough most travelers limit themselves to the Old City there are several wonderful Jerusalem neighborhoods worth visiting. Stop in downtown West Jerusalem for excellent food and a vibrant nightlife scene. Near Mahane Yehuda Market see interesting street art and one-off bars and restaurants. In the Nachlaot neighborhood see where a former ultra-orthodox traditional neighborhood has transformed into a hip, cosmopolitan hang-out for artists and musicians. The neighborhood has narrow lanes, historic homes with hidden courtyards, and a bohemian atmosphere.Musrara is a picturesque neighborhood with many art galleries and museums including Museum on the Seam that focuses on socio-politically inspired contemporary art. The German Colony is where you’ll find up-market boutiques, charming cafes, and restaurants housed in historic buildings with Bauhaus, Ottoman, and Templar-style architecture. The Germany Colony’s Emek Refaim Street is the place to people-watch and visit the neighborhood’s best stores and restaurants. Ein Kerem is arguably the most beautiful of the Jerusalem neighborhoods. Ein Kerem has a village-feel with charming stone houses, window boxes, craft stores, excellent restaurants, and several attractions including Mary’s Well and John the Baptist Church.Dominus Flevit Church, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Shutterstock
By Petal Mashraki

5 Attractions in New Jerusalem

Tours from Jerusalem usually concentrate on Old Jerusalem within the Old City walls. However the Holy Land’s top destination also has a “New” City. If you look at a Jerusalem map you will see that the new, more recently built part of Jerusalem takes up a much larger area than the Old City. It follows that there is a lot to see in the New City of Jerusalem. Here are a few highlights of attractions in new Jerusalem, outside of the Old City walls.Snow in Jerusalem.Photo byShalev CohenonUnsplashYad Vashem Holocaust MuseumThis world-class museum is spread over a large complex on Mount Herzl. The museum holds thousands of authentic Holocaust artifacts, historic documents, photographs, and filmed testimonials by Holocaust survivors. On the grounds are memorials honoring the children who lost their lives in the Holocaust. There is also a part of the complex dedicated to gentiles who helped save Jewish lives during the Holocaust.Hall of Names at Yad Vashem. Photo bySnowscatonUnsplashChagall Windows In a small chapel (Abbell Synagogue) in the Hadassah University Medical Center, there are twelve stained glass windows designed by Marc Chagall. Chagall gifted the windows to the Jewish people in the 1960s. The twelve stained glass windows were inspired by the Bible and particularly Jacob’s blessings to his 12 sons. The images in the stained glass depict scenes from Jewish history, Chagall’s love for the Jewish people, and the artist’s own personal experiences living in a Russian shtetl.Givat Ram, Jerusalem.Photo byFedaa MassarweonUnsplashKnessetThe Israeli parliament or Knesset is situated in the Givat Ram neighborhood of western Jerusalem. The present building was completed in 1966 and it is possible to arrange tours of the building or view it from the outside. Highlights of the Knesset tour include seeing the original copy of the Declaration of Independence. You will see the Knesset Committee Rooms, the Chagall Hall featuring art by Marc Chagall, and the Plenary Chamber. There are 12 stunning floor mosaics and three tapestries by Chagall. The one-hour tours are held daily with a focus on photography and art; architecture and the parliamentary function of the Knesset.The Knesset, Jerusalem, Israel. Photo byRafael NironUnsplashMahane Yehuda MarketAt the bustling Jerusalem Mahane Yehuda Market, you can get everything plus the kitchen sink! The market offers stalls of fresh fruit and vegetables, household items, freshly baked goods, spices, nuts, pickles, arts and crafts. In addition, the market is home to several renowned eateries. There are cooking and tasting tours of the market or you can explore independently.On the way to Mahane Yehuda Market, Jerusalem.Photo byLaura SiegalonUnsplashIsrael MuseumIsrael’s national museum houses extensive collections covering a wide range of fields. Specifically, the museum archaeology and art collections as well as the collection of Jewish cultural items and art are outstanding. The Israel Museum complex includes a children’s wing, sculpture garden a scale model of Second Temple era Jerusalem and the Shrine of the Book. The white dome-shaped Shrine of the Book houses the Dead Sea Scrolls.
