Tour 2 - Jerusalem
Armenian Quarter - Zion Gate - The Cardo - The Broad Wall - Justinian‘s Nea Church - al-Aqsa - Pinnacle of the Temple - Dome of the Rock - Robinson‘s Arch - Straight Joint - The Wailing Wall - Wilson‘s Arch - Garden Tomb - Solomon‘s Quarries - Rockerfeller Museum - Wall Walk - Tower of David - Muristan - Jewish Quarter
Arrive at the Jaffa Gate no later than 8.30 am and go through it into the city. Turn right past the Tower of David and the modern police station, under an arch and through the Armenian quarter to the Zion Gate.
There are four quarters to the Old City — Arab, Jewish, Christian and Armenian. In actual area the Arab quarter (if you include the Haram) is just under half the city, say 40%. The Christians have about 25% while the Jews and Armenians share the remaining 35% with the Armenians getting distinctly the smaller area. Obviously "quarter" is used in the sense of area rather than amount.
On either side you will notice shops selling icons and books with an unusual script. This is, of course, Armenian. There is nothing very much to see in the Armenian quarter. The largest building is Deir ez-Zeitouneh, which the Armenians prefer to call the Monastery of St Archangels. The Arabic name means Convent of the Olive Tree, because the Armenians, with splendid disregard for all the facts of geography, maintain that Christ was arrested and tied temporarily to an olive tree on this spot.
Built into the outer wall of Deir ez-Zeitouneh is a unique relic that begs to be disbelieved. It is one of the stones which would have cried out had the crowds been silent when Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. If you experience any difficulty in identifying which stone it is, in the north-east corner of the chapel, a little bucksheesh in the right quarters will doubtless produce someone happy to point it out to you.
I have only once found the church open. It is a typically dark Orthodox church, smelling strongly of incense and amply covered with icons and frescoes. Although the connoiseur would doubtless find much of interest, if you fail to get in, there is no need to be heart-broken.
When you get to city wall turn left to the Zion Gate. Notice a rather battered black metal box on the right-hand side of the gateway. This is a giant version of the mezuzah which every pious Jew has on the doorway of his home. The domestic ones contain a tiny scroll of the Torah and people rub it and touch their lips as they enter the house. Whether this one (and the others on the other gates) also contain scrolls I don't know but if the dents are anything to go by I wouldn't place much confidence in the ability of the mezuzah to bring blessing and protection.
Just beyond the gateway are steps leading down to excavations in a garden below the wall. There is little of interest here apart from the large underground cistern to which there are two entrances — one half-way up the stairs at the far end of the garden under a concrete over-hang — but they are often locked. If you are determined, you can scramble over the low fence beside the staircase, round under the concrete roof and grope your way down the original steps to the dark and noisome cistern — which is huge. It is believed that these were the vaulting on which Justinian's Nea Church once stood.
Climb back up to the road and make your way through the car park and the Jewish Quarter to the Cardo, which should not be too crowded at this time of day. You come first to a row of pillars set in an open space below ground level on the left. Beyond them modern stairs lead down to the ancient ground level.
As you follow the passageway northwards notice the copy of the Madaba mosaic map of Jerusalem on the wall. (Unfortunately, every time I visit some more of the mosaic pieces are missing. I hope there are enough left for you to photograph.) Unless you are planning to go to Jordan you should certainly photograph this.
The oval white space on the left of the picture with a column in the middle represents the Damascus Gate. (When you visit the gate you will see a hologram of this column.) The street running from left to right through the middle of the city with pillars at top and bottom (ie. lining the street) represents the Cardo, in which you are standing. The buildings with golden domes are churches, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre about half-way along below the street and Justinian's Nea Church at the right-hand end of the Cardo.
There are various meaningless remains preserved beneath the Cardo; you can view them through what look like wishing wells in the middle of the street. The shops — apart from the plate glass and the prices — are original Crusader. Prices are fixed in Jewish stores, just as they are in Europe; unfortunately prices are also touristically high and if you want to buy a prayer shawl or phylacteries you would be well advised to take a trip into New Jerusalem to find a shop where the Jews themselves buy such things.
Turn right halfway along the covered part of the Cardo market and out into the sunshine to the Broad Wall, which probably dates from the rebuilding under Nehemiah. A section 25m long and 7m wide has been left uncovered in a pit between towering modern buildings in Plugat ha-Kotel. (Another section of this wall has recently been discovered in the Cardo itself.)
