Thousands of years old, home to events such as the crucifixion of Jesus and locations such as the Dome of the Rock which is holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims, conquered by everyone from Nebuchadnezzar to Alexander the Great to the Romans to the Persians to Saladin to the Turks to the British – I am not even going to try to outline Jerusalem’s complicated history… If you’re curious about background, go to Wikipedia.
And today Jerusalem is still a complicated city. So complicated, in fact, that rather than do one post for the whole city, I am breaking it down into sections (such as my earlier post on the Dome of the Rock). This post focuses on the Muslim, Christian and Jewish Quarters of the Old City and I will try to show you what it is like today.
Jerusalem has been un-divided since Israeli troops conquered the eastern half of the city (plus the West Bank and the Gaza Strip) in the 1967 War. The Holy City had been divided since Israel’s war of independence, when its eastern part (including the Old City) came under Jordanian control.
Until 1967, the “Green Line” meant barbed wire, concrete fencing and a border crossing at the Mandelbaum Gate — providing this Middle-Eastern city with a cold-war-like setting more associated with the Europe of that time.
But in Jerusalem, unification has not equaled pacification. The mainly Arab east of the city has been annexed to the mainly Jewish rest of Jerusalem. Palestinians resist Israeli takeovers of houses in the east, and insist their part of the city should be the eventual capital of an independent Palestine. But how can this be achieved without an extension of Israel’s security wall right through the city? In a place where there’s no middle ground, where you’re either from one side or the other, it’s hard to see how a case can be made that both parts of the city belong together, and should grow together.
Entering the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City through the Damascus Gate – my favorite way in and out of the Old City:
The Muslim Quarter is the area of Jerusalem’s Old City that is visited the least, but (perhaps because of this) it is certainly my favorite section:
Jerusalem is not a city that never sleeps, but it does stay up late. Thus, even in the coldest times of winter, the city still has a lot of activity and “goings on” late into the evening:
Jerusalem’s cats, I observed, were following the same schedule:
Even if you find a relatively quiet alley or side street, the next street over will be filled with activity:
The exception to the activity shown above is the Armenian Quarter which locks itself in at night with sturdy gates, but I’ll get into the Armenian Quarter in another post.
Of course, during the day there is more activity at Jerusalem’s main sights, but it is still surprisingly easy to find quiet, infrequently explored sides of Jerusalem.
This is the other side of the Damascus Gate. In other words, the perspective from inside the Old City facing out:
More of the Old City during the day: