14 Best Things To Do In Jerusalem

Depending on who you speak to, you’ll get lots of different explanations as to why Jerusalem is so important, who the city belongs to and even what the most important place in the city is. One thing everyone can agree on though is that Jerusalem is one of the oldest and most important religious cities in the world.

Jerusalem has a history that spans across millennia, a lot of which is there to explore and experience in the city, making it not just an important spot if you’re religious but also if you have even the slightest interest in history.

One of the biggest surprises of visiting though was definitely seeing how the city’s varied history brought together three distinctly different religions and how the city is important to each one. Typically religious sites in most other places across the world tend to be more important to just one religion, not several all at once and especially so not with how important and highly revered the city is to each religion.

 

Then there’s how beautiful it is too! In some ways, it feels like walking back in time with buildings here that are thousands of years old – except, of course, updated and preserved for modern times.

Suffice to say, a visit to the city is one that you absolutely have to add to your travel plans. Oh, and while you’re here, I’d recommend getting a guide.  You can easily explore without one but there’s so much detail to the city (for instance, the Via Dolorosa below) that you might perhaps otherwise miss if you just wanted around for the first time without know where you’re going to.

Rather than carrying on about how amazing the Jerusalem is, let me show you exactly what I mean, as well as the very best things to do in Jerusalem when you visit.

1.) Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is considered to be the holiest site in the world for Christians and is reported to be built on the place that Jesus Christ was crucified, buried and resurrected.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is considered to be the holiest site in the world for Christians and is reported to be built on the place that Jesus Christ was crucified, buried and resurrected.

The building as it stands was built and destroyed several times over thousands of years with what exists now being a rather huge and impressive church.

Given its huge significance, be prepared to queue here if you want to see most of the main sights in the church with some queues lasting hours – especially so the queue to see Jesus’s tomb where he resurrected from.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is also the most important and final spot on from the Via Dolorosa pilgrimage (which I’ll explain further below).

2.) The Western Wall or The Wailing Wall

The Western Wall is actually what’s left of an ancient temple of Jerusalem and is a hugely hallowed site for people of the Jewish faith, Christians and Muslims. The wall was first constructed around 19BCE and is easily one of the oldest places to visit in Jerusalem.

When you visit, there are separate sections for men and women – with men having to cover their heads; women don’t have the same requirement though they need to cover their shoulders and legs.

There’s a whole etiquette to visiting which, while not enforced (e.g. taking a few steps away from the wall, walking backwards so you don’t turn your back to it) is greatly appreciated as this is an important and much-revered site in Jerusalem (having a guide here was invaluable because the knowledge and details provided here really helps you understand why the Western Wall is so important to so many people).

3.) The Temple Mount or Haram esh-Sharif

Haram esh-Sharif is considered to be one of the holiest sites in Jerusalem – revered by Jews, Christians, and Muslims for multiple reasons. I’d attempt to go into each one but I feel like Wikipedia might best serve this purpose as it’s far too long and too detailed to get into here.

It is worth noting that this is one of the harder places to visit in Jerusalem due to its huge importance, making it reserved more for prayer than anything else.

In modern times (i.e. these days), the stunning Dome of the Rock stands proudly on this site and is the most iconic landmark in the city. The central dome of this church glitters with gold and the colorful tiled exterior walls are absolutely beautiful. 

4.) Dome of the Rock

As mentioned before, the Dome of the Rock is actually on the Temple Mount and is an intricately designed Islamic shrine, which – in addition to the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

If you want to visit, be prepared to queue as admission is only allowed in at certain times (it’s used otherwise for religious purposes) and as such, be prepared to set aside a fair bit of time to explore it properly.

5.) Armenian Quarter

Jerusalem has played host to a large Armenian community for many years and this quarter is packed full of charming ancient architecture and historical buildings.

Armenians also know quite a thing or two about pottery and ceramic works so this is a great spot to visit to grab yourself a souvenir. (By the way, there are 4 quarters in total in Jerusalem – the Armenian quarter, the Christian quarter, The Jewish quarter and the Muslim quarter).

