Jerusalem of Gold, Jerusalem the Holy – if only the cruelties of history had not made such a travesty of her name – the city of Peace. The violent tones of destruction and rebuilding, background to the strained motifs of three faiths: To Muslims it is Al-Quds, Islam's third holiest site where the prophet Mohammed ascended skyward. To Jews, Jerusalem is the Crown of Israel, Israel's eternal capital, site of the Temple, seat of David and chosen city of God. "If I forget thee O' Jerusalem, may my right hand lose its expressing" Jewish people's devotion to its capital. Christians too treasure Jerusalem, for here Jesus walked, taught and suffered through the final passion designed to redeem Mankind from sin.
Known in Arabic as Al-Azariya, Bethany was the home of Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary. Here Mary "sat at Jesus' feet, but Martha was cumbered about much serving," complaining to Jesus that Mary did not help her, Martha was told that "Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:39-40). Lazarus became ill and died. When he had been dead for four days, Jesus came from the River Jordan on his way to Jerusalem and restored him to life. Lazarus' grave is behind the Franciscan Sanctuary of St. Lazarus; a masterpiece built in 1954 by Italian architect Barluzzi, which incorporates fourth, sixth and twelfth century remains. In the church are many mosaics and copied frescos painted by G. Vagarini. Above the church is a ruined tower said to be on the side of Simon the Leper's house, where Jesus sat when a woman anointed him with precious spikenard and his fellow guest complained of the waste: "Why trouble ye the woman?" And Jesus said: "For she hath wrought good work upon me" (Mat. 26:10).
Ein Karem is the village "in the hill country of Judah" (Luke 1:65) where John the Baptist was born. Here, Zacharias, John the Baptist's father, had his summer home and here the Virgin Mary visited her cousin Elisabeth. Churches, convents and monasteries abound in the picturesque valley while around Mary's spring, from which Mary is said to have drawn water when she visited her cousin Elisabeth, there are artists' galleries and a popular Music Centre. The oldest churches are those of St. John the Baptist and Visitation; both belonging to the Franciscans. The Church of St. John the Baptist is built over the birthplace of St. John and has beautiful paintings and decorated ceramic tiles. The first church on the site was erected in Byzantine times and rebuilt by the Crusaders but later was destroyed. The present structure was completed in 1674. Steps lead down to a natural cave called the Grotto of the "Benedictus" with the following inscribed on the lintel: "Blessed be the Lord, God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people." The two-story Church of the Visitation, designed by Barluzzi, was completed in 1955. A chapel built in the site of the home of Elizabeth and Zacharias has paintings describing events in their lives. Behind a grill is the rock where the baby John is said to have been concealed during the Massacre of the Innocents. The courtyard is decorated with ceramic tiles bearing the "Magnificat" in 42 languages.
Mount of Olives
For Christianity, no mountain holds more far reaching importance and sentiment than the Mt. Of Olives; nowhere did Jesus spend more time during his mission in Jerusalem. Here, overlooking the Temple, he taught his disciples and on its slopes he was taken captive. The Church of Eleona or Pater Noster marks the spot where Jesus revealed worldly secrets to his disciples. (Matthew 24:3) and taught them "Our Father" (Luke 9). Near Eleona stand the Crusader remains of the site of the Ascension. This small, domed structure surrounded by a circular wall is presently a Muslim chapel. Inside is the impression of a footstep said to have been made by Jesus ascending into heaven. It was here, a Sabbath day's journey from Jerusalem, that the risen Jesus departed from his disciples, having encountered those 40 days after his crucifixion.
City of David
Four thousand years of history have been revealed by the exciting excavation of the City of David where visitors gain an important understanding of Jerusalem's unique place in the world. The City of David Visitor Centre has been built overlooking the fascinating remains of a monumental building some believe was the palace of Jerusalem's kings. A huge water cistern evokes the story of Jeremiah's imprisonment (Jer. 38:6). The touring route descends via Warren's Shaft and more recently discovered tunnels to the Gihon Spring where Solomon was crowned (1 Kings 1:33). The walk then continues to remnants of the actual Siloam Pool from Second Temple times. The adventurous can then slosh 1,500 feet through Hezekiah's Tunnel (2 Chron. 32:30), or take the "dry walk" through another ancient conduit. Wet or dry, the City of David is a must-see on any Jerusalem itinerary.
