Jerusalem, the Eternal Capital of Israel
Jerusalem is the most excavated city in the world. You can find today over 2,000 archaeological locations in or around the city. Any archaeologist, who burrows in or around Eternal Jerusalem, will find something new or an exciting clue into the world of ancient Israel or the origins of Judaism and Christianity.
Allow me to guide you around the most toured religiously historical sites on planet earth.
The city is sacred to the three great monotheistic religions; Jerusalem has been continuously inhabited for over 6 millennia. Mt. Moriah, the basis of Temple Mt. is the holiest site for the Jewish people, the beginning of Western civilizations. As written in the Bible: from Mt. Zion came the Torah and the Word of God from Jerusalem.
Day 1: Mt. Olives
Let us start our pilgrimage in Jerusalem with a Drive to the top of the Mt. of Olives, from where, according to Christian tradition, Yeshua ascended to heaven after his resurrection. On top of the Mt. Olives, from Rehavam Ze’evi’s vista, there is a magnificent view overlooking all of ancient, old and modern Jerusalem, the epicenter of the Biblical world.
Mt. Olives is the hill facing the old city of Jerusalem, from the eastern face of Kidron valley. The mountain’s name came from the abundant olive trees that once grew on it from ancient times. According to Jewish tradition, the Messiah will enter from here Temple Mt. and God will bring the dead buried here, back to life. Therefore the mountain, since time immemorial, became the holiest cemetery for all 3 Monotheistic religions, and the hillside, the valley and the base of Mt. Moriah is covered with thousands of gravestones. Therefore on its Western slope and valley, facing Temple Mt., there are thousands of gravestones that cover the entire hillside. Situated on top of the mountain is the Seven Arches Hotel, once known as the Intercontinental Hotel. Towards the north is Mount Scopus, the base from where the Romans, 2,000 years ago began their military campaign after the siege on Jerusalem. Today it’s the site of the first Hebrew University in the new State of Israel.
Mt. Olives is considered a religiously Holy Mt. to all 3 Monotheistic religions: For the Jews it has been the ancient burial site for over 3 millennia due to the eschatological belief in the Bible where according to the Prophet Zechariah Chapter 14:1-11 preaching about the Day of Judgment, with Mt. Olives as it’s epicenter of God’s final battle against the enemies of Jerusalem and where the Vision of the Dry Bones according to the Prophet Ezekiel Chapter 37:1-5 the resurrection of the dead on Judgment Day.
For Christians Mt. Olives is associated with acts in the life of Yeshua (specifically the Holy Week). Central churches to Christian tradition mark these places: Pater Noster, the place where Yeshua taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer; the tear-shaped church of Dominus Flevit (“the Lord wept”) where Yeshua wept prophesying the future destruction of Jerusalem; Gethsemane Garden (Gat Shemanim) and Church of all Nations where Yeshua was betrayed and arrested and at the top of the mountain the Chapel of the Ascension from where Yeshua ascended to heaven after his resurrection.
For Muslims, a bridge of 7 arches (the Bridge Sirat) will stretch from Mt. Olives to the Dome of the Rock considered as the Bridge over Hell, over which all must pass to their final Destiny.
Chapel of the Ascension:
The building blends the architectural features of the Crusader style with some belonging to the Muslim tradition. The chapel itself was built on the site of a former ancient Christian sanctuary, near the top of Mt. Olives.
The original building was surrounded by a double portico forming a circle. The original site was destroyed by the Parthians in the year 614CE, its present existing chapel was rebuilt by the Crusaders in the form of an octagonal temple sometimes during the 12th C CE.
The chapel came under the control of Muslims, to from the 13th C CE till date. It was converted to a mosque and completely transformed by walling in the arches and roofing over the octagon with a little dome (michrab) of evident Islamic character.
On a rock, inside can be seen a footprint which is identified according to Christian tradition as the print that Yeshua left as he ascended to Heaven: “And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven” (Luke, 24, 50-51).
The convent, controlled by the Carmelite Cloistered Sisters. The church is located right next to the ruins of the “Eleona” Basilica, which according to Christian tradition, was built in the 4th C CE by Queen Helen, the Mother of Constantine. This Byzantine church was built over a cave where according to the above tradition was the place where Yeshua hid with his disciples and taught them the first “Our Father who art…” prayer, one of the most important prayers in Christianity. The Crusaders began reconstructing part of the church, and a new convent was built here in the 19th C CE.
