Jerusalem

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The Old City of Jerusalem is that part of Jerusalem surrounded by the impressive 16th century Ottoman city walls and representing the heart of the city both historically and spiritually. In a city already divided, the Old City is further divided culturally and historically into four Quarters: (clockwise from the southeast) the Jewish Quarter, the Armenian Quarter, the Christian Quarter and the Muslim Quarter.

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Points of Interest in Jerusalem

Christian Quarter

The Christian Quarter, the result of rapid expansion under Byzantine rule, is in the northwest corner of the city and is home to a bewildering array of churches, patriarchates and hospices of the city's many Christian denominations. The quarter is served by the Jaffa Gate and the New Gate.

  • Church of the Holy Sepulchre (accessible from Christian Quarter Road or a small opening from Souk el-Dabbagha). 5 AM–9 PM daily in the summer, and 4 AM–7 PM in the winter. The Holy Sepulchre is a large building spanning several areas in which Christ is believed by Christians to have been crucified and died, was buried, and then rose from the dead on the third day. Eastern Orthodox Christians, Roman Catholics, and Oriental Orthodox Christians are each allotted separate areas in the church dating largely to the time of Saladin. The Roman Catholics received their parts due almost purely to the Crusaders and, like all Roman Catholic shrines in the Holy Land, the Roman Catholic part is under the custodianship of the Terra Sancta (i.e. Franciscans).

Parts of the Holy Sepulchre are controlled by several different branches of the Christian Church, who have historically been somewhat at odds with each other. It is important to note that the "church" is not one church in the sense of a building with an altar and podium near the front, but rather a "warehouse" of churches even for each denomination present: each has several altars and chapels. The Orthodox Church makes up the largest of the churches there and is situated in the center directly to the east and in front of the Sepulcher as well as at Golgatha. The Armenians have several smaller altars and chapels throughout the edifice as well as a fairly large church called "Saint Helen's" but often referred to as "Saint Gregory (the Illuminator of Armenia)." The Roman Catholics have two chapels, the Ethiopians have one in addition to a monastery on the roof, the Copts have a small altar behind the Sepulchre itself, and there is a small yet beautiful Syriac chapel up some stairs near the Coptic altar, though it is usually closed. There are even what are known as "ecumenical altars" set up on the sides in various areas which are apparently almost purely decoration and are rarely if ever used. There are many pathways and exploring here makes for a few hours of fun for those who love religious art and architecture. The best time to come is early in the morning and make your way out by 11AM. Even after sundown it is incredibly crowded. Be warned though, if you are wearing shorts, you might be barred access to the building itself but if not, then certainly to individual churches and without a doubt to the sepulchre. Women should have their shoulders covered, no cleavage, and dresses should go below the knee. Do not wear anything which might be considered even the slightest bit risqué. If you do not oblige, they will turn you back.

Upon entering the church immediately in front of you is a stone slab set in the floor with a pillar at each corner. This is the Stone of Unction on which, it is claimed, Jesus' body was laid and prepared for burial. Turn right and ascend a steep, narrow flight of stairs to what is claimed to be Golgotha. There are altars here marking the location of the crosses on which Jesus and the two thieves were crucified. It is possible to crawl under the left-hand altar and feel a hole in the rock which is said to be the hole in which the cross was placed. Return down the stairs and go underneath Golgotha. A glass panel in the wall shows fractured rock, claimed to have been broken in the earthquake that followed Jesus' death.

When you come out of this room turn right and follow around the passage. A long flight of stairs leads down to the underground Chapel of the Invention of the Cross (a slightly unfortunate name!) which is the cistern in which St Helena, mother of Constantine, found the True Cross. Note the thousands of small crosses carved into the walls flanking the staircase by Crusader period pilgrims.

Come back up the stairs and continue round the passage past various chapels that mark the Stations of the Cross. This brings you to the Rotunda, beneath which is the Holy Sepulchre itself. There is usually a queue here as people line up to visit the tomb. The first small room is where the angels sat who announced the resurrection to the women who came to the tomb on Sunday morning. The second, which is a squeeze for three and impossible for four, contains a marble shelf supposed to be the spot where Jesus' body was laid. Photography - even flash photography - is allowed, but one should be discreet and respectful, as others in the room will regard this as the most holy of all sites and their visit to it as the emotional highlight of their pilgrimage.

Unfortunately the tomb is almost certainly spurious, as 1st century AD tombs had a particular form exemplified by the Tombs of the Prophets on the Mount of Olives (see below). When you come out of the Sepulchre turn left and go round behind it. A low doorway leads into the often dusty and neglected Chapel of St Nicodemus and a further doorway takes you to a small room in the wall of which are genuine 1st century AD kokhim - coffin-shaped tunnels cut into the wall. If the tomb of Christ is anywhere in this building, these are more likely to be it than the official Sepulchre outside.

  • Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Muristan Rd. 9 AM–1 PM and 1:30 PM–5 PM M–Sa. This church was built by Kaiser Wilhelm II and completed in 1898. The church is most admired by tourists for its bell tower. At the top of its 177 steps, visitors are rewarded with some great views over the Old City. NIS 5 for adults and NIS 3 for students (entrance free; cost is for bell tower only).
  • Christian Quarter Road. Along with David Street, is the quarter's main shopping thoroughfare. As with most shopping areas in the Christian Quarter, it specializes in religious items as well as handicrafts.
  • Muristan. Just south of the Church of the Holy Sepulcre, this area was once a hospice for pilgrims from Latin-speaking countries. Today it serves as a quiet area of outdoor cafes and small shops centered around an atmospheric central fountain.
  • Church of St John the Baptist. Closed to the public. Adorned by a silvery dome, this church is visible from the Muristan even though the entrance is fairly difficult to locate. Founded in the 5th century, the church is significant as one of the most ancient churches in Jerusalem. The church was used as a hospice during the Siege of Jerusalem in 1099.
  • A Walk on the Roofs. It is possible to walk above the central souk along the rooftops of the city. Visitors can climb up to the rooftops via a small staircase at the corner of St Mark's Road and Khabad Street. A second set of stairs leads up from Muristan Road and visitors can exit into the courtyard of Khan el-Sultan, which allows exit onto Chain Street. The view from the rooftops offers delightful views of the bustling streets below, as well as unusual views of the Church of the Holy Sepulcre and the Dome of the Rock.

Muslim Quarter

The Muslim Quarter is the largest and most densely populated quarter of the Old City. The quarter has changed hands many times from the 12th through 15th centuries, resulting in decay since the 16th century. It is one of the most fascinating and least explored parts of Jerusalem.

  • Noble Sanctuary. The key attraction of the Muslim Quarter, the Noble Sanctuary, also known in Hebrew as Har Ha-Bayit (הר הבית) and in Arabic as Haram al-Sharif (حارم الشريف), is a vast rectangular esplanade in the south-eastern part of the city. Traditionally the site of Solomon's Temple, it later housed the Second Temple which was enlarged by Herod the Great and was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70. Hence, this plot is also commonly known to Jews and Christians as the Temple Mount. The only non-Muslim entrance to the Sanctuary is through a wooden bridge leading up to the (ironically named) Mughrabi (Moor's) Gate on the far south-eastern corner of the Western Wall Plaza.
  • St. Anne's Church. 8 AM–noon and 2–6 PM (winter: 4 PM) Monday–Saturday. This Crusader-era church was built between 1131 and 1138 to replace a Byzantine church. It is traditionally believed to be the spot where Anne and Joachim, the parents of the Virgin Mary, lived. the church fell into ruins until it was donated to France by the Ottomans in 1856. Outside the church are the extensive remains of curative baths as well as the ruins of a Roman temple dedicated to the god of medicine. It is widely believed that this site is the Pool of Bethesda where, according to the Gospel of John (5:1-15), Christ cured a paralysed man. 7 NIS for adults and 5 NIS for students and children.
  • Monastery of the Flagellation. 7 AM–6 PM (October through March: 5 PM) daily. Owned by the Franciscans, this site is traditionally held to be where Christ was flogged by Roman soldiers prior to his crucifixion. Opposite the courtyard is the Chapel of the Condemnation, built on the site popularly identified with the trial of Christ before Pontius Pilate. Admission is free.
  • Ecce Homo Arch. 8:30 AM–12:30 PM and 2–5 PM Monday through Saturday. This arch, which spans the Via Dolorosa, was built by the Romans in AD 70 to support a ramp for the attack on the Antonia Fortress. The arch was reconstructed as a monument to victory when the Romans rebuilt Jerusalem in AD 135. Incorporated into the structure of the neighboring Convent of the Sisters of Zion, Christian tradition states that this is the place where Pilate presented Christ to the crowd and spoke the words, "Ecce homo" (Latin for "Behold the man").

Jewish Quarter

The Jewish Quarter feels distinctly different from the rest of the Old City. Razed by the Jordanians after the partition of the former British Mandate of Palestine in 1948, most buildings in it have been rebuilt from scratch since Israel assumed control of the Old City in 1967. Despite strict laws mandating the use of Jerusalem sandstone in all façades in order to maintain uniformity, the buildings look and feel new. In a somewhat tit-for-tat move, the current wide plaza in front of the Western Wall was created by bulldozing a neighborhood called the Moroccan Quarter.

