This modern city is one of contrasts, an intense mix of the ancient and modern, with a long and turbulent history and different meanings for different people. Few, however, can remain neutral about it.
The validity of historical sources is inevitably contentious, but archaeologists believe Jerusalem has been continuously inhabited for at least 5,000 years, first by the Canaanites, followed by the Jebusites. After King David conquered the city in 1006BCE, he made it the capital of his kingdom and created a religious center by bringing the Ark of the Covenant to the city. King Solomon, David's son, built the first Temple on Mount Moriah.
After Solomon died, Jerusalem remained the capital of the Kingdom of Judah for nearly 400 years, but the people of the north rebelled and formed the separate Kingdom of Israel. Jerusalem fell during one of many wars, and in 586BCE was destroyed by the Babylonians, who deported its inhabitants. Those who returned nearly 50 years later rebuilt the city and the Temple, and by the time of Jesus, the city was bustling again, albeit it under figurehead rulers directed by the Romans. The city, beautified and expanded by Herod the Great in a Roman fashion, was destroyed again during the Great Revolt of AD66-70 after the Jews rose up against their oppressors. The battle lost, the Jews were exiled.
Emperor Hadrian replaced the ruins with the pagan city of Aelia Capitolina and named the province Palaestina. His urban renewal project resulted in what we know today as the Old City. The Cardo Maximus, the central thoroughfare, was rediscovered after the Six-Day War in 1967. The Christian Byzantines built much of the Old City, but Arab Ummayads in the late seventh and early eighth centuries AD built many of the Muslim religious buildings, including the Dome of the Rock, whose striking gold dome is a Jerusalem landmark. The Crusaders used Jerusalem as the capital of their Latin Kingdom for most of the 12th century, and the inhabitants lived under Ottoman Turkish rule from 1517 until 1917. From the time of the Crusades and until the 20th. century, most of the population of Jerusalem was Arab and Muslim. With British General Allenby's conquest of the Holy City in 1917, Jerusalem began to take a giant step toward becoming the vibrant, modern city it is today. That said, even before this, the city was modernizing with amenities such as a carriage road, a railway, and piped water.
City of Contrasts: The Old City
The city has three main focal points: the Old City, where most of the tourist sites are; the New Jewish City, where you'll find modern amenities, restaurants, and shops; and Arab East Jerusalem.
The Old City is surrounded by a huge wall, some of which dates back more than 2,000 years. There are eight gates into the Old City. Most tourists enter through the Jaffa Gate, with King David's Tower at its entrance, and a nightly sound and light show that tells the Old City's biblical history. The Tower houses the City Museum, which has ancient maps and exhibits representing the diversity of the region.
Jerusalem's Old City is divided into quarters-the Jewish, Christian, Armenian, and Arab-each with its own ambiance. Indeed, a good proportion of the Old City has a distinctly Arab character today. The Armenian Quarter is a quiet, residential area with lush courtyards and ancient buildings. Here you can visit St. James Cathedral, built above Herod's palace by the Crusaders; the Church of the Holy Archangels; Gulbenkian Public Library; Library of Manuscripts; and Edward Mardigian Museum of Armenian Art and History. Shops and tourist goods abound on David Street.
The Jewish Quarter has been brought to the ground repeatedly, most recently during the 1948 war, when it fell victim to Jordanian artillery. It now is a clean and tranquil concentration of synagogues, yeshivas, apartments, cafes, and shops. Here you can see the ancient Cardo, excavated in 1967, and visit the shops that line the way. Sights include the Old Yishuv Court Museum, which relives the Jewish experience in the 19th century, and The Burnt House, which survived the destruction of the city in AD70. The Western Wall, with the Temple Mount above and Dome of the Rock to the side, is the leading attraction. The Dome is the natural focus for Moslems; the Wall is for Jews. The Kotel, a remnant of the second-century wall that once supported the Temple Mount, is the holiest of Jewish sites.
On the edge of the Moslem Quarter is the Dome of the Rock, the city's most familiar landmark because of its gold dome and ornate exterior of mosaic tiles. It contains the Holy Rock and Muslim relics. Nearby also are the El-Aksa, the main Jerusalem mosque, and Ophel Archeological Park. Outside the walls is Mount Zion, with the Dormiton Abbey, built in 1906 on the site where the Virgin Mary was reputed to have died.
In the Christian Quarter, you will find the Via Dolorosa, the route followed by Jesus from the Praetorium to Calvary. The 14 Stations of the Cross are marked along the way, with the last five being within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a modest looking structure that stands on the Old City's highest point.
East Jerusalem contrasts sharply with the Old City because it is distinctly Arab. Here you will find the Rockefeller Museum, with its archaeological artifacts; the Tourjeman Post Museum, which depicts the history of a divided Jerusalem, 1948 ( 67. Nearby is the Mount of Olives, which offers one of the best views of the city and is enroute to the Garden of Gethsemane and Church of All Nations.
West Jerusalem: The New City
This is the modern city and center of Jerusalem nightlife. Near the King David Hotel is Yemin Moshe, the first Jewish settlement outside the walls, and the windmill erected to help feed the settlement. You won't want to miss the Israel Museum, which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls and covers everything from modern art to ancient history; the Knesset building, Israel's parliament; or the new ultramodern supreme court building. You may also want to visit the Monastery of the Cross, maintained by the Greek Orthodox church; Mahane Yehuda, the open market which combines eastern and western flavors and fragrances; Mea Shea`rim, an ultra-Orthodox residential area reminiscent of the 19th-century Polish shtetl; and the Russian Compound with a Russian Orthodox Church in its architectural splendor. The Yad Vashem, or Holocaust Museaum, is dedicated to the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators. Finally, the three campuses of the Hebrew University: Mount Scopus, Givat Ram and the Hadassah Medical School, which houses the famous Chagal windows.
In the New City, you will find a plethora of fine eating and shopping establishments of every description, as well as other museums, historical sites, cultural events, and recreational possibilities. Or, you can venture outside the city to other areas to get a better feel for this incomparable country. Jerusalem is a city where the past is alive amidst the present.