Driving up the main road from the airport
or Tel Aviv into the mountains, Jerusalem welcomes you with an inspiring blend of old and new. In 2008, the city unveiled the new "Jerusalem Chords Bridge" - a high tech lightrail bridge ove the city entrance that is built to the style and shape of a harp, the famous musical instrument of Israel's great King David. Designed to add a defining visual element to the city skyline, much like San Francisco's
Golden Gate Bridge, the Empire State Building in Manhattan or the Champs-Elysées
of Paris, the Chords Bridge blends the biblical history of Jerusalem with its modern flare.
The entrance to Jerusalem is still pretty abrupt, though; one minute you're
on the highway and the next you've been transported to a different
world. Almost immediately you find yourself on narrow streets
with low-level buildings, many dating back decades and some even containing holes from where bullets struck them during various wars. The sidewalks
are typically filled with people scurrying about, ultra-orthodox Jews or hasidim in their distinctive garb, university and high school students,
soldiers with automatic rifles casually slung over one shoulder with a knapsack
over the other. The unparalleled mixture of the ancient and
modern, the secular and religious is apparent at once. You
feel that something is different and, intellectually and spiritually,
you know this is a place unlike any other.
One of its many unique qualities is that Jerusalem almost completely shuts down on Shabbat.
This is a time of incredible quiet, like nothing you can experience in any
other major city, when the observant Jews head for the Western
Wall, synagogues and family
gatherings, and less observant Jews enjoy their one day off from work,
spend the day with their families, relax and take in the breathtaking
beauty of the city. A handful of restaurants stay open and people still
roam the streets, but most activity ends mid-day Friday and doesn't pick up
again until after dark on Saturday.
the largest city in Israel and the nation's capital. It is a place where
you can have fun, but it is more spiritual than spirited. Of course,
sometimes the spirit moves people a little too far. In fact, psychologists
have identified something they call the "Jerusalem
syndrome" to describe people who become so intoxicated with the
city they act irrationally, sometimes to the point of believing themselves
to be the messiah.
For purposes of this tour, we’ve divided the city into
four sections. The first offers an overview of the city's long and rich history.
This includes a discussion of the current controversy over the future of
The next stop is the Old
City, roughly 220 acres surrounded by walls built by Suleiman
the Magnificent in the 16th century. This is the heart of the city and
has both political and religious significance. The Old City is divided into
quarters — Jewish,
Armenian, Muslim and Christian.
The holiest place for Jews is the Western
Wall in the Jewish Quarter. Two of Islam’s most important shrines,
the Dome of
the Rock and al-Aksa
Mosque are in the Muslim Quarter on the Temple
Mount. The Church of the
Holy Sepulcher in the Christian Quarter is revered by Christians as the
site of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Here you can
imagine life centuries ago and even walk on original 2,000-year-old stones.
beyond the Old City walls include Yemin
Moshe, the first Jewish neighborhood built outside the walls, which is
identifiable by its distinctive – and unusable – windmill; Mount
Scopus, home of the Hebrew University; the Mount
of Olives, the site of several important Christian shrines and the
cemetery where Jews have buried their dead for centuries and Mea
She’arim, an island in time where ultra-Orthodox Jews dress and
behave in traditional ways and strictly observe Jewish law.
city is the more modern part of Jerusalem that was mostly built after
Jordan occupied the Old City and the rest of the eastern half of the city
following the 1948 war. This is where
Israel has established most of its government offices, including the Knesset and the magnificent new Supreme Court building. It is also where you can
find the world-renowned Hadassah
Hospital, with its famous Chagall windows; Mt.
Herzl, the final resting place of most of Israel’s leaders and Yad
Vashem, Israel museum and memorial to the Holocaust. Most visitors stay
in this part of the city, which also has beautiful parks and a lively
downtown with clubs, shops and restaurants.
For believers, this is the place where the call to God
is a local one. For everyone else, it is a place of great beauty and history that is unlike anywhere else on earth.