Thursday, July 24, 2014

Jerusalem, Israel

Jerusalem, יְרוּשָׁלַיִם, is one of the oldest cities in the world.  It is between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea, about 60 km (37 miles) southeast of Tel Aviv.  Jerusalem has a population over 804,000; roughly 10% of Israel's total.

Jerusalem is considered holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims.  The Old City has an area of only 0.9 km² (0.35 mi²) but is home to some of the most sacred places to each of the three major religions.

In 1981, the Old City was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Tower of David near the Jaffa Gate
Jerusalem is one of the core issues between Israel and Palestine.  According to the UN, Jerusalem was to be an open city.  During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Israel captured West Jerusalem and Jordan took East Jerusalem (including the Old City).  During the Six Day War, Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan.  Israel considers Jerusalem to be its capital even though this is not recognized internationally.  Palestine considers East Jerusalem as its rightful capital even though Palestine is currently led from Ramallah. 

The Western Wall, the Wailing Wall, is a 57 meter (187 foot) section of the western wall of the Temple Mount.  There are separate sections for men and women.  People write prayers on slips of paper and place them into the crevices. 

Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount
The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and is where Jews face to during prayers.  It is the third holiest site in Islam as the place where Mohammad ascended to heaven. 

View from the Cotton Gate

Due to security concerns the Temple Mount was closed to tourists on Sunday.  A view of the dome from the Cotton Gate is as close as Israeli soldiers would let us get to it. 

The Cenacle is known as the Upper Room and is part of the Holy Zion Church.  This is where Jesus and his disciples conducted the Passover meal, the Last Supper, on which the Catholic celebration of Mass is based.

King David's Tomb

King David's Tomb is located on Mount Zion, in the remains of an old Byzantine church.  David was the King of Israel.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is a basilica and also known as the Church of the Resurrection.  This is where Jesus was crucified and contains the place where he is said to have been buried.  The church contains the last four Stations of the Cross.  The church was consecrated in 325 AD.

The Stone of Anointing is where it is said that Jesus' body was anointed before burial.

The Mount of Olives is adjacent to the Old City.  Olive groves once covered the slopes.  It has been used as a Jewish cemetery for more than 3,000 years.

View of Jerusalem from the Austrian Hospice
Sightseeing in the Old City alone can be history and religion overload.  This is a city that you need a few days in so that you really appreciate everything.  Sounds like a return visit is in order. 

Not far from the Old City is Yad Vashem.  Established in 1953, it is the official memorial to the Holocaust victims.  Well worth the visit.

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