By Petal Mashraki

Churches of the Old City of Jerusalem

The Old City of Jerusalem is home to some of the most beautiful and unique churches in Israel and certainly the most important church of all, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This is, according to the Orthodox and Catholic church, the place where Jesus Christ was crucifed, burried and resurrected. In 1982, the Old City was put on the List of Worldheritages in Danger by UNESCO. The site is at risk due to urbanization of its surroundings, mass tourism, and geopolitical issues.Church of the Holy Sepulchre.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinChurch of the Holy SepulchreThe largest and most important church in Jerusalem’s Old City is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It holds the 10th to 14th Stations of Cross along the Via Dolorosa which Jesus took on his route to his crucifixion. On this site Jesus was stripped (10th Station); nailed to the cross (11th Station); died on the cross on the Rock of Golgotha or Hill of Calvary (12th Station); taken down off the cross (13th Station ) and Jesus was laid to rest in his tomb or Sepulchre at the 14th Station. An early church on this site dates back to 333 AD but it was destroyed by the Persians about 300 years later and a new structure was constructed. This too was leveled in 1010 AD and under the Crusaders the church was rebuilt and inaugurated in 1149 AD. The church is shared by the Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Ethiopian, Coptic, Armenian, and Syriac Orthodox churches. The vast church is adorned with many stunning works of liturgical art, there are many small altars and individual chapels within the church but the focus of the structure is the large Rotunda where Jesus’ tomb is located. At the entrance to the church is the Stone of Anointing where Jesus’ body was laid after being removed from the cross. All major Christian events and festivals are celebrated in the church.Church of the Holy Sepulchre.Photo credit: © ShutterstockLutheran Church of the RedeemerThis German Lutheran Church of the Redeemer is in the Christian Quarter and was constructed in the 19th century on the site of a Crusader church; the Crusader gate was incorporated in the side of the present church. At one point the church functioned as a hostel and hospital for Crusaders. The first Chapel of St. John was constructed here in 1871 and in 1898 the Church of the Redeemer was built by Friedrich Adler. Above the entrance is the sign of the lamb of God and on one side is an eagle, the symbol of Imperial Germany while on the other side is the Maltese Cross, a symbol of the Crusader order of St. John. The church’s white square bell tower is 48 meters high making it the tallest tower within the Old City walls. It is possible to climb a spiral staircase within the tower for views across the city.German Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockChurch of St. John the BaptistThis Greek Orthodox Church and monastery of St. John the Baptist in the Christian Quarter consists of a 5th-century Byzantine church on a lower level and an upper dome and a double bell tower from the 11th century Crusader era. The lower church holds relics of John the Baptist and was destroyed in the 7th century. The Knights Hospitallers took over the site in the 11th century and used the space as a hostel and hospital. The Hospitallers were a military group of Christians charged with protecting the Holy Land. They saw the renovation of the church site. Again in 1839 the church and monastery were renovated.St. Anne’s ChurchSt Anne's Church, Jerusalem - believed to be the birthplace of Mary. This is a large building close to the Lions’ Gate adjacent to the Pools of Bethesda. The church was built during the Crusader era over the ruins of a 5th century Byzantine church. It is dedicated to the Virgin Mary’s mother Anne and father Joachim; Mary is believed to have been born in a cave-dwelling now located beneath the church in the church crypt. An inscription above the entrance dated 1192 tells of how Saladin converted the church to a school. The interior is divided into three halls by thick pillars supporting a vaulted ceiling.St Anne's Church, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockChapel of the FlagellationThis Catholic Franciscan church complex is situated at the 2nd Station along the Via Dolorosa where Roman soldiers flogged Jesus. The first chapel on this site was constructed in 1832 on land given to the Franciscans by the conquering Egyptians. It was rebuilt in the 1920s and designed by well-known Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi. A sealed gate entrance on the outer wall of the monastery is topped with a metal seal bearing the 5 cross symbol of the Franciscans and the arms of Jesus and St. Francis crossed over a crucifix. The church’s best features are the large stained glass windows on three sides of the church. The church of Condemnation is also accessed from the inner courtyard, it commemorates where Jesus was condemned and where he took up his cross. This church has 5 white domed roofs and large stained glass windows. The church interior is predominantly white with a colorful mural behind the altar and pink marble columns supporting the ceiling. Archaeological findings are displayed on the western wall outside the chapel and in the garden courtyard.Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinChurch of Our Lady of the SunLocated at the 4th Station along the Via Dolorosa this Armenian Church marks the place where Mary saw her son pass by carrying the cross. Within the church is a beautiful 5th-century mosaic floor, imprinted in the floor is the outline of two sandals said to be the footprints of Mary.Church of the Holy FaceChurch of the Holy Face - JerusalemThis small church is run by the Little Sisters, a Greek Catholic order, inside you can see restored Crusader arches.Monastery of St. CharalambosThis is a Greek Orthodox monastery located at the 8th Station along the Via Dolorosa.; it marks the place where Jesus comforted the lamenting women.Near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © ShutterstockSt. James CathedralLocated in the Armenian Quarter,St. James Cathedral is dedicated to James the Great, one of the apostles, and James the Less, Jesus’ brother who was also the first bishop of Jerusalem. It is thought to have been built on the site where Herod killed James the Great. An inscription above the main entrance features the date 1488 but earlier churches on this site date back to the 6th century. The Armenians are famous for their intricate artwork, ceramics mixed with metals and stone and the church displays many stunning examples of their talents. This is also the site of the Armenian library where there are more than 4,000 illuminated manuscripts and the Church of St. Toros which is covered with brightly colored glazed tiles. The cathedral complex has several inner courtyards.Dei res-Sultan Ethiopian ChurchThe Ethiopian Christians have been a part of Jerusalem since the 4th century, this church which is situated on the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was the only Ethiopian church in the city until 1888 when the land was acquired outside the Old City walls and the Debra Gannet Monastery was built. The chapel is dedicated to St. Michael and the walls are adorned with brightly colored exotic pictures of the saint which date back 100 years. One of the paintings is of King Solomon meeting the Queen of Sheba who is believed to have come from Ethiopia. The ceiling of the church is covered with a starry night in blue, silver, and gold.Dei res-Sultan Ethiopian Church.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinChurch of Saint Alexander NevskyThis Russian Orthodox Church is located near to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the church is built over the remains of what is thought to have been the Judgment Gate where Jesus passed on his way to Golgotha. The church structure incorporates a section of the ancient Herodian city wall and a pagan temple constructed after 70AD. The plain stone structure is decorated with pictures of saints and icons, it is possible o see the remains of the Judgment Gate at the church.St. Mark’s Syriac Church and MonasteryLocated in the Armenian Quarter this church belongs to one of the oldest Christian denominations in the world. The Syriac Church practices the earliest known form of Christian liturgy and uses the Syriac language, which is a dialect of Aramaic, the language spoken by Christ. They believe that the church is located on the site of Mary of Jerusalem’s house, she was St. Mark’s mother, and the house features in the New Testament. The church is associated with the Last Supper, an appearance by Jesus following his resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Here you can see a Byzantine painting on the leather of Mary and Jesus; inscriptions on the walls and the rich embellishments of the church decoration. The 12th-century church was constructed on the site of a 4th-century place of worship which is located in the church crypt.To see the churches of the Old City of Jerusalem join one of multiple Jerusalem tours.Church of Saint Alexander Nevsky. Photo credit: © Dan Porges
By Petal Mashraki

Jerusalem for Three Religions

