The Western Wall

The Western Wall

The Western Wall is the one of four retaining walls surrounding the Temple Mount. It served as the western supporting outer wall during the times of the Second Temple. Surviving over 2000 years of history, it is the largest intact structure since the destruction of the Second Jewish Temple in 70 AD. Its proximity to where the ‘Holy of Holies’ lay in the Temple, bestowed the Wall with sacred status in Jewish tradition. It serves at the same time as a symbol of Jewish exile, which is why it is also known as “The Wailing Wall”, and a symbol of historic Jewish glory and hope of redemption. Therefore, it has become a religious and national symbol in Israel and many national, religious and even military ceremonies are held at the Western Wall to this day. Due to its significance in Judaism today, it has become customary to place a small note with a wish or prayer within the cracks of the ancient wall.

The Western Wall

The Western Wall is the one of four retaining walls surrounding the Temple Mount. It served as the western supporting outer wall during the times of the Second Temple. Surviving over 2000 years of history, it is the largest intact structure since the destruction of the Second Jewish Temple in 70 AD. Its proximity to where the Holy of Holies lay in the Temple, has granted the Wall with sacred status in Jewish tradition. It serves at the same time as a symbol of Jewish exile, which is why it is also known as “The Wailing Wall”, and a symbol for Jewish former glory and hope of redemption. Therefore, It has become a religious and national symbol in Israel and many national, religious and even military ceremonies are held at the Western Wall to this day. In Addition to this, many continue the custom of placing a small note with a wish or prayer within the cracks of the ancient wall.

Mount of Olives

Named after the olive trees that once filled its slopes, The Mount of Olives has historically been the natural eastern border of Jerusalem, separating the city from the Judean Desert. Its close proximity to Jerusalem instilled the mountain with religious and mythical importance in Judaism and Christianity and as such mentioned often in the old and new testament. Within Jewish Theology, Mt. Olives plays a central role in the messianic redemption as some believe the Messiah himself will descend from the mountain to Jerusalem. According to Christian theology, Jesus had delivered sermons on the mount and this is the location of the ascension of Jesus to the heavens. The soft rock of the mountain combined with the belief that the end-of-days salvation shall begin on the Mount of Olives, has made the Mountain a popular burial site for many Jews such as the former Israeli Prime minister Menachem Begin. Famous Tombs and sites on the Mountain include Tomb of Zechariah, the Church of all Nations, the Church of Mary Magdalene, the Chapel of Ascension and Mary’s Tomb.

Al-Aqsa Mosque

Literally translated as “The Distant Mosque”, the Al-Aqsa Mosque is located nearby the dome of the rock and is the third most holy site in Sunni Islam. According to Muslim tradition, during “The Night Journey” Muhammad traveled from the Mosque in Mecca to Al-Aqsa Mosque. Originally the Al-Aqsa mosque was a small prayer house erected in 710 AD. It was expanded and rebuilt 5 times over the years due to earthquakes and wars. As the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem in 1099, they converted the Mosque into the headquarters of the Knights Templar and served as a church and palace for the Crusader kings. In 1187 Saladin restored its status as a mosque and it has been repaired and renovated by the Ayyubis, Mamluks, Ottomans and various Islamic bodies and organizations ever since. In 1951 the Jordanian King Abdullah was assassinated in the southern part of the mosque. Despite its silver dome paling in comparison to the dome of the rock, the Al-Aqsa Mosque is rich with ornaments and serves as an interesting blend of different architectural styles and periods. The mosque has the capacity to host over 5000 worshipers and is administered by the Islamic Waqf.

Church of Mary Magdalene

Located on the Mount of Olives, the Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene was built in 1888 by the Russian Tsar Alexander the 3rd commemorating Mary Magdalene, one of the disciples of Jesus. The church was designed in the tented roof style popular in Russia in the 16th and 17th century while the newly refurbished 7 golden domes of the church add great splendor and uniqueness to its surrounding. Buried there are princess Alice of Greece whose remains were transferred there in 1988, as well as the Martyred nuns Varvara Yakovleva and the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna of Russia.

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.

Convent of the Ascension

On the very top of the Mt. of Olives, stands the Russian Orthodox Convent of the Ascension. According to Christian Orthodox tradition, this is the site where Jesus had ascended to heaven after his resurrection.
The construction of the church and bell tower was completed in 1887 and replaced two Armenian churches from the Byzantine period which were built in the 5th Century AD. The convent includes the Church, the Chapel of St. John the Baptist and the remarkable bell tower. Behind the neo-Byzantine styled Church, is a rock surrounded by a blue fence which is said to mark the spot where the Virgin Mary stood as Jesus rose to Heaven. The Chapel of St. John the Baptist was built on the site where some believe the head of St. John the Baptist, decapitated by King Herod, was found in the 4th Century. A small cage inside the chapel marks the exact spot where it is said his head lay and a beautiful mosaic floor from the original chapel has been uncovered and preserved. The 64 meter high bell tower symbolizes the Ascension of Jesus and was the first Christian bell to ring in the Holy City during the Ottoman rule of the Holy Land.

The Western Wall Tunnels

The western wall Tunnels, or ‘Kotel Tunnels’, run along the hidden continuation of the Western wall. The tunnels pass underneath the Muslim Quarter which was built above the remaining Second Temple western wall by using a series of arches and pathways, thus creating a tunnel space in between the ground of the Muslim Quarter and the ancient Second Temple period ground. Excavations which began in the mid-19th century revealed artifacts, water reservoirs, building blocks and even roads from the Herodian and Roman Empire periods circa first century.

The Western Stone that was discovered during the excavations is a true mystery of the Western Wall. It is a huge monolithic stone that weighs 517 tons and measures more than 40 feet. Evidently, it is the largest stone ever quarried by Man.

Beyond their archeological and historical significance, the tunnels bare religious significance. Inside the tunnel is the closest spot accessible to Jews to where the Second Temple ‘Holy of Holies’ once stood. As such, the tunnels have become a site of prayer and spirituality.

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’).

Dominus Flevit Church

Located on the Mount of Olives and shaped like a tear drop, this Franciscan church marks the site where according to tradition Jesus mourned and wept over the future destruction of Jerusalem. The Latin name of the church translates as ‘The lord Wept’ and it is one of the newest churches in Jerusalem, built in 1953. The church has a beautiful courtyard and a breathtaking view of Old City of Jerusalem.

Church of Mary Magdalene

Located on the Mount of Olives, the Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene was built in 1888 by the Russian Tsar Alexander the 3rd commemorating Mary Magdalene, one of the disciples of Jesus. The church was designed in the tented roof style popular in Russia in the 16th and 17th century while the newly refurbished 7 golden domes of the church add great splendor and uniqueness to its surrounding. Buried there are princess Alice of Greece whose remains were transferred there in 1988, as well as the Martyred nuns Varvara Yakovleva and the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna of Russia.

The Jerusalem Archeological Park

The Jerusalem Archeological Park, located just south of the Western Wall, is a large archeological excavation site and visiting center. The Archeological site spans from the Temple Mount to the Valley of Hinnom and the foot of the Mount of Olives. Over 5000 years of History can be seen here; from the ancient Bronze period and Canaanite Age which date back to the third Millennium BC, to our modern day. The park is most famous for the ample Second Temple Period artifacts and structures discovered in the area. The unveiling of ancient roads, houses and market places built by King Herod make it possible to travel back in time, with a bit of imagination, to the days of King David, Jesus and Muhammad.

The Davidson Center

The Davidson Center is a Museum located at the entrance to the Jerusalem Archeological Park by the Western Wall. This newly renovated center includes exhibitions, information archeological findings and also features a virtual reconstruction and 3D tour of the Second temple and surrounding area.

Church of the Pater Noster

Latin for ‘Our Father’, This Roman Catholic church, located on the Mount of Olives, is the traditional site where Jesus taught his disciples the ‘Lord’s Prayer’. The church is built on the site where once stood a basilica built by Emperor Constantine in the 4th century. He built the basilica under the direction of Helena, his mother, in commemoration of the ascension of Jesus.

The church’s outer corridor is ordained plaques made of Armenian pottery depicting the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ in over 60 different languages – from Latin to Japanese.

Augusta Victoria Hospital

Augusta Victoria Hospital is a Hospital and Church located on the Mount of Olives. Named after the wife of the German Kaiser Wilhelm II, who promoted the construction, the Augusta Victoria Hospital was inaugurated as a hospice and rest home in 1910.

The structure was the most modern building in Jerusalem at the time being the first in the Holy Land to have functioning electricity. It served as the center for the German Protestant Community in Palestine under the Ottoman rule and the German military headquarters during the First World War, as well as the residence of the British High Commissioner in the years 1920-1927. During the Second World War, Augusta Victoria served as a military Hospital for the British forces. After 1948 the hospital primarily aided Palestinian refugees and was run by the Red Cross until handed over to the Lutheran World Federation in 1950.

Since then the Augusta Victoria Hospital services the Palestinian Community and works in cooperation with the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNWRA. The compound includes a tall bell tower, a three story building surrounded by a beautiful garden and a Church.

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