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by Philip Greenspun, 2000

Western Wall. Jerusalem Jerusalem is beautiful, hilly, cool and dry, a welcome change from the hot humid coast in the summer. The Old City is only about one square kilometer in size but it can reward days of sightseeing. Within the Old City the Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. Within the Old City Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected. Within the Old City the Second Temple, one of the greatest buildings of the ancient world, was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70. It was to the Old City that Muhammad dreamed he was transported in AD 620 and from there rose into heaven (the "Miraj").

The photographic highlights of a trip to Jerusalem must include

  • people praying at the Western Wall
  • the Islamic architecture of the mosques built on the Temple Mount
  • the narrow streets of the market in the Christian and Armenian Quarters
  • the procession up the Via Dolorosa every Friday at 3:00 pm, led by Franciscan monks
  • roof tops
  • the city skyline around sunrise viewed from the Mount of Olives area
  • the open market ("souk")
  • young people congregating on Ben-Yehuda Street, ideally on Saturday evening, just after Shabbat

Western Wall

The Western Wall, built by Herod the Great in 20 BC, is pretty much all that remains of the Second Temple. For Jews, this is the heart of Jerusalem. People often write little prayers on scraps of paper and stuff them into cracks in the wall. Orthodox Jews lie in wait for Jewish tourists and encourage them to don tephillin and pray. Don't be ashamed if you're ignorant. Remember that more than half of Israelis Jews never go to synagogue. The soldier-tourists that you see at the Wall speak Hebrew but they might know little about the Jewish religion.

Temple Mount

Sunrise on Jerusalem (gold dome is the Dome of hte Rock) Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Koran but Islam regards itself as the successor to Judaism and Christianity. Consequently, for political reasons, the caliph Abd el-Malik cleared away the rubble on the Temple Mount and built two mosques: Dome of the Rock (AD 691) and El-Aqsa (AD 705). The Dome of the Rock is probably the finest building in Israel. No photography is allowed inside the mosques and, as at many religious sites in Israel, it is disrespectful to wear shorts (if you're not properly clothed on the Temple Mount, you can rent a robe).

Local folks and tourists approach the Dome of the Rock from different gates and in different manners...

Temple Mount. Jerusalem. Temple Mount. Jerusalem.

The details in the Dome of the Rock are extremely intricate ...

Temple Mount. Jerusalem. Temple Mount. Jerusalem. Temple Mount. Jerusalem. Temple Mount. Jerusalem.

Temple Mount. Jerusalem. Temple Mount. Jerusalem. Temple Mount. Jerusalem.

Streets of the Old City

The most interesting and historical streets tend to be in the Christian, Armenian, and Muslim Quarters.

Via Dolorosa

Jerusalem Starting near the Ecce Homo arch in the Muslim quarter, a procession of pilgrims, led by Franciscan monks, walks along the "14 stations of the cross" on the Via Dolorosa. This culminates in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on the spot where Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected (see http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets2/case5.html for background on archaeological support for the authenticity of the site). It is an interesting photographic event, not least because of the local Arabs who try to get on with their shopping.

According to the guidebook, the procession happens every Friday at 3:00 pm but I was there in June and it was at 4:00 pm. The discrepancy may be accounted for by Daylight Savings Time. If you're going to do a good job covering the procession, I recommend a wide-angle lens (the pictures below were taken with a Canon 17-35/2.8L zoom). The streets are very narrow and you'll want to get in close anyway. There will be a lot of contrast and dark areas. A powerful on-camera strobe used as fill flash would probably be a good idea, though I did not have one for the images below. Color negative film of at least ISO 400 is also probably a good idea.

Rewriting History

Jerusalem Each of the groups living in Jerusalem tries to rewrite history to suit current needs. For example, at right is a series of government signs installed outside the Hurva synagogue in the Jewish Quarter. There were originally four signs. Three remain. These tell the story of the synagogue's glorious life from 1864 until the Arabs destroyed it in 1948. The missing panel, however, would have told the story of the Hurva synagogue before 1864. It was built by a hassidic community from Poland in the mid-18th century. They didn't pay their bills so the creditors (presumably Jewish) burned their synagogue.

The Arabs, for their share, maintain on the top of the Temple Mount a little museum of the blood-stained clothing worn by Palestinian demonstrators who'd been killed or wounded in clashes with the Israeli Army. Some of these conflicts were more than 10 years ago and in the intervening time various peace agreements have been signed. Nonetheless, the outrages of the past are paraded in front of every new tourist.

