ALL ABOUT JERUSALEM IN ONE ARTICLE
It is difficult to find another city as rich in historical events as Jerusalem
History of Jerusalem
The First Temple Period of Jerusalem
The first settlement on the territory of the city appeared at the source of Gikhon in the Kidron Valley (approximately where the tunnels of the archaeological city of David are now). The first mentions of it are found among the Egyptians in the 20th century BC. e., then the Canaanite tribe lived here. According to the Bible in 1000 BC. e. the settlement was conquered by the Jews (Hebrew) under the leadership of King David. His son Solomon expanded the city to the north, into the territory of the present Old City, and on the Temple Mount began to build a huge temple, which in the Jewish tradition is considered to be the First Temple.
After the death of Solomon, the Israelite tribes split into two kingdoms, and Jerusalem became the capital and religious center of Judea.
In 586, the city, together with the Temple, was taken by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnosor II. The inhabitants of the city were taken to Babylon, and the Temple and the city were destroyed.
The Second Temple Period of Jerusalem
In 516 BC. e. Cyrus the Great allowed the Jews to return to Judea and even allocated funds for the construction of a new temple, hoping in this way to get allies in their person. This is how the Second Temple was built. Its difficult history includes the conquest by Alexander the Great, and later desecration by the Seleucids. About 63 BC e. Jerusalem was besieged and taken by the Romans under the leadership of General Pompey. In 37 BC. e. Herod the Great, known as a tyrant of tyrants, reigned in Judea. Herod put to death his wife and children, as well as the rabbis who risked opposing his rule. But he is also known for his ambitious construction projects, including the expansion of the Temple Mount.
After the death of Herod, the Romans established direct control over Judea, placing a procurator in Jerusalem to rule the city. We all know the fifth procurator, Pontius Pilate, around A.D. 30. e. who sentenced Jesus Christ to crucifixion.
In 66, the largest Jewish uprising against the Romans began. The revolt was brutally suppressed, the Second Temple was destroyed, and Jerusalem was burned. Almost all Jews became slaves or went into exile.
Around 130, the emperor Hadrian decided to restore Jerusalem, not as a Jewish one, but as the Roman city of Aelia Capitoline, building pagan temples dedicated to the Roman gods everywhere.
Period of Byzantium and Islam in Jerusalem
In 324, the emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in Byzantium. His mother Elena in 326–328. visited the Holy Land in search of holy Christian places, founding basilicas and churches along the way. Jerusalem becomes a center of pilgrimage.
After that, the history of the city becomes more turbulent and confusing. In 688, after the conquest of Judea by the Muslims, the Dome of the Rock was built on the site of the destroyed Jewish temple. Initially, under the first Islamic rulers, Jerusalem was a center of pilgrimage for Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and all of them were guaranteed security. But since the end of the 900s. the non-Muslim population of Judea-Palestine began to be persecuted, and churches and synagogues were destroyed. When rumors about the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher reached Europe, they became the reason for organizing the first crusades.
From crusaders to ottomans in Jerusalem
Jerusalem was taken relatively easily by the knights during the first crusade in 1099, while a significant part of Muslims was killed. On the territory from Beirut to Aqaba, the Kingdom of Jerusalem was created, the first king was the knight Gottfried of Bouillon. For nearly 90 years, Jerusalem was ruled by European Christians, becoming a major trade center. In 1187 the Mamluk troops of Saladin invaded the kingdom, they besieged and took Jerusalem. This led to the Third Crusade, led by Richard I the Lionheart. He managed to recapture part of the kingdom from the Muslims, but Jerusalem was impregnable and remained under the rule of Islam for many centuries.
Saladin allowed Muslims and Jews to return to the city. From XIII to the XVI centuries. The Mamluks built several outstanding buildings in the city and made Jerusalem a center for academic and religious scholarship. Administratively, however, the city from the capital of the kingdom has turned into a remote backwater.
In 1517, the Ottoman Turks defeated the Mamluks, annexing Palestine to their vast empire. Unfortunately, of the entire five-century Ottoman rule, we can only recall the walls and gates of the White City in the middle of the 16th century, built by Suleiman the Magnificent. The rest of the city fell into decay, buildings collapsed, corruption spread.
After the Turkish Sultan passed the law on religious tolerance in 1856, Jewish immigration to Eretz Israel increased sharply, so the then distant outskirts gradually turned into the center of the city.
British Mandate in Jerusalem
During the First World War, the British fought on the Palestinian front against the Ottomans. At the end of 1917, with the help of the famous officer Lawrence of Arabia, who raised an Arab revolt against the Turks, the British forces of General Allenby captured Jerusalem. After the end of the war, the British received a League of Nations mandate to govern all of Palestine and made Jerusalem the center of the mandated territory.
At this time, Arab and Jewish nationalism grew, partly as a response to the oppression of the Ottomans, and partly as a worldwide tendency for the growth of national self-awareness. Against this backdrop, Jerusalem is becoming a hotbed of political tension, terrorism, and open war between Jews, Arabs, and the British.
After the Second World War, the question arose about transferring control over the territory to the local population. Following the 1947 United Nations Partition/Resolution Plan, The united nations security council suggested dividing Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state, and Jerusalem, as a unique multinational holy city, was separated from both of them. The Arabs rejected this plan, and the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 began. Jordanian troops captured the West Bank. The old city with the Western Wall came under Jordanian control. Israel declared the western part of Jerusalem it's capital.
Jerusalem was divided
Jerusalem has been a divided city for 19 years. The only border crossing point was the Mandelbaum Gate. The Jews were very upset about the loss of their shrine, Israel tried to negotiate the passage of pilgrims to the Western Wall, but no avail. However, the 1967 Six-Day War, unexpected for everyone, allowed Israel to reclaim the Old City. A photo of the joyful Israeli paratroopers at the Western Wall went around the world. A recovery and beautification boom began in Jerusalem.
Controversial status of Jerusalem
Jerusalem's status is still pending. All countries that recognize Israel keep their embassies in Tel Aviv, formally considering it the capital. Only Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and the American embassy moved there in 2018.
Both Israelis and Palestinians regard Jerusalem as their capital. Today, the Palestinian leadership is "temporarily" located in Ramallah. The Israeli government, having annexed the eastern part of the city, regards Jerusalem as its indivisible capital. For security reasons, Israel has built a giant separation barrier that effectively isolates the city and country from the West Bank.
There are approximately 700,000 Jews and 300,000 Palestinians living in East Jerusalem. Arabs settle mainly in the districts of the Old City, in At-Tur on the Mount of Olives, Sylvanas and Ras Al-Amud to the south of the Old City, and Sheikh Jarrah and Shuafat to the north of it. The annexation of East Jerusalem is viewed as illegal in almost the entire world. However, the very close interweaving of historical, religious, and cultural factors does not allow hoping for an effective plan of division between the communities. This is especially true of the Old City and the Temple Mount, where the sacred sites of Jews and Muslims coexist. All this leads to increased tensions, outbreaks of violence, terrorist attacks, and "intifada" (uprisings).
Jerusalem will always be the holy grail
Despite this difficult situation, tourists continue to flood Jerusalem. The streets and cafes of the city are generally safe. During turbulent times, the administration will close the Wailing Wall and Al-Aqsa Mosque and issue warnings, but this is rare. People of all nationalities and religions are welcoming and helpful.
Climate and weather in Jerusalem
Although the city is located not on the sea coast, but in the mountains, Jerusalem belongs to the Mediterranean climate zone with very dry, hot summers and mild, wet winters. However, do not forget that it lies at an altitude of about 750 m above sea level: in November-March it is cooler here than in neighboring Tel Aviv, and even more so at the coastal resorts of the Dead Sea, which are located 15 km below Jerusalem.
Rains are frequent in winter, mostly light. Snow falls once or twice a year. Sometimes, once every 3-4 years, snowfalls can be quite heavy, while in other years there may be no snow all winter. On average, the minimum daytime temperatures in January-February are + 6 ° С (a record minimum during the day -3 ° С), in December and March + 8 ° С. Overall, given the very expensive electricity and associated heating, winter is an uncomfortable time to visit Jerusalem.
There is practically no precipitation in summer and September, and the daytime temperature is stable around + 28 ... + 29 ° С and above (the record is slightly above + 40 ° С).
The best time of the year to travel is the height of spring and autumn. In April and May, the weather in Jerusalem is mild and sunny, not hot, which is important for many hours of walking in the Old City and its surroundings, and with minimal rainfall. This time is considered a high season, the narrow old streets are getting crowded from Europeans, and hotels are raising prices.
