When Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany visited Jerusalem he wanted to enter it like an emperor, so part of Jaffa Gate was knocked down and the opening was widened especially for his carriage.
If you want to enter the Old City the easy way, like the Kaiser, you'd better skip this tip.
However, if you are ready for a 10 minute walk up a scenic path, you can enter the Old City the unconventional way. The path is called "Ma'alot Beni", and it starts below the south-western corner of the Old City walls, near Sultan's Pool, at the corner of Derech Hebron and Jerusalem Brigade Streets.
The path climbs the western slope of Mt. Zion between low green shrubs, and affords a great view of Sultan's Pool, Yemin Moshe neighborhood and the gardens leading towards the King David Hotel. The Old City walls tower above you as you climb. You reach the south-western corner of the Old City walls, and then a narrow lane will take you past the Church of Dormition to Zion Gate and into the Old City (or to Mt. Zion sites if you turn right just before the gate).
Enjoy the climb (and don't forget to take a small bottle of water with you for the way)!
Located in the southeastern part of Jerusalem you will find the new Tiyelet (a pathway) and it has some perfect views of both old and new Jerusalem as you can see from the photo, sorry it was a rather cloudy day. Also you will see there a mosaic that represents the ancient water or aqueduct system that was in use in ancient Jerusalem. You can trace the water from its origins to the final destination in Jerusalem, quite cool.
In this neighbourhood of Jerusalem called Moshava HaGermanit, or the German Settlement, you will still find some remnants of the old settlement (well NEW from the standpoint of the age of Jerusalem itself, but new for the modern era) established by German immigrants. We found this fantastic old wooden home which still showed signs of being lived in. The other photos show some of the details that were put into homes, not the huge blank walls you so often see today. So if you get the opportunity and have a little free time in Jerusalem, try wandering the streets of this area for a few hours.
The Knesset sits on a hilltop in western Jerusalem; it was buildt in the years between 1958 and -66, dedicated and financed by James A. de Rothschild as a gift to the State of Israel.
As the legislative branch of the Israeli government, the Knesset enacts laws, elects the prime minister (although he is ceremonially appointed by the President), supervises the work of the government, reserves the power to remove the President of the State and the State Comptroller from office and to dissolve itself and call new election
Every 4 years (or less if early elections are held, as is often the case), 120 members of the Knesset (MK) are elected by Israeli citizens who must be at least 18 years old to vote. The Government of Israel must be approved by a majority vote of the Knesset.
The Knesset has de jure parliamentary supremacy and can pass any laws by a simple majority, even those that conflict with the Basic Laws of Israel, as it is also a Constituent Assembly.
Yet since the Constituent Assembly and the first Knesset were unable to put a constitution together, the Knesset started to legislate basic laws on various subjects. Up until now,Israel does not have a written constitution. There is a strong opinion since the time of David Ben Gurion, that the state does not have the right to adopt a constitution that will bind the millions of jewish people, who are still abroad and not yet in their homeland, Israel.
Knesset Session (and visiting-) Times:
Monday - 16:00
Tuesday - 16:00
Wednesday - 11:00
One is not permitted to enter the Knesset wearing tank-tops, shorts, or jeans. "Crocs" shoes are not permitted unless they are black or navy. Men may not enter wearing sandals, and women are not permitted to enter wearing belly-shirts.
A small staircase directly on Habbad St. in the Old City, just off the main market street, led us to the roof of the building. Many buildings in the Old City are joined up, so that we could walk on the roofs and get an unusual view of the Moslem, Christian, Jewish and Armenian quarters.
It was a strange feeling, to be only a minute away from the noisy and bustling market, actually on top of it, and still enjoy a very different, quiet atmosphere, viewing the major landmarks of Jerusalem from the rooftops. We saw the Dome of the Rock, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Omar mosque, the Lutheran church, the Latin Patriarchate... We also had a glimpse into private yards and residences, usually hidden from the public eye and tourist cameras.
