Jerusalem old city Nov 2013
Left Tel Aviv on local bus #480 to Jerusalem; took 18 shekels each (about $5) and about 1 hour to reach the Jerusalem Central Station. From a fellow passenger, found out that the hotel was close to this station, and so walked 5 minutes to the hotel and got situated.
Jerusalem is a great city, with an old city in the center, and new city built up outwards from the old city. The “new” city is also fairly old, and they have a light rail system which makes it great for getting around for about $1. Took this train to the old walled city, which has been very well restored. The old city is walled, and has 4 quarters (Jewish, Armenian, Christian and Muslim). There are a number of gates that one uses to enter into the old city. Once inside, you feel you are in the middle ages looking at the building, shops etc. You walk down old gulleys and alleys that have shops, restaurants and houses all around, with lots of people everywhere. See the pictures to get a better idea. Plan was to visit the Jewish, Muslim and Christian most holiest sites; which are all located here; the confluence of these 3 great monotheistic religions. Since it was evening by the time we got to the Jaffa Gate of the old city, the Al-Aqsa and Dome of the rock were closed, so we went to the Western Wall. What a site with many people praying at the Wall, which is the holiest site for Jews; being the foundation wall of the Temple Mount temples. Man and women prayed in separated parts on the same wall. Amazing site.
Then walked to the Muslim Qtr to find some good Arabic food, but were disappointed, as the Muslim Qtr seemed mostly closed and not very busy. So we exited from the Damascus Gate and had dinner at a café just outside the old city, and headed back to the hotel on the train.
Next day, went back to the old city and headed for the Al-Aqsa/Dome of the Rock. Got taken by a “guide” who told us of all restrictions getting in and how he could help etc etc. I always get taken once in a new place 🙁. Anyhow, since these places are only open for Muslims, and since we did not have our passports with us (this is a real border crossing from Israeli control to Palestinian controlled territory); we were asked to recite a part of the Koran (Surah Al Fateha), which we did and were allowed inside. First went to the Dome of the Rock, where it is believed by Muslims that the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) prayed at this rock, after arriving in Jerusalem on Buraq, the winged horse, from Mecca. It is also believe that this rock is from where angel Gibrail took Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) up into the heavens to meet all the other prophets and Allah himself on the night of Mehraj. This Dome is beautiful (see pics); and there is a rock/cave inside, which you can go down inside (cave) and pray there.
There were many visitors, and others praying in the Dome area, which is also a mosque. Then we moved to the Al-Aqsa mosque, which is in the same area, on the other end of the Temple Mount area. In between is a nice peaceful quadrangle with trees and places to cleanse oneself before prayer. Al-Aqsa mosque is huge and very nice, and was built to commemorate the prophet’s journey. Very nice place, and lots of people using it regularly for prayers. Al-Aqsa means the “far mosque” as referred to by the prophet; and is considered the 3rd holiest site for Muslim’s after Mecca and Medina.
Non muslims are allowed into the Temple Mount area (for 1 hr or so, at non-prayer times), which contains the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque, but not allowed inside them. The Rock in the Dome is holy to the Jews as they believe that is where Abraham was ready to sacrifice his son Ishmael, before God saved him.
Said our prayers, and left to go back to the Western wall (daytime visit). There were many more people here during the daytime, and there were many (I believe) Bar Mitzvah ceremonies going on with young male adolescents and their families.
After saying a prayer here also, left to get some food in the Muslim Quarter, which was now busy. Asked someone about where to get good falafels, and he directed us to the Abu Shukri restaurant, which he told us makes the best falafels in Jerusalem. This was a small basic arab restaurant, and the falafels were indeed excellent.
Then walked into the Armenian Qtr which was very nice with many nice open air restaurants, and walked along the Via Dolorosa (the Painful Path). This is supposed to be the path that the Romans forced Jesus to walk along carrying the cross, after arresting him. There are 14 stops along the way where various different things happened to Jesus. Most of these locations are now chapels or churches. Anyway, ended up at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where Jesus was crucified, died, his body was taken down and placed on a stone altar (present today), cleaned and buried in the Golgotha (also inside this church). He was resurrected from here. There were many, many people coming through this church, which actually has several chapels inside belonging to different denominations (Ethiopian, Greek, Armenian etc)
Fascinating history of all religions, all located in one small area.
Tired by this time, headed back to the hotel. Read in the hotel that today happened to be the last weekly night event for the Jerusalem Knights; which is when they bring a lot of people in medieval costumes to entertain, and have dances etc inside the old walled city. So off we went back to the old city at 8PM. The Jaffa gate part of the old city was packed with people and with entertainment (music, dances, performance, knights, jesters and entertainers, all in period costume). Great entertainment.
Caveat: I may have got my religious/historical facts wrong; please forgive me.
Highly recommend everyone to visit this historically significant place.
Amman, Jordan next.
This entry was posted in Israel, Israel Nov 2013, Jerusalem, Middle East