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Jerusalem is the capital and largest city of Israel. It is located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea and is about 58 miles (93km) east of Tel Aviv-Jaffa. It is a holy city and the source of three major world religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Old City is sacred to Jews as the historic symbol of the Jewish homeland and capital of the first Jewish kingdom. It is sacred to Christians as the site where Jesus Christ spent his last days on earth and it is sacred to Muslims as the site of the ascent into heaven of the Prophet Muhammad.

One of the world’s foremost pilgrimage destinations, the city represents an ensemble of sacred buildings and relics and for the visitor to this fascinating city, the phrases “living history” and “stepping into the past” really do apply.

Above: The Dome of the Rock, an Islamic shrine located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem.

The earliest records of Jerusalem date back to 1800BC, when according to legend, the inhabitants warmly welcomed a nomadic Semitic tribe of Israelites whose leader was Abraham. Abraham was the monotheistic common ancestor of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Around the year 1000BC, King David united twelve nomadic tribes here and made Jerusalem his capital. A description of the city’s long and eventful history may extend far beyond the scope of this webpage; suffice to say that from then on, Jerusalem went through various conquests and periods of occupation by Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Seljuk Turks, European Crusaders, Mameluk slave-traders, and Ottoman Turks. The British captured Jerusalem from the Turks in 1917, creating a Jewish homeland, which precipitated growing violence between the Arabs and Jews living here. The British left in 1948 and modern Israel was created. An Arab-Israeli war divided the city, which was split from 1948 until 1967. Israel controlled West Jerusalem, and Jordan controlled East Jerusalem, including the Old City. During the Six-Day war of 1967, Israel captured East Jerusalem and declared the whole of the city its capital. Since that time, Jerusalem has been under Israeli administration. For a more detailed history of the city, click Here (External Link).

The photographs on this webpage were taken during a three night stay in the city in February, 2018. The visit began with a flight to the main international airport of Israel, Ben Gurion, which not only serves Tel Aviv, but also Jerusalem, which is just under an hour’s drive away by road. As well as mainstream national carriers, a number of budget airlines now fly to Ben Gurion. There is a wide range of accommodation available in the city and in the case of this visit, each of the three nights were spent in hostel and hotel establishments with the conclusion that although not comparatively cheap at the best of times, you pretty much pay for what you get.


Above: Rooftop terraces at the Hebron Hostel (left) and the Hashimi Hotel (right) in the Old City.

The Old City

Surrounded by contrastingly modern sprawling areas developed since the middle of the 19th century, the Old City of Jerusalem is divided into four historical quarters - Armenian, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim. Together, these sections are enclosed by very imposing walls containing gates at various points. The walls are remnants of those built in the 16th century by the Turks. The Armenian section lies in the southwest of the Old City and shares the Jaffa Gate with the Christian section in the north-western quarter. The Christian section contains the New Gate and also shares the Damascus Gate with the Muslim section to the north. The Muslim section, in the north-eastern portion of the Old City, contains Herod's Gate, Saint Stephen's Gate, and the Golden Gate, east of which is located the garden of Gethsemane and the Mount of Olives. The main Jewish section occupies the south-eastern quarter and contains the Zion Gate and Dung Gate. South of the Zion Gate lies Mount Zion and King David's Tomb.

Photographs and a brief description of each of the main sites seen during this visit follow on this web page. The thumbnail gallery below shows some general shots taken whilst walking around the Old City (not including the main sites) [Click on an image to enlarge]:

The Western Wall

It may come as no surprise that never having been to Jerusalem before, the first place headed for on this three-night stay was one of the most famous sites in this ancient city, the Western Wall (or Kotel), also popularly known as the Wailing Wall; in Islam, it is known as the Buraq Wall.