The center of the Armenian Quarter is located on the Armenian Patriarchate Road and spreads outwards to include the churches of St. James and St. Mark. This is a fantastic part of the city that is often explored less than the more well-known sites.

6.) Via Dolorosa

 

Another hugely important site for those of the Christians the world over, the Via Dolorosa, or the Way of Sorrow is reported to follow the route that Jesus Christ took when carrying the cross to Golgotha. It follows all the 14 stations of the Cross and when you’re here, you can follow this same route, ergo why this is a hugely important site for Christian pilgrims.

On Fridays, you can actually follow a procession that is led by Franciscan monks through the Via Dolorosa. If you’re there on any other day (or to make the most of this route), it is worth having a guide who can point out each station as you go along.

7.) Christian Quarter

Situated north of the Jaffa Gate and centered around the impressive Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Christian Quarter is an absolute must.

Within the confines of this quarter is a swath of beautiful architecture from various ages, and a myriad of bustling Souks, markets, and pleasant cafes. Notable sites include the Ethiopian Monastery, the Church of St. John the Baptist and the Protestant Christ Church.

8.) The Tower of David

This complex actually has no connection to King David and is also known as the Citadel. Built in 24 BC, this ancient structure has stood proudly for thousands of years and was erected by the notorious King Herod.

Within this structure is the interesting Tower of David Museum that displays the history of the city and its evolution.

It is also possible to climb to the rooftop of the citadel for fantastic views of Jerusalem across to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. (Highly recommend it, it’s one of the best views of the city and really helps you get a sense of where everything is.)

9.) Muslim Quarter

If you are looking for a place to shop and experience local life, the Muslim quarter is one of the best places to visit. It’s perhaps the busiest of all the quarters with its bustling markets, busy restaurants and refreshing juice spots to cool off in the heat (it was sooooooo hot when we visited).

Starting at Damascus gate, the Muslim quarter is bursting with activity and is a fantastic place to find a bargain, haggle with the locals or visit the historic Pool of Bethesda.

10.) The Cardo

I was so fascinated and excited about this one as I’d just a few months before, seen the oldest mosaic map in the world (in Jordan) which referred to this spot.

The Cardo essentially was like this long as grand walkway with Roman columns adorning the path and a market bustling all around. The map in Jordan (the Madaba map) even showed the Cardo with the columns it would have had back then.

While you’re there, to get a sense of what this once bustling part of the city looked like, keep an eye out for the mural depicting the old city of Jerusalem.

11.) Jewish Quarter

The Jewish quarter is where you’ll find some of the most important spots to visit in the city e.g. Western Wall and the Cardo, amongst others.

Now while you might not necessarily notice when you switch from one quarter to another here, you do notice a big difference in how the quarters are organized. The Jewish quarter being, perhaps with the exception of the Armenian quarter (and the main sight in it – the Western Wall) being fairly quiet compared to say the busier Muslim and Christian quarters.

If you’re looking for a break from the crowds, this is easily one of the best parts of the city to explore.

12.) Mount Zion

Another hugely significant religious site, Mount Zion is the place where Christ held the Last Supper and where the Virgin Mary lived during the later years of her life. For the Jewish community, this is also the place of King David’s Tomb.

Located on this hill today is a variety of stunning shrines and churches; furthermore, you can also see the expanse of the city on a clear day.

13.) Kidron Valley

Located between Mount Zion and Mount of Olives; this is one of the most ancient parts of Jerusalem. This is the area that both Muslims and Jews believe that the Last Judgment will take place.

Archaeological excavations have found structures dating back as far as 4000 years old and various tunnels and temples are open to exploring such as Warren’s Shaft, Hezekiah’s Tunnel and the Pool of Siloam.

14.) Jaffa Gate

This ancient gate used to be one of the 7 gates into Jerusalem and is quite the architectural masterpiece to behold. It was built in the 1500s and was done in an L-shape as a defensive measure to help slow down attackers.

It’s easily one of the best things to do in Jerusalem you want to get a sense of what it looked like centuries ago and can be done either as you enter Jerusalem or indeed, as you leave.

