Jerusalem Old City Tour (during CORONA)
In this video I will be taking you on a tour around one of the most interesting places in the world - Jerusalem. This has been a crazy year. It’s the first time, since I became a tour guide 10 years ago, that I haven’t guided for a whole year. A few weeks ago I got an email from an 80-year-old man in the U.S. He wrote that he had planned to visit Israel but didn’t because of corona.
nd now it was too late for him. This got me thinking and so I decided to try to make a video tour. And the best place to make the first video tour is the most important place in Israel: the Old City of Jerusalem. It is smaller than one square kilometer in size, but in it we will see the holiest site for Jews and Christians and the third holiest site for Muslims. Other than that there are 50 churches, 30 mosques and 30 synagogues. It is corona time, and a lock down starts today afternoon, so just note that this is not how Jerusalem usually looks like.
We start here at Jaffa Gate. This is where most tours start. Jerusalem has a lot of things: history, archaeology, holy sites, but one thing Jerusalem doesn’t have is a port, and Jaffa, 60 kilometers from here, was the historical port of Jerusalem. So this is Jaffa Gate and over there is Jaffa Road.
Now we will enter the old city. As you can see Everything is closed because of corona and also because it is 7 in the morning. I like it, to see the city slowly waking up.
The impressive building you see here is called the Tower of David. Did King David build it? No. It was built 1000 years after King David. When exactly? Well, it depends which part. In Jerusalem you very rarely say that such and such a building was built in the 5th or 7th century. Most of the buildings have many layers.
The big stones here are from the time of King Herod 2000 years ago. The moat that surrounds the fortress is 1000 years old, from the Crusader era, and the smaller stones up there are very new, only 500 years old, from the Ottoman period. Now we’ll start walking towards the Christian quarter. Most tourists go that way, but I will show you the way I prefer.
There are four quarters in the Old City: the Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Armenian quarters. Around 6000 people live in the Christian quarter and we are heading towards the heart of that quarter: the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. On the way I will also show you places that are not so holy. At the end of the day, It is the people that make Jerusalem so interesting. This is Razzouk’s tattoo shop.
His family has been doing tattoos for pilgrims for 700 years. So if you want to get a tattoo in Jerusalem, this is the place. Here you can see the cross of the Coptics. They are the Christians from Egypt.
Tell me in the comments below if you want me to make a video about all the different crosses you will see in Jerusalem. There are so many denominations and I think that by learning about others, other religions and other denominations you can better understand your own. And here you see a father sending his daughters to school, standing on a 1700 year old pavement. When Israel renovated the infrastructure in the Old City, they found an ancient road beneath street level, and they brought it up to the surface so that today you are basically walking on a pavement that is 1,700 years old. Normally, when we’re not living with corona and this street is full, most people don’t even notice it. We turn now to the shortest street in Israel: Saint Helena.
She was the mother of Constantine. According to tradition she was the one who in 325 found the cross on which Jesus was crucified and this is the spot on which the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built. And here it is.
So now because of corona the church is closed. And I will just say that to see the Church of the Holy Sepulcher like this.. This is special. When you will come here it will not look like this. it will look more like this Now we will go up to the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Through two chapel that belong to the Ethiopians On the ruff of the church there is a small village I will be talking about it in the video about the church. And here you can see the 9th station of the via dolorosa. There are 5 stations inside the church and 9 outside the church.
Here you can see that this corner is blocked with stones. And why is that?? So that men don’t urinate in this corner... I promised you that not all the places I will show you are holy.. Now we enter the Muslim quarter, which is the largest one. 25,000 people live here. The first 6 stations of the via Dolorasa are in the Muslim quarter.
Notice that we are descending. Walking down the stairs, In a minute I will explain why it is important We are walking down the HaGay street. One of the main streets in the Old City. It is an ancient road that plays a small part in how we view the world. When we think about cultural sites we often think about man-made creations, but at this site the geography plays a role. The meaning of the name HaGay in Hebrew (or Al-Wad in Arabic) is ravine or valley.
After thousands of years of building, destruction and rebuilding, it is not as noticeable as it was, but there is a valley, or ravine, here. This one here was the natural border, the western border, of ancient Jerusalem. The Kidron Valley on the other side was the eastern border.
These two valleys create a V shape. The vulnerable side of Jerusalem is the north. In the Book of Jeremiah, it reads 'The Lord said to me, “From the north disaster will be poured out on all who live in the land.' The idea that trouble will come from the north, you know, winter is coming, comes from here, the topography of Jerusalem.
And this street, this valley, by the way, leads, you won't believe where, to hell, to Gehenom, but we’ll talk about that in a different video. From the Muslim Quarter we countinue strait to the Western Wall and the Jewish quarter. Next week I will be uploading a long video about the Western Wall, so for now I will continue to the Jewish quarter. Once we walk up the stars we will have a better view and better understanding of the Temple Mount. So here we have a better view of it all.
The Dome of the Rock is the most impressive building in the Old City. It is a shrine but not a mosque Unlike other important buildings that were destroyed and rebuilt or remodeled and changed, most of this building is original. The Dome of the Rock was built in the 7th century and is one of the oldest Islamic buildings still standing today. It is named after the natural rock in its center, which is considered very important in Judaism as well. The Jews believe that this is the Foundation Stone, the stone from which the world was made and upon which Abraham almost sacrificed his son Isaac. The First and Second Temple were built right on this stone.
The Muslims believe that Mohammed ascended to heaven after standing upon this stone. Jerusalem is mentioned in the Jewish Bible more than 600 times and about 150 times in the New Testament. Jerusalem isn’t mentioned in the Quran at all.
