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Home > Articles > Middle East > Israel > Jerusalem Travel Guide - Sights to See

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Jerusalem Travel Guide - Sights to See
Jerusalem is above all a Holy City. On Friday, the Muslim merchants of the Old City close their shops and go to their Mosques. On Saturday, the Jews of the Mea Shearim sector barricade their streets to guard the sanctity of Shabbat. On Sunday, The Armenians attend churches along the Via Dolorosa. The city is divided into 3 main parts: East Jerusalem, the Walled Old City, and New City.

Transportation: An excellent system of buses. Buy a card for 25 rides and save 50%. A 7 day ticket, good on any bus, except the Sinai Area, is also available. Bus 99 stops at all scenic spots. Buses do not run on saturday.

The Old City: It is more interesting to explore the old city on your own. There are 8 different entry gates to the Old City, and each opens onto a setting of remarkably beautiful atmosphere. Jaffa Gate (Bus 1,2,19,20,23) is jammed with tourists and is the most commercial, but it is still the best entry point. Other entry gates are Damascus Gate (Bus 12), St. Stephen's (Bus 12,27), Dung Gate (Bus 1,38).

Old City Market: This section offers everything from archaeological artifacts to Bedouin dresses. The Arab Market, begins just inside Jaffa Gate. The Armenian Market is around Muristan Street and is more authentic. One must bargain at these markets.

A walking tour: Enter the Old City through Damascus Gate, take two left turns to the stairs and climb the walkway to the top of the walls. Follow the walls east, away from Jaffa Gate. As you walk, you will have a changing view of the Old City and of East Jerusalem. The huge golden dome is the Dome of the Rock, and next to it is the silver domed Mosque of El aksa. Continue the walk until you reach St. Stephen's Gate. Descend here and you will be near the first Station of the Cross... on Via Dolorosa. Each station marks an incident on the path Jesus took on the day of His Crucifixion. The last 5 stations are located inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Depart the Old City through St.Stephen's Gate and you'll be looking at the Mount of Olives.

Via Dolorosa (Stations of the Cross): Starting from the Tower of Antonia near St. Stephen's Gate and divided into 14 stations marking episodes on Jesus' route to Calvary. The first 9 stations lead to the church of the Holy Sepulcher, inside, which are the last 5 stations. Station 1... inside the gate to your left in the yard of an Arab school, is the site of a fortress in which Pilate questioned Jesus, washed his hands and condemned him. Across the narrow street is the Chapel of the Flagellation on the spot where Jesus was stripped, whipped, and forced to wear the Crown of Thorns. Station 2... Pilate declared to the crowd, "Behold the Man" and Jesus started Ills final journey up the Via Dolorosa. This station is marked by the Ecce Homo Arch, which spans the narrow street. The arch was built 100 years after Jesus's death. Station 3... Jesus falls for the first time. A small chapel commemorates the event. Station 4... Jesus meets Mary. Station 5... Simon of Cyrene takes the Cross from Jesus and carries it the rest of the way. In contradiction, John contends that Simon merely tried to help Him with the burden. Station 6... Jesus' face is wiped by Veronica. Her veil, which still carries the imprint of His face is in St. Peter's, Rome. Station 7... Jesus falls for the second time. Station 8... Jesus speaks to the women of Jerusalem, "Weep not for me but for yourselves, and for your children". A small cross is set into the wall to mark this spot. Station 9... Jesus falls for the third time. A column at the entrance of a Coptic Church marks this spot. Station 10... Jesus' robe is taken away. Station 11... Jesus is mounted on the Cross. Station 12... Jesus dies. Station 13... Jesus' body is lain on a slab of stone. Station 14... Jesus is buried and from here is resurrected. Stations 10 - 14 are within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre: One of the holiest sites in Christianity, which marks the site of the Crucifixion, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus. Situated on the hill known as Calvary, the present church is a Crusader structure. Many visitors to the church are disappointed. It is very dark and gloomy and is shared by many religious sects. The "hill" itself is indistinguishable under the church on the outside, but is exposed here and there on the inside. Just inside the church is the Stone of Unction where Jesus was anointed after being taken from the Cross. In the high-domed Rotunda is the Holy Sepulcher. There are two chapels under this area. One, called the Angel's Chapel shows the stone covering from The Tomb, which the Angel rolled away. The other Chapel contains The Tomb, and is lined with marble. Through the iron grating is Calvary. The Chapel of Adam allegedly is the spot where Adam's skull is buried.

