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Israel tour guide > Jerusalem / Yerushalayim / Al-Quds


"The Holy City", "City of Prophets", "City of Peace"

Jerusalem is the world's most holy city crammed with Churches, relics, Mosques, and shrines. Sacred to the world's largest monotheistic faiths, it offers the visitor a unique spiritual experience. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all lay claim to this beautiful city perched magnificently on the Judean hills. This is where east meets west, where the cultures and traditions of Asia meet those of Africa and Europe. Invasion and settlement by the world's major empires have made Jerusalem both a historical and modern day melting pot of religions and cultures, drawing a continuous stream of religious pilgrims since the Middle Ages.

 


Jerusalem (Yerushalayim in Hebrew) is integral to Jewish history and symbolic of hope for the future. The City of David, proclaimed eternal capital of the Promised Land of Israel some 3000 years ago, is for many Jews the centre of the world. Here Abraham nearly sacrificed his own son, Isaac, to prove his faith to God. Here stood the Temple of Solomon, destroyed by the Babylonians, but resurrected in all its splendour as the Second Temple. Here the history of a nation has been played out and recorded for almost 6000 years.

To a Christian, Jerusalem is the most sacred city in Christendom. The faithful can walk the path of Jesus Christ, breath the air of the prophets and pay personal homage to their Saviour. Here Jesus entered the Temple to teach the rabbis. Here he was welcomed by the people waving palm leaves and singing his praises. Here he took his last steps along the Via Dolorosa to Calvary. The Dome of the Rock, on the site of the ancient Jewish Temples, is the oldest Moslem site in the Holy Land, and certainly one of the most impressive Mosques in the world. Jerusalem is sacred to Moslems since protected under the magnificent golden Dome is the stone from which the prophet Muhammad is believed to have ascended to heaven.

The Old City

At the heart of the vibrant, modern city of Jerusalem lies the Old City. Today it is divided into four quarters: Armenian, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim, and encompassed by a defensive wall constructed by the Ottoman Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, during the sixteenth century AD. A tour of the ramparts is an ideal way to take in the maze like alleys and souqs.

 

The Temple Mount

The Temple Mount on which stands the impressive Dome of the Rock mosuqe dominates the city skyline. This magnificent shrine with its golden dome, beautiful stained-glass windows, and mosaics was erected over the site from where the prophet Mohammed is believed to have ascended to heaven. For Jews, the mosque represents the ultimate sacrilege of their holiest site. Here, the two ancient Jewish Temples were constructed to celebrate the ground where Abraham came close to sacrificing his son. In the New Testament Christians read that Jesus visited the Temple many times and it was he who correctly predicted its destruction.

The Western "Wailing" Wall

Once the retaining wall of the Second Temple built by King Herod, and at the peak of its power and splendour in the time of Jesus. This last accessible remnant is now the most sacred Jewish relic in the world, and as the foremost place of Jewish public worship it has come to be known as The Wailing Wall.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The holiest site in all of Christendom since this is the most probable site of Jesus' crucifixion, burial and resurrection. There has been a Church here since Roman times when the recently Christianised Empire set about locating important religious sites. The Crusaders built another Church, and this structure forms the basis of what we see today although additions and alterations continued until as late as the nineteenth century.

The Via Dolorosa and The Stations of the Cross

Translated as the "Way of Sorrow" this is the path Jesus took, dragging his cross on his shoulder, from the place of sentence to the place of crucifixion on Golgotha. The route, followed by pilgrims since the Middle Ages, is marked by the fourteen Stations of the Cross, each dramatically illustrating an incident that took place on Jesus' final journey.

Out of the Old City

To the East is the fume hazed Arab area of Jerusalem. The vibrant streets, crowded with Palestinian cafes where you can take a mint tea and smoke various flavoured tobaccos, make an enduring tourist attraction. This is also where most of the city's markets and bazaars are situated although you should be aware that everything closes at sunset.

A little further East of the Old City is the Mount of Olives, so called since it was once covered in Olive groves. At the peak, the Crusader Chapel of the Ascension celebrates the spot from where Jesus ascended to heaven as well as commanding spectacular views of Jerusalem. Lower down the hillside the Gospels record that Jesus prayed for deliverance from his fate in the Garden of Gethsemane shortly before his arrest.

To the West of the Old City lie the modern suburbs of Jewish Jerusalem, all respectfully built in Jerusalem limestone to reserve the splendour of the city. From here present day Jerusalem functions. The Knesset, Israel's Parliament, has its home here among the cafés and chic shopping malls. There are also significant museums such as the Israel Museum, which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Rockefeller Museum. For more recent history, the Yad Vashem memorial tells the moving and horrific story of the holocaust during the Second World War.

To the Southwest lies Mount Zion. An area previously contained by the city wall, but now outside its boundaries. Here are some of the most important sites in the story of Israel and Christianity. In the Upper Room, Jesus celebrated the Last Supper, and later, after the crucifixion, the disciples received the gift of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.

There is another place claimed by many to be the tomb of Christ. The Garden Tomb, as it is known, fits the description given in the Gospel of St. John. The tomb, situated in a garden, outside the Damascus Gate to the North of the City, is cut into the rocky cliff near a barren mound, which for many is "Golgotha" (or "Calvary" in Latin) meaning the place of the skull on which Jesus is believed to have been crucified.

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