In September and October, the air in the city is fresher, the average daytime temperature is about +20 ... + 25 ° С, and the weather again contributes to long interesting excursions. This is the time of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and other Jewish holidays. On the one hand, this is an opportunity to get to know the ancient culture better, but on the other hand, there are more people in the city, and housing prices are growing similarly to spring.
Transport in Jerusalem
The old city of Jerusalem is not adapted for traffic, but it is very convenient for walking, so if there is only enough time for it, public transport will not be needed. The rest of the city is very well served by buses and a new tram line. Taxis (although quite expensive) can be taken almost anywhere. If the sphere of interest is limited only to Jerusalem and the immediate vicinity, then you should not rent a car. However, it can be useful for trips to distant places.
Tram of Jerusalem
In 2011, Israel's first tram line opened in Jerusalem. It passes very conveniently through the entire city, including along Jaffa Street, near the Jaffa and Damascus gates of the Old City, past the railway station and the central bus station. Modern, spaceship-like, long gray trains, usually consisting of two articulated carriages, run every 10 minutes from 5:30 am to midnight, with a break for Shabbat.
You can pay for your trip with a Rav-Kav card or with a paper ticket purchased from the machine at the bus stop. Upon entering the carriage, it is necessary to validate both the Rav-Kav and the ticket. The difference between the two payment methods is that the Rav-Kav gives the right to transfer within 90 minutes. A paper ticket from a vending machine is valid only for one trip by tram in one direction without the right to transfer. The inspectors sometimes meet and free riders are fined. A tram line map is also available on the city's transport site.
Bicycle in Jerusalem
Jerusalem with its hills and rugged terrain will be of interest to trained cyclists. For example, one of the companies - Smart Tour - offers a bike rental for 99 NIS per day or an e-bike for 199 NIS.
Taxi in Jerusalem
A trip within the central part of the city will cost from 25 to 50 shekels. The daily rate (until 9 pm) starts at 12.30 NIS. Be sure to insist on turning on the meter, otherwise, an overpayment is inevitable. Taxi drivers at the Jaffa Gate and the Tomb of the Virgin on the Mount of Olives are especially known for manipulating the price.
Areas of Jerusalem
For historical and political reasons, Jerusalem is traditionally divided into Western and Eastern cities. Most Jews live in the west. The eastern part is more mixed with an Arab majority. The conditional border runs along the former Green Line, which was the border between Israel and Jordan until 1967. At the same time, the Old City stands out separately, although it is geographically located in East Jerusalem.
The old city of Jerusalem
The heart of Jerusalem and, one might say, all of Israel, one of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites, is filled with attractions. It is safe to say that most tourists will spend most of their trip here. The old city is divided into four quarters - Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and Armenian. Very roughly, for ease of orientation, taking the Old City as a rectangle, you can represent individual quarters in the form of four squares.
In terms of size, it is the largest quarter of the Old Town. Herod's gates, Damascus, and Lion gates lead into it through the wall. The quarter includes the Temple Mount with the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. In it, the Via Dolorosa begins with the first seven Stations of the Cross - the Sorrowful path that Christ followed to the place of the crucifixion. The Muslim Quarter also includes the Monastery of the Flagellation, St Anne's Church, and the atmospheric Central and Cotton Markets. Jewish attractions within the quarter include the tunnels along the Western Wall and the Cauldron Katan ("small" Western Wall).
Located south of the Muslim, directly adjacent to the Temple Mount. The Zion and Garbage Gates lead to the quarter. The quarter was almost destroyed by Jordanian forces and rebuilt after the 1967 Six-Day War. The main shrine of Judaism is located in the Jewish quarter - the Western Wall or the Wailing Wall. A little further south, at the southern wall of the Temple Mount, is the Jerusalem Archaeological Park. The quarter is home to a large number of yeshivas (Jewish religious schools) and synagogues, of which the most famous is Hurva. The main market of the quarter is Cardo, located on the street of the same name.
Located west of the Muslim Quarter, it stretches from the Citadel and Jaffa Gate to the Damascus Gate. The New Gate also leads to the Christian Quarter. The quarter is home to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (which is at the same time the final destination of Via Dolorosa) and numerous Christian churches, monasteries, and educational institutions.