The hostility between Jews and Arabs dates back to the time of Mohammed when the Jews of Yathrib, after appearing favourable to the prophet‘s message, rejected it and sided with his enemies. Although Jews, like Christians, are recognised as "People of the Book" and are therefore better than kaffirs or heathen, the Muslim attitude towards them is very ambivalent. Muslims claim that they have nothing against Jews, only against Zionists; but there is a long history of persecution of the Jews.
Long before the days of Zionism Jews were prohibited from praying at the Wailing Wall, or allowed to pray but not to sit, or allowed to sit but not to light candles or sound the shofar. When they were allowed to sit, they had to provide marble blocks for seats, which were immediately stolen. In 1853 one traveller reported that the Jews of Jerusalem had to pay 300 dinars annually for the privilege of praying at the Wailing Wall, plus 100 to the villagers of Silwan to keep them from destroying the Jewish graves on the Mt of Olives, and 30 to one of the beduin tribes to induce them not to damage Rachel's Tomb.
The Jewish quarter suffered a lot of destruction during the 1948 war with the Arabs: apart from damage caused by the fighting, as soon as the Jews surrendered, the Arab Legion blew up all the synagogues. Despite the terms of the armistice, which allowed the Jews access to the Wailing Wall, this was denied them all the time of Jordanian control. Naturally, as soon as the Jews recaptured Jerusalem in 1967 they returned the favour and expelled all Arabs from the old Jewish Quarter.
I can remember visiting the Wailing Wall in 1967, when you found that the stones formed one side of a narrow alley. It was impossible to get a decent picture of the Wall because the alley was so narrow. A couple of days later the Jews captured the city and the first thing they did was bulldoze the alley and most of the surrounding area to create a wide plaza in front of the Wall.
Since 1967 most of the old Jewish Quarter has been demolished, excavated and rebuilt and one must admit that it has been done splendidly — comfortable modern houses that retain all the beauty and quaintness of the East. Blue glazed tiles on street corners often (but not always) direct you towards some of the sights of the Quarter.
Work your way south through Hurva Square, following the tiles till you find the remains of Justinian's Nea Church, carefully preserved beneath a modern building. (Justinian is the Byzantine emperor who sent Belisarius to recapture Italy from the Goths.) All you see are the foundations of an apse or two; other remains are visible outside the southern wall of the city (near where the wall walk is level with the road) where they form the base of one of the towers.
The description that follows of a visit to the Haram assumes that the Haram is open to visitors. During the intifada that broke out following Sharon's provocative visit, it has been closed to non-Muslims and there are as yet no plans to reopen it.
Continue south to the city walls and follow them round to the Wailing Wall but do not stop at it yet. Turn right towards the Dung Gate, go through the Israeli security control and up the ramp to the Gate of the Moghrebin into the Haram enclosure where your bags will be searched yet again.
Beyond is the Dome of the Rock. You buy your ticket from a sort of stone kiosk — the Dome of Yusuf Agha — behind which is the museum, which is worth a quick visit (if it is open). It contains, among other things, the original Crusader iron screen round the Rock of Moriah, which was removed by the Jordanians during repairs. This was a pity, as it allowed a much better view of the Rock than is obtainable now.
On your right beyond the ticket kiosk is the al-Aqsa Mosque, which stands over the foundations of a church built by Justinian. The mosque stands on vaults and earth-fill constructed by Herod for the temple court-yard. In front of the entrance is a ramp sloping down under the mosque. This leads to the now blocked up Huldah or Triple Gateway by which people in the time of Christ entered the temple, so Jesus may well have walked on these very stones. Permission to descend may sometimes be obtained from the Waqf or Muslim Council, but what you see down there is not worth the bother.
There used to be a beautiful wooden pulpit in this mosque, built by Nur ed-Din in 1170 in Damascus and donated to al-Aqsa by Saladin after he expelled the Crusaders. Unfortunately in 1968 an insane Australian set fire to it, hoping to burn down the mosque and thus clear the way for the temple to be rebuilt. Quite why he picked al-Aqsa instead of the Dome of the Rock is not clear. Presumably the Rock wasn't as inflammable.
You are obliged to remove your shoes and leave them in charge of a lad outside the front door. As this is an accepted sign of reverence you should not jib at the request. You can almost certainly trust the Arabs here not to steal your shoes; if they are missing on your return I would suspect the previous party of tourists. No doubt the lad will expect a tip.
Outside al-Aqsa turn right towards a wide open stretch of paving. It used to be possible to walk across here and peer over the wall down into the Kidron Valley. Then this was forbidden (for what reason I do not know) and later the whole area was dug up and an underground annexe to the al-Aqsa Mosque was constructed. If you are lucky you will get across to the wall and be rewarded with a tremendous view over the Kidron Valley. This is the "pinnacle of the temple" from which the devil tempted Jesus to cast himself. (For some reason the structure in the corner is known as the Cradle of Jesus.)
You are standing about 20m above the modern ground level but excavations show that the wall continues down for a further 40m to the ancient ground level. It is difficult to be sure where the ground level was in the time of Christ but even if we take it to be half this amount, it means that the the wall on which Jesus stood was 40m (120 feet) or fifteen stories high.
Below the paved area are the so-called Stables of Solomon. In fact the arcades were built by Herod when he extended the temple platform, as you will shortly see. They were used as stables by the Knights Templars. As modern access is via a narrow staircase from above, you may be as dubious as I was when the guide told me this in 1958. It seems, however, that the Crusaders brought their horses in via the Triple Gate, which they rebuilt.
Unfortunately entry to the Stables is now forbidden, probably due to Arab fears that the Jews want to blow up the Haram and rebuild the temple. Such fears are fairly unrealistic in view of the fact that the huge blocks of stone that make up the wall weigh up to 150 tons each! In any case it is not at all certain that the "stables" are still in existence after the Waqf building work.
It is true that there are a number of Jews who do want to rebuild the temple. There are also a number of so-called fundamentalist Christians with the same ambition. The funny thing is that all the fuss may be over nothing. Recent archæological finds indicate that the temple may have stood, not over the Rock, but up in the north-east corner of the Haram. An ancient well in that area has been identified as one used for some rituals connected with the temple and which is described as being a certain distance from the temple building. If this idea catches on, it is tempting to think of the Israelis "acquiring" a portion of the Haram, well away from the Dome of the Rock, and rebuilding the temple. That will really cause some controversy!
Unfortunately the Waqf decided, a decade or so ago, to turn the Stables into a worship hall and to this end dug up huge amounts of stone and soil, without even the pretence of archaeological investigation. Arabs and Muslims in general appear to believe that if you make a statement, no matter how ridiculous, that automatically makes the statement true. (See elsewhere for comments on the Turks and Armenians.) The Palestinians emphatically deny that there ever was a Jewish state and certainly not a Jewish temple. To allow archaeological investigation that would disprove this assertion is clearly impossible, so the Waqf prefer to act like vandals, in the grand old tradition of vicious ignorance that led their forebears to destroy the Moabite stone or hinder Layard's excavations at Nineveh.
Immediately in front of al-Aqsa is a circular fountain known as el-Kas or the Goblet, built in 1327 by a Mameluke emir. It was originally supplied with water by the aqueduct that runs from Solomon's Pools near Hebron; now, less romantically, by the Jerusalem Waterworks. The fountain is ringed by stone seats and brass taps. Muslims are expected to wash hands, feet and face before praying; where water is not available they may use sand. This fountain — and others like it — are therefore directly analogous to the laver in the temple.
Climb the stairs to the higher platform on which the Dome of the Rock stands. The Rock is supposed to be the site of Abraham‘s sacrifice of Isaac, David‘s sacrifice to avert the plague and the Holy of Holies of the Jewish temple. Muslims regard it (on slender evidence) as the launch pad from which Mohammed ascended to heaven on the back of the magical steed al-Buraq. You will have to leave your shoes and your camera bag outside the Dome.
The dome was originally of gold, part of the lavish remodelling after the Crusaders were expelled, which included washing the pillars with rose water brought from Damascus! When I first saw it in 1958, the dome was covered with lead and was dull grey in colour. Since then it has been re-covered with anodised aluminium which is light, practical, cheap and looks good. Unfortunately it also leaked and in 1993 it was replaced with gold-plated bronze that really gleams in the sunshine. Squabbling over who would pay for this went on for a long time but the Jordanians finally got the privilege.
Photography inside the Dome is strictly forbidden. There is only one place where you can peer over the screen and see the Rock. The original screen was erected by the Crusader kings to preserve the Rock, chips of which were being sold for their weight in gold. There is a niche in one of the nearby pillars which contains a hair from the beard of the prophet.
Nearby some steps lead down to a cave in the Rock concerning which there are a number of legends. One claims that the hole in the roof stood directly under the alter of sacrifice and that the blood of the sacrifices drained down through here and out to the Kidron. Another claims that Mohammed slept here; when he awoke he found a kitten asleep on his robe. Rather than disturb the animal he cut off the relevant bit and left the kitten. A third legend claims that the hole in the floor communicates directly with the underworld and if you go there at the right time of day you can get in touch with your dear departed.
A metal plaque on the south-eastern arch of the columns below the dome has an inscription in cufic script that reads "The servant of Allah, al-Mamun, Commander of the Faithful, built this dome in the year 72. May Allah receive his prayer and favour him. Amen." (The year 72 is of the era al-Hejira, when Mohammed fled from Mecca.) Unfortunately al-Mamun lived about the year 200 AH. It seems that he visited Jerusalem in 831 AD and ordered some repairs to the Dome. At the same time he ordered that his name be substituted for that of Abd el-Malik, who really did build the sacred edifice. With typical carelessness he failed to alter the date! I rather doubt that Allah will favour this stealer of other men‘s glory as he desired.
The inscription running around the interior below the Dome says "Oh People of the Book, overstep not the bounds in your religion. Speak only the truth about God. Jesus, son of Mary, is no more than a messenger of God and His word which he sent into Mary and a spirit proceeding from Him. Therefore believe in God and His messengers and say not Three, for it will be better for you. God is only one God. Far be it from His glory that He should have a son." To the literal minded Arabs, the term "Son" applied to Jesus can have only one meaning: that God had sexual relations with Mary. No wonder that they are appalled at the idea.
When you leave the Dome of the Rock go around to its east side. There is a good view of the Mount of Olives through the arches above the steps down to the Golden Gate. Immediately outside the Dome on the east is a smaller dome perched on 17 slender pillars. This is known as the Dome of the Chain and was an above-ground treasury which it was impossible to enter without being seen. It is claimed that all 17 pillars can be seen from any point of the compass. Traditionally a chain hung from the dome and anyone who held the chain and swore falsely would suffer fearful and dramatic punishments. The dome stands in the precise centre of the Haram area.
Go down the eastern steps to the Golden Gate, which is blocked up. You will be frustrated to find that while natives lounge in its shade, you will be forbidden to approach it. The ostensible reason is that the gate is holy, for the dead will enter in through it to judgement, which is why one entrance is called the Gate of Mercy and the other the Gate of Penance.
On this site stood the gate through which Jesus (probably) entered the temple following the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. American evangelists often claim that the gate was shut after this event and never re-opened! This is supposed to be a fulfilment of Ezekiel 44:2. The facts are that the gate remained open until the siege of Jerusalem, we have no information about its status in Aelia (apart from the Piacenza Pilgrim about 570 AD, who mentions that it was in ruins), it was open during the Byzantine period (Heraclius entered through it after defeating the Persians), the Crusaders opened it twice a year (Palm Sunday and the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross), and although this particular one has never been opened it was only built in the 1500s.
Leave the Haram via the same Gate of the Moghrebin and go down the ramp. On your left you can make out the springers of an arch projecting from the wall. This is known as Robinson's Arch after the scholar who first identified it, and used to be in the back garden of an Arab house, a bare five feet above ground level. Although I had heard about it in 1958 I didn't get to see it as the owner of the house had, not unnaturally, become a little sensitive about the stream of tourists tramping through his home. At first people thought that this was the start of a bridge extending all the way across the Tyropoean Valley, but excavations during the clearing of the Western Wall Plaza failed to find corresponding remains on the other side of the valley, so it is now accepted that Robinson's Arch was part of a staircase rising from the valley floor.
From the other side of the ramp you will get a bird's eye view of the Wailing Wall and you can compare the Herodian masonry on both sides of the ramp, for the famous Wall is merely a small part of the much larger western wall of the temple. On the Robinson's Arch side the ground has been dug away to reveal the foundations, which are not only much lower than what you can see on the Wailing Wall side — and go down even further, as the holes beside the wall testify — but consist of larger blocks of stone.
Notice how the stones, whatever their size, have a flat face smoothed by a pick, with a neat border cut around all the edges. This was a characteristic of Roman masonry and was adopted by the Jewish masons who worked for Herod. It is possible to date many ancient remains just by the style of the stonework: for example, the Crusaders also cut frames around their stones but the centre was rough and stood proud of the frame to a much greater extent. Crusader stones also tended to be small and irregularly sized. The Greek or Hasmonean period also used smaller blocks of stone with frames and protruding centres but the difference is that Greek masonry was laid dry whereas the Crusaders used cement.
Not only were the stones themselves cut in different ways, they were also laid in different ways. The Crusaders and later builders used cement while Greeks and Romans did not. During the Israelite monarchy, builders tended to lay the stones in a method called "stretcher and header"; alternate courses of stones laid lengthways and end on. The way in which corners were handled is also significant in identifying the different styles and periods of building.
Turn left at the bottom of the ramp and go out the Dung Gate, then left again along the road. On your left you will find a neat bitumen footpath leading up through the Muslim cemetery. About 100 yards along this path you will see on your left a straight vertical joint in the Haram wall where the courses of stonework are not bonded together. Notice the different bosses on the stones on either side of the joint and the different borders to the stones. Those on the right are from Solomon‘s temple, those on the left are the extension to the temple platform built by Herod. Photograph the pinnacle of the temple from below and, if you wish, go on to the Golden Gate to photograph it, before returning to the Wailing Wall.
The Western Wall, as the Jews prefer to call it, is always good for a few shots as it is a rare day indeed that you will not see a ceremony of some sort in progress. The right-hand section is reserved for women but men may enter the left-hand section once they have donned the cardboard skullcaps provided. Although photography is not banned and you will see plenty of happy family groups snapping everything in sight, tourists should show sensitivity and not shove their cameras in the faces of strangers. Use your telephoto lens if you must have close-ups. Remember that people in front of the the Wall are engaged in religious ceremonies and you should behave as you would in church.
One of the most popular ceremonies is the Bar Mitzvah, when a boy is old enough to fully participate in the synagogue services. Look for a lad of about twelve sitting on his father's shoulders while the father dances, or carrying a huge scroll of the Law in its decorated case. Female relatives crowd around the railing, ululating and breaking into impromptu dancing.
One group I saw a few years ago had an enormous ghetto blaster churning out Israeli music at high decibels until a policeman came up and told them to turn it off. An elderly Yiddishe Mamma then produced a huge, circular brass tray and started to beat a complicated rhythm while the girls in the party shimmied and pranced in a circle around her, hips swaying in a way guaranteed to distract the most ancient worshipper.
A doorway to your left leads into a room for study and meditation built under an arch. The arch is known as Wilson's Arch, after the man who discovered it, and during Arab times it was not accessible to visitors. Chain Street crosses the head of the Tyropoean Valley on this bridge (a distance of about 90m) and a similar street plus two aqueducts did the same in the time of Christ. Notice on your right as you enter the archway a couple of shafts dug by Warren in 1867 which reach down 60 feet to bedrock.
Charles Warren, an eccentric Englishman, explored much of Jerusalem in the 19th century. Rather than haggle for permission to excavate, he tunnelled, sometimes on the excuse of digging a well, and turned up some fascinating discoveries. If you can get hold of his book — most unlikely, but I found a copy in a forgotten section of a library once — it is well worth reading.
As soon as the Muslim authorities realised what he was doing in this spot they sealed off the archway for fear that his infidel presence might pollute the Haram from beneath, and no-one saw inside it again until 1965. W. F. Stinespring started negotiations with the Muslim Council in 1963 and after three years was given permission to explore. Access to the arch involved clambering up walls, through filthy pits and over heaps of rubbish so foetid that Stinespring came down with fever. When he finally reached the arch he found it infested by fleas of a particularly voracious nature.
Up on the terrace behind the drinking fountains is the entrance to the recently dug tunnel along the base of the Western Wall. If you can find it open, it is well worth a visit. There is a detailed model of the area with bits that slide in and out as lights flash on and off - you may need to join a guided group to see this. Soon after you enter this warren there is a hole in the floor through which you can peer down at Roman remains some 25 feet below you. You are probably looking at the tunnel Herod built from his palace in the Tower of David to the temple, both to allow hidden access for his soldiers and to provide a way of escape for himself, should it be needed.
From the chamber with the model walk down some steps, noting the enormous course of stones in the wall in front of you. This "Master Course" is made up of huge stones, the one in front of you is 15' high, 12' thick and 45' long! Turn left and follow the wall to the end. When I visited here, the tunnel ended after a hundred yards or so, but since then I believe an entrance has been dug up into the Via Dolorosa. If so, you will have to return to the Wailing Wall plaza to take up the tour again.
Turn right and walk away from the Wall, then go through the tunnel on your right and follow along el-Wad Street until you reach the Damascus Gate. Notice the money changers on your right as you go up the steep slope to the gate. Once upon a time everyone patronised the money changers but since the Israeli take-over there is no longer a black-market in foreign currency; so you might as well use the banks, whose charges are much more modest.
