THE END TIME
The Mount of Olives owes its name to the numerous olive trees there, but over the centuries, many peoples have called it by different names. For example, the Jews used to refer to it as the Mount of Anointing, because kings and priests were anointed with oil from the trees.
Looking down from the Temple Mount on a beautiful sunny day, around 150,000 tombstones lie on the western slope of the mountain in no obvious order. For thousands of years, Jews have buried their loved ones here. Among them are King David´s son, Absalom, Rabbi Kook and politician Menachem Begin.
The Mount of Olives is mentioned several times in the Bible: the first time in the episode in which King David is said to have climbed the mountain to escape Absalom. Also, in the Book of Zechariah, where it is described that at the end of time God will appear on the Mount of Olives and the mountain will split into two parts, marking the beginning of the resurrection of the dead.
According to Christian tradition, Jesus´ last walk took place in the Kidron Valley, which lies between the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives. On the northern slope of the mountain is the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was captured. Therefore, on the Mount of Olives, there are also numerous churches such as the Church of the Pater Noster and the Church of All Nations.
There are many buses that take tourists to the foot of it. The hike is long: we advise you to wear comfortable shoes, and bring plenty of water to hydrate yourself along the way. From the city it is exactly 2 km, half an hour´s walk. The view from the top is breath-taking: you can admire the city and feel the spirituality of the place.
In front of the Seven Arches Hotel is the lookout point, which offers a unique panoramic view of the walled city, the City of David and the Kidron Valley.
The Mount of Olives is right in front of the Golden Gate, so the views of the Esplanade of the Mosques and the Dome of the Rock are simply amazing.
Address: Seven Arches Hotel. Mount of Olives Road 1
One of the most common misconceptions about Israel is that people here only eat falafel and hummus. While this is partially true, the country´s food scene, especially in Jerusalem, has become very broad, offering tourists and locals alike options like any other international important city.
The new trend in recent years is to feature dishes that combine traditional cuisine with contemporary flavours. Most, but not all, of Jerusalem´s restaurants comply with the rules of "kosherut", which means they only use ingredients that come from kosher animals and that have been slaughtered according to the rite prescribed by Jewish tradition.
In these restaurants, meat and dairy products cannot be used together. For example, in a kosher pizzeria you will never find meat on your pizza with mozzarella. Kosher restaurants have a certificate at the entrance and are closed from Friday afternoon until Saturday evening.
The culinary options on offer at Mahane Yehuda reflect the variety of tastes in Israeli cuisine. Take a stroll through the market streets and sample the sweets (among our favourites the Marzipan bakery), spices, breads, cheeses and savoury hot dishes that can be purchased from the numerous stalls. If you´re looking for a place to sit and eat, try the Hafinjan restaurant, which serves specialities such as tasty meat stews and koubeh soup, just outside the market area. Chatzot is a popular traditional restaurant that offers a variety of meat dishes and local cuisine. In recent times, Machane Yehuda has undergone a gradual process of renovation. One of the results is the opening of a number of elegant restaurants specialising in cuisine that utilises elements of the culinary tradition with a thoroughly contemporary sensibility. These include Hamotzi (North African cuisine), Jacko´s Street and Mahneyuda, a restaurant that has received excellent reviews. These places use almost exclusively fresh produce bought from the market.
Address: Agripas Street 90
What is worth buying in Jerusalem? This is a question thousands of tourists ask themselves when they travel to the holy city. The Israeli city is a coveted destination for pilgrims from all over the world and a place where you can economically buy local products: bags, spices and small boxes with traditional Middle Eastern engravings. Goods made of ceramics. Their colour varies from white to blue, depending on the concept they represent. The decorations are often reminiscent of the holy places of Galilee.
In addition to all this, we mustn’t forget the objects made from olive wood. The processing of this particular material in the land of Israel has a millennia-long tradition. The handcrafted objects made from it follow strict guidelines, which are often handed down from father to son in order to respect tradition.
Remember about the holy books. In the Holy Land, books are very popular and are made with different materials and methods. You can buy a Torah written in Yiddish or English at inexpensive prices. You can also buy Bibles. Some copies for sale are written in ancient Hebrew and are true works of art.
The streets of Jerusalem are also lined with merchants selling cheap clothes in pure linen or aromatic spices which are considered as the queens of Middle Eastern cuisine.