Walking down towards Temple Mt., we will visit the holy places of worship on the Mountain and descend down the “Palm Sunday Road” visiting the Chapel of Dominus Flevit known as “The Lord Wept”, a Franciscan church built in 1953-1955 by the Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi on top of the remains of a 5th C building. During the excavations on the site, remains of a necropolis were discovered nearby containing inscriptions in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. The window over the altar offers a fantastic panoramic of Jerusalem. The church is one of the 2 churches in the Holy Land that faces westward, this one faces Temple Mt. and the second is St. Peter’s Church in Jaffa which faces Rome.
The name of the church is taken from the Gospel account of Yeshua weeping before the city unaware of its fate. “… And they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knowest not the time of thy visitation” (Luke, 19 41-44).
Garden of Gethsemane
Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations is the site where Yeshua prayed on the night of his betrayal (Luke 22:40-46). Gethsemane Garden is one of the holiest and dearest places in the Holy Land to Christian tradition. Today you can find here olive trees which are hundreds of years old (some speculate over 2,000), hollowed, twisted, and gnarled, has increased the belief that these may be the very same olive trees that witnessed Yeshua’s last night before his arrest.
The word “Gethsemane” originates from the Hebrew words Gat Shemen, literally meaning “olive press”, probably referring to the ancient agricultural system existing here due to the natural abundance of these trees on Mt. Olives. Gethsemane Garden is an important site according to the Gospel story. Yeshua spent there the night before his arrest, praying in deathly anguish: “And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray” (Matthew, 26, 36).
The Church of All Nations, also known as the Church of the Agony, is a Roman Catholic Church located on the Mt. Olives, Jerusalem, adjacent to Gethsemane Garden. It is built on a section of bedrock where Yeshua is believed to have prayed before his incarceration. (Mark 14:32-42)
The current church was built on the foundations of two earlier churches, a 4th C CE, Byzantine basilica, destroyed by an earthquake in 749 and a small 12th C CE Crusader chapel abandoned in 1291.
Next, we shall enter the present day, Old Walled city of Jerusalem (constructed by Sultan Suleiman The Magnificent in 1538) and walk in the footsteps of Yeshua as he bore the burden of mankind’s sins to the Crucifixion at the at Golgotha.
We shall walk along the 14 Stations of the Cross from Pilate’s Judgment Hall to the empty tomb at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The Via Dolorosa (“Way of the Cross” on in Latin: “Way of Grief,” “Way of Sorrows,” “Way of Suffering” or simply “Painful Way”) is the route that Yeshua followed, from his trial and conviction by the Romans to the place where he was crucified and buried after his death. The route begins not far from the Lion’s Gate and ends inside the Holy Sepulcher, in the Christian Quarter. This route is marked by 14 Stations. “And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him, they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Yeshua. And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him. But Yeshua turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me but weep for yourselves and for your children” (Luke, 23, 26-28).
The name “Via Dolorosa” is a relatively recent name dating from the 16th C CE, describing the path between the fortress Antonia and the Golgotha (then outside the city walls), along which Yeshua walked bent dragging the heavy burden of the Cross. The present existing route, however, is probably different from the one that Yeshua actually walked.
The Holy Sepulcher or the Calvary which means the Resurrection is the holiest site in the Christian world. On the hill, inside the grounds of the church, it is believed that Yeshua was crucified, buried and rose from the dead. Various Christian denominations such as Greek Orthodox, Armenians, Roman Catholics, Copts, Ethiopians and Syrian Orthodox all share rights to the church. These rights came from an agreement negotiated for the Holy Land sites in the 18th C CE that preserved the sections of ownership and responsibilities of various Holy places important to Christians, Muslims, and Jews. The agreement includes arrangements for time and space at the church. The different denominations conduct their prayers at specifically appointed hours, resulting in a continuous cycle of prayers.
The original Byzantine Church was built by Queen Helen, mother of Emperor Constantine in the 4th C CE, after demolishing the temple built by Hadrian in135 CE. Hadrian built his temple with intentions to erase any traces of Christianity and dedicated it to the goddess Aphrodite.
But most of what we see today is the work of the Crusaders, who in the year 1149 built the great basilica over the Calvary and the empty Tomb of Yeshua.
“And Yeshua walked out of the city, carrying His Cross to a place called Calvary“, which derives from the ancient Aramaic name: Golgotha, the Skull, where he was crucified. After his death, Yeshua was then laid to rest in a family tomb provided by Joseph of Aramathea. It was Friday evening just before the Sabbath and that tomb was the nearest site to the place of his death. Pilgrims started visiting the Holy site about 1,950 years ago, on the resurrection day, when Mary Magdalene and Yeshua’s disciples went to the Tomb and found it empty.
