One Friday morning Bill and I started our day with a 45 minute ride to the border with Israel. We quickly passed through Jordanian passport control, paid the $7 exit tax, then waited for the shuttle bus to take us across the bridge over the Jordan River. Step by step we progressed across the border, getting Isreali visas while our luggage was carefully checked. After two and a half hours we emerged and got in a minibus for another 45 minute ride to downtown Jerusalem. Just before Noon we arrived at our hotel to check in.
We stayed at the Notre Dame Center, a Catholic retreat center and hotel just outside the gate of the old city. The rooms were clean, comfortable and simple, with no TV. The picture below was taken from the wall of the old city.
We were ready to start exploring -- lunch could wait! We wandered through the narrow streets of the Armenian Quarter and headed for the Western Wall. Across the large plaza is the wall that 2000 years ago was part of the temple. A few people prayed.
On one side of the plaza is a big tunnel. More of the wall has been excavated here and many people are chanting prayers.
Now it is lunch time. We took a round-about route back to the Armenian Quarter and we were tired and hungry by the time we found a restaurant. But it turned out to be a good choice!
After a leisurely lunch we wandered to the far corner of the old city. Most of the roads here are too small and steep for cars. Some of them are covered and lined with shops selling souvenirs. There are also food markets and shops catering to local residents.
Late in the afternoon we were hot and tired so we sat and ate snow cones before we returned to the hotel and a nap. Early in the evening we started wandering around the new city, looking for a restaurant for dinner. Unfortunately it was Friday evening and all the shops and most of the restaurants were closed. As we circled back towards the hotel we found a tiny Ethiopian restaurant. The menu was small and consisted of several sauces which were served unusual bread -- slightly thicker and more absorbant than pita bread with a sour taste. We didn't know what we were doing, but it was a good meal.
The next morning we headed for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The original church was built here in 336 AD to enclose the site where Jesus was crucified and buried. That church was destroyed by Persian invaders in 614 and replaced a few years later. The replacement was also destroyed, and over the centuries several new churches were built on the same site, most recently in 1808. It is jointly owned by the Roman Catholic and Armenian and Greek Orthodox Churches. It was hard to take good pictures from the outside because it is surrounded by other buildings, but here is one picture of the inside.
Our next stop was the Tower of David Citadel, on top of the highest hill in the old city. Fortifications have been found on this site that were first build in the eighth century BC and like the church they were continually replaced because it was the ideal site from which to guard and control the city. The current citadel was built by the Ottamans in the sixteenth century. From 1948 to 1967 it was used by the Jordanian Arab Legion, offering a site from which they could look across the Armistice line into Israel. After the six day war in 1967 the city was reunified and the it was turned into a museum. The courtyard in the center contains ancient walls that were excavated.
We watched a short film telling the story of the history of the citadel though the film skipped the 20th century. Then we started a long walk on the wall that surrounds the old city. The wall was used by the Jordanians from from 1948 to 1967. There were windows for them to look out while they were well protected.
It was a long walk, as the wall did not go in a straight line and we often went up steep steps and down the other side.
We got a good view of the city and the Mount of Olives, with its huge Jewish cemetary.
Then we headed towards the Rockefeller Museum which reportedly has many ancient archaelogical artifacts. Unfortunately when we arrived we discovered that it closed at 2:00 on Saturdays. So it will have to wait for our next trip. Instead we had a very late lunch of pita sandwhiches in a quiet courtyard.