If you´re looking for authentic local wares, the Arab souk in old city is for you. Located in the Muslim and Christian districts, it can be accessed by entering through the Jaffa Gate and going straight ahead into the Muslim Quarter. When you see different clothes and items hanging from above, you´ll know you´ve come to the right place. You can also call it Little Istanbul. This market is a typical one full of the creativity of local artisans reflected in both the clothes and the food. Christian, Jewish and Islamic religious items can be bought here, usually at lower prices than on Ben Yehuda Street, but this also depends on your bargaining skills (we suggest you start by offering half the price offered).
Visiting this place, you will feel like you have stepped back in time. Traders have been working in these narrow streets for over two thousand years, day after day; the authenticity of this very old Middle Eastern market is something that has no equal in the Western world, and perhaps not even in Israel.
Address: Old City Bazar. Shuk ha-Tsabaim Street
THE GOLDEN DOME
The Temple Mount, a holy site for Muslims and Jews, is undoubtedly Jerusalem´s most famous attraction. The golden dome, visible from every viewpoint, is the symbol of the city and is perhaps the most photographed attraction.
The Dome of the Rock is the third most important Islamic site after Mecca and Medina, and is the oldest surviving Islamic monument. Although it is a place of worship, this building was not built as a mosque; its original purpose was to commemorate the victory of Islam, which completes the revelation of the other two monotheistic faiths, and to compete in splendour and magnificence with the great Christian shrines.
It is located in the sacred precinct where the temple in Jerusalem had been, and where, according to tradition, the sacrifice of Isaac had taken place. According to the narrative of Quran, Muhammad undertook a journey from the nearest sanctuary, the Kaaba in Mecca, to the farthest, the temple in Jerusalem. From the rock inside the building, the prophet rose to the heavens to receive his first revelation from the archangel Gabriel. Tradition has it that the footprints of al-Borak, Muhammad´s mythological horse, were carved into the rock.
The Dome was completed in 691-692 A.D. and has characterised the skyline of Jerusalem ever since. It is the clearest example of the crossroads between Byzantine and emerging Islamic art. It has a particular character that distinguishes it from other Umayyad mosques and, in contrast, brings it closer to the Christian sanctuaries of Jerusalem and the Holy Land.
The Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malid ibn Marwan, who began construction, was more intent on building a sanctuary and a house to shelter Muslim pilgrims, rather than a mosque for public worship.
The structure has been restored many times over the centuries and the dome has been covered with gold and tiles. The most recent restoration was carried out in 1998 by the Jordanian King Hussein II, who sold one of his houses in London to finance the purchase of the 80 kilograms of gold needed to cover the dome.
The interior of the sanctuary is decorated with mosaics, marble and inscriptions. One of the reasons why the sanctuary has remained intact over the centuries, withstanding numerous earthquakes responsible for the destruction of many neighbouring buildings, is the octagonal shape of the structure.
Non-Muslim visitors are not allowed to enter the Dome of the Rock, but can see it up close by entering the Esplanade at the permitted times. Entry is only possible via the wooden bridge next to the Western Wall. As with many other holy sites in Jerusalem, visitors to the Dome of the Rock are also advised to wear long trousers and covered shoulders.
After passing through the metal detector, you will enter a magical place to behold such beauty.
Address: The Temple Mount
SEARCHING FOR MARIA
In the Kidron Valley, at the foot of the Mount of Olives, near the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations, is the Tomb of Mary.
Although most orthodox Christians firmly believe that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was buried here, no one today can believe that her remains are still there. In fact, according to some Christian traditions, Mary was assumed into heaven with her entire body.
However, while Catholic Christians believe that Mary never died, Orthodox Christians believe that Mary died, was buried, was resurrected three days after death (like her own son Jesus) and then ascended to heaven.
As with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus is believed to have been crucified and buried, the Church of the Tomb of Mary was initially built in the period of Constantine I, in the IV century A.D. The sanctuary was subsequently destroyed and rebuilt several times over the centuries. The present structure was built by the Franciscan friars in the second half of the XIV century.
The Greek Orthodox Church administers the building for worship, but shares some of the rights of
use with other Christian churches.
In the building there is a place of prayer for the Muslim faithful because Islam also venerates Mary. The Islamic part is marked by the typical wall niche (mihrab) indicating the direction of Mecca.
Mary´s Tomb is located under the church, beneath a XII century underground staircase. Here is the Chapel of St Joseph (Mary´s husband) on one side, and the chapel dedicated to Mary´s parents on the other.
To enter the crypt, where the extraordinary religious icons of medieval art are, visitors must go down the stairs. Here pilgrims pray and light candles, characterising the place of stillness and reverence.
Address: Mansurya Street
The City of David attracts around half a million visitors each year, making it one of the must-see sites and one of the most important points in understanding the history of Jerusalem.
