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Last updated : Nov 2009
Jerusalem Travel Guide
Jerusalem Travel Guide and Jerusalem Travel Information - TravelPuppy.com
'Jerusalem prays and Jerusalem plays'

Very few other cities have the ability to inspire quite as much passion as the Old City of Jerusalem (Yerushalayim in Hebrew, Al-Quds in Arabic). Revered by 3 of the major world religions, it is no wonder that the history of the city is marked by political and religious turmoil. For Christians, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is believed to contain the tomb where Jesus was laid to rest after the Crucifixion, having carried the cross through the city along the Via Dolorosa.

The Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount is Islam’s 3rd most important religious site (after Mecca and Medina), and it is from here that Muhammad is believed to have ascended to heaven. The Wailing Wall at the foot of Temple Mount is all that remains of Jerusalem’s 2nd temple and is Judaism’s most important place of prayer. With its pleasant, temperate climate, Jerusalem provides a unique opportunity to experience at close hand the contrasting opposites of modern and ancient, oriental and western, heavenly and earthly.

Every visitor to Jerusalem soon realises that the city is necessarily divided and has seen many periods of conflict that continues to this day. Israel declared Jerusalem its capital in 1950 but this is not internationally recognised.

Modern Jerusalem is divided in 2 parts, West Jerusalem, which has been part for the state of Israel since the country’s establishment in 1948, and East Jerusalem, which belonged to Jordan from 1948 to 1967, when it was formally seized by Israel.

West Jerusalem is the extensive Jewish part of the city, which includes the modern centre of the city, and it is in several ways a tribute to the economic growth and prosperity Israel has enjoyed since its foundation and is characterised by leafy suburbs, smart cafes and outgoing nightlife.

East Jerusalem, by contrast, offers very dissimilar charms. Mainly Arab, it has its own more relaxed pace of life, and street markets instead of shopping malls. However, the bullet holes that scar many of the houses in the neighbourhoods are a reminder of the political conflict that reverberates in the Middle East and a comment on East Jerusalem’s relative economic neglect. East Jerusalem is heavily policed, chiefly in the current tense situation.

It is in the midst of these 2 contrasting halves that the Old City is to be found, with the exception of the museums on the western edge of town, most of Jerusalem’s main sights are found here. Into this small area of land, less than 1 square kilometre (which is 200 acres), is crammed a labyrinth of streets enclosed within walls of limestone dating back to the 16 th century and the reign of the Ottoman ruler Suleiman the Magnificent. This, the focus of all Jerusalem’s religious and historical divisions, is where the majority of visitors to the city will spend most of their time.

The Old City is divided into quarters, named after the 4 communities that inhabited it during the Middle Ages, Arab, Jewish, Christian and Armenian. Its network of winding streets offers the chance to step back almost in time to savour the feel of cheek by jowl Middle Eastern life. Within yards, you may wander from the hustle and bustle of an Arab souk into the quiet calm of an Armenian garden before ending up before the magnificence of a medieval citadel. There is no other city that demands and offers quite so much.

Since the start of the 2nd Intifada (Palestinian uprising) in 2000, there have been frequent attacks by suicide bombers, with a high proportion of these in Jerusalem. These attacks have taken place in a diversity of locations around the city and in areas frequented by tourists, so visitors should maintain a high level of vigilance when travelling anywhere in Jerusalem, and to follow local advice.
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