Understanding geography becomes more and more important as we are a global community and as things get more and more complicated around the world. If you look at a map and consider that in some ways the Mediterranean is in the middle of everything look to the most eastern edge of the sea and there is Israel. Jerusalem, only an hour from the sea has for generations been the center of the center and a crossroads in many ways.
This is a 16th century mosaic of a map that shows Jerusalem at the center of the then known world. It’s on the wall just outside of the Jerusalem City Hall.
Inside the Jaffa Gate (one of 13 gates of the city) you find buildings that used to house consulates such as the US consulate. Now they are cultural centers for various countries at the meeting point of the Arab and Armenian quarters.
The so called Tower of David has nothing to do with King David. It’s a perfect example of what we’ve been talking about- syncretism. First site was Hasmonean (Maccabee of Chanukah fame), then Herodian, then Byzantine, early Muslim, and finally crusader and Mamluk. This all took place one on top of the other for about 2000 years.
Entrance to the Jewish quarter, actually the second smallest quarter in the old city.
This viewpoints shows you the Roman Cardo in the foreground, the Jewish quarter in the middle ground wth the dome of the rebuilt Hurva synagogue and a mosque in the background. It’s all in one very small place.
The synagogues of the Jewish quarter were blown up by the Jordanians when they took control of the entire old city and for many years the arch you see below the dome of the Hurva synagogue was all that remained. This new structure was rebuilt in the style of the original.
Another viewpoint shows us the Mount of Olives cemetery in the background, the Al Aksa Mosque in the middle ground and some of the destroyed and rebuilt sections of the Jewish quarter in the foreground.
Left to right are a mosque, Dome of the Rock (on the Temple Mount), the Western Wall holy to Jews, and a covered walkway that takes visitors to the Temple Mount.
In the Muslim quarter the roads to various gates intersect. We are standing at the intersection of the road leading to the Jaffa gate (and the port of Jaffa on the Mediterranean where up to the beginning of the 20th century one took a ship to from Europe or elsewhere to visit the holy sites). What we are looking down here in this alley is going to the Damascus Gate and out to East Jerusalem. The Damascus Gate used to take one to Syria, an important trading center for the entire Middle East. Many goods sold in the Shuk (market) were made in Syria and some still are.
This is the Christian quarter so you can see how much different this looks with wide streets and lots of light.
Exterior of Church of the Holy Sepulchre, not a church exactly, a shrine of the supposed place where Jesus was crucified and then buried inside a burial cave. The next day, of course, his body was gone.
Throughout the Christian quarter you can find these kinds of structures, that make you feel like you are in a European city. It’s no coincidence since much of this quarter was built by Europeans mostly in the 19th century.
This marks the slab where Jesus body was laid out for Jewish burial rites. Jesus was a Jew and the painting on the wall behind depicts these rites.
One must ask the question how all this could have taken place inside the city. Remember the walls of the city changed over a long period of time with constant expansion so where the church is located was actually outside the city at the time.
So many denominations have vied for control over the Church of the Holy Sepulcher that over time they’ve been restricted to certain hours and certain sections and no one wants to take care of repairs. They have finally come to an agreement to repair the badly deteriorating interior.
As we leave the city and return back to the “modern” Jerusalem we immediately encounter a shopping mall called Mamila designed by the Israeli architect Moshe Safdie. It’s a stark contrast to where we have just been.