Where to Stay

King David Hotel (at left). Jerusalem The Old City itself is too tightly packed to support much in the way of Hotels. Most of the good hotels are in Modern Jerusalem, a 10 or 15-minute walk from the Jaffa Gate.

If you want to relax in between trips, you will definitely want a place with a pool. The standard luxury hotel in Jerusalem is the King David, built in the 1930s, and equipped with an extremely pleasant garden and pool. The hotel is famous for having been the headquarters of British administration for the Mandate of Palestine. It was bombed by Menachem Begin in 1946 as part of a bid to oust the British and their policies preventing Jews from emigrating to Israel. Hundreds were wounded in the attack and 80 people were killed. Visit www.danhotels.com for more info.

Newer, fancier, and at a slightly more convenient location, the Jerusalem Hilton is very nice as well. As of summer 2000 neither the Hilton nor the King David had in-room Internet connectivity so if you want a 10base-T jack in your room, it is probably best to do some research via phone and email.

Readers' Comments

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Kareem Darwish , December 11, 2000; 02:11 A.M.

Al-Haram Al-Sharif is mentioned explicity in the Qur'an in chapter 17 verse 1. The structure generally refered to as Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa was built by the second Khalif Omar Ibn Al-Khatab. However, the whole area of Al-Haram Al-Sharif was deemed holy in the Qur'an. The first one to mark the area of Al-Haram was Adam peace be upon him and later built by Prophet Jacob peace be upon him. No one was able to find any trace of the Temple of Solomon peace be upon him inside Al-Haram. The exact whereabouts of the temple remains a mystery. Kareem

Javed Akhtar , December 13, 2000; 11:39 A.M.

Thank you Kareem, for clearing that up. I noticed that error in Phil's text as well. Also, Muhammad (Peace be upon him) didn't DREAM that he was transported to Jerusalem, as Phil puts it. It specifically says in the Qur'an that he WAS transported from the Sacred Mosque (In Makkah, Saudi Arabia), to the Farthest Mosque (Al-Haram Al-Sharif, or the Temple Mount, In Jerusalem). You can read this for yourself in the verse that Kareem mentions in the previous posting (Chapter 7, Verse 1).

Phil: I would suggest that you modify the text on this page to reflect the true story, not the one that is commonly believed among North Americans. Jerusalem IS mentioned in the Qur'an, and Al-Haram Al-Sharif is the thrid holiest site in Islam. If North Americans read the Qur'an or at least tried to learn something about the Moslem religion (other than what they hear on CNN), they would find that it's actually very similar to the other Abrahamic religions (i.e. Judaism, Cristianity). We believe in the oneness of the same God (Allah is acually the classical Arabic word for "The God", implying God's oneness), and we believe in the same line of prophets. Contrary to popular belief, we also believe in Jesus Christ (Peace be upon him), and respect him as a prophet.

This misunderstanding and prejudice is the most frustrating aspect of living as a Muslim in North America.

J. Isles , December 14, 2000; 02:37 A.M.

A brief (continuing this theme) correction of the poorly informed above; Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Koran, not once, not even in the index (trans., Ahmed Ali, Princeton Uni. Press, 1984). Yes, while the Koran mentions Jesus, it also exhorts Muslims not to associate with Christians (or Jews, for that matter - 5:51 is the proper reference). While I am at it, most things Muslims claim God to have told them in fact come from another book - not the Koran - which amounts to a bunch of un-divine ramblings not attributable to the creator. Why bother? And since the Koran only prohibits WINE drinking, I will now have a beer to celebrate the education of my distant brethren above.

Haithem Trabeek , October 12, 2001; 10:55 A.M.

I don't understand. is it a photography site, or polotical site !!! Why the Author has to comment abut the picture in such manner of telling the history of the place and how or why is was built. Why he doesn't just post the picture, with its name and when it was built, I mean just telling facts, very clear facts, not arguing subjects !!!!, and to Mr. Isle , you can go drink beer or do whatever u like , but it will remain Elhram elshareef :)

Lisa Marconi , October 19, 2001; 06:13 P.M.

The Holy Quran says: chapter 5 21. "O my people(i.e. children of Israel)! Enter the holy land which Allah hath assigned unto you, and turn not back ignominiously, for then will ye be overthrown, to your own ruin." 22. They said: "O Moses! In this land are a people of exceeding strength: Never shall we enter it until they leave it: if (once) they leave, then shall we enter." 23. (But) among (their) God-fearing men were two on whom Allah had bestowed His grace: They said: "Assault them at the (proper) Gate: when once ye are in, victory will be yours; But on Allah put your trust if ye have faith."