From 132-135 CE a Jewish rebellion against the Roman occupation was led by Bar Kochba and crushed by Emperor Hadrian in 135 CE. Jerusalem was destroyed and erased to the ground. Hadrian built a Roman colony in its place, naming it Aelia Capitolina, after the Roman gods Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, who were worshiped at the Capitoline Hill temple in Rome. He also renamed the country “Provincia Palestina I/O the former Provincia Judea”. Like many other Roman colonies in Asia, Aelia Capitolina was designed with a plan of narrow streets and wide avenues. The main North to South street was the Cardo Maximus, originally a paved avenue of approximately 22 meters wide running southward from Damascus gate and terminating approximately East of the Golgotha. The southern addition to the Cardo, constructed under Justinian in the 6th C. CE, extended the road further south to connect the Holy Sepulcher to the newly built Zion Gate.
The Wide Wall
During the rule of King, Hezekiah, in the 8th C BCE, the Assyrian King Sennacherib conquered Judea and laid siege on the city of Jerusalem. Hezekiah decided to fortify the city when he heard that the Assyrian army was approaching Jerusalem. A massive wall was built to protect Ancient Jerusalem, Temple Mt. and the new area of the city (today part of the Old walled Jerusalem). Archaeologists, in 1970, found that some of the houses which stood on the planned section of the fortified wall were demolished and their rocks were reused to reinforce the great wall. As it says in Isaiah (22:9-10): ” Ye have seen also the breaches of the city of David, that they are many: and ye gathered together the waters of the lower pool. And ye have numbered the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses have ye broken down to fortify the wall.”
The Western Wall
The Western Wall is a remnant of Herod’s great temple and is today the holiest site for Jews. It attracts daily and especially on High Holidays, thousands of Jewish worshippers who come to pray, and seek heavenly guidance. They feel the presence of God’s Holy Spirit who, according to their belief, once thousands of years ago, resided in the Holy Temple.
From here we continue our tour to visit some of the thrilling historical Archeological sites in and around the Old City of Jerusalem.
Day 2: Mt. Zion – Ein Karem
We start our day with a visit to:
Mt. Zion: One of the hills surrounding Old Jerusalem just outside the city walls. The name Mt. Zion has been used in the Bible as the location for the City of David (Ancient Jerusalem) 2 Samuel 5:7, 1 Chronicles 11:5, 2 Chronicles 5:2 and 1 Kings 8:1 and later for Temple Mt., but its’ present location and for over 2 millennium, (transferred from Ancient Jerusalem), is now on the site of the name of old Jerusalem’s so-called Western Hill, recognized today by all as Mt. Zion.
Tomb of King David:
This site on Mt. Zion has been considered the traditional site of the tomb of King David for over 2,000 years, holy to Jews, Christians, and Muslims. On the ground level, there are several Jewish synagogues. The site is one of the Holiest sites for the Jewish people. Together with the Western Wall, it is one of the most visited places worshiped by people of all 3 Monotheistic faiths. The massive stone sarcophagus, covered by a blue cloth with the Star of David on it, is surmounted by twenty-two solid silver crowns of the Torah representing the kings who succeeded each other, after David, on the throne of Israel.
The Room of the Last Supper called Coenaculum, as mentioned in the New Testament, also known as the Upper Room, is situated just outside the Dormizion Church behind the Franciscan house on Mt. Zion. The whole area in the vicinity has been transformed by religious Jews into various religious classrooms due to the nearby location of the Tomb of King David believed for the last 2,000 years, to be beneath the Upper Room. The site, sacred in the Christian tradition, is believed to be the room of Last Supper where Yeshua established the rite of the Eucharist. Later, at the same place, the Holy Ghost appeared to Mary and the Apostles during the Pentecost based on Acts 1:13, Acts 2: 1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu:
Believed to be constructed over the House of Caiaphas, the High Priest of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, who imprisoned Yeshua and interrogated him the night before his trial before Pontius Pilate (Luke 22:54). This church was constructed in the 1930s by the Assumptionist Fathers. The name of the church recalls the denial of Yeshua by Petrus, as mentioned in the Gospels: “Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. and immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Yeshua, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out and wept bitterly” (Matthew, 26 – 34 – 74-75).
An ancient village of Jerusalem district and now a neighborhood southwest of Jerusalem. According to the New Testament, John the Baptist was born in “a small village in Judea”, believed to be Ein Karem of today. These beliefs lead to the establishment of many churches and monasteries in the village. The beautiful village of Ein Karem attracts over three million visitors a year, one-third of them pilgrims from around the world. Here we shall visit the following sites:
Church of St. John the Baptist: A Catholic church built in the second half of the 19th C on the ruins of earlier Byzantine and Crusader churches destroyed by the Partians and Muslims. Inside the church are the remains of an ancient mosaic floor and a cave where, according to Christian tradition, John the Baptist was born. The church has been owned by the Franciscans since 1674.
