Holiday: Israel – Day 3 (2020)

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Our car-rental turned out to be very OTT! 😁

A slightly earlier start to today as we have a list of places to visit including our continued trek around more of the old city walls that we started yesterday.

On our planned itinerary today…

  • Temple Mount
  • The Dome of the Rock
  • Dome of the Chain
  • Al Aqsa Mosque
  • The Central Souk

Luckily, the weather is much-the-same as yesterday with only a slight chance of rain.

Our first stop today was Temple Mount and so we took the shortish walk on foot along Jaffa Street and then David Street, heading for the Western Wall (where we visited yesterday). From the Western Wall, we passed though security (it’s spot-the-cop out here!) and then across the rather frail looking wooden walkway to our destination.

Don’t look down!

After passing though another police checkpoint, we arrived to a very large flat area that stretched-out in front of us… This was Temple Mount.

Temple Mount

Celebrated as a holy site by Christians, Jews and Muslims alike, its construction was started by Herod. It’s a flat plaza that also includes three large structures: al-Aqsa Mosque, the Dome of the Rock and the Dome of the Chain, all of which we plan to look at. The whole area is, religiously speaking, a very sensitive one! For a start, part of the reason for our early start today was down to NOT being a Muslim. As a non-believer, we’re only allowed access to the area between the hours of 7- 10am and 12.30-1.30pm.

I guess for us, the restricted visiting made it all feel a bit plain and ordinary, but at least it was the home of some beautiful buildings – including The Dome of the Rock.

The Dome of the Rock

Initially completed in 691–92 CE at the order of Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik during the Second Fitna on the site of a Second Jewish Temple, it was completely destroyed during the Roman Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE. The original dome collapsed in 1015 and was rebuilt in 1022–23. The construction is one of the oldest extant works of Islamic architecture.

Why is this place so important? The Foundation Stone and its surroundings is the holiest site in Judaism. Though Muslims now pray towards the Kaaba at Mecca, they once faced the Temple Mount as the Jews do. Muhammad changed the direction of prayer for Muslims after a revelation from Allah.

Adjacent, was its ‘baby sister’, The Dome of the Chain.

The Dome of the Chain

Part Treasury, part Chapel, some architectural elements that have been used actually date-back to pre-Islamic times, but it’s widely accepted by both Arab and Western scholars that the Dome of the Chain was originally built in 691 by the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik. The Umayyad design of the building has largely remained unaltered by later restorations.

By comparison to its neighbour, it’s quite plain to look at it from the outside. Unfortunately however, in keeping with the strictness of the immediate area, non-Muslims aren’t allowed inside! 😮

Well, at least there was a museum here we could visit. Its open door looked welcoming, but as we entered, we were discouraged from going any further. We’re not sure why, but maybe it was the non-Muslim ‘thang’ again! A real shame as it contains over 600 handwritten copies of the Qur’an spanning six eras.

Al Aqsa Mosque

Another stunning building from the outside, but again, that’s all we were allowed to see, unless we changed our religion! 🤔

The Central Souk

Absolutely no historical significance to our next stop at all! 🥱, just an opportunity to rest our feet and get something to drink. Luckily, no entry restrictions based on our belief system (unless you believe coffee and tea are evil!). Enthusiastically named ‘Restaurant of Peace‘, it was probably the cleanest, most colourful establishment we’ve visited since we’ve been out here.

The owner couldn’t do enough to make us comfortable, and who, in between squeezing his pomegranates and slicing meat for the next kebab sale, began by ensuring that we both had cushions to support our backs! Now that’s what I call service!!!! A genuinely nice person! 😍 Good tea and coffee too! (just 25 shekels – about a fiver!)

We could have stayed there all day, it was soooo comfortable, but Jerusalem waits for no-one and after some more wandering…

Up the Empire!

…we decided to squeeze in an extra location – The Tower of David and the Jerusalem Citadel.

The Tower of David/The Citadel

Click for a larger version

Located near the Jaffa Gate entrance to western edge of the Old City of Jerusalem., it has a commanding presence. What we saw today dates to the Mamluk and Ottoman periods – previous constructions having been destroyed during the presence of the Crusaders. Just 80 shekels (£17.50) in total for both of us, it promised dramatic views across the city…

…and it certainly lived up to its promise!

Heading towards the Courtyard

Additionally, the site houses a Museum – aptly named The Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem and was opened in 1989 by the Jerusalem Foundation. Located in a series of chambers in the original citadel, the museum includes a courtyard which contains archaeological ruins dating back 2,700 years – Naturally, I blended in perfectly! 😁

That was enough indoors for us, and headed outside for the old city walls to continue our elevated walk that we’d begun yesterday

The Old City Walls (Part 2)

On at ‘2’ off at ‘3’

Although, the route would turn out to be a lot straighter than yesterday, some of the steps were challenging (take a look below)…

Eeeek! Don’t look down OR up!!! 😮

It was worth it (just!) for the views though…

The weather was definitely on our side, but it was very windy. We took the opportunity, to ‘drop-down’ to ground level at the next gate…

Zion Gate

We then wandered slightly back on ourselves in search of the St James Cathedral in the Armenian Quarter. We missed it somehow and ended up almost back where we started – in front of the Tower of David

Oh, and a coffee shop! 😁. It seemed a shame not to go in…

Thirty minutes later, all refreshed and watered, we decided to re-trace our steps to see if we could find the Cathedral.

Almost, but not quite! We took some photos of the exterior, but we couldn’t seem to find the entrance. We spoke to the local security guard who told us it was only open from 7am until 7.30am in the morning and 3.00pm until 3.30pm in the afternoon!

We weren’t that interested! 🤔 What bizarre opening times!

With most things ticked-off on our today’s to-do list, we put on a couple of smug faces looking at our step-count for today, as well as the mileage covered…

Phew! I think we both felt every yard of our walk today! (but it was worth it!), but I do feel a McDonald’s coming on for our evening meal – purely for research and comparison purposes you understand! 😉

Perfectly Kosher!

More photos of the holiday so far
(and none of my chat!)

The weather for tomorrow is looking damp, so we’re heading for Yad Vashem by Tram – a Museum and Monument to perpetuate the memory to more than 6 million Jews who were killed in the holocaust.

See you tomorrow! 😊

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