Tina Sandell , October 24, 2001; 04:45 P.M.

Let us please return to discussing photographs.

freid bina , March 31, 2002; 05:20 A.M.

The present-day platform area of the Temple Mount lies topographically just below the peak of a Jerusalem ridge system known as Mount Moriah. This is the site David purchased from a Jebusite named Ornan late in his reign. King David prepared the area in order build a permanent House of God to replace the Tabernacle of Moses which accompanied the Jews after their Exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land. David had the plans drawn up for a building whose dimensions were twice those of the Tabernacle, and he amassed great quantities of building materials: stone, cedar, and much gold and silver. However, it was his son Solomon who actually built the First Jewish temple (1 Chronicles 22:14-15, 28:11-20).

The ridge system where the Temple Mount is now located is believed by many reputable sources to be the site where Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22:1-2). While Solomon built the First Temple about 3000 years ago, Abraham's visit to Mt. Moriah was about a thousand years earlier. Among the numerous controversies about the Temple is the precise location of the original & Where did the Temple stand? . 1-The present site of the Dome of the Rock. This is the so-called "traditional location." There are two variations on this model. 2-North of the Dome of the Rock. Physicist Asher Kaufman proposed the Northern location about three decades ago. 3-South of the Dome of the Rock. Tuvia Sagiv, a Tel Aviv architect, has proposed a Southern location for the Temples with extensive documentation and research during the past decade. The traditional site of the Temple is said to lie beneath or very near to the Moslem shrine known as the Dome of the Rock. Certain historical accounts say that this building was built by the Moslems to overlay the location of the original Jewish Temple(s) and most rabbis in Israel today associate the original Temple location with this site. Based on a number of topological and archeological considerations, research by Dr. Asher Kaufman over the past three decades has resulted in serious consideration being given to a site 100m to the north of the Dome of the Rock. One particular level outcropping of this bedrock lies under a small Islamic shrine known as "The Dome of the Tablets" or "The Dome of the Spirits," to the Arabs. Both names suggest an association with the Jewish Temples. After the Bar Kochba revolt in 132 C.E., the Romans leveled the entire city of Jerusalem and a built a Roman city, Aelia Capitolina, on the ruins. To obliterate any Jewish presence on the Temple Mount, they built a temple to Jupiter on the site.As a note of confirmation ,A similar temple, built by the same builder at about the same time, has been discovered at Baalbek, Lebanon.

The Roman architectural practices of the time featured a rectangular basilica, and a polygon structure opposite a courtyard. When this architecture is overlaid on the Temple Mount, it matches the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock exactly.

This unique architectural similarity suggests that the Roman Temple to Jupiter may have been on this very site, converted for Christian purposes in the 4th Century, and then served as the foundation for the present Moslem structures, the Al Aqsa Mosque an the Dome of the Rock, which were built in the 7th Century. And the name JeruSalem in itself descsibes that Welcome Jews in defination. Dr.Freid Cyrus Bina

Ahmed Moustafa , October 07, 2002; 01:26 A.M.

Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) had two sons Ismail (Ishmael) - from Hager - and Ishaq (Isaac) - from Sarah -.

Ibrahim did NOT sacrifice Ishaq.

Ibrahim had a dream that he was sacrificing his son Ismail to God. Ibrahim told Ismail about the dream and Ismail did not object. When Ibrahim drew his knife to cut his son’s neck, the knife would not cut. Ibrahim tried several times but he gave up because he knew that the knife in his hand had an order from God not to cut.

This story had happened, in Mecca, before Ishaq was born, in Palestine.

Howard Martin , March 17, 2003; 09:12 P.M.

The above comments remind me of the alternate histories I was presented with during my visit to Israel in 1978. Listening to all of the varied and beautiful stories evoked a sense of wonder and enchantment. In contrast, it struck me as odd that the orator of the moment seemed to have a personal stake in their particular version of the events, now 2000 years old, as though they needed the validation to justify their existance and beliefs. I have not traveled much, but I also recommend a trip to Israel if you possibly can. Lovely photos, Thanks!

Image Attachment: View from Masada 2.JPG

Efrat Nakash , June 30, 2007; 04:10 A.M.

You are invited to enjoy more photographs from Jerusalem

scotland mills , December 11, 2009; 01:54 P.M.

Oh, so this is how "holy wars" are started by insulting one another about small idiocincracies online. O.K. I get it. By doing things like giving each other crap about where the dirt was that solomans temple was on ,why not link up, all of your wisdom and all of you go and find it, the temple base. Faith with out works is dead guys... Stop the fighting. You should be ashamed.

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