Thoughts and Impressions

The Old City of Jerusalem

The Dome of the Rock seen from the Jewish quarter

Jerusalem – the city of peace, where God will dwell. At least if we refer to how the Bible views the city. According to the Quran, this is the Holy, al-Quds, where Muhammad went up to heaven on his night journey, and later led a prayer for the prophets of God, where the Aqsa mosque is erected today.

An elder Palestinian man wandering the Christian quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem
A Palestinian walking in the streets of the Christian quarter of the Old City

However, archaeological findings hint at the city originally being a settlement devoted to the Canaanite god, Shalem, hence the name Urushalim, which appears in the Armana letters of Abdi-Heba.


A Muslim girl walking in the streets of the Old City
A Muslim girl walking in the ancient streets of the Old City

The history of Jerusalem is the subject of countless books. However, these books often only see the city from one point of view, either archeological, according to Jewish, Christian, or Muslim tradition, or in context of the modern conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

The interior of the Holy Sepulchre
Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Jerusalem is all of these, and more. Unfortunately people are often only relating to Jerusalem from either of the points of views above, rather than to approach the city in her own right.

A Cross hanging at a stand in the Old City
A cross hanging at a stand in the Christian quarter of the Old City

From being inhabited by a pre-Israeli people, which most likely was part of the Canaanite nations, it would later become the center of the Israeli people, though whether they themselves were Canaanites first, is a matter of discussion.

A praying Jew covered in his tallit and wearing tefillin
A Jew praying during the morning prayer known in Hebrew as Shaharit, meaning ‘dawn’

By the middle of the first millennia BCE, Jerusalem was Jewish. Though the city was d would be conquered by surrounding empires, the Jewish character of the city would remain. Only after the Roman expulsion of the Jews, and later Christianing of the Roman empire, did the city take on a Christian character, that is, churches were built, the official religion would be Christian, Christian pilgrims would arrive from all the known world.

The Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem
Al Aqsa mosque as it appears today

This Christian character was however particularly Byzantine, the empire which survived the Roman empire, though the capital would be in Constantinople (modern day Istanbul).

A Russian Orthodox Priest leaving mass in the Holy Sepulchre
A Russian Orthodox priest after mass

With the Arab conquest of the city in the 630s CE, the city became an Islamic city, which over the years has had a lot of different particular Islamic architecture, from the Aqsa mosque to the Ottoman City Wall.

Three Religions

A Jew praying at the Western Wall, covered in Tallit wearing Tefillin
A Jew with Tallit, the prayer shawl, and Tefillin, phylacteries, praying morning prayer

Today the city is dominated by three religions, namely Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These religions have each their own quarters, though there are two Christian quarters, namely the Armenian quarter, and the (Arab) Christian quarter. Were the Christian quarter reminds a lot like the Muslim quarter, with streets packed with privately owned shops and hostels, the Armenian quarter is more secluded, seemingly more for private dwelling only.

An elder Palestinian man in the streets of the Old City in Jerusalem
A Palestinian man in the streets of the Old City

Maybe rather than seeing the Old City being split in four parts, it can give sense to see it as being separated in three major parts, the Armenian , the Arab (or Palestinian) quarters, and the Jewish quarter. The only thing that really separates the two Arab quarters is the change from Muslim to Christian percularities.

Two Palestinian men engaged in discussion
A discussion between two Palestinians in the Muslim quarter

Entering the Jewish quarter one will see the obvious dominance of Jews wandering around, as well as shops being brands, rather than privately owned shops.

A Palestinian shop owner opening his shop
A Palestinian shop owner opening his shop

Places of Importance in the Old City

The Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem
The Dome of the Rock

There are a lot of things to see in the Old City of Jerusalem, whether of religious or historical importance. All the three great Abrahamic religions have their own places, some of them contested, particularly the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Aqsa Mosque, and the Dome of the Rock, just to mention some of the most known places.

Bread being sold from a stand in the Old City of Jerusalem
Bread being sold at a stand in the Muslim quarter of the Old City

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