01 rb worshipWithout a doubt, Jerusalem is the most fascinating place in Israel, so if you have a very limited amount of time, plan to spend much of it there. Distances are not great in Israel, and it is possible to get quick taste of the desert, the Mediterranean coast, and even the Sea of Galilee.

Jerusalem, located on a plateau in the Judean Mountains between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea, is one of the oldest cities in the world. It is considered holy to the three major Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Israelis and Palestinians both claim Jerusalem as their capital, as Israel maintains its primary governmental institutions there and the State of Palestine ultimately foresees it as its seat of power; however, neither claim is widely recognized internationally.

The Old City of Jerusalem has history that stretches back more than 3000 years, although the present street plan dates largely from Byzantine times, and the encircling walls are from the 16th century. Within the walls, the Old City divides into four vaguely defined quarters - one each for the Armenians, Christians, Jews and Muslims. East and south-west of the Old City are the Mount of Olives and Mount Sion, both places traditionally linked with the last acts of Jesus Christ. To the north and west is modern Jerusalem. 

THE OLD CITY GATES AND THE RAMPARTS WALK

The Ramparts walk1015468750Jerusalem’s walls were built in the first half of the 16th century (in part of the line of earlier walls) on the order of the Ottoman Sultan SULEYMAN THE MAGAIFICEBT. The 4-km circuit is pierced by eight gates, of which seven remain in current use. Until as recently as 1870, the gates were closed at sunset and opened again each sunrise.

Jerusalem is perfect city to explore on foot: it is small and compact, traffic is light, the pavements are rarely crowded, and there are plenty of sites to see and places to sit and rest. This is particularly true in the Old City, which, with the exception of just one or two roads, doesn’t allow for motor vehicles at all. Most streets are simply too narrow and meandering, and there are too many steps.

 One good way to gain an overview is to lake to the ramparts and views the crush of alleys, domes and towers from the top of the walls that enclose them. Visitors can walk along two section of the wall: from JAFFA GATE clockwise to Saint Stephen’s Gate (1 km), and from JAFFA GATE anti-clockwise to the Dung Gate (0.5 km). The section between St. Stephen’s Gate and the Dung Gate is closed to the public. There is a separate admission fee for each od the two sections of the Old City wall.

THE CHRISTIAN & ARMENIAN QUARTERS

israel jerusalem armenian quarter st marks chapelThe most visited part of the Old City; the CHRISTIAN QUARTER is a head-on collision between commerce and spirituality. At its heart is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the most sacred of all Christian sites. It is surrounded by such a clutter of churches and hospices that all one can see of its exterior are the domes and entrance façade. The nearby streets are filled with shops and stalls that thrive on the pilgrim trade.

To the south is the area traditionally inhabited by the Armenians, who have a long history in Jerusalem. The ARMENIAN QARTER is one of the quietest parts of the Old City. It grew to its current size in the 17th & 18th centuries, during the rule of the Turks. Both quarters are mainly served by Jaffa Gate. The area is also accessible from Sion and New Gates.

THE MUSLIM QUARTER

The MUSLIM QUARTER is the largest and most densely populated quarter of the Old City. It was first developed under Herod the Great and delineated in its present from under the Byzantines. In the 12th century it was taken over by the Crusaders, hence the quarter’s wealth of churches and other Christian institutions, such as the Via Dolorosa. In the 14th and 15th centuries the Mamluks rebuilt extensively, especially in the areas abutting the Haram Al-Sharif. The quarter has been in decay since the 16th century. It is served by Damascus, Herod’s and Saint Stephen’s gates.

THE JEWISH QUARTER

The Jewish Quarter, almost entirely rebuilt in fairly recent times, is one of the four traditional quarters of the Old City of Jerusalem. It is served by Dung Gate.

CHURCH OF SAINT ANNE

Church of St AnneThis beautiful Crusader church is a superb of Romanesque architecture. It is certainly the loveliest church in the city. According to Byzantine tradition, the crypt enshrines to home of the Virgin Mary and her parents Joachim and Anne. Next to it are the ruins of miraculous medicinal baths where clients of the god Serapis gathered in hope of healing; Jesus there cured one, a man ill for 38 years.

In 1192, Saladin turned the church into a Muslim theological school. There is an inscription to this effect above the church’s entrance. Later abandoned, the church fell into ruins, until the Ottomans donated it to France in 1856 and it was restored.


MONASTERY OF THE FLAGELLATION

church of flagellationOwned by the Franciscans, this complex embraces the simple and striking Chapel of the flagellation, is located on the site where Jesus Christ was flogged by Roman soldiers prior to his Crucifixion.

On the other side of the courtyard is the Chapel of the Condemnation, the site popularly identified with the trial of Christ before Pontius Pilate.

The neighboring monastery building house the Studium Biblicum Francisanum, a prestigious instate of biblical, geographical and archaeological studies. Also part of the complex, the SBC Museum that contains objects found by the Franciscans in excavations at Capernaum, Nazareth, Bethlehem and various other sites.