Posted by: Anna | November 6, 2010

Jerusalem #1

I’m sure we will be able to write more than just this post on Jerusalem, so this will be post  #1 for lack of a more inspired title. Jerusalem is so overwhelming and so packed with sites and history that it is hard to focus a blog post on something that will be interesting. With that said, forgive me for rambling.

As introduction – Jerusalem is made up of essentially two parts – West Jerusalem and East Jerusalem (including the Old City, where all the famous historical stuff is). The Old City is surrounded by walls, and divided into four quarters. More on that later.

We took a guided walking tour to introduce ourselves to the Old City, which put us in good company, as the old city is full of tour groups, many American. The guide put Jerusalem to us as “Tradition always trumps actual reality.” Tradition versus truth? It is a series of contrasts all day here.

Jerusalem is the city of peace. It has been conquered 38 times. Not too peaceful.

It is full of history, with 40 meters of possible excavation beneath the current city. Jerusalem makes much of its money on tourism to see the history of the city. However, excavation in Jersualem is a nightmare. People live on top, and don’t want to give up their home for historical exploration, especially since there is an ongoing battle for turf. So with a great deal of archeological information below, and a city dependent on people who want to see that sort of thing, they can’t actually get to it.

Pilgrims come to see the holy sites where significant events in religious history took place, such as the Last Supper. You can go to the site of the Last Supper. However, it is a church converted a few hundred years ago from a mosque, over the site. So what you actually see is a converted mosque…it’s not like the table Jesus ate at is still there, or even the room. It’s just the location, maybe.

Every holy site is full of tourists sporting matching hats, or scarves, or stickers, or whatever for their tour group, wandering around herded like cattle, and talking among themselves about lunch, or how their feet hurt, or whatever. For me personally, I find these tour groups incredibly distracting, and I have a more spiritual experience in my home church or at a park. I joined a tour group (no matching gear though), so I can’t say I’m innocent either.

Jerusalem is fascinating. It is the historical, romantic Israel you expect, or that I expected, tour groups aside. Approaching the Old City, you see the walls. Wandering the streets, each of the four quarters is unique. The Christian Quarter is fairly quiet and full of nuns and monks. The Jewish Quarter is new (it was destroyed during the 50s and 60s and largely rebuilt in the 1970s, so it is not ancient-looking like much of the rest of the Old City). The Muslim Quarter is crowded, full of aggressive souvenir sellers and shawarma makers. The Armenian Quarter is quiet and small.

Just a few of my favorite highlights in pictures, so far.


St. James Cathedral in the Armenian Quarter. This church is only open for services, but you can visit it the 10 minutes prior to the start of services, assuming you have your sinful knees and shoulders covered. It's really interesting and beautiful on the inside, with tons of candles in glass vases, each on a rope, that can be lowered to be lit. It looks like a cross between Ottoman design and an Orthodox church.

Here is a picture of letters in the Western Wall. Interestingly, it was originally built not as a part of the Second Temple, but as a purely structural element. It was never holy during that period. Today it is all that remains, and generations praying to it have made it the holiest of sights for Jews. It is operated as an Orthodox synogogue, with separate praying areas for men and women. They periodically take the letters out of the wall and bury them on the Mount of Olives.

This is a view of the Temple Mount, where the Dome of the Rock (gold dome) is located and the Mount of Olives in the background. I just think it's a beautiful shot of the city.

Tower of David and the Citadel, excavated. The Tower of David, was not, as you might have thought, built by David. The Crusaders showed up and just thought it was, and so it has kept that name to this day. It's actually much more recent; it dates to the time of Herod.

Well, that’s a few sights to get you started.



  1. Your photography is not only beautiful, but artistic as well. xoxox

  2. I wonder if there is a time you can visit without tourists?

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