Wednesday, August 31, 2011

jewish quarter - old city

We went to Jerusalem's Old City again yesterday since Michael doesn't have to work this week.  It's a holiday for the rest of the week - Eid - which is a celebration of the end of Ramadan.  We're so happy it's over because now we can eat and drink in public anytime.  During this holiday, almost everyone stays at home with family, or travels somewhere else to be with their loved ones and things slow down.  A lot of businesses close.  It's kind of the equivalent to Christmas day in the U.S.  Since the city was at a stand still, we were able to get a taxi to Jerusalem for really cheap. 

 A little scenery on the way there.
 A car accident on the way that had traffic backed up.

There was actually a lot of tension on the way to Jerusalem this time.  When we stopped at a traffic light, there was a truck in front of us and cars all around - which is normal, but suddenly people all around us got out of their cars (that were still running) and started running towards the truck in front of us.  People were yelling and pointing and getting all upset.  Suddenly, the people angry at the truck driver started bolting.  Everyone started acting really panicked like they were really scared of something.  We watched nervously with no clue as to what the problem was.

We asked our taxi driver what was going on.  He said the truck driver was Jewish and the other people were Muslim.  The people were confronting the truck driver because he probably flicked them off or something.  He said they were all probably running away because they saw that he had a gun.  Thankfully, people got back in their cars, the light turned green, and we all went on our way - but there was a moment where it looked like something bad was about to go down and someone might get hurt.  It was a little freaky!

 We entered again at Damascus Gate.

In the photos below, you can see that the city was almost totally empty when we arrived!  It was really nice since last time we came, it was full to the max and difficult to navigate.  This time around, it was much more enjoyable and spacious.  We could walk more freely and just look around without being crammed next to people.  Everyone was gone because of the Eid holiday.  Usually this place is packed with vendors and tons of people.  It kind of felt like when you go to Six Flags and there are no lines haha.  This time we were determined to see the Dome of the Rock, but due to the holiday, it was closed to tourists again.  We decided to check out the Jewish quarter instead.

 The empty streets : )

Here's what you see when you enter the Jewish quarter to see the Western Wall (or the Wailing Wall) which is one of the most sacred places for Jews.  The wall is what remains of the ancient temple which was constructed by Herod the Great in 19 BC.  This place has been conflicted over for many years between Jews and Muslims.  Jews were barred from the site for 19 years until the war in 1967 when Israelis captured the Old City.  It was really peaceful there and we had come earlier in the morning so the crowds hadn't arrived yet.  However, the sun was out and we were hot.

 Although we beat the crowds, there were tons of people praying.

We noticed some stairs around the outer area of the wall and we walked up to get a better view because guess what is just behind the Western Wall!?  

 The Dome of the Rock!

 The view was fantastic.
 The Israeli flag.

 A man tied a Kaballah string on my wrist.  Not that I know anything about Kaballah and the only reason I even know about it is because of celebrities who wear it!  haha : )  So anyone who would like to educate me a little more is welcome to leave a comment and explain the significance of the red string.

 This beautiful area is the Jerusalem Archaeological Park.

 This is part of the Herodian Street.

 This is the Al-Aqsa Mosque which is the holiest site in Sunni Islam and is located to the right of the Temple Mount.  It has been destroyed and rebuilt due to earthquakes, but the original structure was built around 705 CE.

The small tower in the distance in between the two buildings is the Church of the Ascension located on the Mount of Olives.  According to Acts 1:9-11, this is where Christ was physically lifted to Heaven.

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."     Acts 1:9-11
  I can't even imagine seeing Him ascend into the sky.  That must have been absolutely insane for those who witnessed it.  By the way - the Mount of Olives holds around 150,000 Jewish graves, it's mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments, and is believed to be the place where Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem.  It's also believed to be a place where Jesus taught.

 This is the tunnel you go through to enter the Wester Wall.
Of course, there's security to get in.  Like the airport.

It was absolutely beautiful there.  We just stood and took it all in for a good 30 minutes.  It's such a special and significant place for all the monotheistic religions and I really can't comprehend how old these structures are, how long they've been around, and how many significant events have happened on those very spots.  I think about how many wars have been fought over these places and lives have been lost.  After the Jewish Quarter, we took a walk through the Christian Quarter again at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  Even though I've already seen it, it never gets old.

christian quarter - old city

So we took a stroll through the Church of the Holy Sepulchre again just to see it one more time.  It's so massive and breathtaking.  I never get sick of the old city.  You can just walk and explore all day.  Here are some photos we took while touring the empty Christian Quarter.