Church of the Visitation
Church of the Visitation, was built according to Christian tradition, over the house of Zechariah, where Mary, Yeshua’s mother came to visit her cousin Elisheva, (Elizabeth) (Luke 1:39-80). The church is located on the other side of the village to the southwest from St. John’s Church. The ancient grotto there was built against a rock. It is worshiped as, the “rock cavity in which John was hidden from the Roman soldiers,” The site is also attributed to Zechariah and Elisheva’s summer house, where Mary visited them. The modern church was built in 1955, on top of the ruins of former Byzantine and Crusader churches. It was designed by Antonio Barluzzi, an Italian architect, who designed many other churches in the Holy Land during the 20th century.
Israel‘s official memorial museum dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust.
Yad Vashem is located on the western slope of Mt. Herzl and was established in 1953. The memorial site includes the Holocaust History Museum, sites such the Children’s Memorial and the Hall of Remembrance, The Museum contains Holocaust art, books, sculptures, outdoor sites such as the Valley of the Communities, a synagogue, a research institute with archives, a library, a publishing house, and an educational center named The International School/Institute for Holocaust Studies.
The aim of Yad Vashem’s founders was to recognize those gentiles who, at personal risk for themselves, their families and their neighbors, without a financial or evangelistic motive, chose to save their Jewish brethren from the Nazi genocide machination system and their collaborators during the Holocaust of WWII. Those recognized by Israel as Righteous Among the Nations are honored in a section of Yad Vashem known as the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations.
Yad Vashem is the second most-visited Israeli tourist site after the Western Wall. There is no admission fee and the museum welcomes approximately one million visitors a year.
Day 3: City of David – Tunnel Tour – Israel Museum
City of David (Ancient Jerusalem)
About three thousand years ago King David left Hebron for Jerusalem, in his vision, a large central and important goal – the unification of Israel around one capital city
Composed by Shahar Shilo, translated by Ben Dor Avinoam
City of David, the site where most of the chapters of the Bible were written, offers attending visitors a unique experience that is a feast to their senses. The tour includes a large number of attractions: from activities for children through trips and tours for adults.
David`s son, Solomon, established the first Temple on Mount Moriah, which rises slightly north of the City of David. Here, in fact, was created the first deep connection to Jerusalem by King David, which is embedded deeply into the history of Israel.
Today the City of David is a small magical hill located near the Western Wall. It covers an area of about 60 acres, from where you can enjoy a variety of tours and activities that take visitors to a fascinating historical journey to the days of the First Temple, a period of ancient Jerusalem.
The City of David is actually the ancient core of Jerusalem, from which the city grew and developed throughout history. A collection of archaeological finds is a testimony and to a lifetime of activities that took place here before, during the first Temple era around 1000 BCE.
The Western Wall Tunnel Tour
The Tunnel is an underground tunnel exposing the full length of the Western Wall including many archaeological and historical findings. The tunnel is the original street connected to the Western Wall and is located under buildings of the Old City of Jerusalem. While the present praying portion of the Western Wall is approximately 60 meters long, the rest of its length can be toured underground where visitors can visit an additional 485 meters.
Touring the tunnel can give the visitor a better understanding of the methods of construction and the many activities nearby Temple Mt. The present tour of the excavations includes many archaeological surprises along the way, including discoveries from the Herodian period (streets, columns and monumental masonry feats), sections of a reconstruction of the Western Wall dating to the Umayyad, Ayyubid, Mamluk and Hasmonean periods who constructed arches to support many roads, homes, Mosques and Madras’s along the Western Wall.
Israel Museum Jerusalem
The establishment is one of the largest and finest museums in the Middle East.
The Archeological wing exhibits artifacts from the Biblical and historical ancient Land of Israel, home to various cultures and faiths of people coming from ancient nations of the Fertile Crescent who settled long ago in the Holy Land.
The Museum’s vast collection of the Holy Land’s archaeology is one of the richest and finest in the world.
On the grounds of the museum, you must visit the Shrine of the Book which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls and artifacts discovered at Qumran, the village of the Essenes.
Right next to the Shrine of the Book is an exquisite Model of Jerusalem presenting the city as it was rebuilt by Herod the Great during the Second Temple Period. The city model is constructed according to the topography and architectural character as it was prior the destruction by the Romans in 70 CE. The original project was constructed on the grounds of Jerusalem’s Holyland Hotel includes a replica of the City of David, Herod’s Palace, the Holy Temple on Temple Mt. and many Towers and Walls surrounding the city of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago.