Visiting Jerusalem – A Crossroad of Cultures

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Jerusalem is OLD – one of the oldest cities in the world, with the oldest part of the city settled in the 4th millennium BCE. It is also the crossroads for so many things. From history to religion, it’s a special and controversial place for many people. History books and the Bible can get into the conflicts and miracles, I’ll just show you what I saw.

The Walled City

The old city of Jerusalem has long been protected by walls. The current version of the walls were erected between 1535 and 1538. This is what you see as you approach the old town (through a lovely, new shopping quarter no-less!)

Here’s a view of the wall at sunset from the King David hotel.

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At night, they have a light show on the wall that shows the taking down of the wall.

Inside the Walls

Inside the walls, there are four quarters – the Armenian Quarter (where we entered), the Jewish Quarter, the Arab Quarter and the Christian Quarter. Each quarter had a distinctly different feel and there were some areas where you weren’t allowed to pass unless you belonged to that quarter.  As we were heading to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre from the Temple Mount, we walked through the Arab quarter. As we looked to go down one street, a kid cheerfully asked if we were Muslim, when we said no, he said we couldn’t go down that street and pointed us in another direction.

The Jewish Quarter

Notice the welcome, but also the scratching out of the Arabic.

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It was Birthright week when we attended so there were lots of young adults checking out the sites, including these Roman ruins.

img_1203Above’s a view of the Mount of Olives that you can see from inside the walled city. It’s a burial site that is also believed to be the spot where Jesus ascended to heaven.

The Western Wall has remained intact since the destruction of the Second Jerusalem Temple (70 CE). It is the most sacred spot in Judaism as it is believed that the Divine Presence remains. Over one million prayers are placed in the Wall each year and are taken and buried on the Mount of Olives. The first time I visited the Western Wall there was a co-ed section. Now, men and women pray separately with a wall dividing them (below). I was not a fan of this change.

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There were also several Bar Mitzvah celebrations at the Wall. Mazel Tov!
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The Arab Quarter and Temple Mount

As soon as we entered the Temple Mount area, I was asked to cover my head and chest and the guys were asked to cover their legs (they were wearing shorts). I was able to use my scarf, but the guys had to “rent” two skirts for 35 shekels. Just a note if you are planning on visiting, guys may not want to wear shorts. The Temple Mount area is beautiful and very uncrowded. We were not able to enter the mosque but did explore the area outside.

As we were leaving the Arab Quarter, we made a friend…

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The Christian Quarter

In the Christian Quarter, we saw the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a pilgrimage site for many Christians who believe that this is the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and tomb. There is much debate on where exactly the sites are in the church, but I’ve included a few of them below.

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Random Aside

Trump had visited the week before and they were obviously putting out the welcome mat…

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The Israel Museum

The Israel Museum is an impressive indoor and outdoor venue that features many artifacts about the history of Israel and the region.  One of the highlights of the museum is an exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which include the second-oldest known surviving manuscripts of works later included in the Hebrew Bible canon.

According to the museum, The Dead Sea Scrolls are approximately two thousand years old, dating from the third century BCE to the first century CE. Most of the scrolls were written in Hebrew, with a smaller number in Aramaic or Greek. Most of them were written on parchment, with the exception of a few written on papyrus. The vast majority of the scrolls survived as fragments – only a handful were found intact. Nevertheless, scholars have managed to reconstruct from these fragments approximately 950 different manuscripts of various lengths. You can read more about the Dead Sea Scrolls here.

The building where the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed.

Dead Sea Scrolls Display

LOVE outside the Israel Museum

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Inside the museum, they had a great collection of ancient artifacts, including a skull cast from some 25 million years ago.

I really enjoyed the Synagogue Route, which takes you through restored synagogues through the years from Italy, Suriname, Germany and India.

They also had a Cat and Dog special exhibit, which I think was just for me!

Yad Vashem – The World Holocaust Remembrance Center

I have been to several concentration camps, holocaust museums and Anne Frank’s house, and each time I go to these places, I am completely drained and completely horrified by the genocide that occurred.

The museum takes you through the events leading up to the holocaust (or Shoah as it is known in Israel), the events of the holocaust and the liberation of the concentration camp. It also remembers the six million victims and honors those who helped Jews hide or escape.

The Children’s Memorial is haunting and heartbreaking. As you walk through the candlelit exhibit, names of children who were killed in holocaust are read aloud. There were more than 500,000 children who died.

The museum is a concrete structure, mostly underground that zig zags through the history of the holocaust. While it is cold and dark inside, there is light.

At the end of the museum there is a room that honors the names of all know holocaust victims and includes photos.

To learn more about the holocaust or Yad Vashem, click here. Never forget.

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