Not far from the of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Southwest district of the Old City is Mount Zion, the place often mentioned in Scripture. This is where the Jewish Quarter of the city and Western Wall serve as the main attractions for locals and visitors alike.
On Mount Zion are some places very important to the history of Christianity like the pavilion that held the Last Supper. Mt. Zion is also important because this is where the Hebrew King David built his palace. Not far from this are the large houses where the chief priests, Anna and Caiaphas once lived. Currently many people visit Mt. Zion daily on their way to the Western Wall, passing through a small chapel to pray at the tomb of King David, the prophet of God who wrote the Psalms.
The Western Wall
The Western Wall is one of the most important and most visited tourist attractions in Jerusalem- and certainly the most important place to visit in Old City Jerusalem. Located in the west of the city on the edge of the Temple Mount, the Western Wall is one of the holiest places for Jews as the last remnant of the palace originally built by King Solomon and later rebuilt by Herod. Believers come here in large numbers around the clock to pray and pay their respects. Many Western Wall visitors bring prayers written on small pieces of paper that they stick through the cracks of the wall.
The Western Wall is the only fragment that remains of the Second Temple, destroyed by the Romans in AD 70. Today this is also the place for Bar and Bat Mitzvah ceremonies where both believers and atheists leave tickets with their wishes between the stones of the Wall.
Other interesting places to visit in Jewish Quarter are synagogues which are old and each has seen its fair share of history. Four noteworthy synagogues (among many!) are:
- Hurva Synagogue – the largest synagogue of the Jewish Quarter
- Karaite Synagogue – Jerusalem’s oldest synagogue
- Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue – only the western wall is part of the original synagogue. The building was destroyed during the 1948 War for Independence. Plans for restoration were approved this year and the process is underway.
- Ramban Synagogue – the second oldest active synagogue in the Old City. Due to the lack of Gothic or Islamic architectural features, specialists believe the original building predates the Crusader period.
Tourists who visit the Jewish Quarter must try traditional food that can be enjoyed either in fancy restaurants or on every street corner because Israelis love their food at all times! The locals prefer falafel, a quick and tasty dish of fried chickpeas that is quickly gaining popularity in the United States and in Europe. Be prepared for a taste bud awakening once you tried traditional falafels from the streets of Jerusalem. If you crave more than a light snack, then you should try Meorav Yerushalmi, a stew made from chicken giblets (heart, lung, liver and spleen), onions, and specific Israel condiments. Regardless if you favor sweet or savory foods, there is plenty to try in Jerusalem!
Mahane Yehuda Market
For those with an invested interest in food, the famous Mahane Yehuda Market is a bustling outdoor market that is a must-see for visitors to the Jewish Quarter. Dating back to the late nineteenth century, Mahane Yehuda is the largest outdoor market in Jerusalem and it is continuously expanding. People come here from around the city to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, meat, spices, candy, snacks, clothes and textiles. In addition to its wide selection of produce and groceries, the Mahane Yehuda has many relaxing cafes where you can linger after a few hours of shopping and touring the busy streets.
Having its own distinct personality, the Jewish Quarter invites all tourists to explore its busy streets, shopping streets and quiet alleys. Combining religious architectural sites with shopping sessions and traditional food, Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter is that special place where visitors feels what it really means to be human.
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