Jerusalem: Inside the Old City Walls
Following the Israeli War of Independence in 1948, Old City Jerusalem was captured by Jordan, and the Jewish residents were evicted.
Nineteen years later on June 5, 1967, Israel was surrounded by enemies says Steven Pressfield in The lion’s gate: on the front lines of the Six-Day War, “The Soviet-equipped Egyptian Army had massed a thousand tanks on the nation’s southern border. Syrian heavy guns were shelling her from the north. To the East, Jordan and Iraq were moving mechanized brigades and fighter squadrons into position to attack.
Egypt’s President Nasser declared that the Arab force’s objective is ‘the destruction of Israel.’ The rest of the world turned a blind eye to the new nation’s desperate peril.
By June 10, 1967, the Arab armies have been routed, ground divisions wiped out, air forces totally destroyed. Israel’s citizen-soldiers have seized the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the Golan Heights from Syria, East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan. The land under Israeli control has tripled. Her charismatic defense minister, Moshe Dayan, has entered the Lion’s Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem to stand with the paratroopers who have liberated Judaism’s holiest site-the Western Wall, part of the ruins of Solomon’s temple, which has not been in Jewish hands for nineteen hundred years. It is one of the most unlikely and astonishing military victories in history.”
Old City Jerusalem, a walled area of a 0.9 square kilometers (0.35 sq mi) is within the modern city of Jerusalem. Today the Israeli government mainly controls the area, which it considers part of its national capital, but Jews are not allowed by the Palestinian Authority to visit some places holy to the Muslims within the city walls; internationally the Old City is considered part of occupied Palestinian Territory. However today, Jews, Christians, and Muslims can visit sites very precious to each religion: for Muslims, the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque; for Jews, the Temple Mount and Western Wall, and for Christians, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. In 1981, Old City Jerusalem was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.
As of 2007, the total population within the walls was 36,965; by religion, 27,500 Muslims, 5,681 Christians, 3,089 Jews, and 790 Armenians. Wikipedia}
On a Friday early afternoon, as Barry and I walked down from the Mount of Olives toward Old City Jerusalem, we saw thousands of Muslims, mainly men and boys, leaving through the gates of the Old City. Buses had brought some – perhaps from Jordan or other nearby communities. One friendly Muslim man suggested that Barry and I go to a cafe and wait until most of the men left before making our way into the Old City. However, we kept walking (and saw more Muslims than I’ve ever seen in one place).
A Muslim girl surrounded by a sea of men.
The Jews, who feel they are not holy enough to pray at the site of their first two temples and the place where man was created, go to the remnant of the Western Wall (“The Wailing Wall”) of the Second Temple.
The Second Holy Jewish Temple (between 516 BCE and 70 CE), replaced the First Temple, destroyed in 586 BCE, when the Jews went into exile. Jewish belief is that the Second Temple will in turn be replaced by a future Third Temple after the Messiah comes.
Jewish men and women have access to the Western Wall, although at different sections.
The Temple Mount area above; below, the Western Wall.
In the Old City streets –
It seems that everyone has a presence within the Old City wall.
Within the Christian Quarter of the Old City is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, venerated for its last four Stations of the Cross, the place of Jesus’ crucifixion, his burial, and resurrection. Christian pilgrims have been coming here since the 4th century.
Today, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is controlled by Greek Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, & Roman Catholics under complicated arrangements.
Besides coming to Jerusalem for the religious and historical significance, many come to shop.
For some, Old City, Jerusalem is their home.
Old City Jerusalem is divided into four unequal sections: the Muslim Quarter, the Jewish Quarter, the Armenian Quarter, and the Christian Quarter.
You can find wonderful Middle Eastern food within the Old City walls.
And if you don’t have money, the Jewish Chabad provides free meals near the Western Wall.
Old City Jerusalem is waiting for you.
And what’s outside Old City Jerusalem? That report is coming soon.