Jerusalem is held sacred by the three major monotheistic religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Each of these religions has sacred, traditional and ancestral sites within Jerusalem. In ancient times Jerusalem was believed to be the center of the world. Packed tightly together in the Old City of Jerusalem is the holiest religious sites of the three religions and one of the sites, Temple Mount is sacred to all three.Rooftop view of Jerusalem's Old City. Photo byKatie ChenonUnsplashSo Why is Jerusalem a Sacred City for Christians, Muslims, and Jews?Visitors to Israel can take tours to Jerusalem that focus specifically on the Christian, Jewish or Islamic sites, or alternatively, there are day tours of Jerusalem that cover the city in general.Jerusalem as a Sacred Christian CityAll of the New Testament takes place in the Land of Israel and Jerusalem specifically is associated with major events in the life of Jesus. For hundreds of years Jerusalem has attracted Christians from different denominations and many beautiful historic churches and monasteries have been built. Among the most important Christian sites in Jerusalem, there is the Mount of Olives where churches mark various events in Jesus’ life including the site where he taught the Lord’s Prayer marked by the Church of the Pater Noster and the place where he looked out across Jerusalem and wept, marked by the Dominus Flevit Church. At the foot of the mount is the Church of All Nations alongside the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed and was arrested on the eve of his crucifixion. In the Old City of Jerusalem is the Via Dolorosa, a route through the narrow lanes where Jesus walked on his way to Calvary and his crucifixion. At the end of the Via Dolorosa is the holiest site in Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This massive 4th-century church holds many chapels and shrines as well as the final Stations of the Cross, Calvary (Golgotha), and Jesus’ Tomb. Other sites that make Jerusalem a holy city for Christians are the Room of the Last Supper and the Chapel of Ascension where Jesus ascended to heaven.The Church of all Nations, Jerusalem, Israel. Photo byRaimond KlavinsonUnsplashJerusalem as a Sacred Jewish CityJerusalem is the spiritual and ancestral heart of Judaism and has been since the 10th century BC. The city features prominently in the Old Testament which names Jerusalem as the holy city. Jerusalem is mentioned a total of 669 times in the Old Testament and Zion (another name for the city) is mentioned 154 times. The Jewish Torah tells how the First Temple was built on Temple Mount in the 10th century BC and destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 587BC. Then the Second Temple was built in its place in the 6th century BC only to be destroyed by the Romans in 70AD. Evidence of this and other events and locations mentioned in the Torah have been uncovered in excavations in Jerusalem.As such Jerusalem has special significance in Jewish law and traditions. For example, Jews around the world pray facing Jerusalem. Today only the Western Wall remains from the Temple structure and is considered the holiest Jewish site in the world. Other Jewish sites in Jerusalem include King David’s Tomb; the City of David (the excavated original biblical city); the Hurva Synagogue and Mt. Zion. Jewish teachings hold that the Messiah will come when the Temple is rebuilt.The Western Wall, Jerusalem. Photo byThomas VogelonUnsplashJerusalem as a Sacred Islamic CityIslamic tradition holds Jerusalem (Al Quds) as sacred together with Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. The Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem is believed to be “the farthest mosque” visited in 621AD by Prophet Muhammad and recorded as the nocturnal journey in the Koran. Although Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Koran by name its association with the nocturnal journey earned its great significance.Many of the hadith (holy Islamic writings) mention Jerusalem by name. Jerusalem was the Qibla or direction Muslims faced in prayer until 625 when it was changed to Mecca. Prophet Muhammad also made Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque a pilgrimage destination. The most important Islamic sites in Jerusalem are on Temple Mount (the Noble Sanctuary or Haram Ash Sharif) and include the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, a sacred shrine believed to be where Muhammad ascended to heaven. The Islamic association with Jerusalem is also history. Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent was responsible for constructing the present Old City walls and Jerusalem had Muslim rulers during several historic periods.Dome of the Rock, Temple Mount, Jerusalem. Photo by Jorge Fernández Salas on Unsplash
By Petal Mashraki

The Churches of the Mount of Olives