Not even once. So how did Jerusalem become the third most important city to Islam, after Mecca and Medina? The 17th sura (chapter) of the Quran tells the story of Mohammed’s night journey. Mohammed rides Al-Buraq, an animal with the body of a horse, the wings of a bird, and a woman’s head, to the farthest Mosque.
The meaning of “farthest” in Arabic is “Al-Aqsa” - and that is the name of the mosque with the gray dome. The mosque was built in the year 705 CE, but only fragments remain of the original building. Most of what you see today was built in the 11th century. The Western Wall, as you can see from here, is a retaining wall that supports the huge platform of the Temple Mount. Now I have nothing important to say here so I will ask you to give this video a like and to subscribe. Making these videos takes a lot of time and it really helps if you show some love.
Here you can see a ruined synagogue. Remember it as I will be saying something about it in a minute. So now we are in the middle of the Jewish quarter.
About 6,000 people live in the Jewish quarter. As you can see all the buildings here are very new. A bit too new. The reason for this is that after the Jews lost the Jewish quarter in 1948, the Jordanians blew up all the buildings. It was only after the Six-Day War in 1967, when Israel liberated the Old City, that the quarter was rebuilt.
Its destruction was of course a terrible loss, but there was also a silver lining. Because it was all ruined, large parts of the quarter were excavated, and so there are some underground museums presenting very interesting artefacts from the time of the Second Temple. Now this impressive synagogue you can see is called Hachrva, the ruined synagogue. And what is the name of the synagogue we saw a minute ago? Tiferet Israel, the glory of Israel.
I absolutely love it: the most impressive synagogue is called the ruined synagogue, and the ruined synagogue is called the Glory of Israel. I won’t talk about these synagogues, because it is a long story. Instead I want to show you the oldest synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem. The synagogue is closed now but it belongs to Karaite Judaism. I’m often asked, usually by non-Jews, why Orthodox Jews wear black, why there are so many rules about what and how to eat, and where all the rules come from. They don’t appear in the Bible, the Jewish Bible.
And the answer is that Judaism, like Christianity, evolved with time and many rules and customs were added in the Mishna, the Talmud and the books that rabbis have written in the last 2,000 years. Karaite Judaism started in the 7th century and said that the only thing that really counts is the written Bible and not the oral Bible. They call us the regular Jews, the 'Rabbinical Jews,' meaning the Jews that follow the Rabbis and not the Bible. I find it very interesting and their synagogue is very special.
If you are from the U.K., this might look familiar (a British red postbox). The British were only here for a short while, from the end of WWI to the end of WWII, but they left their mark and did a lot of good for the city. They decided there would be no heavy industry in Jerusalem, they removed all the houses and huts that were built next to the walls of the city so today we can enjoy the sight of the walls as they were built 500 years ago, and in general they were the ones that brought Jerusalem from the Middle Ages to the modern era.
Today no one dares to say anything positive about colonialism. Thank God that I am here :-). So if you are watching from the U.K, thank you, not everything you did was wrong :-)! Here you can see the Cardo. The main street in the Roman city of Jerusalem.
And from here we continue to the last, and smallest quarter, the Armenian quarter. There are Jewish, Muslim and Christian quarters, and that much makes sense. But why should the Armenians have their own quarter in the most important place in the world? Why not an Australian quarter? Everybody loves the Australians. There is actually a good reason why the Armenians got a quarter. They were the first nation to convert to Christianity and they started to come to Jerusalem from the 4th century on.
When the Crusaders came here they killed all the Muslims and Jews but they didn't harm the Armenians. And at the beginning of the 20th century, some Armenians who survived the Armenian Genocide came here as refugees. I and I think many other tour guides really like the small communities: the Coptics from Egypt, the Karaite Jews, the Armenians… I always encourage tourists to visit their museums, donate to them and buy their goods. They don’t have the Catholic Church or Russia behind them. It was Armenian families who brought the art of Armenian ceramics and renovated the Dome of the Rock.
And made the street name signs for the British. By the way, the British were the first to name the streets in the Old City. The Armenian monks are easy to spot with their mountain-like hats.
They resemble their holiest mountain: Mount Ararat. The name of this street is Ararat and there is a nice true story about it. Mount Ararat is not in Armenia but in Turkey. And the Turks didn't like the fact that the flag of Armenia has an image of a mountain that is located in their territory. So they protested to the Russians, as back then Armenia was part of the Soviet Union, and Khrushchev replied to Turkey: "Why do you have a moon depicted on your flag? After all, the moon doesn't belong to Turkey. Do you want to take over the moon?" Turkey dropped the matter after that.
From here I could have gone back to Jaffa Gate. It is about 5 minutes’ walk from here. But I wanted to show you one last place: the rooftops lookout. Some guides love lookouts.
I am not a big fan of standing in one place and talking about many different places, but this lookout is special. We go up a couple of stairs and we can see everything. First of all, the Mount of Olives and all the places we have talked about on this tour: the Christian quarter and the Church of the Holy Sepulcre, the Muslim quarter, Temple Mount, the holiest place for the Jews, Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Jewish Quarter and the Armenian quarter.
This is also a good place to finish the tour with a quote from Benjamin Disraeli, who was the first Jewish prime minister of the United Kingdom. He visited the Land of Israel 200 years ago and wrote in his book: The view of Jerusalem is the history of the world; it is more, it is the history of earth and of heaven. That's it, I hope you enjoyed this video. If you liked it, then try my booklets: you can read everything I say on my three most popular tours: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Masada.
If you like this new concept of long video tours, then let me know in the comments below. See you in the next video. Yalla bye!