  •    The Western Wall (Known in Hebrew as Ha-Kotel Ha-Ma'aravi- הכותל המערבי). open 24/7 and 365 days a year. Dates back over 2,000 years and marks the western edge of the Temple Mount,it is a surviving remnant of the Temple Mount. As part of the retaining wall of the Temple Mount, it was built by Herod the Great during his expansion of the Temple in 20 BC. The wall became the Jews' chief place of pilgrimage during the Ottoman Period where they lamented the destruction of the temple by the hands of the Romans in AD 70. For this reason it has also become known as the "Wailing Wall". As some halakhic authorities consider Jews to be forbidden from the Temple Mount, this is the only part of the structure those authorities say they are allowed to approach. (Note: Other halakhic authorities disagree, and there is usually no government prohibition against Jews ascending the Temple Mount, so long as those Jews don't actually pray up on top of the mountain.) The plaza in front of the Wall is divided by a fence, with a large area for men on the left and a smaller area for women on the right. Anyone is allowed to approach the wall as long as their heads are covered, (for men complimentary kippahs are provided upon entry though if there are no nicer cloth ones recently donated there will only be what are essentially white cardboard french fry bowls so bringing your own is highly recommended), behave with decorum, and dress appropriately (no shorts and shoulders and midriffs must be covered, shawls are available to borrow on the women's side). (Controversy has occasionally erupted when Reform and Conservative Jews conducted their services at the Wall, since non-Orthodox Jewish practice allows women and men to pray together.) The wall acts as an outdoor synagogue with written prayers inserted into the crevices between the large stones. Photography is not allowed on the Sabbath (Friday night and Saturday until sundown). Monday and Thursday mornings many bar mitzvahs are held, drawing large crowds of families and guests. Friday night at sundown there is the welcoming of the Sabbath (Kabbalat Shabbat) which includes prayers, singing and dancing.
  • Western Wall Tunnel Tour, lat=. This is a tour of the underground parts of the Western Wall, including the evolution of the Temple Mount from the First Temple period to today. A wonderful tour for those interested in the archeology and history of the Temple Mount. You will see enormous stones underlying the Western Wall, an underground synagogue (the nearest spot to the Temple site, where Jews are allowed to pray), a pool and a water tunnel from Herod's time. The tour must be booked in advance but is well worth the advanced preparation. During the low season, you can also try your luck and join an excursion without the reservation.
  • Saint Mary's Hospice. The ruins of a 12th-century German Crusader Hospice within view of the Temple Mount. Worth a short visit. A Jewish art gallery/shop is to the left of the door to the hospice's church (it's pretty obvious which of the buildings is the church).
  • The Cardo. Once running nearly the entire length of the Old City from north to south, the Cardo is an excavated and partially reconstructed section of the Jerusalem's main thoroughfare in the Byzantine era. Visitors can get a good idea of how the whole once looked by descending to the 200 m (650 ft) section alongside the Jewish Quarter. The central roadway was 12.5 m (41 ft) wide and lined with shops. The pillars from that time still stand. Today in part, the Cardo contains an exclusive, covered shopping arcade.
  • Hurva Square. In a maze of narrow and winding streets, Hurva Square is the heart and social center of the Jewish Quarter. Its open areas offer cafes, souvenir shops, and snack bars with outdoor seating. On the west side of the square is the site of the Huvra Synogogue (Hurva means "ruins"). Burnt down by its creditors in the 18th century, the synagogue was rebuilt in 1864 only to be destroyed during the fighting that took place in 1948 between the Arab and Jewish armies. After the Israeli assumption of control in 1967, a lone arch was reconstructed from the remaining shell, making it a popular photographic attraction. In 2006, however, the arch was removed and reconstruction of the synagogue commenced. The synagogue was re-dedicated on March 15, 2010, and is now available for tours (must be pre-booked).
  • The Broad Wall. Following the 1967 Israeli victory, a vast reconstruction program in the Jewish Quarter resulted in many important archaeological finds. One of the most significant was the unearthing of the foundations of a massive wall. These fortifications, measuring 7 m (22 ft) thick and 65 m (215 ft) long, are possibly part of the fortifications built by King Hezekiah in the 8th century BC.
  • Wohl Archaeological Museum. 9 AM–4:30 PM Sunday through Thursday. Lying 3 to 7 m (10 to 22 ft) below street level. This Museum offers a vivid excavation of daily life during the Herodian era, 2,000 years ago before the Romans rampaged and burned the wealthy Upper City in AD 70. Photography inside the museum is not allowed. Admission is 25 shekels for students and 35 for non-student adults and also covers the entrance fee to the Burnt House, another building from the same era.
  • Ophel Archaeological Park. 8 AM–7 PM Sunday through Thursday and 8 AM–2 PM on Friday. This area on the southern side of the Haram esh-Sharif (Temple Mount) was been rebuilt many times over the centuries. Remains of Herodian (34–4 BC), Byzantine (AD 395–661) and Omayyad (AD 661–750) can be found on the grounds. Entrance fee is 25 shekels for adults and 15 for students. Audio guides are available but for 6 shekels but the map given at the front desk does not follow the audio guide's number arrangement towards the end of the tour. Audio guide is recommended though. There is an admission fee.
  • Temple Institute. 9AM-5PM Sunday-Thursday; 9AM-2PM Friday; Closed Saturday.. A fairly interesting place which has reconstructed most of the more obvious ritual tools to be used in the Temple services in the hopes of one day restoring the Temple itself. The front of the store is a book store while the back is a four room museum with one room set aside as a theater to show a 15 minute movie. Dress appropriately when going here. Long pants and sleeves for men, and modest wear for women. 20 shekels.
  • Karaite Synagogue, HaKaraim Street (Take a left when you see the ruined synagogue and look for the sign KARAITE SYNAGOGUE),  02-628-6688, 02-627-4728, 050-212-1045. Open Sunday to Friday (until sunset). The Karaite Jews, numbering 30-50,000 worldwide, are a unique sect of Judaism that has been at odds with mainstream rabbinic Judaism for centuries. The Karaites reject the Talmud (Oral Law) and only rely on the Torah, Prophets, and Writings. You must call ahead for a tour of the synagogue. Tours are only in Hebrew, but it might be possible to pre-arrange English or Russian.

Armenian Quarter

The Armenian Quarter is the smallest and quietest of the four. The quarter runs itself as a city within a city (within a city...), shutting all gates when night falls.