Above: The Western Wall

The Western Wall is an ancient limestone construction and according to Jewish tradition, is a remnant of an expansion of the Second Temple in Jerusalem begun by Herod the Great. The Western Wall is the most holy site for Jews whom may famously be seen here praying and inserting hand written slips of paper containing written prayers to God into the cracks of it. For Muslims, the Western Wall is the site where the Prophet Muhammad tied his steed on his night journey to Jerusalem before ascending to paradise. The wall is located on the western side of Temple Mount in the Old City. With segregated areas for men and women, it is possible to access the wall for free. Unless the visitor has their own, a complementary kippah or yarmulke (a brimless cap worn by Jews), may be obtained from one of the kiosks and must be worn at all times in the square at this sacred site. Some more photos taken from the site of the Western Wall may be seen in the thumbnail gallery below [Click on an image to enlarge]:

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Christian Quarter of the Old City is identified as the place of both the crucifixion and of the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth. According to Eusebius of Caesarea, the Roman emperor Hadrian built a temple dedicated to the goddess Venus in the 2nd century AD. The temple was ordered to bury the cave in which Jesus had been buried. Around the year 325/326 AD, the first Christian emperor, Constantine the Great, ordered a church to be built here, replacing the temple. This original church was completed and consecrated by 335 and, in 614, it was damaged by fire. In 1009, Fatimid caliph Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah ordered the church’s complete destruction. Negotiations between the Fatimids and the Byzantine Empire enabled rebuilding and redecoration of the church and the “new” church was completed in 1048. The site has long been a major pilgrimage centre for Christians from all around the world. Also popular with tourists, it just so happened that on the original day planned to visit here (in February 2018), the author of this webpage was unable to enter the building; in a rare step not seen for close to three decades, the heads of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre shuttered the building’s doors to protest against a new tax and piece of Israeli legislation intended to allow the government to confiscate land sold by the church. However, some backpedalling ensured the doors opened once again the following day (when the author of this webpage returned) and so in the thumbnail gallery below, photos may be seen of both the church doors shut and of them open the following day [Click on an image to enlarge]. Also shown below are photographs taken from the interior of this magnificent 3-domed building which has a capacity of 8,000 worshipers.

Temple Mount

The Temple Mount is a hill located in the Old City that for thousands of years has been venerated as a holy site, in Islam, Judaism and Christianity alike. In fact, there are few places on earth as holy, or as disputed, as here. In Islam, it is believed to be the place where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to Heaven and the Arabic name for the site translates as "Noble Sanctuary". In Judaism, it is the location of the two Jewish Temples, and believed to be the place where Adam was born, where Adam built an altar for God, where Cain and Abel offered their sacrifices, and where Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice. The Hebrew name for the site translates as “Mount of the House (of God)”. Temple Mount is also associated with Biblical prophets who are venerated in all three religions. Standing atop the hill here lies the biggest public space in East Jerusalem; an elevated cypress-planted plaza of over 140 acres. Of particular note here to the visitor are two of Islam's most sacred buildings - the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque. All visitors are able to tour the compound and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, with the exception of the Dome of the Rock. For further reading, the Wikipedia article for Temple Mount may be found Here and photographs of this extraordinary site are shown in the thumbnail gallery below [Click on an image to enlarge]:

Jerusalem Walls National Park

Officially declared in 1974, Jerusalem Walls National Park was created with the goal of protecting the landscape of open spaces and the heritage values surrounding the Old City. Much of the current wall and gates date from the Ottoman period and are on the whole based on earlier remains, some of which go back to the times of the Second Temple. The national park contains historical sites including the City of David, the Ophel, the Hinnom and Kidron valleys and Mount Zion (see next section). The park also encompasses neighbourhoods which mark the beginning of settlement outside the Old City walls. Some photographs taken from just outside the city walls can be seen in the thumbnail gallery below [Click on an image to enlarge]:

Mount Zion

Historically, the name “Mount Zion” has referred successively to three different locations in Jerusalem. Mount Zion was firstly the name given to a fortified city on the lower part of ancient Jerusalem's Eastern Hill, also known as the City of David. Once the First Temple was erected at the top of the Eastern Hill (where Temple Mount is today), the name "Mount Zion" then referred to this location instead. The final geographical move of the name was to the Western Hill, which is more dominant than the Eastern Hill. The Western Hill location was deemed by Jerusalemites in the 1st century AD to be the worthier location for the by-then lost palace of King David. It is here, the highest point in ancient Jerusalem, that the term “Mount Zion” still applies to today. It is found south of the Old City’s aptly named Zion Gate. Three important sites here which can be visited today are King David's Tomb, the Room of the Last Supper and the Church & Monastery of the Dormition. These are shown and briefly described below.