It is the archaeological zone that shows us where the city of Jerusalem was born. King David left his beloved Hebron some 3,000 years ago and set out for Jerusalem with a clear objective: to transform it into the political, religious and spiritual capital of Israel. The place offers a unique experience for those who want to see ancient Jerusalem: discover how ancient biblical stories can take shape and return before your eyes.
The Hezekia Tunnel (also known as the Shiloah Tunnel) connects the Gihon Spring to the Siloan Pool, and is one of the few VIII century B.C. structures in the world that is accessible to the public. It is located inside the City of David and you can visit it individually or in a guided tour that can be booked directly there. Tours are in English.
This tunnel along with a VI century tunnel at Euphalois in Greece are considered the greatest engineering works of the pre-classical period.
As written in the Bible, King Hezekiah dug the 533-metre-long tunnel to fortify the city and defend it from the enemy Assyrian troops without compromising the city´s main source of drinking water, which was located outside the city walls.
Geologists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem conducted carbon-14 tests on the lining of the underground aqueduct and concluded that it was built around 700 B.C., not only as a water conduit to supply the City of David - the fortified core of ancient Jerusalem - but also as a means of dealing with the invasion of Sennacherib´s Assyria, the most powerful people in the Middle East at the time and an enemy of the Jews.
In "Chronicles", we see that Hezekiah did not want Judah to submit to Sennacherib, and devised a secret passage. The Assyrian army approached to besiege the city, so the Jews blocked all the water sources in the region around them so that the enemy would have no way to quench their thirst.
From Gihon´s spring, they channelled the liquid underground to the City of David, guaranteeing supplies for those isolated in the fortress. At the same time, the long tunnel, which was not entirely occupied by water, served as an efficient escape route beyond the walls, away from the eyes of the Assyrian troops.
The tunnel starts at the Gihon Spring in Jerusalem, which is the only one that has water all year round.
It was discovered in 1838 by Edward Robinson and cleared by Montague Parker´s team (1909-11).
Today, work continues on passages under the guidance of Ronny Reich (1995-2009). Recently, some of the tools and equipment left behind by Parker´s expedition were found.
The passage is open to the public and is a popular attraction. Visitors often walk through the tunnel in knee-deep water, which is not very pleasant in winter. It is located near the city centre, under the Esplanade of the Mosques.
Address: City of David.
Have you ever wondered what luxury and elegance were like in the ancient Old City of Jerusalem?
The Wohl Archaeological Museum will show you, with an underground tour of Jerusalem´s most glorious past through a series of dwellings built in the time of Herod the Great. Located in a narrow alleyway that starts opposite the great Hurva Synagogue, it is one of Jerusalem´s most historic museums.
King Herod was a very complex figure, on one hand a ruthless king who ruled with cruelty and on the other a refined builder, who left a very sophisticated architectural legacy whose innovative style continues to amaze to this day.
Among the finds are the houses of the Kohanim (priests) who served in the Second Temple, incredible mosaics and artwork, living rooms, bedrooms, ancient cooking utensils, ritual baths and much more. The museum is open all year round and tours inside are always available.
Herod´s Quarter was discovered in the Six-Day War during excavations in the area. From that on, the place was immediately striking, revealing stories of the luxurious and sumptuous lives of some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem during the Second Temple period.
The site shows burnt houses, witnesses to the fire in Jerusalem that occurred a month after the destruction of the Temple. The museum´s exhibition displays how rich and luxurious life was in this neighbourhood. You can see decorated tables, pottery and more.
One of the most fascinating discoveries is a mural, found on one of the walls of the houses depicting the Menorah of the Temple (the seven-branched candelabrum). It is believed to have been engraved during the Temple period and the depiction is different from what we know from the images of the Arch of Titus or the Menorah of the Knesset.
Address: Haarazim Street 1
WALK AROUND HISTORY
When in the X century B.C. David took Jerusalem, the city belonged to the tribe of the Jebusites who lived on a part of the hill where he later built his small city. We owe to the king´s son, Solomon, the expansion of the city and the construction of the imposing temple with its surrounding walls, later destroyed by the Babylonians.
Under Roman rule from 63 A.D., the government of Jerusalem passed into the hands of Herod, to whom we owe the construction of the Second Temple, one of the largest buildings in the East.
In 70 A.D., Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, who rebuilt it in 135 A.D. under the Emperor Hadrian and called it Aelia Capitolina.
With the arrival of Christianity, the city began to change its appearance, the walls incorporated external parts: Calvary, the tomb of Christ, which in Herod´s time were outside the city.
