Day 13 - Walking Tours of the Old City and Jewish Section

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Middle East » Israel » Jerusalem District
April 22nd 2018
Published: April 23rd 2018
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Early start this morning at 7:15am as there would be a long line to enter the Courtyard of the Dome to see The Dome of the Rock. We entered the Old City through the Jaffa Gate and our first stop was The Western Wall commonly known as the Wailing Wall before but Western Wall is now preferred. It is actually the only remaining part of the Second Temple.

As it was so early there were not many men at the wall and we noticed that the women’s section was much smaller but had more women. Up close you can see all the messages pushed into cracks and Daisy did write one as well, that she pushed in.

We then left the Wall and saw this very long line, not realizing that that was the line we were joining to get into the Courtyard of the Dome. After about 30 minutes, we got in at around 9am, Mahdi explained about the history and we had time to walk around and take photos.

We then stopped at Jerusalem’s best preserved Crusader church, The Church of St Anne which is built over the site that the Crusaders believe is the birthplace of the Virgin Mary. We then walked along the famous Via Dolorosa where it is believed Jesus carried the cross and significant places known as Stations of The Cross are marked out. This finishes at the Church of The Holy Sepulchre where Christ was crucified and marks the spot where it is believed he was buried. When we got there it was packed with people with an Armenian mass on the left side of the church which contains a Rotunda which houses what is believed to to have been Jesus’ tomb and a line up of people going up a staircase which leads to the Altar of The Crucifixion. I managed to squeeze into the left side but decided against seeing the tomb. I then made the mistake of going up the stairs to the altar of Crucifixion and got stuck there for ages because some people in front were taking too long to pray and more people just kept coming up. Whilst up there I knew I was going to be late back to the group but there wasn’t anything I could do about it.

When I finally got down I went out and couldn’t see anyone, waited a while and decided to go out either side and see if I could find them, to no avail. I decided the best thing to do would be to go back to the Church courtyard and then Juliette saw me. She had also lost the group whilst waiting for me. Luckily though, she had Mahdi’s mobile number and asked a policeman to call him which he did and Mahdi was already on his way back to get us, so all good. Mahdi was very happy to get us back and marched us back to the group who were now having lunch in various places in the Jewish quarter.

After lunch we went out of the Old City and were introduced to a lovely young lady named Maiya who took us on a walking tour of the Jewish section outside the wall. The spot was just outside the Tower of David area which we had visited on the first day. Someone wanted coffee and she took us to the same café we had coffee that first day. The area behind this expensive shopping centre is full of these beautiful cute houses with lovely gardens and we surprised to find out that they are all empty. Maiya explained that they are all owned by rich overseas Jews who pay for their maintenance but very rarely live there. The Israeli Government has even increased the taxes for these places to discourage the practice but they still prevail, even though there is a chronic shortage of affordable housing for the population actually living there.

Then a short walk to see the impressive YMCA building which I had heard about, a drink at a funky bar that is one of Maiya’s favourites with lots of quirky artwork and decoration and then finally to Mechane Yehuda markets which we visited with John and Michal. But this was just a short tour through the food section before Maiya bid us farewell. We all then had free time and Daisy and I decided we had to have the kanafeh at the specialist kanafeh shop and it was really yummy. Then met up with Annie and Pierre again, and we decided to walk back to the hotel which took about 30 minutes but it turned out to be very interesting as it was through a devout Jewish neighborhood and we saw lots of locals out and about.

We then had dinner at the hotel which was quite good.

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