King David's Tomb

One of the holiest sites for Jews is the building on Mount Zion known as the Tomb of King David (shown above). King David is a celebrated Old Testament warrior king of Israel and was thought by many to have composed a large number of the Psalms. Whilst the site may be traditionally considered by some, since the beginning of the 12th century AD, to be the burial place of David, most historians and archaeologists do not consider this site to be his actual resting place. The building is administered by the Diaspora Yeshiva, a Jewish seminary group. It was formerly a mosque, but converted into a synagogue in 1948, following the establishment of the State of Israel.

Room of the Last Supper

Also located in the tomb compound is a room which is traditionally identified as the Cenacle of Jesus (the term “Cenacle” means a group of people such as a discussion group and is derived from the Latin for “Dining Room”). Also known as the "Upper Room", this is traditionally held to be the site of the Last Supper. It is also thought by some that this room was used as a place where the apostles stayed in Jerusalem and considered, as such, the first Christian church.

Church & Monastery of the Dormition

Near King David’s Tomb, is Mount Zion’s most dominating building, the Church of the Dormition (shown above). The location of this church is identified in Christian tradition as the place where the Virgin Mary died, or “fell asleep” as the name implies. The church is fortress-like in appearance and has a conical roof with four conical towers. Nearby is the imposing bell tower of the Hagia Maria Sion Abbey (formerly the Abbey of the Dormition), a Benedictine monastery. Standing on this site during the Byzantine period would have been, the Church of Hagia Sion (Holy Zion), one of the three earliest churches in Jerusalem. Built by the first Christian emperor, Constantine the Great, it was regarded as the Mother of all Churches. In AD 614 it was destroyed by the Persians.

Other sites on Mount Zion include the Chamber of the Holocaust, the Catholic Cemetery (where amongst others, Oskar Schindler, who saved the lives of 1,200 Jews in the Holocaust, is buried) and the Protestant Cemetery where many other notable people are buried. Some more photographs taken at Mount Zion of the above sites, amongst others, are shown in the thumbnail gallery below [Click on an image to enlarge]:

Mount of Olives

East of the Old City is the Mount of Olives (shown above), a limestone ridge in an area which has been occupied by Israel since 1967. Reaching some 2,684 feet (818m) at its highest point. The Mount of Olives is separated from the Old City by the narrow Kidron Valley. It is named after a grove of olive trees that once stood on its western side. The ridge has three distinct summits - Mount Scopus (the northernmost and site of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem), At-Tur (“The Mount”, which has a former village known as Olivet and is now a neighbourhood of East Jerusalem) and Mount of Corruption (the southernmost summit). At-Tur, is at the highest point of the 2.2 mile (3.5km) ridge and is generally regarded as the Mount of Olives proper. Around this central summit, many events of Christian history took place. Described below are five sites of significance which were visited during this trip atop the Mount of Olives and at the base of its slopes.

Chapel of the Ascension


At the top of the Mount of Olives in the At-Tur neighbourhood stands the Chapel of the Ascension (shown above), a Muslim chapel, on the traditionally believed site of the Ascension of Jesus Christ, as described in Acts 1:2-12. This shrine is part of a larger complex consisting first of a Christian church and monastery and subsequently as an Islamic mosque. The spot where Jesus is thought by the faithful to have ascended into Heaven after his resurrection may be found inside, marked by a slab of stone said to contain one of his footprints.

Church of the Pater Noster

Another church of note on the Mount of Olives is the Church of the Pater Noster (shown above). The building seen today is relatively modern (19th-century) and contains a cloister modelled on the Campo Santo at Pisa, Italy. According to traditional beliefs, Jesus taught the Lord’s Prayer or Our Father to his disciples in the cave that forms the grotto under the church. When the Crusaders built a church here in the 12th century, they called it Pater Noster (“Our Father”). One of the most striking features of the church and its cloister is a bewildering array of colourful ceramic plaques on which are inscribed the Lord’s Prayer in 140 languages. Some more photographs from the Church of the Pater Noster, including some of the translations of the Lord’s Prayer are shown in the thumbnail gallery below [Click on an image to enlarge]:

Church of All Nations


Standing near the foot of the Mount of Olives is a basilica known as the Church of All Nations (shown above). It is built over a rock on which Jesus is believed to have prayed in agony before his arrest and the night before he was crucified. The name of the basilica comes from the fact that many countries contributed to the cost of its construction. Completed in 1924, and also known as the “Basilica of the Agony”, it is the third church to have been constructed on this site. With the façade of a typically Roman basilica, the interior is in semi-darkness, intended to create a sombre atmosphere. The Rock of Agony where Jesus prayed is in front of the high altar.