Leave the city by the Damascus gate and climb up the steps to the road. Before 1967 there was, on the left of the gate, a high wall built out at right angles to the city walls and running off into the distance. The other side of the wall was no-man's land and the purpose of the wall was to protect passers-by from sniper fire. The Israelis had a similar wall on their side of no-man‘s land for the same reason, though I suspect they had rather more cause. The line of no-man's land is marked by the wide strip of ruined buildings and parkland which you can see both here and below the Jaffa Gate.
North of the Damascus Gate, at the junction of Shmuel ha-Navi and St George roads, stood the Mandelbaum Gate, named after a Jew whose hotel stood nearby. During the time when Jerusalem was in Arab hands this was the only crossing point from Israel into Jordan. Although UN personnel could pass in either direction, tourists could go one way - either way - but not back again. This ridiculous rule applied for many years. Tourists could only go one way, either into or out of Israel. However, after 1967 if you started off in Jordan the authorities graciously assumed that you were visiting the Occupied Territories, not Israel, and so naturally, as you had never really left Jordan, you were welcome to come back again. I think that the idea was to encourage tourists to go to Jordan to begin their visit to the Holy Land, for then they could travel to places such as Petra, Jerash and Wadi Rumm.
Unfortunately air fares to Jordan are considerably higher than fares to Israel and the majority of tourists continue to pour into Israel and give Petra a miss. This is a pity as the Jordanians are nice people and their country could do with the foreign exchange. Since the peace treaty with Israel the situtation has completely altered and you can now go back and forth between the two countries almost at will. The result is that Petra is swarming with tourists — including thousands of ill-behaved Israelis — and its delicious sense of remoteness is gone, probably forever.
Climb up the steps outside the Damascus Gate, turn right, left at the traffic lights and right again about a hundred yards up the road, where you will see a sign pointing right up a little lane to the Garden Tomb. At one time this place was run by retired clergymen and was an oasis of peace and tranquillity. Provided you made friends with the guardian — and they were all very approachable — you could even arrange to go back after hours and hold an evening (or dawn) service in the garden.
Nowadays, although all the personnel are still Christians, the site is much more commercial and is swamped with souvenirs and gew-gaws. It is only open in the afternoon and closes prompt at 5.00 and dawn services are out of the question. However I have found the authorities courteous and on the whole helpful.
This helpfulness extended to giving a man called Ron Wyatt permission to dig a hole in the grounds of the garden. He dug for a couple of days and made a hole several feet deep and then disappeared, leaving the Garden Tomb authorities to fill the hole in again. He then turned up on the lecture circuit telling gullible Christians that he had discovered the Ark of the Covenant in a cave under Gordon's Calvary. The indignant Garden Tomb authorities have issued a rebuttal and on our request put it in writing - I have the document in question.
Walk through the turnstile and follow the garden around to the right and away from the gate as far as you can. This will lead you to a viewpoint from where you can inspect Gordon‘s Calvary, named after General "Chinese" Gordon of Khartoum, who recognised the spot in 1883 while taking tea with some friends who owned a house on the city wall opposite. (You can read the full history of the Garden Tomb and Gordon's Calvary in a book published by Stanborough Press — A Special Place by the Reverend Bill White, one of the former guardians.)
You will notice three caves in the cliff-face: the nearest and largest is known as Jeremiah's Grotto because of a legend that the prophet hid himself there while Jehoiakim burned his scroll. (Jeremiah 36:21-26) The other two form the eyes of a skull with a rocky knob between them that does service for a nose — somewhat of a snub nose since recent harsh weather resulted in part of the "nose" falling off. Until the Jordanian authorities built the bus station in the early sixties, it was possible to distinguish a horizontal fissure lower down that passed for the skull's mouth.
Gordon's Calvary makes a much more likely Golgotha than the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for two reasons: it was definitely outside the city in Christ's time whereas there is a question as to whether the church site was; and execution, designed to intimidate and deter, was much more likely to take place near the main gate into the city than in an obscure angle of the wall like the church site. For that purpose, of course, Jesus was crucified at ground level rather than on top of the hill where the Muslim cemetery now stands. Of course, if one accepts Gordon's Calvary, the Holy Sepulchre is too far away to be the tomb of Christ.
Unfortunately the situation seems to be quite otherwise with the Garden Tomb. Apart from being conveniently near Golgotha there is little to recommend it as the actual tomb of Christ. It isn't even an example of tombs from that time, as the latest archaeological thinking regards it as typical of tombs from about 600 BC. At one time you could enter the tomb and sit down where — if this is the tomb — the angels sat. Now the grave is guarded by an intrusive, heavy iron grille.