If you are Christian, Bethlehem is an essential stop on any pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Around 2 B.C., Mary and Joseph traveled from Nazareth to take part in the Roman census. It required everyone to register in the city where their family originated from. (Joseph's family, which descended from King David, was from Bethlehem.) Unfortunately, they could not delay this journey despite the fact that Mary was pregnant.
Since there were no rooms availabe, the couple was forced to stay in a manger where sheep were kept during the winter. Many people make the mistake of assuming that this was wooden structure like a modern horse stable. It was actually a cave, either naturally forming or carved out from the mountain.
This site is positioned inside the Church of the Nativity. Visitors walk down a few steps to the church's grotto, with a silver star marking the exact spot where Jesus is believe to have been born. Just outside of the church is a memorial to the children who were massacred by Herod following the news of Jeus' birth. Herod, the Jewish king, feared that Jesus posed a threat to his throne. To retain power, Herod ordered all the children in Bethlehem within a certain age to be slaughtered. The bones of some of these victims are on display here.
For details on getting to Bethlehem, view my transportation tip.
There are not many archeological sites which stir emotions--positive and negative--like Masada. This mountain fortress was built in the second century B.C. and became the last refuge of a groups of Jews in A.D. 66-74 who rebelled against the Romans. Instead of surrending, which would have meant death or slavery, the Jews decided to commit mass suicide.
Masada has become a rallying cry ("Masada shall never fall again") for the modern nation of Israel. Critics of Israel argue that it is a symbol of Jewish aggression. Visitors can take a cable car to the top and enjoy amazing views of the region, including the Dead Sea. You can see the shell of the Roman emcampment and the ramp which allowed them to lay seige to the fortress.
It takes two hours to get to Masada from Jerusalem. Most buses headed for the Dead Sea resorts or Eilat stop at Masada. Make sure your departure is cafefully planned. There is not much life surrounding the area, so you don't want to be stuck there when it gets dark.
I am not British or Australian, and I lost no one in the battle for Palestine in 1917, but I have a connection to the British war cemetery on Mt. Scopus that goes back quite a few decades. A historical connection, almost.
When I lived in the university dorms on Mt. Scopus in the early 1970s, the main campus was on the other side of town. The sprawling complex of buildings that covers Mt. Scopus was not built yet, and there were no cafeterias or shops. What we did have was a muddy hill with a few old buildings – and a Commonwealth military cemetery. I have memories of my roommate and I trudging across the cemetery in the rain and snow to buy food at the little Arab grocery on the other side.
After all these years, Mt. Scopus is a different place. It is teeming with Hebrew University students and visitors to Hadassah Hospital, which reopened after the 6-Day War. Monumental buildings have gone up and new roads have been built. In the midst of all the tumult, the Jerusalem War Cemetery, the burial ground of Commonwealth soldiers who died in World War I, remains an island of tranquility.
I paid a visit recently, after not setting foot there in 30-odd years. In the cemetery are 2,600 carefully tended graves in long, straight rows. Simple white headstones bear the soldier’s name, rank and date of death. A few have a personal message inscribed at the bottom. The family of Lt. H. T. Broderick of London, killed in December 1917, wrote: “Faithful loving son, Duty nobly done.” Most of them bear a cross.
Wandering through the cemetery, I met Muhammad the gardener (one of three, all of them named Muhammad). He has been working here for 36 years and knows the place like the back of his hand.
I had already discovered the graves of a few Jewish soldiers, marked by a Star of David. Muhammad pointed out the grave of the only woman buried here: a nurse named Charlotte Berrie, who died in January 1919 at the age of 32. At the foot of her grave lay 3 paper poppies, their bright red faded to pink in the strong Jerusalem sun.
Outside the city walls is a small valley with a number of monuments and tombs dating from the 2nd Century BCE to the 1st Century AD. These include the Tomb of Zecariah, Tomb of Absalom and the Tomb of the Sons of Hezir. All 3 can be seen on a short hike skirting the city walls.
