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Old City Jerusalem sites and sounds

Old City of Jerusalem – If I forget thee O Jerusalem

The Old City of Jerusalem is considered to be the center of the world due to the close proximity of Mt. Moriah (the Temple Mount).  The Patriarchs of the Torah (Hebrew Bible) walked these  ancient streets and through the centuries kings, warriors, conquerors and pilgrims have come to Jerusalem and left their footprints. Jerusalem is a holy city with layers upon layers of history waiting to be peeled away and revealed. Along the way we'll wander through the markets and various residential areas and see some out of the way spots, while noticing the vast variety of people in the Old City - visitors and locals. Some of the sites and attractions we can visit are:


In the heart of the Jewish Quarter stands The Hurva Synagogue close to a synagogue built by Yehuda the Hasid and his students in 1700. It was  destroyed 20 years later and called the Hurva (Hurva means 'ruins' in Hebrew). A new magnificent synagogue was built in 1864, destroyed in 1948 by  the Jordan Legion and finally was gloriously renovated in 2010 and returned to its original beauty. There is an entrance fee. Make sure to go up  to the dome and see the 360 degree view of Jerusalem.


Nearby is the renewed Herordian Quarter  which were probably the homes  of wealthy Cohanim (Jewish priests) who served in the Second Temple. Here you can see an exhibit of the families' possessions and the remains of their homes, as well as evidence of mass destruction of the second Beit Hamikdash (Second Holy Temple) and the upper city destroyed by the Romans in 70 ce. The Herodian Quarter is just about finished with major renovations and upgrades to the site. It's even changing it's name to reflect the Cohanim neighborhood of 2000 years ago! Watch here for when it reopens!


At the The Burnt House  watch a powerful audio-visual presentation following the priestly Katros family on the eve of the destruction of the Second Holy Temple. The Burnt House is on Tiferet Israel Street which I call the food court because it's a great place to take a break to get ice cream, a snack or quick meal. 

We can walk along The Cardo, the central road and market built during the Byzantine era and imagine ourselves walking along ancient Main Street as we see a replica of the Madeba map and touch the time-worn Byzantine stones, columns and capitals. Part of the ancient Cardo now houses lovely modern shops filled with art, jewelry, Judaica, souvenirs and more. Check out the mosaic walls depicting the type of stalls of the Byzantine era and see if you can recognize what was sold in each shop.


After the Six Day War in  June 1967, Israel decided to preserve the remnants of  the past they found while excavating the Jewish Quarter, and at the same time build for the future. For example: modern apartment buildings and shops were built adjacent to The Broad Wall which was built by King Hizkiyahu (Hezekiah) in preparation for the Assyrian siege in 701 bce. It is currently under renovations. 


A more recent building can be seen at Batei Machse, built by Dutch and German Jews, to house the poor due to overcrowding conditions in the mid 1800's. It was the site of the Jewish Quarter residents' surrender two weeks after Israel declared Independence in 1948, when the Old City fell into Jordanian hands and was inaccessible for the next 19 years.  It's now a school and it's wonderful to see children playing in the yard at all hours of the day. A special verse from Zachariah describing a prophecy about Jerusalem is etched on a nearby wall.


You can see the preparations for the Third Temple at The Temple Institute's (Machon Hamikdash) fascinating exhibit of the Priestly vessels and clothing created by expert craftsmen based on the scholarly investigation of each item's dimensions and purpose as written in the Torah. Most of the items are ready to be used when the Mashiach (Jewish Messiah) arrives.


Adjacent to the revered Kotel (Western Wall) is the Davidson Archeological Park where we can walk on a 2000 year old road built only a few years before the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 ce by the Romans.  We can see the large stones exactly where they crashed onto the pavement when they were pushed over by the Romans in their zeal to destroy Jerusalem. Stand below Robinson's Arch, a remnant of an arch that once supported a monumental flight of stairs that lead to the Temple Mount and see what remains of some stores and even a drainage canal. Visit the 'stores', mikvaot (ritual baths), and a fascinating carved stone in Hebrew that fell from the top of the Western Wall.


Nearby is the Ophel, meaning fortified hill or rise, which stretches along the Southern Wall between the Temple Mount and Ir David (City of David).  Here we can glimpse at a range of ruins  from the Iron Age through the 8th century. Climb the same steps used in ancient times to approach the Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple) and see the Hulda gates mentioned in Tanach and the Mishna. Many mikvaot (ritual baths) were discovered and you can walk along the "Mikva path" to see many of the steps and pools that were cut into the bedrock. 


Of course, a visit to the The Kotel (The Western Wall) is a must. Jews have prayed in the direction of the Kotel for thousands of years and only a privileged few have had the honor of praying here until it was liberated in 1967. It is the last remaining retaining wall of the Temple Mount, left by the Romans purposely to remind the Jews of the Destruction. The Kotel is the closest place to the Kodesh Hakodeshim (Holy of Holies) and Foundation Stone, thus making it a strong attraction to all religions. Allow yourself some time for quiet reflection next to the Wall and leave a note in one of its crowded crevices. Please respect the sanctity of the Wall by dressing modestly.


A visit to the Kotel Tunnels is a fascinating journey spanning 2.5 thousand years of history revealed before your eyes. Touch bedrock where many generations of our ancestors walked and see one of the largest stones in the world that weighs 570 metric tons! Learn about how this huge wall was built without cement or modern technology. Other tours include he Great Bridge Route which follows an ancient aqueduct which brought water from miles away to the Holy Temple, A Look into the Past - a VR activity, Chain of Generations and Journey to Jerusalem.  If you are celebrating a Bar or Bat Mitzva, there are a number of other options to commemorate the event.


 Ir David (City of David), where the original City of Jerusalem began as the city of Yevus (Jebus), covers only 11 acres and is chock full of thousands of years of history. King David built Israel's first capitol here, as described in Tanach (Scriptures). Some of the sites we can visit are what may have been King David's palace, Hizkiyahu's (Hezikaya's) 175 foot long water tunnel, the Canaanite dry tunnel, the drainage canal, Warren's shaft, the Spring Tower, Givati excavations, and more.


The Tower of David Museum has reopened  in 2023 after mega renovations and preservations, with almost all of the galleries now accessible. There are all new galleries highlighting the history of Jerusalem with David's Citadel as the Gateway to Jerusalem for thousands of years. Using the most up-to-date hi-tech, animations, touch screens, and genuine archeological artifacts. Visit the Kishle too! What is that? Ask me! Make time to visit; this is a site not to miss!

Other sites to look for:
Old Yishuv Court Museum, Walking the Ramparts, the Arab Shuk (market), Beit Haplugot, the observation point on Har Hazeitim (Mount of Olives), Jaffa Gate, Zion Gate, Damascus Gate, David's tomb and more! 

The Tower of David  aka David's Citadel, adjacent to Jaffa Gate, had nothing to do with King David! The City of David is south of the current walled Old City, but when the Pilgrims came in the 4-5th century, the real City of David was buried under piles of rubble. They saw one of Herod's towers and presumed it was remains of David's palace and it's been called the Tower of David ever since.

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Jerusalem in one minute

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