The Mount of Olives overlooks Jerusalem’s Old City it is home to some of the most beautiful and historic churches in the city. This mountain also plays an important role in the last week of Jesus ' life and encompasses the sites connected with his Ascension.The Russian Orthodox Church ofMary Magdalene, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © ShutterstockChurch of Mary Magdalene (The Russian Orthodox Church)The distinctive seven gold onion domes of the beautiful Church of Mary Magdalene shine out on the landscape of the Mt. of Olives. The building was constructed in 1888 in honor of the Russian czar’s mother. The church has a traditional Russian 17th-century tent structure and within the church are exquisite mosaics.Russian Orthodox Convent and Church of the AscensionThe 64-meter tall tower of this site stands out from its location in the village of A-Tur located on the Mount of Olives. According to Russian Orthodox tradition, this was the site of Jesus’ ascension. The church and convent were built in 1870-1887 and there is also a chapel dedicated to John the Baptist.Augusta Victoria Lutheran Hospital, Church and TowerThe Augusta Victoria Lutheran Hospital (AVH) tower is a prominent feature of the Mount of Olives' skyline. The AVH was established in 1950 and since then has been involved in helping Palestinian refugees and providing services to the Palestinian community in cooperation with UNRWA and the UN. The building was constructed in 1910 and was the first in Jerusalem to have electricity.Chapel of the Ascension (Dome of Ascension)Situated at the highest point in Jerusalem, the small octagonal Сhapel of Ascension has a distinctive dome and was constructed in 392AD; it marks the place where Jesus is thought to have ascended to heaven (Acts 7-11). A stone with an embedded footprint is believed to be the footprint of Jesus as he stepped up to heaven. TThe original structure was destroyed by Persians in 614AD and reconstructed by the Crusaders. In 1198 it was purchased by Saladin and functioned as a mosque. Today it belongs to the Islamic Waqf of Jerusalem and a mosque has been constructed adjacent to the Chapel which draws many Christian visitors.Church of All Nations (Basilica of the Agony)This is theMount of Olives’most prominent and most beautiful church, it is recognizable by the stunning gold mosaic on the church façade. The church is adjacent to the Garden of Gethsemane and marks the place where Jesus prayed on the night of his arrest. A large rock near the high altar is said to be where Jesus prayed. The church’s construction was funded by 12 nations, hence the name of the church. Within the Church of All Nations, each of the nations is remembered by a mosaic inlaid in the gold ceiling of the church's 12 cupolas.Church of All Nations, Mt. of Olives.Photo credit: © ShutterstockDominus Flevit (The Lord Wept)This church was designed by Anton Barluzzi and constructed in 1955; it resembles the shape of a teardrop in memory of the moment when Christ wept as he foresaw the destruction of Jerusalem. The Dominus Flevit Franciscan church is located between the Tomb of the Prophets and the Church of St. Mary Magdalene.Pater Noster (The Church of the Lord’s Prayer)The Church of the Pater Noster is built on the site where Jesus is thought to have taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:2); the cave adjacent to the church is the actual site where the biblical event is thought to have occurred. The present church was built in 1874 after the destruction of earlier churches on the site. The church is run by the Catholic Carmelite Cloistered Sisters who reside in the adjoining convent.Other sites on the Mount of Olives include the Tomb of Mujir al-Din al-Ulaymi; the Tomb of the Prophets; Mary’s Tomb; Brigham Young University – Jerusalem Campus; Burial Crypt of Rabiya al-Adawiyya, Pelagia, Hulda; the Ibrahimieh Community College; Garden of Gethsemane; International House of Prayer; Jerusalem Princess Basma Center for Disabled Children and the Little Family of Resurrection.To visit the churches of the Mount of Olives join Jerusalem In the Footsteps of Jesus Tour. For a customized itinerary book Mount of Olives Churches Private Walking Tour.Pater Noster Church. Photo credit: © Shutterstock
By Petal Mashraki

Christmas in Jerusalem

After the holiday of Easter in Israel, which for Christians is the most important festival in their calendar, Christmas is an incredibly popular time to visit Jerusalem. With dozens of churches in the Old City, near to the Old City and in the neighbourhood of Ein Kerem, there’s no shortage of places to spend this special time of year. And let’s not forget that - located just six kilometres from this holy city - is Bethlehem. Without a doubt, it’s an unforgettable place to celebrate the Christmas holidays.Nativity scene. Photo by Ben White on UnsplashFor sure, Christmas in Jerusalem is a truly unique time of year. Whilst it can be chilly (don’t forget to bring some warm clothes, since it is high in the hills) it’s Old City's Christian and Armenian quarters are filled with beautiful decorations and have a truly festive atmosphere. Other landmarks in the newer part of the city, such as the YMCA, are also fine places to visit since they hold carol concerts and services.And for a little luxury, you can always pop across the way to the elegant King David hotel for a drink at their elegant bar, or a meal in their famed fine-dining restaurant. Nevertheless, most pilgrims tend to congregate inside the walls of the Old City, so let’s take a look at what goes on there.Old