The smallest quarter of the Old City occupies its southwest corner. Here is the Cathedral of St. James of the Armenian diocese, the Assyrian monastery of St. Mark, and the library of Armenian manuscripts by Calouste Gulbenkian. Through the Zion Gate, the Armenian quarter communicates with the neighboring Mount Zion, where the Upper Room of the Last Supper, a synagogue with the tomb of King David, and a fortress-like Benedictine Church of the Assumption of the Most Holy Theotokos are located.
East Jerusalem, occupied by Jordan until 1967, is mainly inhabited by Arabs. The archaeological complex of the City of David favored by Israel's antiquities authority, located south of the Temple Mount, deserves attention here. To the east of it, beyond the deep Kidron Valley, rises the slope of the Mount of Olives (or Olives). From north to south (that is, from left to right when looking from the Old City) you can see here: the Tomb of the Virgin Mary, the Garden of Gethsemane, one above the other the Church of All Nations and the Church of Mary Magdalene, and beyond the Jericho road - a huge array of the Jewish cemetery.
In the distance, approximately opposite the Temple Mount - the Russian Olive Ascension Monastery, the Ascension Mosque, and the Church of Our Father. In front of the Kidron Valley, at the Stork Tower, there is the Rockefeller Museum with a collection of archaeological finds.
Spread to the west and north of the walls of the Old City. There is also something to see here, although the concentration of attractions is lower than in the Old Town. Conventionally, the West can be divided along Jaffa Street. To the south of it, the city is more secular and European, with cafes, trendy shops, restaurants, pedestrian streets, and noisy parties. To the north - the so-called "Haredim Yerushalaim", the areas of settlement of ultra-Orthodox Jews with a center in Mea Shearim. Overly flamboyant and revealing outfits and defiant behavior are not welcome here, people in traditional black clothes are everywhere, men in wide-brimmed hats and side-locks, and in general, the street atmosphere is more Middle Eastern.
The western part of the city is interesting primarily for its museums, including the Israel Museum, the Museum of Islamic Art, the Museum of Bible Countries, and the Yad Vashem Memorial Complex.
Children will be interested in the Bible Zoo, Zedekiah's Cave, and the Bloomfield Science Museum. The most popular market in the western part of Jerusalem is Mahane Yehuda near the tram stop of the same name.
On the outskirts of the city, the former village of Ein Kerem is known for its bohemian atmosphere and several art galleries. Here, on the slopes of olive groves, there are four monasteries of different denominations, including the Russian Gorny Convent, as well as the Church of the Meeting of Mary and Elizabeth.
What to see in Jerusalem?
All the sights of Jerusalem can be roughly divided into two large groups: historical and religious and museums. The first ones are located mainly in the Old Town and its surroundings, and they can be walked around in 1-2 days. Most of the museums are located in the west of Jerusalem, at a considerable distance from the center.
Old City Jerusalem
Surrounded by modern, hurrying Jerusalem, the Old City continues to live the same life in many respects as it did hundreds of years ago. Its history goes back about 3 millennia. The current network of streets was formed during the Byzantine era and the imposing walls. on which you can walk, gates and towers were built during the Ottoman rule in the 16th century. Here are concentrated the most attractive objects for tourists and the most sacred places of the three Abrahamic religions.
The Western Wall
The Western Wall (Western Wall, ha-Kotel), sacred to the Jews, is one of the walls of the Temple Mount, a stone platform on which the First Temple of Solomon stood 3000 years ago, and then the Second Temple was built. The Square in front of the Wall is an open-air synagogue, a place of continuous pilgrimage, worship, and prayer. Even in the middle of the night, several people will surely be near the wall, and at the height of Shabbat, there is nowhere for an apple to fall.
The left side of the wall is reserved for the male part, the right - for the female part. Anyone can visit the square without restrictions and touch the wall, leave a note in it with the most intimate wishes, it is enough just to treat this place with reasonable respect and be appropriately dressed.
Above the Western Wall rises the Temple Mount (al-Haram al-Quds al-Sharif), a hill in the eastern part of the Old City, on which an enormous stone platform was erected, which served as the foundation of the Temple of Solomon. Today it houses the shrines of Muslims - the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Golden Dome of the Rock.