The structure in the picture is the Tomb of Zecariah and is actually a monument. The pillared structure to the left is the Tomb of the Sons of Hezir. The Tomb of Absalam, sometimes called Absaloms Pillar, is to the right and is not visible in the photo.
'TEKI'AA BESHOFAR' BIRUSHALYIM
The shofar - originated in Israel, mentioned frequently in the Hebrew Bible - is a ram's horn used as a musical instrument for Judaism's holidays[=hagim] of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
In the heart of Jerusalem sits the Monastery of the Cross, a 7th century Greek Orthodox church that could be mistaken for an ancient fortress (although the dome topped with a cross is probably a give-away).
Located in a valley between Rehavia and Nayot, it is built on the site of the tree that provided the wood for the cross on which Jesus was crucified, marked by a gold-encircled hole in the floor. In fact, the whole valley is full of old, gnarled olive trees, which can live for thousands of years.
This is not one of those mobbed Christian holy sites. It is in an out-of-way, secluded place, although it is visible from the busy highway that runs just above it. Only a few monks live there today. The mosaic floor dates back to the 7th century, and the walls are covered with frescoes claimed to be over 1,000 years old.
In the 12th century, the Georgian national poet, Shota Rostaveli, author of the epic poem "The Knight in the Panther's Skin," lived here. There is a portrait of the white-bearded Rostaveli on one of the walls (now covered with a plate of glass). This is the portrait that almost sparked an international incident in July 2004, when the president of Georgia came to visit. While sprucing up the church in honor of this visit, someone apparently repainted the beard and made a mess of it. A huge fight broke out, with some of the monks and Georgian delegates physically assaulting one another.
According to Christian tradition, Abraham the Patriarch asked Lot to plant the staffs left by the three visiting angels (Genesis 18:1-2) in this spot. He was told to sprinkle them with water from the Jordan to atone for his sins. The three shoots then grew into a single tree. Passed over by Solomon when he built the Temple, the wood was eventually used for the cross. This story is illustrated in the panels lining the dark chapel with the hole in the floor.
Hours: 8:30 am - 4 p.m.; Sun. until 6 p.m. Admission: NIS 15
The path outside the monastery goes up the hill to the Israel Museum.
This is not the famous Montefiore windmill in the Yemin Moshe neighborhood of Jerusalem, but a windmill on Ramban Street in Rehavia that most people don't know about. I happen to know it very well because my mother-in-law lives right across the street.
The Takhanah (the Mill), as it is called today, was built by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in the late 19th century. What it was actually used for is a good question - presumably it was a flour mill. In the 1930s, a famous German Jewish architect by the name of Mendelsohn lived there.
In the 1950s, appropriately enough, it was the residence of the Dutch consul. As a boy, my husband played there with the consul's children.
After many years of sitting empty, the windmill was renovated and a small shopping arcade was built around it. Today, it houses a restaurant, some trendy women's clothing shops, an optical center and I'm not sure what else. Next time I visit my mother-in-law, I'll check it out.
Update: March 2006
The current restaurant (they keep changing for some reason) is Sheyan, a kosher Asian Chinese restaurant that looks quite attractive. One of these days I'll have to eat there and write a review.
The streets off Jaffa Road in downtown Jerusalem are a world of their own. Just past Zion Square is a small street called Rehov Harav Kook, named for Rabbi Kook, Israel's first chief rabbi, who was greatly revered for his "modern" approach to Israel and Zionism. On one side of the street stands a handsome stone building with carved wooden doors and balconies of intricate black grillwork that housed the Italian Consulate in the late 19th century.
This building has had a colorful history in itself. Over the years it changed hands, serving as the Lebanon Hotel, the offices of The Jerusalem Post, and the home of a famous local design and crafts shop called Maskit. I vividly remember the fashion shows held here in the 1970s. Now it is the Franciscan House, where Catholic mass is held in Hebrew.
