Jerusalem, a city known by many names, the Golden City, the Holy City, the City of David, the City of Peace. No matter what you call it it is without a doubt one of the holiest cities in the world to the 3 major religions; Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. For Jews it is the city where Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac, it is the site where King Solomon built the Temple (sacred to Jews, as evident with the Western “Wailing” Wall); it is, in essence, the eternal capital of the Jewish faith. For Christians, it is the city where Jesus spent his last days on earth, where the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and Resurrection took place and to Muslims it is known as, Al-Quds or The Holy. It is said to be the place where Mohamed ascended to Heaven on his trusty steed. To Muslims, the city of Jerusalem is the third most holy city, after Mecca and Medina.
Physically Jerusalem is one city, however, in reality it is many cities combined into one. There is an estimated population of around 800,000 people which makes it the most populated city in Israel. It is the capital of the State of Israel and it is where the seat of power (Knesset) is located.
The Old City is a bustling and vibrant place. Wandering through the Old City you are faced with the challenges of navigating the narrow streets, filled to the brim with shop keepers selling their wares. It is broken up into 4 quarters, the Jewish Quarter, the Christian Quarter, the Muslim Quarter and the Armenian Quarter. Each quarter contains something that is held sacred to its corresponding religion. For instance you will find the Western Wall (Wailing Wall) within the Jewish Quarter, the Dome of the Rock within the Muslim Quarter, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Christian Quarter. Through all the hustle and bustle, it is sometimes more enjoyable to find a nice place to have a coffee and some falafel and hummus and just watch the world go whizzing by you.
My time in Jerusalem was short considerably short to begin with. I just barely got a sense of what goes on here and how the people conduct their daily lives before it was time to say good bye; though I will be back again on the second day of December to celebrate Hanukkah. I managed to barter away some of my shekels in the old Souk of the Muslim Quarter, and sip tea from the 4th story balcony of my hotel which commanded a view over the old city and the Dome of the Rock. From within the Christian Quarter I wandered the Via Dolorosa to experience the “Stations of the Cross,” before ending the journey at Golgotha / Calvary and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, a 12th Century Crusader Cathedral built on the tomb of Jesus Christ. From the Jewish Quarter I was to gaze upon one of, if not the, most important site in the Jewish faith – the Western Wall & the great Temple Mount. Watching the vast population of Jews who have come to pray at the wall was a humbling experience, though I must admit, I’m not sure how the Orthodox Jews manage to stay alive in this heat, with their long, black woolen coats and black hats. As I was walking through the Jewish Quarter I was stopped and given a blessing by a rabbi, who wished me and my family good health and fortune (of course he was seeking donations), but it was a very interesting experience .. and, I’m happy to say, I did not burst into flame and the fires of Hell did not consume me for being a sinner. Jerusalem is a city of Pilgrimages. But even those who are not religious, it is still quite easy to be caught up in the magic of the city.
While I was watching the sun go down I noticed that there was some kind of photo shoot going on, which involved this solider lighting the Menorah. I took advantage of the situation to snap this great shot. I love the colors of the setting sun against the city.
MORE ABOUT THE DOME:
The Dome of the Rock is an imposing structure which sits on top of the Temple Mount, where the Second Temple once stood and is considered one of the holiest sites in Islam, following Mecca and Medina. At the heart of the Dome’s significance sits the rock. From this rock it is said that Muhammad ascended to Heaven on his trusty steed, accompanied by the angel Gabriel. Upon Muhammad’s return to earth, he called upon all that would believe him to join with him and be Muslims, which is at this juncture that Islam came into existence. The Dome of the Rock was built between 689 and 691 CE, originally intending the building to serve as a shrine for pilgrims and not as a mosque for worshiping. The octagonal structure comprises of a wooden dome, approximately 60 feet in diameter, mounted on an elevated drum consisting of a circle of 16 piers and columns. The outer walls are made of porcelain and mirror the octagonal design. Each measures approximately 60 feet in width and approximately 36 feet in height. It wasn’t until during an extensive restoration project that the Dome was covered with a durable aluminum and bronze alloy, which was made in Italy. It wasn’t until 1993, when King Hussein of Jordan sold one of his houses in London, was able to fund the $8.2 million needed for the 80 kilograms of gold that was required to cover the dome.