Tourists can climb the Temple Mount following the usual rules of decency and respect (in particular, all non-Muslim prayers and political speech are prohibited here). For non-Muslims, the only gates of al-Mughrabi (Moroccan) are open, to which a ramp leads from the square at the Western Wall.
For many, the golden Dome of the Rock, hovering over the Old City and the cemeteries of the Mount of Olives, is a symbol of Jerusalem. The dome covers the rock from which, according to the Qur'an, Mohammed ascended to heaven. Built at the end of the 7th century AD BC, this temple became the first large architectural structure of Islam. Unfortunately, the entrance to it is closed to non-Muslims, but you can see the beautiful Arab mosaics on the outer walls of the dome base.
A vast flat stone building opposite is the al-Aqsa mosque under a lead dome, the third shrine of Islam after Mecca and Medina. Built-in the 8th century, it was destroyed by earthquakes and was rebuilt and rebuilt many times until very recently. Some Christians believe that the mosque stands on the very spot where Christ expelled the merchants from the temple. It is closed to non-Muslims, but tourists can view the building from the outside.
In the Christian Quarter, the place of pilgrimage is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (Resurrection of Christ), which, according to the Bible, unites under its roof the top of Golgotha - the place of Christ's crucifixion, the ablution stone, and the cave in which he was buried and from where he ascended. The first chapel on this site was founded in the 4th century by St. Helena. Later, the temple was expanded many times, burned, destroyed by earthquakes, rebuilt, and now it is an imposing building with two domes and four entrance arches.
It is crowded here all the time, except in the early morning. The chapel at the burial place of Christ can be quite impressive. The temple is divided between six confessions, so services are held almost continuously.
From the Muslim quarter to the Temple leads Via Dolorosa - the sorrowful path of Christ with a length of about 600 meters, which, according to Christian theologians, he walked, carrying his cross from the place of judgment to the place of crucifixion, burial, and ascension. On the way, there are 14 stops ("stands"), of which nine are on the streets of the Old City, and five more are in the premises of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Via Dolorosa begins in the courtyard of the Islamic madrasah, wherein 33 AD Pontius Pilate interrogated and tried Yeshua, and continues through the Christian quarter, then outside the city walls, to the top of Calvary.
Near the Jaffa Gate, a powerful Citadel (Tower of David) is built into the Jerusalem wall. The fortress on this place was founded, probably in the II century BC. BC, significantly fortified by Herod and supplemented in 1532 by Suleiman the Magnificent. A walk along the walls of the tower reveals magnificent panoramas of Jerusalem. Sometimes in the evenings, there is a sound and light show that brings the fortress back to ancient times.
Outside Old Town Jerusalem
The Temple Mount offers views of the Mount of Olives and Jerusalem University. The slope overlooking the Kidron Valley represents endless rows of burials: there are more than 150 thousand Jews here. In Judaism, it is believed that the Last Judgment will begin from this place. In addition to the world's oldest cemetery, there are several churches scattered across the mountain, associated with various events in the last days of Jesus' life, among which the Church of All Nations and the Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene stands out.
Once the entire Mount of Olives was covered with olive trees, but now there is only a small grove near the Church of All Nations - the Garden of Gethsemane. The grove contains eight ancient olive trees, under which it is believed that Jesus prayed before his arrest. Next to the Garden of Gethsemane, there is an underground sanctuary with the tomb of the Virgin Mary.
To the south of the Armenian quarter rises Mount Zion, an important pilgrimage site for Christians and Jews. The tomb of King David and the room of the Last Supper is located here at the same time. In Jewish tradition, Zion is seen as the symbol of all Israel.
West Jerusalem museums
One of the largest archaeological and art museums in the world, the Israel Museum, occupies several hectares near the Knesset and is dedicated to the history, culture, and life of Jews over the past 5000 years. Its visit takes at least half a day. Among the many exhibits is a 1:50 scale model of Jerusalem from the time of the First Temple.
Another significant complex not so far away from the prime minister residence is associated with the memory of the Holocaust: Yad Vashem - a museum, archive, research institute, and official memorial to the six million victims, united under one name. Appropriate clothing is required for the visit: T-shirts, short skirts, and shorts are prohibited.
The Bible Zoo has a collection of animals mentioned in the Bible. Many of them have not been found in Israel for a long time: bears, lions, Nile crocodiles. Nice place to visit with children.