City CelebrationsOn Christmas Eve, many Christian pilgrims follow in the footsteps of Jesus, from the spot at which he was tried to the site of his crucifixion and burial (Calvary), located at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. If you are within the walls, you will see them walking the Via Dolorosa in the Old City of Jerusalem and whilst this is something often associated with Easter in Jerusalem (and Good Friday services), it is still very moving procession to watch.Midnight Mass is always held at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the most sacred site for millions of Christians around the world. Dedicated in 336 CE, its lavish interior and extraordinary ambience make it a unique place to attend services. Whether of an Orthodox denomination - Greek, Coptic, Armenian & Syriac - or Roman Catholic - there will be chapels open for prayer and you will be astonished at a large number of candles lit there, only adding to the atmosphere.Christmas tree. Photo by Joanna Kosinska on UnsplashMidnight Mass and the Annual Procession to BethlehemAfter Midnight Mass at the Holy Sepulchre, many pilgrims decide to participate in the Procession led by the Latin Patriarch, which winds its way through Jerusalem’s Old City. Latin Patriarchs are the Catholic episcopal see of Jerusalem and stretch back to the time of Arnulf of Chocques in 1099. After a period of time where they sat in Rome, Pius IX reinstated a Resident Patriarch in Jerusalem in 1847.The procession passes by the Mar Elias Monastery, located in the south of Jerusalem and overlooking Herodion and Bethlehem. Maintained today by the Greek Orthodox church, it is decorated with Byzantine-style paintings depicting biblical scenes and worth a visit in its own right. The procession finally arrives in Bethlehem at around 1 am, passing by Palestinian scouts marching bands parading through Manger Square, bagpipe players, choirs that are carol-singing and an enormous Christmas tree. Pilgrims finally arrive at the Church of Nativity, the spot where Jesus was born in a stable.A fine way to mark this special holiday could also be with a ‘Christmas Eve in Jerusalem and Bethlehem’ tour that culminates with a festive dinner and midnight mass outside the Church of Nativity. Not only will you be able to see landmarks in the city, but you will also eat with your group, close to Manger Square, before partaking in the Midnight Mass.Christmas tree in Bethlehem. Photo credit: © ShutterstockAlternative Services in JerusalemFor those who are less inclined to travel on foot to Bethlehem, there are a number of services at other churches in the city. At midnight, you could attend the Benedectine Dormition Abbey on Mount Zion and sing Christmas carols. Located at the highest point in Jerusalem, it commemorates the spot where Mary died (‘fell asleep’ as the name suggests). Look out for the dome above the statue of Mary - it shows pictures of six women from the Old Testament - Eve, Miriam, Yael, Judith, Ruth and Esther.For protestants, the Christ Church offers fantastic hospitality, beginning around 7 pm with coffee, biscuits and carol singing. After prayer and discussion, there is a Christmas service that begins at around 10.30 pm and lasts until after midnight. The Episcopal St. Anne’s Church, just 200 metres from the Jaffa Gate, also offers services and a popular concert, which tourists love. The Armenian Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Spasm (also known as the Church of Sorrows of Mary) also welcomes visitors.Dormition Abbey, Mount Zion, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © Sofia EmeliyanovaNotre Dame Centre and the YMCAAnother highly recommended spot to celebrate Christmas in Jerusalem is the Notre Dame Centre. This beautiful French cathedral is located opposite the Lions' Gate and was built in the 1880s, to accommodate pilgrims wanting to travel from France to the Holy Land. Constructed on land purchased by the Count of Piellat, its architecture is a fusion of classical and modern - and after decades of construction, a beautiful nave was put in place. (Our tip: arrive early and visit their lovely rooftop restaurant, to enjoy a glass of wine and a cheese plate whilst watching the sunset over the Old City walls).The annual Christmas Eve concert and singalong at Jerusalem’s famous YMCA is always a lovely (and multicultural!) affair, including classical music as well as Christmas carols. Built in 1933 by the American architect Arthur Harmon (who actually designed the Empire State Building) it runs educational and cultural programmes throughout the year and its Youth Choir and tree-lighting ceremony are always a lovely thing to see. (Indeed, even at the height of the COVID pandemic, virtual services took place with a rendition of Ava Maria by the famed Israeli singer Achinoam Nini, as well as songs from the Nutcracker Ballet (accompanied by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra).Christmas-inspired