2/28/13 After four days of meetings, three co-workers and I were able to take a guided tour of Old Jerusalem, home of the holiest sites on earth for three different religions.
1 On the way into Jerusalem, we stopped first at the Mount of Olives for a view across the valley at the Old City. Here you get a good view of Temple Mount and the old wall, the latest (5th or 6th) version of which dates back to the 1500s.
2 A look across the Kidron Valley at the Mount of Olives (Mt. Olivet) Cemetary. Jews have been buried here for over 3,000 years, and there are currently over 150,000 tombs. Jewish prophecy states that when the Messiah comes, the resurrection of the dead will begin here.
3 A zoomed in view of Temple Mount, the Dome of the Rock, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (double gray domes).
4 After driving down the Mount of Olives into the Kidron Valley, we head up the other side into Old Jerusalem. Here's a look back at the cemetary and tombs through the car window.
5 Another look back at the Mount of Olives. This area has heavy religious significance for both Christians and Jews.
6 The Southern wall of the Old City.
7 Another look at the Southern wall. The three arched entry ways (now sealed) are believed to be where Jesus first entered the city.
8 We enter the Old City via Zion gate in the Southwest corner. It's very surreal to see a car driving out of this gate that dates back thousands of years. But there are about 30,000 people living here, so they have to get around somehow.
9 Hand painted pottery in the Armenian Quarter.
10 Entering the Jewish quarter. Most of the old city is a maze of narrow corridors like this with doorways to residences on either side.
11 A look down at an escavated avenue dating back to the days of Roman occupation in the city. This was one of the main avenues during that time.
12 Remains of a Roman storefront.
13 The Hurva Synagogue, recently rebuilt after laying in ruin following destruction by Muslims in the 1700s.
14 An escavated portion of a previous generation of the Old Wall. The wall around the city has been destroyed and rebuilt several times as just about every major empire has conquered and razed the city over the last few thousand years.
15 Looking down onto the Western Wall plaza with a view of the Western Wall, Dome of the Rock, and the Mughrabi bridge.
16 Western Wall plaza.
17 The Mughrabi bridge which gives vistor access to Temple Mount during select times of the day. It's controlled by the Jewish quarter but gives access to the holiest location in the Muslim Quarter. This was supposed to be a temporary bridge but working on it is so controversial that it has not been replaced.
18 The Western Wall (or Kotel). Though most commonly known as the "Wailing Wall", that term seems to be somewhat deragotory among Jews, and it is only referred to as the Western Wall here. Temple Mount is the holiest place on earth for Jews, but it is now contained in the Muslim quarter. This is the western wall of the old Temple Mount courtyard, now the closest that Jews can get to their holiest place. After the 6 day war in 1967, the Moroccan Quarter was destroyed in order to give easier acess to the wall.
19 The ultimate version of throwing pennies in a fountain. Jews write their wishes on pieces of paper and embed them in cracks in the wall. The theory being that the closer they are to the holy Temple Mount, the better the odds of them being granted.
20 The Western Wall continues in tunnels along the wall. There are several alcoves with religious texts used by those praying here. Jews will place their foreheads and one palm on the wall for long periods of time. Many of them have a headband with a bumper on it to make this easier.
21 Leaving the Jewish quarter and now heading into the Muslim quarter.
22 The Muslim entrance to Temple Mount. This is the closest we're able to get to the Dome of the Rock. This is the holiest place for both Muslisms and Jews and is also significant for Christians. The Dome of the Rock is a Muslim mosque built on top of the remains of the holiest Jewish temple. From a religious (and therefore political) standpoint, this is probably the single most contentious location on earth.
23 Entrance to Temple Mount is blocked by very large and heavily armed Muslim guards. They (like most people in Israel) are master profilers. Muslims are allowed to walk by with little to no thought. Anyone else is stopped and turned away.
24 Inside the Christian Quarter, we walk along the Via Dolorosa. This is the path that Jesus walked carrying his cross from where he was imprisoned at Antonia Fortress to where he was crucified on Golgotha. There are a total of 19 stations marking significant events along the route. Recent archaeology has shown that the traditional path may be slightly off from the actual path followed, but this path retains its tradition. It is also now believed that prisoners that were crucified in the day walked with the horizontal crossbeam and then were attached to the vertical post at the location of crucifixion. Station III seen here is the location that Jesus first fell bearing the weight of the cross. Station IV is said to be where he first saw his mother Mary along the route.
25 The site of an old Austrian embassy, now a hospice for Europeans visiting the city. The entire complex is hidden behind a wall and very non-descript door. Without our guide, we definitely would have never known it was here.
26 The chapel inside the Austrian hospice.
27 The rooftop of the Austrian hospice, one of the most amazing views in the Old City.
28 The domes of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the distance. As we were on the roof, the Muslism call to prayer (Adhan) started on the loudspeakers located throughout the Muslim quarter. An amazing experience.
29 A co-worker taking in the view.
30 Low income residences nestled amidst some of the most religious sites on earth.
31 A panoramic view from the rooftop.
32 A 360 view from the roof of the Austrian hospice. When the wind noise quiets down, you can hear the Muslim call to prayer.
33 Station V where Simon of Cyrene helped carry the cross.
34 Looking down the Via Dolorosa.
35 Station VIII, described in one of the gospels as the place of Jesus' last sermon.
36 The courtyard outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the holiest place on earth for Christians. It is built on top of the Golgotha, the hill on which Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected. The church is controlled by a complex (and very contentious) arrangment between seven different Christian sects. Absolutely nothing can be touched or moved without breaking the status quo. The ladder on the balcony, now called the "Immovable Ladder", has been in that exact position since 1852 for fear of breaking the status quo.
37 The steeple outside the church. Like much of the Old City, the church has been destroyed and rebuilt a number of times over the last 2,000 years. The primary goal for the knights of the First Crusade was to reclaim the church after one of the desctructions.
38 An interesting building near the church.
39 The Ethiopian Christian shrine just outside the main church.
40 Entering the church, there are many steep staircases leading off from either side.
41 The Edicule in the center of the rotunda. It is a chapel within which is contained the Holy Sepulchre itself, the tomb where Jesus was buried.
42 The rotunda above the Edicule.
43 A view of the walls beneath the rotunda.
44 A recently excavated tomb near the Edicule, similar to the one in which Jesus would have been buried.
45 The Golgotha altar. Station XII, the Rock of the Calvery, is the spot at which Jesus was crucified. The top of the rock hill can be seen beneath glass on either side of the altar. Within the rock is a hole in which the cross was believed to have been raised. This area of the church is extremely crowded and difficult to get near.
46 Another of the chapels at the Golgotha (Calvery). These small chapels are built at the site of each of the most holy stations of the cross.
47 Another of the Calvery chapels.
48 Another of the chapels. It would be easy to spend days just inside this church learning all of the history.
49 The Chapel of Saint Helena, the mother of Emporer Constantine, and the one responsible for building the original church and finding the True Cross.
50 The chapel where Mary Magdelene wept for Jesus at the cross and later met him after his resurrection.
51 The Stone of Anointing where Jesus' body was believed to have been prepared for burial after the crucifixion.
52 After leaving the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, we leave the Old City via Jaffa Gate.