In fact, most of my time visiting Israel has been spent in Jerusalem because the layers of history here run so deep, both literally and metaphorically. This is especially true of the ‘Old City’, the ancient, walled, labyrinthine city where the very stones paving the streets have been polished smooth from untold centuries of foot traffic.
Here you can walk the ‘Via Dolorosa’, the route Jesus took to his crucifixion on Golgotha, where the Church of the Holy Sepulcher now stands. Or offer a prayer and touch the 3000 year-old stones of the ‘Western Wall’, the holiest site in Judaism and all that remains of the ‘Second Temple’ and its enhancements that were built by King Herod in the 1st century, BCE, and destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE.
Today, the Western Wall is a part of what Jewish tradition calls ‘The Temple Mount’, and Muslims refer to as ‘al-Haram al-Sharif’. The large plaza holds two of Islam’s holiest sites: ‘The Dome of the Rock’ and the al-Aqsa Mosque. The Dome of the Rock is said to hold the rock from which Mohammed ascended to heaven, and dates back to the 7th century CE. The al-Aqsa Mosque was originally built in the 8th century CE and the current structure is over 1000 years old. (more…)