concerts can also be heard at the Lutheran Church of Augusta Victoria. Located in the east of the city, on the northern side of the Mount of Olives, it was built at the turn of the century for the city’s German Protestant community who lived, at that time, in Ottoman Palestine.Church of the Holy Sepulchre.Photo credit: © ShutterstockThe Garden Tomb and Ein KeremThe Garden Tomb (always particularly popular with Protestants) is not the first place you might think of visiting in Jerusalem, at this time of the year, but it’s not just a spot of worship for Easter. Located close to the Damascus Gate and believed by some to be the site where Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected, every year they hold an evening of Christmas carols that are sung in English, Hebrew and Arabic! Finally, for those who care to venture out to Ein Kerem (which means ’Spring of the Vineyard’ in Hebrew) is a charming, lush hillside village, located in the southwest area of the city and famous for its ancient holy sites. These include the Church of the Visitation and the Church of John the Baptist.Christ Church Courtyard in the Old City of Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin
By Sarah Mann

Jerusalem Southern Wall Excavation

Since the 1960s excavations in the area of the south-west side of Temple Mount in Jerusalem have uncovered remarkable remains from the Second Temple (516 BC-70 AD) which stood on Temple Mount. Part of these excavations included what would have been the southern retaining wall of Temple Mount. The Southern Wall Excavation Site is accessed from the Dung Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City. Just past the gate is an archaeological park which includes the Southern Wall, the Southern Wall Museum and a Visitors Center.The Second Temple was originally built in 516 BC but was drastically altered and expanded under Herod the Great from 37 BC to 4 BC. It was during this reconstruction that the southern side of Temple Mount was fortified. The southern retaining wall of Temple Mount would have risen 32 meters above street level and run for a length of 281 m. The Temple and almost all of the Temple Mount structures were destroyed by the Romans during the Jewish Revolt of 66 AD-70 AD.Herodian StreetRunning the length of the wall would have been a paved street lined with stores. Along the wall remains were uncovered of an 8 meter wide street now known as the Herodian Street. When the Herodian Street was discovered it was cleared of a mountain of rubble that had accumulated over the almost 2,000 years since the temple’s destruction. On one side of the ancient Herodian Street the massive Temple Mount Southern Wall rises 32 meters and on the other side of the street a wall was uncovered with openings where there would have been stores. Here pilgrims could buy offerings to sacrifice in the temple and also visit the money changes. It may have been here in these stores that Jesus “cleared the temple courts of people selling cattle, sheep, doves and people sitting at tables exchanging money” (John 2:1322). As the Roman’s set about destroying the temple in 70 AD they would have toppled down massive stones onto this street. Above the stores we can see the remains of the base of a staircase.Robinson ArchHalfway up the side of the Southern Wall are the remains of the Robinson Arch (named after the researcher who discovered the arch in 1838). The arch was part of a large bridge structure which allowed access from the lower city to the Temple Mount. The arch was part of a 13 m wide and 19 m high walkway giving pilgrims access from the Herodian Street up a wide flight of stairs to the south-western Temple Mount entrance. This would have been one of three such bridge walkways into the temple. Only the small section of the arch attached to the Southern Wall and the base of the staircase have survived.Trumpeting PlaceOn the southwest corner of the Southern Wall a large slab of stone was found inscribed with the Hebrew words meaning: to the trumpeting place to proclaim. This could refer to the place where a priest would stand on the walls and blow a trumpet to announce the approaching Shabbat. The stone may have been thrown down from the temple walls during the destruction.Ritual BathsWhile excavating the Southern Wall many ritual baths (mikvah) were found. The baths are located close to the walls and were built according to Jewish laws. The baths would have been used by thousands of pilgrims to purify themselves before they entered the temple.Later Structures at the Southern WallThe Al-Aqsa Mosque was built in 705 AD and stands along the inside of the Southern Wall; you can see the mosque’s distinctive silver dome above the wall. Along the Southern Wall it is possible to see the remains of several structures from the later Arab Period including a number of Umayyad Palaces.
By Petal Mashraki
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