Best things to do in Jerusalem. Plan your Jerusalem trip now.
1. The Western Wall (Ha-Kotel Ha-Ma'aravi) in Jerusalem is the holiest of Jewish sites, sacred because it is a remnant of the Herodian retaining wall that once enclosed and supported the Second Temple. It has also been called the "Wailing Wall" by European observers because for centuries Jews have gathered here to lament the loss of their temple.
The Western Wall Plaza, the large open area that faces the Western Wall, functions as an open-air synagogue that can accommodate tens of thousands of worshipers. Prayers take place here day and night, and special services are held here as well.
History of Western Wall
The Western Wall was built by King Herod in 20 BC during his expansion of the Temple enclosure, and is part of a retaining wall that enclosed the western part of Temple Mount. According to the Roman-Jewish historian Josephus, construction of the walls took 11 years, during which time it rained in Jerusalem only at night so as not to interfere with the workers' progress.
In 70 AD, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple. During the Ottoman Period (beginning in the 16th century), the wall became the Jews' chief place of pilgrimage, where they came to lament the destruction of the Temple.
For centuries, the Western Wall was located in a narrow alley just 12 feet wide that could accommodate only a few hundred densely packed worshipers. But in 1967, immediately after the Six Day War, Israelis leveled the neighboring Arab district to create the Western Wall Plaza, which can accommodate tens of thousands of pilgrims.
At the same time, the Israelis made the wall about 6 1/2 feet higher by digging down and exposing two more tiers of ashlars (squared stones) from the Temple Plaza's retaining wall that had been buried by accumulated debris for centuries.
2. Old City of Jerusalem The Old City is a 0.9 square kilometers (0.35 sq mi) walled area within the modern city of Jerusalem.
Until 1860, when the Jewish neighborhood Mishkenot Sha'ananim was established, this area constituted the entire city of Jerusalem.
The Old City is home to several sites of key religious importance: the Temple Mount and Western Wall for Jews, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Christians and the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque for Muslims. It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site List in 1981.
Traditionally, the Old City has been divided into four uneven quarters, although the current designations were introduced only in the 19th century.Today, the Old City is roughly divided (going counterclockwise from the northeastern corner) into the Muslim Quarter, Christian Quarter, Armenian Quarter and Jewish Quarter. The Old City's monumental defensive walls and city gates were built in the years 1535–1542 by the Turkish sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. The current population of the Old City resides mostly in the Muslim and Christian quarters.
Following the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the Old City was captured by Jordan and all its Jewish residents were evicted. During the Six-Day War in 1967, which saw hand-to-hand fighting on the Temple Mount, Israeli forces captured the Old City along with the rest of East Jerusalem, subsequently annexing them as Israeli territory and reuniting them with the western part of the city. Today, the Israeli government controls the entire area, which it considers part of its national capital. However, the Jerusalem Law of 1980, which effectively annexed East Jerusalem to Israel, was declared null and void by United Nations Security Council Resolution 478. East Jerusalem is now regarded by the international community as part of occupied Palestinian territory.
3. Church of the Holy Sepulchre The site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is identified as the place both of the crucifixion and the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth.
The church has long been a major pilgrimage center for Christians all around the world.
About 10 years after the crucifixion, a third wall was built that enclosed the area of the execution and burial within the city, and this accounts for the Holy Sepulchre’s location inside the Old City of Jerusalem today.
Holy PrisonThe Roman emperor Constantine I, a convert to Christianity, had the temple of Venus in Jerusalem demolished to make way for a church. In the course of the demolition a tomb was discovered that was thought to be the tomb of Jesus.Today, the wider complex accumulated during the centuries around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre also serves as the headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, while control of the church itself is shared between several Christian denominations and secular entities in complicated arrangements essentially unchanged for over 160 years, and some for much longer. The main denominations sharing property over parts of the church are the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and Roman Catholic, and to a lesser degree the Coptic Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox. Meanwhile, Protestants, including Anglicans, have no permanent presence in the Church. Some Protestants prefer The Garden Tomb, elsewhere in Jerusalem, as a more evocative site to commemorate Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection.
4. Mount of Olives The Mount of Olives, one of three hills on a long ridge to the east of Jerusalem, is the location of many biblical events. Rising to more than 800 metres, it offers an unrivalled vista of the Old City and its environs.
The hill, also called Mount Olivet, takes its name from the fact that it was once covered with olive trees.
In the Old Testament, King David fled over the Mount of Olives to escape when his son Absalom rebelled.
After King Solomon turned away from God, he built pagan temples there for the gods of his foreign wives.
Ezekiel had a vision of “the glory of the Lord” ascending from the city and stopping on the Mount of Olives.
Zechariah prophesied that in the final victory of the forces of good over the forces of evil, the Lord of hosts would “stand on the Mount of Olives” and the mount would be “split in two from east to west”.
5. Dome of the Rock The golden dome which has come to symbolize Jerusalem’s famous skyline is the Dome of the Rock - a shrine on the Temple Mount that is located in the Old City. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was completed in 691 CE and built on the site of the Roman Jupiter Capitonlinus Temple. The Roman Temple, in turn, was built on the ruins of the Second Jewish Temple of Jerusalem which was destroyed during the Roman siege of Jerusalem. The shrine was not intended to be a mosque; instead the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik wanted to build an ornate and beautiful Muslim building that could compete with the majestic Christian churches in the city. The dome is built over a sacred stone, where it is believed that the Prophet Mohammad ascended to heaven from, while the Jews believe that the rock was the place where Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac.
The architectural elements of the Dome of the Rock are superb, and its dimensions relate to the center circle that surrounds the stone. The original dome was made out of gold, but was later replaced with copper and aluminum; although today it is covered with gold leaf. The half-moon decoration that sits atop the dome is a traditional Islam symbol. Multicolored Turkish tiles adorn the exterior of the shrine. The interior is an elaborate work of art, featuring arched walls, lush red carpeting, stunning floral decorations in the cupola and mosaics that feature representations of vegetation.