  • Citadel. 8 AM–4 PM Sunday through Thursday and 8 AM–2 PM on Fridays, Saturdays and holidays. Now occupied by the Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem, the Citadel is an imposing fortress inside the city wall beside the Jaffa Gate. Utilized and expanded throughout the centuries as a means of protection, excavations have revealed remains dating back to the 2nd century BC and indicate that there was a fortress here in Herodian times. The museum provides visitors with 3 routes highlighting different aspects of the Citadel, namely: Exhibit, Panorama and Excavation. The routes are advisory only and provided for visitors' convenience. An 1873 model of Jerusalem is on display in an underground cistern near the exit. 30 NIS for adults, 20 NIS for students and seniors, and 15 NIS for children.
  • St. James Cathedral. 6–7:30 AM and 3–3:30 PM daily. This Armenian cathedral is one of the most beautiful of all the sacred buildings in Jerusalem. It was constructed in the 11th and 12th centuries over the traditional tomb of St James the Apostle. Attending an Armenian Orthodox vespers service is a treat, even for non-believers. Vespers is held each evening (except Sunday) at 3:00 and lasts until 3:30. It is chanted by the seminarians of the Armenian Orthodox seminary across the street from the Cathedral. The chanting is very moving and has a bitter-sweet tone to it which is unforgettably beautiful. Each afternoon the service is signaled by a priest striking wooden bars hanging from the vaulted porch. The interior is dimly lit by hundreds of oil lamps hung from the ceiling. (Make sure to find out if there is an Armenian holy day where all of the lamps will be lit up during your visit.) Rather than seats, the floors are thickly laid with Oriental rugs. The cathedral contains a chapel that supposedly holds the head of St James.
  • Saint Mark's Syriac Church and Monastery. The monastery is open all day, simply ring at the gate. According to tradition, this church was built on the site of the house of Mary, mother of St Mark. Every weekday the three resident monks hold the 25 minute vespers service at 4PM for the small community of Syriac believers as well as visitors. Female visitors are not required to cover their hair during services.
  • Armenian Museum. Open 9AM to 4:30PM. Located slightly down the street from Saint James Cathedral, it is housed in what was once either the monastery or the guest house for the Armenian Monastery of Saint James. The museum holds an impressive and very well documented collection demonstrating the history of Armenia both religious and secular. Even for those who are not usually museum goers, it is an easily accessible, yet informative glimpse into Armenians long history. In addition, the grounds are very beautiful with a double story colonade built around a central court yard. Entrance fee is 5NIS for adults and 3NIS for students.

See also: Armenian Patriarchate Website - [1]

Outside the Walls

  •    Church of the Dormition. 9 AM–noon and 12:30 PM–6 PM Monday through Thursday; 9 AM–noon and 2–6 PM on Friday; 10:30 AM–6 PM on Sunday. Adorned by a conical dome and a tall bell tower, this Mount Zion church is the traditional site of the Virgin Mary's death. Several churches have been built on the site. The present-day structure was built in the early 20th century for the visit of Kaiser Wilhelm II. The main part of the church contains a mosaic floor featuring the signs of the zodiac and the names of various saints and prophets. A statue of the Virgin Mary rests in the crypt surrounded by images of various women listed in the Old Testament.
  • King David's Tomb. Summer hours are 8 AM–8PM Saturday through Thursday and 8AM–2PM on Fridays. Winter hours are 8 AM–sunset Sunday through Thursday and 8 AM–1 PM on Friday. Adjoining the Church of the Dormition and located on the lower floor of the Crusader building is a small chamber venerated as King David's Tomb. The chamber—divided for separate viewing by men and women—contains a sarcophagus covered by a drape. Between the periods of 1948 and 1967, when the Old City was under Jordanian control and there was no access to the Western Wall, Jews would come here to pray. Today the entrance hall is still used as a synagogue. Admission is free.
  • Chamber of the Holocaust 02-6716841, fax: 02-6717116. 8 AM–5 PM, Sunday–Thursday, and 8 AM–1 PM on Fridays. [2] Located directly opposite the Tomb of David on Mount Zion, this small museum is maintained by the Diaspora Yeshiva. The collection includes Holocaust artifacts, artwork inspired by the Holocaust, an exhibit of anti-Semitic publications throughout history, and memorials to individuals and communities that perished. NIS 12.
  •    City of David and Jerusalem water system. 8 AM–7 PM, Su–Th, and 8 AM–5 PM, Fr (from October to March, till 5 PM and 1 PM, respectively); last entrance two hours before the closing time. To get here, exit the Old City through Dung Gate (by the Kotel), turn left, and then take the first street on your right. The site comprises two archeological findings. The City of David is the oldest part of Jerusalem with remains of buildings up to the city's capture by the Babylonians in 586 BC. The ruins include 13th century BC walls, as well as fortifications and fragments of a palace attributed to David, the second king of Israel.

In front of the ticket office is a metal staircase leading down underneath the metal mesh floor. This takes you down to the "Large Stone Structure", which is claimed to be part of the building work undertaken by either David or Solomon. This claim, which is not without controversy, means that the site is popular with earnest young Zionists. A building above this site houses a free film outlining Jewish history in the area. From the terrace behind the building an excellent view of Silwan and the ancient rock-cut tombs can be obtained.

  • St Peter in Gallicantu. 8:30 AM–5 PM Monday through Saturday. Located to the east of Mount Zion and overlooking the Kidron Valley, this church commemorates the traditional site of St Peter's denial of Christ. In the crypt below the church are ancient caves, purported to be the place where Christ spent the night at the hand of Caiphas before being presented to Pontius Pilate. A large wooden model of an 18th-century Old City is on display in the courtyard, although it pales in comparison to the more elaborate model on display at the Citadel (see Armenian Quarter). 7 NIS for adults and 5 NIS for students. Children under 13 are free. Parking is available at a charge of 10 NIS.
  • Schindler's Tomb A phone number has been hastily painted on the upper gate and can be called if desiring entrance. Hours are not set and more often than not, the gate to the cemetery is closed and locked. Down the hill from the Zion Gate is a small Christian cemetery. It is here that the grave of Czech-born German Oskar Schindler is located. Schindler, an industrialist during World War II, went out of his way to hire Jews as laborers in his factory. By doing so, he saved 1,200 people from the Nazi death camps. The story was memorialized in Stephen Spielberg's Academy Award-winning movie, Schindler's List.
  • Rockefeller Archaeological Museum. 10 AM–3 PM Sunday through Thursday and 10 AM–2 PM on Saturday. Located in East Jerusalem just outside the northeastern corner of the Old City walls, the Rockefeller Museum was made possible by a substantial contribution by American oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller. The museum houses an impressive collection of antiquities, including a number of the Dead Sea Scrolls. There is an admission fee.
  • Garden Tomb. 8:30 AM–noon and 2–5:30 PM Monday through Saturday. Disputed to be an alternative to the Church of the Holy Sepulcre as the location of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, the Garden Tomb is located a block north of the Damascus Gate. British general, Charles Gordon, popularized the view that the skull shaped hill just north of the city was the Golgotha referred to in the New Testament. Excavations have revealed an ancient tomb along with ruins of a cistern system and winepress—evidences that the site was once the location of a garden. Regardless of its authenticity, the lovely garden is worth a visit. Admission is free; donations are accepted.

Mount of Olives / Garden of Gethsemane

It is recommended that one explore the Mount of Olives from the top down, as the uphill climb is fairly steep. The best ways to travel to the top of the Mount of Olives are by sherut (shared taxi), which will cost 20 shekels, or by bus, both of which are easily accessible from the Damascus Gate.

If you decide to walk, the best route is to go up the lane beside the Garden of Gethsemane (Church of All Nations) and turn right, then follow the tarmac road up past the Dominus Flevit church and the Tombs of Zachariah and Malachi to the short flight of stairs which brings you out at the viewing point overlooking the Old City. Be aware that pickpockets are a real menace at this spot and make sure that your valuables are safely stowed away and that you are aware of anyone coming close to you. Photographs and engravings dating back to the late 1700s show three paths leading up over the Mount of Olives which correspond to the two paths and one road in existence today. As the right-hand path is the shortest route to Bethany, it is possible that Jesus really did follow this path on Palm Sunday, as tradition claims.

Steimatzky’s bookstore in West Jerusalem carries a very good pamphlet called "The Mount of Olives" that includes an account of the history of each church, in addition to readings from the Gospels and notes from pilgrims to the area. It also covers Bethphage and the Church of St. Lazarus in Bethany.

The following points of interest are listed from the top of the Mount to the bottom. Once you have finished on the Mount of Olives, it is a short climb to the Old City's Lion's Gate.

  • Mosque of the Ascension. The courtyard and chapel are open daily (if closed, ring the bell). Sacred to Muslims and Christians, this medieval chapel—now part of a mosque—is on the supposed site of Christ's ascension. The chapel was built around AD 380 around a venerated imprint, now set in stone, of Christ's right foot. The chapel became a Muslim shrine after Saladin's conquest in 1187. If given a "tour" by the guard, he will expect a gratuity for his services. 5 NIS.
  • Church of the Pater Noster. 9–11:30 AM and 3–5 PM Monday through Saturday. Built over Constantine-era ruins, this church sits atop a grotto where Christ is believed to have taught the Paternoster (meaning "Our Father"), or Lord's Prayer. The church is famous for its tiled panels inscribed with the Lord's Prayer in more than 130 languages. The Seven Arches Hotel is a short walk from the church.
  • Tombs of the Prophets. Hours are 9 AM–3:30 PM Monday through Friday. At the top of the Jewish Cemetery, which spans the southwestern slope of the Mount of Olives, lies a large catacomb complex containing oven-shaped graves (kokhim). The Palestinian family which discovered the catacomb claims that the tombs belonged to the 5th century BC prophets Haggai, Malachi and Zechariah. Rather the catacombs date from a much later period, the 1st century AD. There is an admission charge.
  • Dominus Flevit Chapel. 8–11:45 AM and 2:30–5 PM daily. Its name meaning "The Lord Wept", this chapel was identified by medieval pilgrims as the place where Jesus wept over the fate of Jerusalem. The chapel's west window frames a breathtaking view of the Old City. A small collection of stone artifacts from nearby excavations are on display.
  • Church of St. Mary Magdalene (02) 628 4371. 10 AM–noon, Tuesday and Thursday (call to double check the times). This Russian Orthodox Church, with its gilded onion domes, was built by Tsar Alexander III in 1885 in memory of his mother, Maria Alexandrovna, whose patron saint was Mary Magdalene. Tsar Alexander III's sister-in-law, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, was buried here after her murder during the Russian Revolution in 1920.
  • Church of All Nations / Garden of Gethsemane. 8 AM–noon and 2:30–5 PM (summer: 6 PM) daily. Also known as the Church of Agony because it is built over the rock where Jesus agonized about his death, this 4th-century church has been rebuilt many times, the most recent structure being the result of financial contributions from 12 nations. To commemorate the benefactors, the church was designed with 12 domes adorned with each country's coat of arms. The rock in the center of the nave is the remnant of the ruined Byzantine church. The plan of the Byzantine church is outlined on the floor in black marble. Next to the church is the surviving part of the Garden of Gethsemane with its centuries-old olive trees.
  • Tomb of the Virgin / Cave of Gethsemane. Hours for the Tomb of the Virgin are 8 AM–noon and 2:30–5 PM daily. Hours for the Cave of Gethsemane are 8:30 AM–noon and 2:30–5 PM daily. Directly across from the Church of All Nations, the Tomb of the Virgin is believed to be where the Disciples entombed Mary, the mother of Jesus. Forty-seven steps lead past side niches and down to crypt, which contains the burial place of Queen Melisande of Jerusalem, St. Anne and St. Joachim (Mary's parents) and the Virgin Mary. Outside, to the right of the entrance, is the Cave of Gethsemane, also known as the Cave of Betrayal, the traditional place of Judas's betrayal of Jesus.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Golden Gate

Al-Aqsa Mosque

Dome of the Rock

Jaffa Gate

Western Wall

Damascus Gate

Lion\'s Gate

Temple Mount

Dung Gate

Dominus Flevit Church

Church of Mary Magdalene

New Gate

Cathedral of St. James

Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem

Church of All Nations

Garden of Gethsemane

Zion Gate

Dormition Abbey

Mount Zion

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About Jerusalem

Climate

Located near the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea, Jerusalem has a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters.

Winters are very wet, with nearly all of Jerusalem's annual 590 mm (23 in) of precipitation occurring between October and April. The coldest month is January, with an average high of 12°C (53°F) and an average low of 4°C (39°F). Sub-freezing temperatures are not an everyday occurrence, but do happen, and the city will get occasional snowfall during the winter, though it usually only lasts a matter of hours rather than days. However, every once in a while the city will experience significant accumulating snow.

Summers are hot and dry as a bone with virtually no rainfall between the months of May and September. Temperatures will generally approach around 30°C (88°F) during the day and cool to around 15°C (59°F) at night. Being near the desert, there is often a big difference between the day and night temperatures, and even the hottest days can turn into chilly nights. Spring and fall are mild, with minimal rainfall and pleasant temperatures.

Activities

  • Walk the Via Dolorosa - the "way of sorrows" traditionally traces the last steps of Christ from where he was tried to Calvary, where he was crucified, and the tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulcre where he is said to have been buried. There is no historical basis for the 0.25 km (0.16 miles) route, which has changed over the centuries. Nevertheless, pilgrims traditionally walk the route, identifying with Jesus' suffering. Along the route are 14 Stations of the Cross, each connected with a particular story or event. "Guides" hanging around the beginning of the Via will give you a tour for a small fee, accompanied by informed commentary, but this is not necessarily the best plan. Paying a token amount to get yourself started is not a bad plan, but if you have a guide book you can likely handle it better on your own from there, due to the crowded and winding nature of the Via through the Old City's narrow streets. Not all the guides are as respectful of the religious sites along the Via Dolorosa as they could be, sometimes walking headlong into occupied churches mid-service.
    • First Station - Jesus is condemned to death. The traditional site of the Roman fortress where this took place lies inside a Muslim college.
    • Second Station - Jesus takes up his cross after his flagellation and coronation of thorns. This takes place in front of the Monastery of Flagellation.
    • Third Station - Jesus falls beneath the weight of his cross. This is commemorated by a small chapel with a marbel relief above the door.
    • Fourth Station - Jesus meets his mother Mary. A sculpture above the door of the Armenian Church of Our Lady of the Spasm represents this.
    • Fifth Station - Simon of Cyrene is ordered to help carry the cross of Christ. This point at the start of the ascent to Calvary is marked by a Franciscan oratory.
    • Sixth Station - Veronica wipes away Jesus' blood and sweat and her handkerchief reveals an impression of his face. This story, not recorded in the Bible, is commemorated by The Chapel of St Veronica.
    • Seventh Station - Jesus falls for the second time, as indicated by a large Roman column in a Franciscan chapel.
    • Eighth Station - Jesus consoles the women of Jerusalem (Luke 23:28), and is marked by a Latin cross on the wall of a Greek Orthodox Monastery.
    • Ninth Station - Jesus falls for the third time. This place is marked on a Roman column at the entrance to the Ethiopian Monastery.
    • Tenth to Thirteenth Stations - These four stations (Jesus is stripped of his clothes, nailed to the cross, dies, and is taken down from the cross) are all in the place identified as Golgotha (Calvary) within the Church of the Holy Sepulcre.
    • Fourteenth Station - the Holy Sepulcre itself, the purported tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea who asked Pilate for Jesus' body.
  • Ramparts Walk - visitors can walk along two sections of the Old City wall, from Jaffa Gate clockwise to St Stephen's Gate, and counter-clockwise from Jaffa Gate to the Dung Gate. Access to the ramparts is only possible at Jaffa and Damascus gates, although walkers can descend at any gate. Hours are 9AM–4PM (2PM on Fridays) daily. Admission is 16 shekels for adults and 8 shekels for students and children.
  • Attend a church service, if you're that way inclined.... For Christian services and addresses of churches (most denominations are represented in Jerusalem), call the Christian Information Centre, Jaffa Gate, telephone 6272692, open Monday through Saturday, 8:30 p.m.–1:00 p.m.
  • Jerusalem Free Tour, starts near Jaffa Gate. A great (and free!) tour of the Old City, taking in all the main sites in all four quarters. Moki, the tour guide, is fun and knowledgable. If you enjoy the tour they encourage you to tip at the end. Lasts about three hours.

Food

The Old City tempts the taste buds with Arabic, Jewish, Mediterranean and International fare. Visitors on the go can grab food from street vendors, while those desiring a more formal meal can find numerous restaurants scattered throughout each quarter.

Common appetizers and quick treats may include Kibbe, an oval-shaped croquette of cracked wheat filled with meat and onions; Hummos, a chickpea paste with olive oil; Tabuleh, finely-chopped parsley with tomato and cucumber; and Tahini, a sesame seed paste with parsley, oil and garlic.