David's Tower and the Citadel: Located to the right of Jaffa Gate, on the site of three towers built by Herod over older foundations. Herod's towers were destroyed by Hadrian, but rebuilt by Beybars in the 14th century, He added the Minaret known as David's Tower. Inside the Citadel is the City Museum in which audio-visual screen programs on the city may be seen.

St. Anne's Church: (Bus 43,45 from Damascus Gate). This church is regarded as the spot where the home of Joachim and Anne, parents of Mary, was located. A crypt shows the spot where Mary was born. This building is one of the best-preserved Crusader buildings in the country. This building also marks the spot where Jesus is said to have healed the sick man of palsy.

The Garden Tomb: (Bus 12,27). On the right side of Nablus Road, down from Damascus Gate. This is an "alternate" site of Jesus' Crucifixion, and is surrounded by an oasis-like garden. Many religious groups accept this as The Spot, and make pilgrimages. There are always groups of pilgrims in various parts of the gardens, holding services, and praying. M-Sat 8-12:30,3-5. Clo Sun.

Model of Ancient Jerusalem: (Bus 21). Located at the Holyland Hotel, Hours are 8 - 5. Interesting, IF you have time to spare.
Wailing (Western) Wall: (Bus 1,38). This is the Jewel of Jerusalem and the most sacred site to Jews. Its stones are deeply embedded in Jewish consciousness. The Wall is the only remains of the Second Temple and served as the Western retaining Wall of the Temple Courtyard (Herod's Temple). The name "Wailing Wall" was applied to it as Jews came here to pray and bewail the destruction of the Temple, the Exile, and their hard fate. In the cracks between the stones are tiny, rolled-up papers, which are notes scrawled with prayers meant for God's eyes alone. The stones are worn smooth by the loving caresses of millions of hands over the centuries. Men and women pray at different sections of the Wall in accordance with Orthodox custom. Be prepared for a very moving experience.

Dome of the Rock: Sometimes called the Mosque of Omar, this is the 3rd most important shrine in Islam, built in 691 on Mount Moriah and named after the large rock inside the Mosque. Tradition has it that this is the rock where Isaac was prepared for sacrifice, and from where Mohammed rode to heaven. The rock is also considered as the Foundation Stone of the Temple. You can discern this spot from the railing around the rock, and indeed it looks like the imprint of a human foot. The golden domed Octagonal building is an exquisite structure, a symphony of glazed tile, mosaic and marble. Open in the AM only. When one enters this heavily guarded area, expect to be searched. Shoes must be removed before entering the Shrine, and no bags or purses can be taken in.

Mosque of El Aksa: Largest of the city's Mosques, built by the Ommayad ruler Abdul Malik over 1000 years ago. It marks the furthest point on Mohammed's journey into Mecca. This silver domed Mosque is only slightly less revered than the Dome of the Rock. A legend exists about the two pillars standing near the entrance... those of the faithful who can squeeze through the space will also be able to pass through the Gates of Heaven.

MOUNT ZION: The hill is crowned by the CHURCH OF THE DORMITION and the TOMB OF DAVID. Dedicated at the beginning of the 20th century, this church, according to Christian tenets, is where Mary fell into eternal sleep. The crypt contains a stone sculpture representing Mary in her last sleep. The CENACLE, or Upper Chamber, is a Gothic room built on the site of Christ's Last Supper. A medieval building leads to the TOMB OF DAVID, which contains an impressive sarcophagus.

Mount of Olives: (Bus 75 from Damascus Gate). The setting of the Original Passion. Jewish tradition says that the Messiah will resurrect the dead from this spot. For Christians, it's the site of Jesus' Ascension. On the slopes, just outside St. Stephen's Gate is the Tomb of the Virgin. Nearby are the tombs of Her parents. The Church of All Nations is built on the site of the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was betrayed by Judas. Inside the church is the rock where Jesus rested with His disciples. St. Mary Magdalene is the Russian onion-domed church farther up the hill. Higher, still is Dominus Flevit, the place where Jesus wept over Jerusalem... the spot marked by a small Franciscan church. Just before the summit is the Tomb of the Prophets, where Zachariah, Haggai, and Malachi are said to lie at rest. Back down toward the valley road is the Virgin's Fountain where Mary took water to wash the clothes of Jesus.

Israel Museum: (Bus 9,16,24). This vast complex contains several buildings set in lovely gardens. The Biblican/Archeological/Bezalel Museums are housed in the main building. There are paintings by Picasso, Dufy, Chagall, Braque, and Rembrandt. Another major building is the Shrine of the Book, which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, the most significant find in Biblical scholarship. The peculiar shape of the building is styled after the top of a jug, similar to the jugs in which part of the scrolls were discovered. Another museum is the Billy Rose Art Garden, a collection of modern sculpture in an ideal setting amid the gardens. The works in all of these museums is beautifully displayed. Hours are Sun/Mon/Wed/Thu 10-5, Tue 4-10, Fri/Sat 10-2.

Yad Vashem: (Bus 12 goes direct). This is a gripping memorial and museum to the victims of the Holocaust. Recently opened: the very moving Children's Museum.

Hadassah Medical Center: (Bus 19,27). One goes here mainly for the Synagogue adorned with the famous Chagall windows... one for each of the 12 tribes of Israel.

John F. Kennedy Memorial: (Bus 50 from Central Bus Station). In the Judean Hills, in the vicinity of the Hadassah Medical Center. Opened in 1966 and designed in the shape of a cut tree trunk, this dramatic memorial is built with columns bearing the seal of an American State. Inside is an eternal light. To get to the memorial is a 30-minute uphill walk, but even the view from the parking lot is magnificent.

En Kerem Village: (Bus 17). Also in the vicinity of the Hadassah Medical Center. This village is regarded as the birthplace of John the Baptist. John's wife, Elizabeth and her meeting with Mary is commemorated in the Church of the Visitation. The Church of St. John commemorates the grotto where John was born.

YMCA Building: (Bus 6,15,18). This impressive building has become a landmark for Jerusalem. The observation Tower is open M-F 9-3, Sat 9-1. The excellent restaurant is the place to eat on a Friday night when other restaurants are closed.

Miscellaneous: The buildings of Jerusalem are built of the native light yellow/cream stones of the area. Do not expect to find much color; other than this... and very few signs on buildings... hardly any neon.

The Knesset: Off Rehrov Ruppin. Israel's Parliament Building. Open to the public during sessions Mon-Tue 4-9. Passport and strict security. Free tours available Sunday and Thursday 8:30 - 2:30.

Biblical Zoo: Off Rehov Yirmeyahu. Possesses a collection of animals, birds, and reptiles mentioned in the Bible. Daily 8AM-Sunset. Fri/Sat 8-4.

Monastery of the Cross: Valley of Rehaviya. Building dates from 11th c. The tree from which the Cross was made is said to have come from this valley. Bus 19 to Rehov Tchernichovsky.

Liberty Bell Garden: Montefiore Park. This garden is dedicated to the U.S. Bicentennial. It contains a replica of the Liberty Bell. Bus 4,6,7,8,10,15.

Yemin Hosie: Montefiore Park. This artists' center was the first residential quarter built outside the City Walls. That distinctive windmill is a museum devoted to Moses Montefiore.

Plant a tree: Tree Planting centers have been established at several locations throughout Israel. For a nominal contribution, visitors may plant trees and receive a certificate and pin to commemorate the event. This is a major way the Israelis have "greened-up" the countryside. If you can't "do it in person" you can have someone do it for you.

The Kibbutz: The Kibbutz (collective village) is a uniquely Israeli experience, in which all property is collectively owned and members receive no salaries, but are provided with housing, education for their children, medical services, social amenities and other necessities. Some kibbutzim have established hotels on the premises, providing visitors with a close view of this life-style. Most of them offer "lunch stops" for the tourist, and clean rest rooms.
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Author of this article is Gene Gill. For more information visit his website: Gene Gill Miniatures.
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