Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Jewish Quarter





This is Zion Gate, the entrance to the Jewish and Armenian Quarters in the Old City. It faces Mt. Zion and Hebron and is also known as the Gate of the Prophet David because the tomb of David is supposed to be on Mt. Zion. The gate is built in a tilted way with a very sharp angle for the purpose of stopping any enemy attack. It was built for Suleiman the Magnificent in 1540. In the 19th century, an area close to the gate was the gathering place of lepers.

It is hard to believe, but at one time cars both entered and exited the Old City through Zion Gate. Now, cars only exit through this gate.

Psalm 9:14: That I may tell of all Your praises, that in the gates of the daughter of Zion I may rejoice in Your salvation.


Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem. Psalm 122:2 

Our feet were standing upon these bricks as we entered the gate.


In 1948, during the Israeli War of Independence, the Palmach – the elite fighting force of the Haganah - unsuccessfully battled for control of the Jewish Quarter at the entrance of the Zion gate. This left the stones surrounding the gate pockmarked by weapons fire and bullet holes that you can see in the picture below. The Jewish Quarter eventually had to be evacuated.














Just off the plaza is the Cardo, which was a Byzantine road, roughly the equivalent of an eight-lane highway, that ran through the heart of the city. Today, a small area is preserved with some of the original Roman columns.  Just beyond the columns is an underground mall with a number of Jewish stores and art galleries.




You can barely see the top of the yellow umbrella walking through the maze of the streets. That yellow umbrella was our compass. We always wanted to be in sight of it. If we did get lost, however, we could get a cab to the hotel for about $20. Can you believe that cabs could actually drive through these streets!



I believe that we were waiting in line for the restroom here…along with these schoolgirls.



Reconstruction work following the 1967 war allowed archaeologists to excavate various areas in the Jewish Quarter.  One of the most significant finds from the Old Testament period was the Broad Wall.  Built by Hezekiah in the days before the 701 B.C. invasion by the Assyrian king Sennacherib, the Broad Wall enclosed the Western Hill and increased the walled area of Jerusalem five-fold.

And he took courage and rebuilt all the wall that had been broken down and erected towers on it, and built another outside wall and strengthened the Millo in the city of David and made weapons and shields in great number. He appointed military officers over the people and gathered them to him in the square at the city gate, and spoke encouragingly to them, saying, Be strong and courageous, do not fear or be dismayed because of the king of Assyria nor because of all the horde that is with him; for the One with us is greater than the one with him. 2 Chronicles 32: 5-7



You can see in these the “measuring stick” against the wall showing you the level of the city in the first temple period.




If you look carefully, you can see the City of David and its relationship to the Old City and the Temple Mount.


This is the rebuilt Hurva Synagogue that was dedicated in March of this year. The synagogue was founded in the early 18th century, but it was destroyed by Muslims a few years later in 1721. The piece of ground on which the synagogue was built lay in ruins for over 140 years and became known as the Ruin, or Hurva. In 1864, it was rebuilt and retained its name as the Hurva. It became Jerusalem’s main Ashkenazic synagogue until it was also reduced to rubble by the Arab Legion during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. The synagogue was rebuilt in the style of the original. For those who read the Thoene’s books, the Hurva Synagogue played a key role.


An entrance to a home…


The Herodian Quarter – The Wohl Museum of Archaeology

The Herodian Quarter – The Wohl Museum of Archeology is a six-house compound, situated on the slope of the hill facing the Temple Mount within the Jewish Quarter.

Populated by aristocratic families and Temple priests, the homes were built on terraces, one above the other on the slope, the roof of one house forming the basement of the house above. This allowed all the homes to have an unrestricted view of the Temple.


The exhibit focuses on three houses: The Western House, the Middle Complex and the Palatial Mansion. These were apparently the homes of aristocratic families during the Herodian period, probably Temple priests and their families. The homes were designed in the Hellenistic/Roman style popular at the time.





Special attention was given to the quarter’s bathing rooms. The flooring was composed of colorful mosaics, and frescoes adorned the walls. The utensils, the artifacts and the luxuries revealed in the excavations, such as the decorated plates and imported wine jugs, all attest to the wealth of the residents.






A unique find is the seven-armed menorah carved on one of the walls. This is the oldest explicit depiction of the menorah, and it is likely that it was carved by a person who had actually seen the original menorah, still at use at that time in the Temple.



And speaking of the Menorah, this is the one that has been designed and created for the third temple. It is hollow and is made of pure 24k gold. It is currently on display overlooking the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives. It is also vey close to the entrance of Yeshiva Aish HaTorah, a Jewish Ashkenazi organization and school. It was constructed by The Temple Institute of the Old City in preparation for the third temple.


Back where we started, to end the day at the Southern Steps.




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