Main dishes usually consist of lamb or chicken meat with occasional beef, but never pork. Meats can be cooked in a variety of ways, but is most often cooked on a spit. Take-away restaurants offer favorites like falafel (deep-fried balls of mashed chickpeas) and shwarma (lamb grilled on a spit and eaten in flat bread).

Dessert options range from exotic or citrus fruits to sticky, sweet Middle Eastern confections. Baklava is a layered pastry filled with powdered pistachio and covered in honey or syrup. Kanafeh, a recipe that differs throughout the Middle East, is served in Jerusalem as pistachios in a crisp coating of pastry threads.

An issue that may be confusing to many travelers is the issue of Jewish dietary laws, or Kashrut. These laws state that certain meat is considered impure (anything that does not chew the cud and have a split hoof, including pork and rabbit), as well as certain types of seafood (anything without scales or fins). Animals that are permitted for consumption have been slaughtered according to Jewish religious practices and cleansed of all traces of blood before cooking, allowing the food to be declared kosher. Other complications revolve around the fact that meat and dairy products can never be eaten together in the same meal. In Jerusalem you will find that all types of restaurants can be kosher, not just Jewish ones.

Jewish Quarter

Ask if there is a discount or ask for the 'harova' discount. This is for people who are living or staying inside the Old City, but merchants don't know where you are staying or how long you have been here. If you are feeling cautious, say you are staying at the Heritage House. You can ask for the discount in English as there are many Anglophone guests and residents.

Be careful where you sit. There are dairy and meat only eating areas.

  • Quarter Cafe, Tiferet Yisrael St.,  (02) 628 7770. Known more for its scenery rather than for its food, the Quarter Cafe offers a view over the Western Wall and Temple Mount. Under $15.
  • Bonkers Bagels, 2 Tiferet Yisrael St.,  (02) 627 2590. Open Sunday - Thursday 9:00AM - 6:00PM. Friday 9:00AM - two hours before Shabbat. Motzei Shabbat from one hour after Shabbat. Closed Shabbat. This restaurant is located between the Hurva Square and the Kotel. The menu consists of a wide selection of bagels and toppings, including vegetables and spreads. Under $5.
  • Tzaddik's Deli, Tiferet Yisrael St.,  (02)627 2148. At Tzaddik's you can find deli sandwiches, hot dogs, chips, a selection of drinks, and even Thanksgiving dinner during the appropriate season.
  • Rami's Pizza, 131 HaYehudim. You can buy pizza, calzones, soft-serve ice cream (American ice cream) and a variety of drinks.
  • Menorah Cafe, 71 & 73 HaYehudim. This cafe is actually two restaurants, one dairy and one meat. The dairy menu has fish, pastas, salads, soups, sandwiches, and cakes. The meat cafe serves hamburgers, salads, kabobs, hot deli sandwiches, fries (chips), steak, and chicken. A meal for about $10.
  • CoffeeBagel, 18 Tiferet Israel. This cafe is in the Jewish Quarter, and is dairy-Kosher. Any combination of delicious things on a bagel is served with a smile. A quick and delicious bagel with just about anything you can imagine.
  • Burgers Bar, Tiferet Israel. Kosher.
  • Joseph Kohen, Tiferet Israel. Chicken Shnitzel, Falafel, Shwarma 28-48 NIS.
  • Mehadrin (Beit El Road). Good pizza, delicious omelettes, slushies. 10-20 NIS.
  • Ne'eman Pastries (מאפה נאמן), Cardo Street. They sell two "personal pizzas" for 20 NIS. The cheese is thin and the bread is puffy, but good. There is little or no sauce. The bakery has a good selection of pastries.
  • Papàs, Tiferet Israel. Pizza, Falafel, Ice Cream
  • Pizza Cardo Café, Cardo Street. Standard triangle pizza that Americans will be used to. It is fairly comparable in quality, however the taste is a little off. Kosher. 10 NIS per slice.

Christian Quarter

  • Amigo Emil, Al Khanqa St. (El Khanka St. Bazaar (left side as you go downhill)),  02-6288090. 9:00AM -10:00PM. This friendly place, set on a quiet bazaar street at the edge of the Christian Quarter, is a good choice for a Western-style meal and a break from the bustle of the Old City. You can order chicken wings in barbecue sauce; omelets; old-fashioned chicken soup; meat lasagna; boneless, breaded chicken breast stuffed with Israeli feta cheese; a mezze of Arabic appetizers; or grilled meats. There are special touches, such as delicious carabage halab (a wonderful Arabic pastry made by the owner's family); fresh tangerine juice in season; and there's even espresso. As this is a Christian-owned establishment, there's a wine and beer list. $5-$15.
  • Grand Shisha Bar & Cafe 02-6271507. inside Jaffa Gate as you enter the archway under the New Imperial Hotel. A nice place to spend great time with family & friends. Traditional middle eastern oriental setting and colorful divan seats .Enjoy world and local beers (Taybeh), wine, soft/hot beverages,shishas and much more and listen to your favorite music.Internet/wi-fi.Jerusalemite family business since 1954.
  • Versavee Bistro Bar & Cafe, 41 Greek Catholic Patriarchate (second left past the Tourist Information Office inside Jaffa Gate, into historical Versavee Building (part of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate)),  02-6276160. 08:30 - 00:00. Versavee is a cosy place where you can enjoy and chill, listen to cool music and watch TV. You can enjoy coffees and teas, fresh croissants, fresh juices, apple, grapefruit and pomegranate. Soft drinks, beers & beverages, snacks, munchies, full cocktail bar, tobacco & free wi-fi.

