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Jerusalem

Jerusalem is the capital and the holiest city in Israel, with over 3.5 million tourist ever year.

Despite being an ancient city, it is a vibrant and full of life. Here, old meets new and ancient meets modern, every where you turn.

While the Old City is filled with religious and ancient sites, the new city is captivating with eateries, shops, and street fairs.

Jerusalem is my favorite city in the world and is a unique experience.

Index

  • Old City
  • Modern City
  • History
  • FAQs
  • Things to Do in Jerusalem

Old City

The Old City of Jerusalem is the original ancient city which is encompasses by protective walls.

It’s most notable attraction is the Western Wall, also known as the Kotel HaMaaravi. This is the closest Jews can pray to where Holy Temple that once stood on the Temple Mount.

However, the Old City holds many historical gems including the Cardo and Herodian Quarter.

Not to mention centuries old synagogues like the Hurva Synagogue and the Four Sphardic Synagogues.

It also has some great restaurants and hosts wonderful events throughout the year.

New City

The rest of Jerusalem is located outside the walls and is easily connected to by walking down the open-air Mamilla mall.

Sir Moses Montefiore, a British banker and philanthropist, built the first Jewish residential settlement outside the Old City walls, Mishkenot Sha’ananim.

His goal was to create a settlement that was independent so he also built a windmill to help residents grind wheat.

Montefiore’s Windmill, is no longer active but still stands and can be seen from outside Jaffa Gate and Ramparts Walk.

Today, Jerusalem is the largest city in Israel with many neighborhoods.

While mostly residential, the majority of what there is to see and do, including Mahane Yehuda Market and The First Station, is close to one another.

Culture Center

Jerusalem is a major cultural center filled with great restaurants and cafes, museums, and so much more.

Of course, it also has many religious and historical sites as well. In fact, it is hard to walk most any where in Jerusalem without passing a blue historical sign.

History of Jerusalem

The history of Jerusalem spans 3000 years beginning with King David and continuing until today.

Jerusalem was once a strong and powerful city but through the ages has been and ruled by many different empires, each taking it from the one before them.

Biblical

In the early as the Bronze Age King David built his capital city, The City of David, on Mount Zion. This was the beginning of Jerusalem.

Then, King Solomon expanded the city to include neighboring Mount Moriah where he built the Temple, today known as the Temple Mount.

During the First Temple period the city walls were extended to include the northwest hill as well, where today’s Jewish Quarter and Armenian Quarter are located.

The walls of Jerusalem were breached Babylonia in 587 BCE after a 30 months siege, and the Solomon’s Temple as well most of the city were pillaged and destroyed.

Then, in 539 BCE, Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered the Babylonian Empire gaining control of Israel and Jerusalem as well and the Jews were invited to rebuild the Temple.

Construction of the Second Temple was completed in 516 BCE, during the reign of Darius the Great, 70 years after the destruction of the First Temple.

When Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire and Jerusalem and Judea came under Macedonian control. However, when he died it fell to the Ptolemaic dynasty until it was lost to the Seleucids.

The Seleucid attempt to recast Jerusalem as a Hellenized city-state came to a head in 168 BCE but Maccabean Revolt was successful and led to the Hasmonean Kingdom in 152 BCE with Jerusalem as its capital.

Hasmonean period, Jerusalem grew and the city walls were expanded.

Antiquity

In 63 BCE, Pompey captured Jerusalem for Julius Caesar, extending the influence of the Roman Republic.

Caesar permitted the reconstruction of the walls of Jerusalem, restored to the port of Jaffa, and confirmed Hasmonean rule.

His respect toward the high priest and his tolerant attitude toward the Diaspora Jews increased won him favor from the Jewish masses.

When Caesar was assassinated, he was mourned by the Jews more than by any other nation.

Then 40 BCE the Roman Senate declared Herod client king and Mark Antony ordered him to capture Jerusalem.

After his conquest, Herod beautifying the Temple and expanded the Temple Mount.

After Herod’s death, tension began to grow between the Jews and Rome.

As a result the Jews revolted and the Romans besiege Jerusalem in 70 CE.

At this time Jerusalem’s popular was at it’s peak. In addition, it was a few days before Passover and the city was filled with pilgrims.

After five months the Roman legions eventually conquered Jerusalem, plundered and destroyed Temple, and razed everything.

This was just a hard won battle that Arch of Titus was built to commemorate the victory.

Fifty years later, Hadrian vowed to rebuild Jerusalem as a gift to the Jewish people, was discouraged from doing so by a Samaritan, during a trip to Jerusalem.

