This viewpoint taken from the top of the Damascus Gate is perhaps one of the most ancient and historical viewpoints within the Old City. Located on the border between the Christian and Muslim quarters, the Damascus Gate remains the main entrance to the Old City and holy sites of Jerusalem to this day.
The Damascus Gate, also known as Nablus Gate, was built over an ancient triumphal arch, which stood on the northern border of Jerusalem during the Roman period, when the city was named Aelia Capitolina. The Roman gate was built by order of Emperor Hadrian in the second century AD, probably on the ruins of a gate from the Second Temple. It served at the time as the main entrance to Jerusalem and led to the road to Nabuls and Damascus. As can be seen by the ancient and earliest known map of Jerusalem, the Madaba Map, a large Roman pillar once stood at the foot of the gate honoring Emperor Hadrian. This is the source of the Arabic name of the gate, Bab Al-Amud, which means “Gate of the Column”. The gate that stands today was built in 1537 under the Ottoman Empire rule of the Holy Land. The broad plaza which lies outside of the gate serves as a place for commerce and meeting ensuring that Damascus Gate keeping its vitality alive.
The Hurva Synagogue
The Hurva Synagogue, located in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City was first established in 1700 by a group of European Jews who came to the Holy Land under the leadership of Rabbi Yehuda Hachassid. Due to their failure to return the loans taken for building the synagogue, the creditors destroyed the synagogue in 1721 giving it its name “Hurva” which means “Ruin” in Hebrew. The site remained mostly desolated until 1856 when it was rebuilt with the financial aid of Moses Montefiore. The synagogue was built in the neo-Byzantine style popular at that time in the Ottoman Empire which can be seen in the arches and dome roof. The synagogue was demolished once more during the 1948 War by the Jordanian forces and remained so until 2010 when it was newly reconstructed according to the original neo-Byzantine style of the 19th century.
Dome of the Rock
Built by Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik in 691 AD, the Dome of the Rock is the most famous Muslim site in Jerusalem and has become an inseparable part of the Jerusalem skyline. Similarly to the Ka’ba in Mecca, The Dome is not a Mosque but a shrine built over a sacred stone, known as the “Foundation Stone”, from which, according to Islamic tradition, Muhammad had ascended to the heavens in “The Night Journey”. It is also believed to be the site on which Abraham had almost sacrificed Ishmael (not Isaac as is believed in Christianity and Judaism).
Due to its magnificent golden dome and sheer size, the Dome of the Rock can be seen from almost every vantage point in Jerusalem thus fulfilling its architectural purpose – to symbolize Islamic superiority and overshadow the Jewish and Christian monuments in the area. Originally made of gold, the dome has since been replaced with copper and aluminum and is now gold-plated. The dome is an octagon structure built according to specific and exact mathematically rhythmic proportions, e.g. the length of the outer wall is identical to the diameter of the dome and height of the dome. Colorful tiles from Turkey and Arabic inscriptions with excerpts from the Quran adorn the exterior facade of the dome giving it a distinctive greenish-blue tint.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the holiest church in Christianity (excluding Protestantism). Also known as the Church of the Resurrection, the church stands where it is believed that Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected - Calvary or Golgotha.
Six different Christian sects share responsibility and conduct their worship in the church and its courts, among them are Roman-Catholics, Greek-Orthodox, and Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. The desire of each denomination to obtain as many privileges regarding the basilica and Sepulchre has been a source of friction for centuries and has yielded an agreement regulating and allocating the activities of each denomination in the Church. The first church on this site was built in 326 AD by the Roman emperor Constantine the Great, Soon after his conversion to Christianity. It is said that his mother, Helena, had found part of the Cross of Jesus near the Tomb while the church was being built.
The church has undergone vast renovations and constructions over the years while most of the additions had been made by the Crusaders in the 12th Century. The architectural style of the Church is an indication of its turbulent past with a mixture of Medieval-Romanesque, Byzantine and modern aspects. Among the main focal points of the Church are:
• The Calvary/Golgotha – where it is believed that Jesus was crucified.
• The Stone of Unction/Anointing - where it is believed Jesus was laid and prepared for burial.
• The Holy Sepulchre – the Tomb of Jesus, located at the center of the Rotunda, a circular structure covered by a dome.
Lutheran Church of the Redeemer
The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer is one of the two protestant churches in the Old City, the second being ‘Christ Church’ located by the Jaffa gate. The beautiful church was built between 1893 and 1898 and was inaugurated by Kaiser Wilhelm II who entered the city mounted on a horse passing through two ceremonial arches dedicated to him by the Ottoman rule and the local Jewish Community. The church serves today as the offices of the Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and the Provost of the German Protestant Ministries in the Holy Land.
Yeshivat Hakotel is a Modern Orthodox Zionist Yeshiva which is situated across the Western Wall, giving it its name. The Yeshiva is a ‘Hesder Yeshiva’ which incorporates the mandatory Israeli military service and Jewish yeshiva studies. The Yeshiva was founded 1n 1967 and has resided in various locations in the Jewish Quarter before settling in its current permanent location. Over 3000 students study in the Yeshiva today and it is the flagship yeshiva of the Modern-Orthodox ‘Bnei Akiva’ movement.
Ateret Cohanim Yeshiva
Also known as Ateret Yerushalyim and led by Rabbi Shlomo Aviner this Yeshiva was established in 1983. Some 230 students, mostly in their early 20s, study sacred texts, rabbinic literature and the Talmud in the Yeshiva today. The yeshiva is located within the Muslim Quarter in the Old City which has created some tension over the years.
The Austrian Hospice
Completed in 1869 and inaugurated by the Austrian Kaiser Franz Josef, the Austrian Hospice in Jerusalem was built to serve as lodging for Christian pilgrims. It also served as a hospital for some years but has again been a hostel since 1985. The beautiful building incorporates the style of a palace on Vienna‘s Ringstrasse and Middle-Eastern elements. The Austrian hospice includes a Chapel and a Viennese café serving traditional Austrian apple strudel and veil cutlets. The Hospice is also famous for its spectacular view of the Muslim Quarters’ roofs that can be seen from the hospice’s roof.
The Government House
Named ‘The Palace of the High Commissioner’ in Hebrew, this beautiful structure was built in 1933 during the British mandate of Palestine. The building served as the mandates’ administrative headquarters and the High Commissioners’ residence until the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. During the 1948 War, the building was inhabited by the ‘Red Cross’ but was shortly thereafter transferred to the United Nations and it remains the UNTSO (United Nations Truce Supervision Organization) headquarters to this day.
The ridge of the mountain on which the Government House is situated is also the place of the ‘Armon HaNatziv Promenade’ which offers a spectacular view of Jerusalem from the south (as can be seen in our Panoramic Pictures – ‘Jerusalem from the South’).