Armenian Quarter

  • Armenian Tavern, 79 Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate Rd. (from Jaffa Gate, turn right at the Citadel/Tower of David and continue straight down the street past the post office; the restaurant is on the right hand side down a small flight of stairs),  (02) 627 3854. 11 AM–10:30 PM Tu-Su; reservation required Fr–Sa evenings. Traditional Armenian food in an atmospheric setting: a Crusader period arched cellar complete with indoor fountain, wooden tables and the ubiquitous hand-painted Armenian tiles. Alcoholic beverages available. NIS 30-60.

Muslim Quarter

Some of the best and cheapest falafel and shwarma joints can found on Saladin Street, just outside Damascus Gate. In addition to the restaurant listed below, there are numerous of pushcarts and stands right outside the gate serving fresh off the grill (and into a pita) food for around NIS 6 a serving (usually not kosher).

  • We stayed at the Austrian Hospice and tho the breakfasts were good, the restaurant was poor and pricey. (It has a nice garden though.)

There are plenty of small Arab restaurants in the Old City but in January many closed at nightfall. (They are of course Halal.)

  • Just outside Damascus Gate, the Arabic restaurant at the Jerusalem Hotel, and also the little upstairs restaurant just round the corner from there, on Nablus Road are recommended.
  • Abu Shukri, 63 El Wad Road (corner of Via Dolorosa),  (02) 627 1538. 8 AM–5 PM daily. A small, simple restaurant that is known for its quality hummus and serves a variety of Middle Eastern favorites. Not kosher. Under $15.
  • BASTI Restaurant, 70 El Wad Road , opposite to the (AUSTRIAN HOSPICE) & 3rd station of Via Dolorosa,  026284067. 9am-10 pm. A family-owned restaurant that has been open since 1927. If you don't like the pizza it's free. Also offers shawrma, chicken shishkabab and lamb shishkabab (all are served with saldes and humus and chips) as well as natural lemon with mint juice. .less than 13 $.
  • Jerusalem Star, 32 El Wad Road. 10 AM–10 PM daily. Not kosher.
  • Nasr Restaurant. An excellent hole-in-the-wall shawarma place inside the Old City with delicious French fries and all the fixings you can put in your pita. Not kosher.

Drinks

Coffee and tea are the two most common drinks among Jews and Arabs, although each has a preferred way of making it. In Jewish areas, coffee and tea are drunk in European or American-style cafés. Espresso is offered, but is weak compared to katzar, a stronger coffee. In Arab areas, coffee (qahweh) is served thick and strong and is meant to be consumed in small sips. If Western-style coffee is preferred, ask for Nescafé or filtered coffee. Tea (shay) is stronger than Western-style tea and is drunk with lots of sugar. If Western-style tea is preferred, ask for shay Libton (Lipton tea).

Bottled water is inexpensive (usually, be careful where you buy) and readily available throughout the Old City. Carrying an extra bottle of water is recommended due to the dry, dusty climate.

Some restaurants serve alcohol. The main beers are Israeli Maccabee/Goldstar and Arab Taybeh beer. Spirits are less widely available but are commonly sold in hotel bars.

Shopping

In terms of buying snacks, water and other drinks as you wander the old city the prices are much more inflated in the Jewish Quarter and near the Jaffa gate and the Muristan. As you move closer to the Damasus gate it is possible to find 1.5 liter bottles of water for 5 Shekels while a .5 liter bottle may cost you as much as 9 Shekels in the more touristy areas. Souk Khan al-Zeit and El-Wad streets are the main arteries of the Muslim quarter. Souk Khan al-Zeit begins just east of the Muristan while El-Wad begins at the outlet of the tunnel to the Western Wall Plaza with both leading north towards the Damascus gate. While these streets contain numerous souvenir shops and cafes catering to tourists, the majority of shops serve the local population. Butchers, Western clothing stores, hardware shops, and groceries can be found throughout the area.

The Suq El Attaria is the primary shopping area in the Arab quarters of the Old City. You will find shops ranging from souvenirs to greengrocers to traditional clothing.

The lanes and alleys in and near the Christian quarter abound in shops displaying icons and other churchy items. The quality ranges from kitsch to alright - and prices are mostly grossly inflated. Credit card scams are not unknown. Shop proprietors are seasoned masters at gentle but effective commercial manipulation - inviting bypassing tourists into their shops, involving them in innocuous conversation and directing them into 'you must buy this' situations.

The Old City of Jerusalem is also known for its Armenian ceramics. With white and a rich blue as the base colors, and bright paintings on them, they are a distinct souvenir. The street signs throughout the old quarter are made of Armenian ceramics, and a few shops will produce custom nameplates and tile signs with a short turnaround time. Ceramics from Hebron are also popular with tourists.

The Cardo is the most prestigious shopping precinct in the Jewish Quarter. Built on the excavated remains of late Roman era Jerusalem (many of which can still be seen), the shops here specialise in arts and crafts, jewelry, Judaica, Dead Sea beauty products, quality souvenirs and T-shirts, amongst other things. Although, be advised that similar products tend to be significantly more pricey than elsewhere in the Old City.

  • Sinjlawi, 25 David St., Old City (Jaffa Gate, straight down the main shopping alley),  547.698886. STAY AWAY FROM THIS SHOP!! Subtle harassment and haggling is the modus operandi and the father/son owners will not hesitate to be untruthful. Beware of being scammed into believing that all shop proceeds on the Armenian Christmas Day go to the children in Bethlehem.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Jerusalem/Old City on Wikivoyage.

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