Instead, he built the pagan city of Aelia Capitolina over the ruins of Jerusalem, which would be inhabited by his legionaries, and the erection of a temple to Jupiter on the Temple Mount.

This led to Bar Kokhba revolt, which took the Romans three years to suppress. In retaliation, circumcision was forbidden and Israel combined with neighboring provinces and renamed “Syria Palaestina”.

Also, Jews were expelled from the Jerusalem and were prohibited from entering the city on pain of death, except for one day each year, Tisha B’Av.

The Roman Empire became the Byzantine Empire, and Israel became known as Palaestina Prima, but not much else changed for centuries until Jerusalem was conquered by the Arab armies of Umar in 638 CE.

Medieval

The Islam began giving some prominence to Jerusalem in 623 CE, when Muslims were instructed to face the city while performing their daily prostrations. However, after 13 years, the direction of prayer was changed to Mecca.

With the Arab conquest, Jews were allowed back into the city.

When the Arab armies under Umar reached the Temple Mount site was full of rubbish, and that Arabs and Jews cleaned it.

When Jerusalem and Israel were inherited by the Umayyad Dynasty. In the late 7th century a shrine on the Temple Mount was commissioned, later to become known as the Dome of the Rock.

Over the next four hundred years, Jerusalem’s prominence diminished as Arab powers in the region jockeyed for control.

Then the soldiers of the First Crusade came and massacred most of Jerusalem’s Jewish and Muslim inhabitants, exiled the rest, and made it the capital of their Kingdom of Jerusalem.

The Crusaders recolonized Jerusalem, which had been virtually emptied, with Greeks, Bulgarians, Hungarians, Georgians, Armenians, Syrians, Egyptians, Nestorians, Maronites, Jacobite Miaphysites, Copts and others, to block the return of the surviving Muslims and Jews.

In 1187, the city was wrested from the Crusaders by Saladin who permitted Jews and Muslims to return and settle in the city. However, from 1229 to 1244, Jerusalem peacefully reverted to Christian control as a result of a 1229 treaty that ended the Sixth Crusade.

In 1244, Jerusalem was sacked by the Khwarezmian Tatars, who decimated the city’s Christian population and drove out the Jews. Seven years later were in turn driven out by the Ayyubids.

From 1260 to 1517, Jerusalem was ruled by the Mamluks during which time the area also suffered from many earthquakes and black plague.

Ottoman Period

In 1517, Jerusalem fell to the Ottoman Turks, who generally remained in control until 1917.

Jerusalem enjoyed a prosperous period of renewal and peace under Suleiman the Magnificent.

This including the rebuilding of magnificent walls around the Old City which mistakenly left out Mount Zion. It is said, the architects paid for this mistake with their lives.

The Ottomans brought many innovations: a modern postal system and regular stagecoach and carriage services were among the first signs of modernization in the city.

In the mid 19th century, the Ottomans constructed the first paved road from Jaffa to Jerusalem, and by 1892 the railroad (today the First Station) had reached the city.

According to the Prussian consul, the population in 1845 was 16,410, with 7,120 Jews, 5,000 Muslims, 3,390 Christians, 800 Turkish soldiers and 100 Europeans.

In the 1860s, new neighborhoods, including Mishkenot Sha’ananim, began to develop outside the Old City walls to house pilgrims and relieve the intense overcrowding and poor sanitation inside the city.

British Mandate

In 1917 after the Battle of Jerusalem during World War I, the British Army, led by General Edmund Allenby, captured the city.

That same year the British Government issued the Balfour Declaration which declared British support for the creation in Palestine of a “national home for the Jewish people“. 

In 1922, the League of Nations at the Conference of Lausanne entrusted the United Kingdom to administer Palestine, neighboring Transjordan, and Iraq beyond it.

From 1922 to 1948 the total population of Jerusalem rose from 52,000 to 165,000, comprised two-thirds of Jews and one-third of Arabs (Muslims and Christians).

Relations of the Muslim population towards the Jewish population in Jerusalem deteriorated, resulting in recurring unrest.

In Jerusalem, in particular, Arab riots occurred in 1920 and in 1929 leading to the massacre of dozens of Jews.

Under the British, new garden suburbs were built in the western and northern parts of the city and institutions of higher learning such as the Hebrew University were founded.

State of Israel

Six months after the United Nations voted to approve Israel as an independent country, Israel declared it’s independence on May 14, 1948.