Garden of Gethsemane


Next to the Church of All Nations, near the foot of the Mount of Olives, is located the Garden of Gethsemane (shown above). This is referred to in the New Testament as the place where Jesus went with his disciples to pray the night before he was crucified. The name Gethsemane in Hebrew means “oil press”. The garden contains eight ancient olive trees, and from their fruit, oil is still pressed today. The Gethsemane olives are possibly descendants of one that was in the garden at the time of Christ; when an olive tree is cut down, shoots come back from the roots to create a new tree. The garden would have been well known to Jesus’ disciples as it is close to the route from the Temple to the summit of the Mount of Olives. Just north of here is the Grotto of Gethsemane, where Jesus and his disciples often camped at night.

Tomb of the Virgin Mary


At the foot of the Mount of Olives (across the Kidron Valley from St Stephen’s Gate in the Old City) is also located the Church of the Sepulchre of Saint Mary, or Tomb of the Virgin Mary. This Christian tomb is, as the name suggests, believed by Eastern Christians to be the burial place of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Although the New Testament makes no reference to the death and burial of Mary, a strong Christian tradition places her tomb in a dimly-lit church at the foot of the Mount of Olives - a description fitting for this particular site.

Some more photographs taken of and from the Mount of Olives are shown in the thumbnail gallery below [Click on an image to enlarge]:

Israel Museum


The Israel Museum is the national museum of Israel. Founded in 1965, it is on a hill in the Givat Ram neighbourhood in western central Jerusalem. Also located in this district are the Bible Lands Museum, the Knesset (see lower down), the Israeli Supreme Court, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Since its founding, the Israel Museum has built up a collection of nearly 500,000 objects, representing a broad sample of world material culture. The museum's campus covers an area of some 20 acres (81,000m²). Areas in the vast collection of note include the Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Archaeology Wing (which tells the story of the ancient Land of Israel), the Shrine of the Book (shown above, top right - an urn-shaped building in the museum grounds which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls and artefacts discovered at Masada), the Second Temple model (shown above, lower left - a model of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period, showing the topography and architectural character of the city as it was prior to its destruction by the Romans in 66AD), The Edmond and Lily Safra Fine Arts Wing, the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Wing for Jewish Art and Life, the Art Garden and the Ruth Youth Wing for Art Education.

The Dead Sea Scrolls

As mentioned above, the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum houses the Dead Sea Scrolls (note: photography is not permitted inside). The building was designed to resemble a pot in which the scrolls were found. The scrolls are the oldest biblical manuscripts in the world. They were discovered in 1947-79 in eleven caves in and around the Wadi Qumran in the West Bank, near the ruins of the ancient settlement of Khirbet Qumran, on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. They consist of approximately 1,000 documents, including texts from the Hebrew Bible. These religious and historical writings are of major significance because they include practically the only known surviving copies of Biblical documents made before 100AD. They preserve evidence of the diversity of people’s beliefs and practices within the late Second Temple Judaism. Due to the fragility of the scrolls, all of them are not displayed in the Shrine of the Book all of the time; a system of rotation is used. After a scroll has been displayed here for between three and six months, it is removed from its showcase and placed temporarily in a special storeroom, where it "rests" from exposure.


The final photo on this webpage, below, shows the Israeli parliament building. Known as the Knesset, meaning “gathering” or “assembly”, this is the legislative branch of the government of Israel. There are 120 members in the Knesset, which is located in Givat Ram, a western central neighbourhood of the city.

[Photos: February 2018, Text: 2018]

Related Pages on this Web Site:

Dead Sea
Golan Heights and Mount Bental
Sea of Galilee (Lake Tiberias)

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