One Day in Jerusalem
We spent one day in Jerusalem but you could easily spend two, three or more seeing all of the cultural sites in the area. Jerusalem is full of history and one of the holiest places for Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
Beyond religious significance, Jerusalem is seen by Israelis as the capital of Israel. It is currently controlled by the Israeli government even though it is internationally recognized as partially occupied Palestinian territory, and is divided as such with Palestinian Arabs claiming the east. This debate is as deep as the city is old, and remains unresolved today due to religious sensitivities of which travelers should be aware.
We started our tour in the City Center at the Mehane Yehuda Market (also known as The Shuk)—said to be one of the most famous markets in the Middle East. It’s an excellent place to watch the bustling mix of locals, vendors and visitors from all over the world hurry about on the hunt for groceries and goods, and is an especially great view on a Friday afternoon as people ready for sundown and the start of Shabbat.
It's a wonderful sight with mounds of spices, teas and beautiful stands filled with rows of rainbow-colored fresh and dried produce. We sampled various goodies and savored bites from the Kingdom of Halva—my favorite Israeli confection made with sesame nut butter.
We also stopped for beer sampling at the Beer Bazaar, which stocks local Israeli microbrews, and sat facing outward toward the crowds. With so many stalls offering free samples (my husband calls it the Costco of Israel), we had to defend our beer tray from curious shoppers.
After we left the market, we walked toward the walled Old City via Yafo Street, first stopping at the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center (the Center). Atop the Center is a restaurant offering panoramic views of the Old City of Jerusalem. There, we photographed the Dome of the Rock (an Islamic Shrine and the third holiest site of the Islamic religion) located on Temple Mount, a site that holds dual religious significance for Judaism and Islam. The dome caps sacred stone. It was once made of gold but today it is gold leaf coated aluminum (according to various online sources).
As seen in the photo in the gallery below, behind the Dome of the Rock is the Mount of Olives, a mountain slope east of the Old City named for the olive groves that once protected it. It is now a Jewish cemetery, said to hold more than 150,000 graves.
We entered the Old City through Jaffa Gate and navigated through open air markets to the first religious site, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Inside the church are two significant monuments to Christianity, the rock of Calvary in the Chapel that is said to be the site where Jesus was crucified, and Jesus's empty tomb—said to have been the site where he was buried and resurrected. The entire church was dark with small candlelit paths filled with devote Christians praying in nearly every corner.
Jesus’s tomb was enclosed by a shrine. It was under construction during our visit, so it is only partially shown in the photo here. It was incredibly beautiful.
After leaving the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, we walked through the winding narrow pathways to the Western Wall, a sacred place of prayer. There, we left messages of peace in the ruins. It was divided into two areas, women and men quietly practicing their faith. Out of respect, it is recommended that women wear a scarf over their heads in this area of the city.
We passed through two of the four quarters of the Old City, which is divided into the Muslim Quarter, Christian Quarter, Armenian Quarter and Jewish Quarter. No matter your religious convictions, it is worth the wander. The pathways take you back to the city's ancient past.
After our visit to the Old City, we headed back to the Mahane Yehuda Market where we had left our vehicle and then made the two-hour plus drive to Arad where we spent our final night in Israel. The Next day would be our last with a visit to Masada and the Dead Sea.
This post is a series about travel to Israel and Jordan, from February 24, 2017 to March 5, 2017. They are posted in order of the trip itinerary.
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