However, the next few days after the declaration, armies of Egypt, Trans-Jordan, Iraq, and Syria attacked Israeli troops inside the area of what had just ceased to be Mandatory Palestine, thereby starting the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.

As a result of the war, Israel took control of the area which later would become West Jerusalem and Jordan took control of East Jerusalem.

The 1,500 residents of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City were expelled and a few hundred taken prisoner when the Arab Legion captured the quarter on 28 May.

After the establishment of the state of Israel, Jerusalem was declared its capital city.

Jordan formally annexed East Jerusalem in 1950. However only the United Kingdom and Pakistan formally recognized such annexation, and some scholars argue that the view that Pakistan recognized Jordan’s annexation is dubious.

Contrary to the terms of the armistice agreement, Jews were denied access to Jewish holy sites, many of which were destroyed or desecrated.

Jordan allowed only very limited access to Christian holy sites, and restrictions were imposed on the Christian population that led many to leave the city.

Of the 58 synagogues in the Old City, half were either razed or converted to stables and hen-houses over the course of the next 19 years, including the Hurva and the Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue.

The 3,000-year-old Mount of Olives Jewish Cemetery was desecrated, with gravestones used to build roads, latrines and Jordanian army fortifications. 38,000 graves in the Jewish Cemetery were destroyed, and Jews were forbidden from being buried there

The Western Wall was transformed into an exclusively Muslim holy site associated with al-Buraq.

While many other historic and religiously significant buildings were demolished and replaced by modern structures during the Jordanian occupation.

In addition, Jordan razed the ancient Jewish Quarter as part of plans to turn it into a public park.

In 1967, despite Israeli pleas that Jordan remain neutral during the Six-Day War, Jordan attacked Israeli-held West Jerusalem on the war’s second day.

After hand-to-hand fighting between Israeli and Jordanian soldiers on the Temple Mount, the Israel Defense Forces captured East Jerusalem, along with the entire West Bank.

Three weeks after the war ended, in the reunification of Jerusalem, Israel extended its law and jurisdiction to East Jerusalem incorporating it into the Jerusalem Municipality.

Jewish and Christian access to the holy sites was restored and the Western Wall was given access to all.

Israel conducted a census of Arab residents in the areas annexed. Residents were given permanent residency status and the option of applying for Israeli citizenship.

Is Jerusalem Safe?

Absolutely! Jerusalem is a very safe city with a low crime rate.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take your regular precautions.

Is Jerusalem Safe for Women?

Speaking as a woman, I feel completely safe in Jerusalem. Still, I do take precautions I learned while living in New York City.

What Religion is Jerusalem?

Jerusalem itself doesn’t have a religion and is multicultural though its population has a Jewish majority.

However, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity all consider Jerusalem a holy city.

Why is Jerusalem Holy?

Jerusalem is the holiest city in the world to Jews and has been since ancient times. It is where the holy Temple stood on the Temple Mount and where we can be closest to God.

Christians consider Jerusalem holy because it’s place Jesus’ life gives it great importance, in addition to its place in the Jewish bible.

Starting in medieval times Islam has considered Jerusalem a sacred site in Islamic tradition, after Mecca and Medina, since previous prophets were associated with the city.

Also, because Muhammad visited the city and it is believed that it is where Muhammad rose to heaven oh his winged horse.

Is Jerusalem near the airport?

The airport is located in Tel Aviv. However, there is a direct train from Ben Gurion Airport to the Jerusalem Central Bus Station.

From the Central Bus Station you can easily access almost anywhere in the city by bus or light rail.

HOLY TEMPLE MUSEUM

The Temple Institute is recreates items that were a necessary part of worship in the Jewish Temple.

These items are on display at the Holy Temple Museum, including High Priests garb and 60 sacred vessels created in accordance with biblical requirements.

Also on display is a gold and marble model of the second temple.

AISH HATORAH CENTER

Aish Center overlooks the Western Wall from across the Plaza. They host thousands of visitors annually to free religious lectures given daily, as well as their Discovery Seminar.

The Center is also home to a 1.2-ton model of the Holy Temple which sits on the rooftop terrace overlooking the site where the real Temple once stood.

The model is the largest of its kind, constructed at a scale of 1:60. It also incorporate authentic materials like gold, silver, wood, and Jerusalem stone.

In addition, it features a system that raises the sanctuary section of the Temple. This offers an internal view of key elements such as the Holy of Holies, the Menorah and the Ark of the Covenant

The Herodian Quarter
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