Directly across the street is a little alleyway with signs pointing you to Beit Ticho, the home of a famous eye doctor and his artist wife, Anna - today a museum and garden cafe. In a stone courtyard off this narrow lane is the home and studio of Moshe Zvi Berger, an artist from Transylvania who paints what he describes as "modern religious pictures." They even have the "kosher stamp" of a rabbi (he will gladly show you Rabbi Mayer Yehuda Getz's endorsement if you have any doubt).
Berger lives in one room, puttering around and listening to classical music. When visitors come, he escorts them into his "Museum of Psalms," a set of rooms with vaulted ceilings where his brightly colored acrylic illustrations of the Psalms cover the walls. He sells prints of these paintings for NIS 95 apiece, with explanations on the back. Every color has mystical significance. Purple, he told me, is the color of wisdom. Red is courage, and light blue - mercy and compassion.
SAN SIMON MONASTERY, Katamon
It is hard to imagine, but this little Greek Orthodox monastery, with its silver dome, bell tower and stone fence, sitting so peacefully in the middle of a grassy park, was once the scene of a bloody battle.
In April 1948, during Israel"s War of Independence, the Palmach fought the Arab Legion for control of Katamon (Greek for "near the monastery"). It was on a hill overlooking Jewish neighborhoods, and gaining control of it was a vital military objective.
The most fortified building in the area was the church, built in 1859 over the tomb of St. Simon of Jerusalem (the fellow in the New Testament who cradled baby Jesus in his arms and prophesied that he would go on to great things...).
The Arabs were driven out and the church was taken over by Israeli troops. One of the Israelis remembers the clanging of the bells in the bell tower and the sound of smashing glass as bullets whizzed through the windows, shattering window panes and hanging lamps.
Of the 120 Israelis who took part in battle, 40 died and 60 were wounded. The injured lay on the floor of the besieged church and the situation seemed hopeless. In desperation, the remaining fighters considered the "Masada option" - blowing up the building and committing mass suicide rather than dying at the hands of the Arabs. The commanding officer, Yitzhak Rabin (who went on to become an Israeli prime minister) would not hear of it. The battle resumed with renewed vigor and the tides turned. The commander of the Arab forces, seeing defeat before his eyes, got into his jeep and sped off.
I visited San Simon in April, 57 years after that terrible campaign. The gate of the monastery, usually locked, was wide open. I walked in. In the dim light of the church, I made out a group of Christian pilgrims gathered around a table-like structure in the corner, covered by a slab of marble. The pilgrims took turns laying their heads on the marble. If you listen carefully, they said, you can hear the beating of St. Simon's heart.
If you keep your eyes open as you walk down Jaffa Road - Rehov Yafo - Jerusalem's "Main Street," you will come across buildings with strange histories. Tucked between the dollar stores, clothing shops and kiosks, hidden behind a high wall and an iron gate, is a beautiful old Arab mansion embellished with stone carvings.
Today it belongs to the Ministry of Health. Air-conditioners are mounted on the windows and black electric wiring is strung in crazy loops across the yard. For many years it was the laboratory of the District Health Office. This laboratory was run by Prof. Werner Zilberstein, a German Jewish physician who was a close friend of my husband's family for many years. Uncle Werner, as he was known, a charming and erudite man, lived alone in his elegant Jerusalem apartment, attending classical music concerts and entertaining friends (he even had a girlfriend - my mother-in-law) until way past 100. He died at the age of 102.
Ask the Russian security guard at the gate about the history of this building, where travelers headed for exotic destinations used to come for their shots (faded notices hanging on the iron gates attest to that). He will stare at you blankly. Even the taxi drivers who pass by every day are oblivious to the building's creepy past. But the old-timers know.
In the 19th century, the house belonged to a wealthy Arab family whose son died on his wedding day. But they didn't let that spoil the party. They dressed him in his suit, sat him on a chair - and went ahead with the wedding as planned.
Since then, Jerusalemites have called it the House of the Dead Groom.
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