In Biblical times, the Gihon Spring was Jerusalem's only water supply and when enemies were at the gate, the priority was the safety of the spring. II Chronicles 32:30 tells how King "Hezekiah stopped the upper watercourse of Gihon and brought it straight down to the west side of the city of David." This extraordinary conduit, now known as the Siloam Tunnel or Hezekiah's Tunnel, was dug around 700 B.C. to bring water directly into the town and is still in use. An inscription in ancient Hebrew script found chiseled into the conduit wall commemorates the meeting of Hezekiah's two work gangs who began at each end of the tunnel and met midway. At the Pool of Siloam, Jesus healed a man who had been blind from birth and gave him sight (John 9). Empress Eudocia commemorated this miracle with a church built on the spot. It was destroyed in the Persian invasion and to prevent it from being rebuilt, the Muslims erected a mosque on the site.
The Temple Mount is especially holy to Jews and Muslims. For Jews, the Temple Mount is the site of the First and Second Temples as well as important events such as the creation of Adam, the first sacrifice made by Adam, Abraham's near-sacrifice of Isaac, and Jacob's famous dream of angels and ladders. For Muslims, the Temple Mount is the site from which Muhammad embarked on his Night Journey to heaven. The Dome of the Rock, built in 691 A.D., is one of the earliest Muslim structures and shelters the very rock on which Muhammad stood. The Temple Mount also contains an ancient and important mosque, the Al Aqsa Mosque, built in 720 A.D. The Temple Mount is a relatively minor site for Christians, but is believed to contain the "pinnacle of the Temple" (Matthew 4:5) from which Satan tempted Jesus to jump to prove his status as the Messiah (near Al Aqsa Mosque). The courtyard by the mosques provides an excellent view of surrounding Christian sites, including the Dome of the Ascension (marking the site from which where Jesus ascended into heaven) and the church of Dominus Flevit (commemorating the spot where Jesus wept as he saw a vision of Jerusalem in ruins).
Shrines of the Temple Mount
The Dome of the Chain is so-called because of the chain that hangs from the ceiling. Legend tells us that King David sat here to judge the people and if the chain broke in the hands of the accused, he was guilty. It may have been the royal treasure houses where funds for building the Dome were kept. The Crusaders used it for prayer and it was known as the Chapel of St. James. The small pillared Dome of the Spirits is on the spot where Mohammed is said to have conversed with Jewish and Christian prophets. Here, it is believed, he will summon the spirits of the faithful on Judgement Day. Another shrine on the Temple Mount is the Dome of Ascension which is associated with Mohammed's night journey. The Crusaders used it as a baptistery. There are also many fountains on the Temple Mount - before entering the Mosque to pray, Muslims wash their feet. The circular fountain surrounded by trees is called El Kas, The Basin, and is situated over the largest of the underground cisterns on the Temple Mount.
The Israel Museum / The Dead Sea Scrolls
Opened in 1965, The Israel Museum is many-faceted, housing a collection of Judaica, Art, Archaeology, the Billy Rose Sculpture Garden and Ð the pearl in the crown Ð the Shrine of the Book, which contains the Dead Sea scrolls. The white-domed exterior of the Shrine of the Book resembles the lid of one of the earthenware jars in which the scrolls were hidden in Qumran. Despite the fact that the Museum is relatively very new, its collections rival that of many well-established museums the world over. Among the many gems are a seventeenth century Italian synagogue and another from Cochin, India. The Youth wing is particularly active, with regularly changing exhibits, and the Museum has a full program of lectures, concerts and films.