The following eras saw further transformations of the city by the Crusaders, with the construction of imposing buildings (churches, hospices, monasteries) from 1097 until 1187, when the mythical Saladin, remembered for his generosity to the losing Crusaders, reconquered Jerusalem.
In the XVI century, the city came under Turkish rule and Suleiman the Magnificent built the current walls of the Old City; his most beautiful work was the Damascus Gate, which remains one of the most representative monuments of Ottoman architecture.
From 1948 to 1967, Jordanian snipers used the walls as a point from which to fire at Israelis living outside the walls. Multiple bullet holes can still be seen in many of the older buildings facing the Old City.
Today, the walls serve a more peaceful purpose as a destination for school trips, tourists and Jerusalem enthusiasts.
The Ramparts Walk (a walk along the walls) is divided into two separate paths. Both are included in the admission ticket and both have their differences.
The northern promenade is the longer one covering a much larger area. It stretches from Jaffa Gate (on the west side of the Old City) to Lions´ Gate (on the east side, approaching the Dome of the Rock). You pass over the Christian Quarter with its numerous churches, from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to the Church of the Flagellation, among many others. The walk continues to the Muslim Quarter, where mosques and minarets, as well as schools and playgrounds, can be seen from a unique angle.
You should wear comfortable shoes as the rock walls are uneven and may be difficult to walk on for some. The way ends just beyond the Lions´ Gate, approaching the Dome of the Rock Mosque. You can descend and explore or you can turn back. Turning around and descending through the Damascus Gate is a great way to see a lot on the way back. This includes an Arab souk.
The walk on the south side is shorter, starting at the Tower of David (on the west side of the Old City, next to the Jaffa Gate), continues to the south side of the city, ending between the Zion and Dung Gates. From here you can see the Armenian churches and important historical buildings such as the Dormition Abbey and St. Peter´s Church. In addition, you can walk over the Israeli police stables which are a reminder of the times of former British and Jordanian rule (where horses were used for military purposes). Descending before Dung Gate, there is a short walk to the Western Wall (Kotel) and the surrounding sites.
While the stroll along the ramparts is great fun for adults and older children, it is not a suitable activity for young children, people who are afraid of heights or those who have trouble walking.
Address: Ramparts Walk. Jaffa Gate
THE GARDEN TOMB
Being in Jerusalem during the Holy Week is a total experience, maybe emotionally excessive. The centrepiece of this experience is, of course, the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, centre of rituals and arrival point for thousands of pilgrims. But if you want to escape this excess and seek a less symbolic and more meditative dimension, there is an ´alternative´ Holy Sepulchre where, at any time of the year, there are never crowds of pilgrims.
Outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, there is a small quiet garden near a bus station, with a strangely shaped rock in the centre, a rock that resembles a skull, and which, precisely for this reason, was identified by some XIX century Anglo-Saxon scholars as the true seat of the tomb of Jesus Christ. It is called the Garden Tomb.
The evidence provided to support this theory, however, has never been very convincing and only a few now support its veracity but, beyond the historical and philological significance, this is a strange place indeed.
You are welcomed by very friendly volunteers who politely illustrate the context without insisting too much on the fact that this is the real tomb, emphasising rather what the context is like, with the shape of the rock, the caves, the tombs and the fountain. This place, in fact, has undergone so many changes over the centuries that today it is such a complex and fascinating monument that it is even disorienting, certainly far removed from the image evoked in the Gospel of John, which is the only one in which a garden is mentioned: "In the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been buried" (John 19:41).
The reasons that led numerous Protestant scholars and researchers to identify the real Golgotha at this site (most notably a fervent English military man, General Gordon, whose name identifies the tomb as "Gordon´s Tomb") lie in the fact that Protestants and Anglicans have never been included among the different Christian confessions divided between the Custody of the Holy Sepulchre (Catholics, Orthodox, Armenians, Syriacs, Copts, Ethiopians) and that this place could therefore become the centre of reference for their pilgrims.
While we are firmly convinced that all "symbolic" places possess an uncommon power, we cannot blame those who argue that it is easier to meditate in the silence of this garden than in the chaotic overcrowding of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre.
The Garden Tomb, on the other hand, is constantly quiet, enigmatic, and solitary. Believers must be induced to immerse themselves through the words of the Gospel, rather than through obsessive archaeological investigation. For this reason, the veracity of the site may not be so determined. For those who do not believe, it is interesting to compare the astonishing architectural complexity of the Basilica with the utter simplicity of the Garden Tomb, reflecting on how important symbols can be in a historical and spiritual journey.
A quiet and peaceful place, suitable for taking a break and meditating.
Address: The Garden Tomb. Conrad Schick Street
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