I was asked to write about only 3 must-see destinations in Jerusalem. Which ones would you pick?
The 3 must-see destinations in Jerusalem, Israel, out of the hundreds of the fascinating side trips one could embark in this most ancient, fought over, center of the world city is obviously depended on what your interests are; architecture, history, religion, cheap sales, politics there is everything to please someone in this vibrant city. But since you are stuck with me; you will have to enjoy the 3 places I enjoy.
First of course is the Kotel; the Wailing Wall. “Wailing?” you ask. Since the Holy Temple 2000 years ago, the walls have been destroyed that surrounded the most beautiful building that sat on the mountain top; many more walls were added by the Romans, Sultan, and even up to modern day British and Jewish governments have added their constructions. But the Temple’s walls were all destroyed except for one. (This one is covered by many layers of stone which they have started digging down to uncover.) Before the taking of the wall in 1967; the Arab neighbors built their houses right up to the holy wall – throwing out their garbage into the street. And yet, the Jews would weave through the outside of the city to reach Zion Gate, the closest they could get to the ancient ruins. Today the plaza is cleared and all can come and pray at the wall, leave notes and breathe in the history of the holy land. They say that to pray here is only a local call.
The wall itself stands is a retaining wall built with deep, heavy “Herodian” stones. All the other walls had stood straight into the air; so this would explain why only this one wall remains. But the belief is held that this wall was built with the offerings of the poor; and through their hard earnings and prayers is the real reason why it still stands. If you have come upon the wall through Yafa gate and whether you have traveled through the Armenian Quarter and then Jewish renewal Quarter or if you came through the Christian and Muslim quarters through the Arab shuk with all its fine carpets, jewelry, artifacts, with the poignant orders of the middle east spices when you are facing the Kotel and high above you is the holy remains. Walk to the right and enter the grounds called the Davidson Center, which tell the story of the Temple and still until today the stones lay as they fell from the Roman conquerors just like the Psalms which mentions those very cornerstones. At the side of the Mount are stairs which was used back in the time of the Jewish Kingdoms. But they are not a normal stairway; you cannot run straight up them to reach the zenith. They go up a bit and then stop midway and carry on either to the left or the right and repeat the pattern. It was to stop a person from carrying their mission without giving thought. It was to prevent what today has become so prevalent – dissonance.
Leaving the walls and the destroyed Temple sitting waiting for her people when the time comes we can return up to the inner old city of the Jewish part. In 1948 the Arabs came and threw out the Jews who lived and built up the area and they destroyed every building. Typically destruction was on their mind not even to reuse the beautiful structures. In 1967 when the war against all the Arab nations ended in a mere 6 days; the Jewish people poured into the old city to reclaim their Kotel and their quarter of the old city. The buildings now have been rebuilt glimmering beyond the original beauty. And under many of the structures lay hidden stairway reaching far into the ground revealing the history of before. That is how they found the Cardo; the old Roman shopping center; with its stores still delineated and now be reused for tourists; stores, restaurants and history pieces.
Walking back through the Armenian quarter and out near Yafa gate again is David’s Citadel a beautiful building of the crusaders time with a minaret, a dry moat and numerous floors, rooms and towers. It is today a history museum with a story to tell of the last 2000 years of history that has played in full drama in this ancient city. But other than its name; David did not have anything to do with this building. His castle and throne lays across south from the old city down the hill into day’s Arab village Silwan. But that is another trip when you can see w more time than just 3 destinations.