Dome of the Rock
The focal point of Jerusalem both today and at the time of Jesus was Mt. Moriah. Today the site is the home of the impressive and austere Dome of the Rock. It is set on the actual bedrock of the highest point of the Temple Mount on the eastern hill. This superb structure was built by the Muslim Caliph Abdel-Malik in the year 691 A.D. That makes it nearly 1300 years old. When it was being constructed there were still many Byzantine artisans living in the city. This explains the interesting juxtaposition of Arabesque script on Byzantine-styled mosaics. The eight-sided structure is very similar in form and artistic origin to St. Peter's house at Capernaum. Votive offerings and small shrines from Muslim rulers throughout the centuries stud the entire plaza area. Renovated in the 1960's, the former cast iron dome was replaced by one of zinc-aluminum alloy at 1/6 of the weight! Inside the building is seen the hallowed rock itself. According to Muslim tradition, it is from this point that Mohammed leapt skywards. To the Jew this rock has a significance stretching at least 2000 years before Mohammed. For it was here on Mt. Moriah that Abraham offered his only son Isaac as a sacrifice (Gen 22:2). It was on this same site that David purchased from Ornan the Jebusite in 1,000 B.C. a home for the Ark of the Covenant. But it was up to King Solomon to finally build God's Temple, destined to make Jerusalem Judaism's focal point to this day. Most biblical authorities identify this rock with the Holy of Holies.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque (Arabic Masjid Al-Aqsa, "Distant Mosque" - also spelled El-Aksa) is an important mosque in Jerusalem. It is part of the complex of religious buildings known as the Haram Esh-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) to Muslims and the Temple Mount to Jews, and is the third holiest site in Islam, after Mecca and Medina. The first Al-Aqsa Mosque was constructed of wood by the Umayyads in 710 A.D., only a few decades after the Dome of the Rock. The structure has been rebuilt at least five times; it was destroyed at least once by earthquakes. The last major rebuild was in 1035. When the Crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099, Al-Aqsa became the headquarters of the Templers. Their legacy remains in the three central bays of the main facade. In the mid-14th Century, the Mamelukes added an extra two on either side, resulting in the seven bays that stand today.
Pool of Bethesda
North of the Temple Mount, just inside St. Stephen's gate, lies the Pool of Bethesda or Piscina Probatica. Uncovered in 1871, the pool appears as a deep pit broken by a series of stone foundations and archways upon which were built Byzantine and Crusader Churches. Used as a rain catchment pool during Herod's reign, it was part of a grandiose plan to augment Jerusalem's meager water supply. During Jesus' time, this pool was thought to have curative powers. It is here that Jesus miraculously cured the infirm man on the Sabbath (John 5:1-18).
The Via Dolorosa, "Way of Sorrow" or "Way of the Cross," is Christendom's most sacred route. It is the path followed by Jesus from the judgment court, the praetorian, to Golgotha to the place of the Crucifixion, bearing the Cross on his back. Every Friday at 3 p.m., Christian pilgrims from all over the world join the Franciscan procession to retrace these steps and recall Jesus' Agony. There are fourteen stations on the way of the Cross, nine along the narrow street and five inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. All are marked by chapels or churches for meditation and prayer. Despite the hustle and the bustle of the route, it is a moving spiritual experience to wander along the Way where Jesus suffered on his last day on earth over 2,000 years ago.
Ecce Homo Arch
The Ecce Homo arch is part of the eastern entrance to the Roman city Aelia Capitolina constructed by Hadrian as a triumphal arch with three portals. According to tradition, this is the spot where Pilate ordered Christ to be brought forth to the Jews, proclaiming ÔEcce Homo'- Behold the Man.' Today, the northern, smaller arch is integrated into the Chapel of Ecce Homo in the Convent of the Sisters of Zion. The large arch spans part of the Via Dolorosa.
Church of the Holy Sepulcher
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher lies in the heart of the Christian Quarter of the Old city. Within the compound are the Hill of Golgotha or Calvary and the Rotunda which contains the Holy Sepulcher. Here, Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. The Church is maintained by the Roman Catholics, the Greek Orthodox and the Armenians. There are also several chapels including the Chapel of Adam, the Chapel of St. Helena and the Chapel of the Finding of the Cross.
Room of the Last Supper
The Cenacle is the second-floor room marking the site of the Passover feast Jesus attended with his disciples Ð The Last Supper (Mark 14:13). The present structure is a 14th century renovation with Gothic windows and Crusader arches. Just as the law came forth from David's Zion in Isaiah's time, so here did the Apostles meet to spread the new covenant. Here, Jesus appeared before the Apostles (John 20:19-23; 22:24-29) and here, too, the Holy Ghost descended upon the house at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4)
Many Protestants believe that Jesus was buried in the Garden Tomb, which is set in a quiet enclosure just outside the Damascus gate. A nearby hillock, with a Muslim cemetery on top and a broken cistern in its rocky face, bears resemblance to a skull, which could be Golgotha. In 167 A.D, a first-century rock-hewn tomb containing two chambers was discovered near the hill. In 1882, the British General Gordon was a leading advocate for this area as a probable site of the Crucifixion and it was purchased by the Garden Tomb Association of London in 1893. The evidence for a probable site of execution near to an exceptionally large cistern and a Herodian tomb, which meets all the details mentioned in the Gospel, makes the present garden a meaningful center for Christian meditation and devotion.
