Jerusalem is probably the city more connected to religion in the world, as it is the origin of the three main monotheistic religions: Islam, Judaism and Christianity. You can see this in every street of the old city of Jerusalem.
The old city is protected by a wall, and you can access it from eight different gates: Damascus, Herod’s, Lions’, Golden, Dung, Zion, Jaffa, New. Inside these walls, there are 4 quarters: Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Armenian. Each quarter has its own temples, shops, restaurants, schools… and each of them accommodates the followers of each religion.
The old city is full of narrow and entangled streets, and every building is built with the same type of stone, that’s the reason why all the buildings have the same color. As I told you in the last post, it is here where most of the places of interest are concentrated.
After a security control, the most famous spot in the Jewish Quarter is the Wailing Wall. It is named that way because it is the only part of the first Jewish temple that remains.
As a good monotheist and patriarchal religion, the wall is divided into to parts, since men and women pray separated. The part for the men is clearly the main one, and of course, the biggest.
According to the jewish religion, it is the nearest place to God, so apart from praying, it is the place to talk to Him and ask him for something, if you have something to ask for. You can even leave it written in a piece of paper.
We took our time, seated down on a chair and wrote down our letter. At first I didn’t know what to write, but I started and I almost wrote a whole sheet. Then I folded it and introduced it in one of the holes of the wall. I put my hands in the wall and thought about all I have written in the letter. Then we noticed that when they finished praying, they left backward, so we did the same.
By the way, the Wailing Wall as we know it is just a part of the wall. There are more parts less crowded in which you can do the same ritual.
Other spots of interest in the jewish quarter are the Cardo, as well as the shops and the different synagogues. The Cardo are the remains of an old street of the Roman period. It is 6 meters under the city. The city has been conquered so many times, then built and built again, that it is several meters above where used to be some centuries ago.
The most famous place in the muslim quarter is its main temple. In this case, two mosques located in what is known as “Temple Mount”.
Al-Aqsa mosque is the one with the silver dome. If it were located in any other part of the world, it would be an outstanding mosque. The problem is that it is just in front of the Dome of the Rock (it is not a mosque, but a praying center), and it is imposible competing with it. It is named that way because it contains in the inside the rock from where all muslims think that Mohammed ascended to meet God. For christians and jewish, it is the rock where Abraham was about to sacrifice his son Isaac. I’m not going to add adjectives because it doesn’t need them, it simply stands out. To me, the most beautiful spot in Jerusalem.
It is not allowed visiting them on the inside, and at praying hours there can’t be tourists in the enclosure. It is really important taking into account the visiting days and hours (Friday closed, rest of the days from 7.30 a.m. to 10.30 a.m. and from 12.30 p.m. to 13.30 p.m.), as I consider it as a mandatory place to visit in Jerusalem. Besides, to enter you have to pass a security control and cover your legs and shoulders completely (for the women, I guess that for men it is not a problem). If don’t have them covered, they give you clothes for it.
It is the third place more sacred for the muslims after Mecca and Medina. Something curious is that the security of the Temple Mount is controlled by the security force of Jordan. That is why the uniforms of the security staff are different from the rest of police you will see in the city.
In this case, the spots of interest are more separated. As I have mentioned before, I am totally atheist, but obviously the christian religion is the one I know more. Maybe that is why I think there are more spots of interest, because I have more information.
Almost the 14 Stations of the Cross are located in this quarter, and you can go through them in both ways. You can’t miss the view of Jerusalem from the Olive Mount. Without problems you can get up there walking, but you have to take into account that it is about 15-20 minutes of continuous incline. It is also possible getting there in taxi or bus, but it is worth it walking, as in the way you can visit the Garden of Gethsemane, Mary’s tomb, Gethsemane cave and the orthodox church of Mary Magdalene.
Without any doubt the most important church of the christian quarter is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is where the three lasts Stations of Cross are located: Mount Calvary where Jesus was crucified, the stone where he was anointed before buried and the sepulchre itself. The queue for entering the sepulchre is way too long and it can take perfectly more than an hour.
Another spot of interest in this quarter are the famous “Rooftops of Jerusalem”. They are not marked, so you have to look for them on purpose. And as most of the places in the old city, it is not easy finding them among the entangled streets. It consists on getting on the rooftops from where you can contemplate a panoramic view of the city. It is free, but I insist that it is not an easy place to find.
The Armenian, despite of being christians, have heir own quarter. It is the smallest one of the four and the least crowded. Part of the Cardo goes through it, but the main part is in the jewish quarter. It doesn’t have big spots of interest as the rest, but it has churchs, craftworks shops and restaurants, so it is a nice place to have a walk.
If you have time, my advise is once you have seen the important or the things you are interested in, take a walk without a destination and get lost. Every time we took a different way, we discovered something different. Walk and let it surprise you!