The left-hand grave space has been lengthened by an inch or two and this little recess is pointed out as evidence that this is the genuine tomb of Christ. The claim is that Jesus was buried in a hurry in a tomb not built for him. Unfortunately he was just slightly too tall, so the extra space had to be chipped out to make room for the body. As anyone who has ever tried banging a hole in rock or concrete with a hammer and chisel will know, if there was time to lengthen the tomb then there was plenty of time to anoint the body. Still, it makes a good yarn.
Go back down the hill and cross the road. Almost opposite you, in the shadow of the walls, is the entrance to Solomon's Quarries which may still be open. Pay the entrance fee and wander briskly around the caverns, which are supposed to be the quarries from which Solomon obtained the stone for building the temple. Evidence for this claim is singularly lacking but Freemasons come here regularly to hold secret rituals. Jews call the place Zedekiah's Cave from a tradition that Zedekiah climbed through here to escape from the Babylonians. (The tradition also claims that the caves stretch all the way to Jericho. In fact they are no more than about 600' long.)
On the right, about half-way down, is a simple rectangular block carved in relief on the wall of the cave, near the dripping spring that coats the rock with mineral colours. The carving is very similar to the Nabatean "god-boxes" one finds in Petra. Presumably Nabatean artisans were employed in the quarries.
When you come out of the caves turn right and continue past Golgotha, which is obscured by the wretched bus station, past Herod's Gate and on to the Rockerfeller Museum on your left, opposite the north-eastern corner of the wall. If it is open it is worth visiting to see masked skulls from Jericho, dancing girls from the Hisham palace, a reproduction of the inscription warning Gentiles against entering the temple, the Lachish letters (these have possibly been removed to the Israeli Museum) and a reconstruction of a Hyksos tomb from Jericho, among other treasures. Exhibits are arranged more or less chronologically as you go clockwise around the museum. The entrance fee is very reasonable and photography is allowed.
Among the treasures of the museum are the bones of Yohanan ben-Hagkol, which were discovered in an ossuary at Givan ha-Mivtar. His ankle bones were discovered pierced by an iron nail, which had been bent over, making it impossible to remove. This is the only physical evidence ever found for crucifixion.
Look out for the Theodotus Inscription, which has an interesting story. A Jew captured by Pompey and sold as a slave to the Vetii family eventually became wealthy and gained his freedom. As was the custom, he took the name of his former master, becoming Vetinus. Together with his father he built a synagogue in Jerusalem and his son, Theodotus, added to it. (Is this the synagogue of the freedmen referred to in Acts?) Like everything else, the synagogue was destroyed in 70 AD, but in 1914 many of the fragments were found in a cistern on the Ophel, carefully laid out in order, indicating that someone had entertained hopes that the synagogue could be rebuilt.
Also in the Rockerfeller Museum are the reconstructed desks on which the scribes at Qumran worked. Unfortunately they are no longer on display. Please ask to see them and when you are refused demand an interview with the museum director. They are an important part of the Bible‘s story and the more people who make a fuss, the sooner we may see these things on display again.
Return to the Damascus Gate and follow the signs for the Roman gateway and column which are in a small museum under the gate. The entrance is to the left of the gateway but you have to go round to the right to get to it. The hologram is singularly unimpressive (and worse, can‘t be photographed, though no doubt you will see some idiot using flash on his Instamatic to do so!) as are the lumps of carved stone lying around.
Note: last time I was in Jerusalem this museum appeared to be closed, which is a shame.
Buy a ticket to the wall walk, which is valid for several days. Once you have climbed the steep stairs to the top of the gate go along the wall to the east to the plaque that marks the spot where the Crusaders scaled the wall in 1100 AD. If you carry on as far as St Stephen‘s Gate there are interesting views of the Dome of the Rock and the Pool of Bethesda, but whether they are worth walking so far for is debatable.
Notice the very tall television masts that disfigure the skyline of Jerusalem. Up towards Ramallah these aerials look like miniature Eiffel Towers and dwarf the houses on which they perch. They are erected by Arabs determined to receive Jordanian TV rather than Israeli. One can see their point.
Return along the wall to the Damascus Gate and follow the walk round to the Jaffa Gate, where you have to descend to ground level. Visit the Tower of David, otherwise known as the Citadel. This is built on the remains of the tower Phasael, built by Herod the Great and named after his brother, who was captured during the Parthian invasion of Palestine and committed suicide by bashing his brains out on a rock. The first sixteen above-ground courses are Herodian but after that comes Mamluke, Crusader and Turkish work. The original moat was filled in 1927 to provide space for a taxi rank.