Garden of Gethsemane & The Church of All Nations
In the valley of Kidron, on the Mt. of Olive's lower slopes, there stands to this day a stately grove of eight ancient olive trees. These trees and their fruit have given this site its name Gethsemane, for Gat Shmanim, is olive press in Aramaic. The garden is well kept by the Franciscan brothers who offer pilgrims a leaf from the trees as a memento of their visit. The focal point of the garden is the Rock of the Agony which has been covered over by the modern Church of All Nations, so called because of the world-wide contributions that enabled its construction. It was here at Gethsemane that Jesus came with his disciples to pray. Here, he grew despondent and was tempted to find a way out, only finally to overcome the weakness of the flesh and accept the Divine Will. Betrayed by Judas, Jesus was arrested by the soldiers of the High Priest and taken away for indictment.
The Western Wall was not actually a part of the temple. Biblical Jerusalem was built on the two hills:
The eastern Moriah and the Ophel. Between them was a valley that has since been filled in by the debris of the destroyed Temple and was situated where the present plaza in front of the Western Wall is located. There is yet another reason why Mount Moriah has lost its hilly appearance. The Western Wall is actually a retaining wall built by Herod in 20 B.C., surrounding the entire eastern hill which was raised with fill to form a flat plateau the level of Moriah's summit. It was on this elevated plaza that the Temple stood at the time of time of Jesus. Ever since the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.D, Jews have gathered in pilgrimage and in prayer at the Western Wall, which became known as the Wailing Wall. Its cracks are filled with hastily written prayers for the speedy recovery of the sick, for the Peace of Jerusalem and the coming of the Messiah.
Western Wall Tunnel
Excavations of the Western Wall Tunnel started after the 1967 Six Day war. The tunnels are created by numerous arches and side-by-side supporting staircases going from the city to the Temple Mount. In ancient times, there was a shallow valley called the Tyropaean running along the Western side of the Temple Mount (now filled in due to constant demolition and rebuilding) that separated the rich Herodian quarter from the Temple, and it was the need to bridge this that caused the arches to be built. These pathways still support the streets today and the tunnel goes directly underneath the Muslim quarter. As you walk through the tunnel along the ancient wall, you can pause opposite the Holy of Holies, see a pavement built by Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:21) and the foundations of the Praetorium (Matt. 27:27). This is a not-to-be-missed combination of the historical and spiritual that is unique, and yet so typical of the Holy City.
Citadel (David's Tower)
The citadel, incorrectly called David's Tower, overlooks Jaffa Gate on the western side of the Old City. Here, Herod built some of his most impressive fortifications including the Tower of Phasael which, with its large masonry, can still be seen today just inside Jaffa gate. A climb to the roof offers a magnificent view of the Old City, while the lower rooms contain an archaeological exhibition spanning Jerusalem's long history.
Parts of the Cardo Maximus, the main street of the Roman-Byzantine city, have been discovered in archaeological excavations in the Jewish Quarter. Byzantine and Crusader structures have been rebuilt and included in the design of new tourist shops which now line the ancient way.
Model of Jerusalem
The Model of Jerusalem at the time of the Second Temple is displayed on the grounds of Israel Museum. It was built before the reunification of the city. The 1:50 scale model was built according to the descriptions of Josephus Flavius. Whenever excavations reveal new information, changes are made in the Model. The grandeur of the city at the time can be appreciated by viewing this replica.
Yad Vashem is the Jewish people's memorial to the murdered Six Million and symbolizes the ongoing confrontation with the rupture engendered by the Holocaust. Containing the world's largest repository of information on the Holocaust, Yad Vashem is a leader in Shoah education, commemoration, research and documentation. The museum is designed in the shape of a prism penetrating the mountain. A railroad car hangs over the cliff on the road winding down from the mountain. The car was used to transport Jews who had been banished from their homes to the concentration camps, and now serves as a monument. The museum is divided into nine galleries that relate the stories of the Jewish communities before the Second World War and the series of events beginning from the rise of the Nazis to power, the pursuit of the Jews, their eviction to the ghettos and ending with "the Final Solution" and mass genocide. The personal experiences and feelings of the victims of the holocaust constitute the groundwork for the museum's exhibits. The exhibits include photographs, films, documents, letters, works of art, and personal items found in the camps and ghettos, and excerpts from children's diaries. Visiting the Yad Vashem museum is an emotional and heart-rending experience, but viewing the exhibits and remembering the Holocaust and its victims is important to the citizens and leaders of Israel and of other nations.