The Citadel now contains a museum and display showing the development of Jerusalem over the ages, including a model of the city. Curiously, although acres of display stand are devoted to the 500 years of Jewish rule, the 2,000 years since the fall of Jerusalem are hardly mentioned. Times of opening vary throughout the year and the week, with early closing on Friday. There is a son et lumiere show most evenings.
Go back along David Street and take the first left and second right, which should bring you into the Muristan, a Persian word meaning "hospital" in the old sense of "hostel". In Crusader times this was the site of a number of hostels and hospices where pilgrims were housed conveniently close to the Holy Sepulchre. The fountain at the crossroads was always dry until it was restored by Jewish benefactors in 1993. Last time I was there it was dry again!
At the fountain turn eastwards out of the Muristan and then right down a road that passes under a low arch. Just before the arch, on your left, is a monument to the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem, better known today as St John's Ambulance.
Through the archway you are back in David Street, so I suggest that you turn left and spend what is left of the day wandering around the Jewish quarter. In particular I can recommend the bookshop in the Cardo, where you should try for This is Jerusalem by Menashe Har-El, published by Kiryat-Sefer Ltd, Jerusalem, 1977. It is probably out of print by now, so make a fuss. You never know, if enough people do the same someone might be inspired to do a reprint. Another excellent book is The Holy Land by Jerome Murphy O‘Connor of the French Biblical and Archæological School in Jerusalem. The book is published by Oxford University Press, 1986. (There is now a revised edition.)
Other things to see include the ruins of the Hurva Synagogue, which was originally founded by immigrants from Russia, and remains of the siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD such as the Burnt House. I‘m not sure whether it is the Burnt House or one of the other private displays, but one of them was dug up by Theo Siebenberg, the son of a wealthy diamond merchant, who satisfied his yen to be an archaeologist by buying a house in Jerusalem and digging in the basement. The government couldn't stop him as he owned the land, but they kept a close eye on him all the same. He spent 15 years and more than $3,000,000 in pursuing his hobby and has now constructed a four storey museum beneath his dining room, complete with audio-visuals in five languages.
The Burnt House contains, among other remains, a stone weight with an inscription identifying its owner as Bar Kathros. Josephus records that the High Priests in the time of Christ were so greedy and corrupt that their servants went around confiscating tithes from country priests, to the extent that some of them actually starved to death. (Antiquities XX, 8, viii) The Babylonian Talmud records a folk-song that reflects a similar situation. "Woe is me because of the House of Kathros . . . for they are High Priests and their sons are treasurers and their sons-in-law are trustees and their servants beat the people with sticks."
If you hunt around northwards from the Broad Wall you will come to a T-junction of narrow, brand-new paths between the houses, where, if you turn left, you will come out on the roofs of the Jewish Quarter and be able to peer down the light wells at David Street beneath you or look over the tops of the houses. The view is quite interesting. (You can get to this same roof-top viewpoint by turning right after passing through the Jaffa Gate, first left down a narrow lane, and up a ladder built into the wall at the end of the lane where it turns left.)
Before all the shops shut (if you are following these tours in order) go out and make arrangements to hire a car. All the car hire offices are in a row along King David Street opposite the King David Hotel, so it is easy to go from shop to shop hunting for the best bargain. (Most are open until 8.00 pm.) Be aware that while smaller concerns may be cheaper, the standard of service is correspondingly less. A friend with whom you can share the cost is a distinct advantage.
Incidentally, always make sure that you have plenty of time to return the car, particularly at the airport. Beware of the charming young girl who solicitously enquires whether you need to hurry and insists that if you sign here, here and here you may go and leave all the tedious paperwork to her. When your credit card statement comes in you are liable to find all sorts of unexpected charges added to your bill, plus repairs for half a dozen invisible scratches. A long and fruitless correspondence will then ensue. The only cure is to return the following year and confront the guilty parties in person.
Unless you have booked your evening meals at the hotel, it might be worth while to wander down Jaffa Road as evening falls and examine the New Jerusalem shopping centres. Some of the side streets are lined with sidewalk cafes where you can get cheap, delicious, Jewish food. (In other places, of course, you can get delicious food that is anything but cheap and in still others you can get food. Caveat emptor.) There is one little cafe in particular where the waitresses are better than the food — and the food is pretty good!