Romanticizing the future of the Syrian Armenians

By Mihran Kalaydjian

Romanticizing the future of the Syrian Armenians

During these hot summer days that the US media calls the “silly season,” the Turkish media covers the situation of the Armenian diaspora in Syria indifferently.

Oddly enough in Syria, where 60,000 Armenians live, not a single Armenian media organization has appointed a permanent representative or correspondent. Inexplicably, none of the Armenian journalists who wrote about the situation of the Armenian diaspora in Syria have ever set foot in Syria. The articles from Armenian journalists on the situation of the Armenian diaspora in Syria are based on stories told by Syrian Armenians coming from Aleppo and Damascus and arriving at Armenia’s Zvartnots airport or the other Syrian Armenians that they randomly met while drinking tea at cafes.

In fact, most Syrian Armenians that Armenian journalists interviewed at the airport already hold Armenian citizenship. In other words, they are Armenian citizens who went to Syria in order to work or marry a Syrian citizen. One can easily understand this by hearing their Armenian accents, but no one cares about this. The Syrian Armenians reporters interview at cafes, just say: “My uncle said they have a comfortable life there,” or “My aunt said she just came from the market and there were no clashes there.” In addition to this, many journalists wrote news stories using the guise of a leader of the Armenian community in Syria who wished to remain anonymous in order to make their articles more interesting or convey their own thoughts to the Armenian government.

The information pollution and countless Arab world experts

On Armenian television channels a new “Arab world expert” is presented almost every day. We don’t know if these people were always there and waited for this event to make assessments during their professional lives, but they do their best to make the issue more incomprehensible by using a unique terminology.

Considering the situation of the Armenian media, the attitude of the Armenian Ministry for the Diaspora seems much more serious. After a long silence, the ministry has made a detailed announcement and stated it will try to help people as much as possible. However, the ministry has undermined its own creditability by announcing they would have difficulty hosting refugees if hundreds of thousands Syrian Armenians immigrate to Armenia after giving the number of Armenian living in Syria as 60,000.

Since the Armenian media suffers from the ministry’s mistakes, the issue of Syrian Armenians is placed on the top of the list of the government’s fatal errors. According to anti-government media organizations in Armenia, the government’s attitude both creates a roadblock to Armenia’s diaspora policies and highlights Russia’s influence over Armenia. They claimed that Armenia implements the strategy that Russia imposes on it even when their goals are in question.

Briefly, information pollution dominates the Armenian media. According to the Armenian media, the Turkish media unintentionally misleads the people. The information pollution in the Armenian media leads to the spread of false information and distorted analysis in the world, especially when it comes to Turkey.

Mass immigration and other myths

The Armenian news report on a possible mass immigration of the Syrian Armenians to Armenia immediately became the subject of serious analysis in the Turkish media. Here are some of the creative, groundless claims covered by both the Armenian and Turkish media:
Thousands of Syrian Armenians are in line to settle in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh — Azerbaijani territory controlled by ethnic Armenian separatists with the support of the Republic of Armenia — but the Armenian government does not support this. However, the Armenian government would exert efforts to attract the Armenian capital in Syria to Armenia.
Syrian Armenians armed themselves and are ready to join the clash. The Armenian communities in Kesap repelled the opposition forces even before government forces arrived.
The Armenian government is making serious arrangements in universities and primary schools to support Syrian Armenian children and university students. It is offering a discount to Syrian Armenians on flights.
Russia uses Syrian Armenians not only to influence Armenia but also to exert pressure on Georgia. If there is a mass emigration from Syria, Russia wants to make sure that they are settled in Georgia’s Javakhk region — a region where a large number of Armenians already live.
Turkey is doing its best to evacuate the Armenians from the Syria in order to weaken the Armenian diaspora.
If we want to give fair and reasonable answers to these claims, we have to accept the reality is quite different than what is presented in the news.
First of all, the Armenian community in Syria is showing no intentions of migrating to Armenia en masse. Beginning in the 1980s, the members of the Armenian community in Syria have migrated to several countries, particularly to the US and Canada, by using Armenian capital that is planned to be transferred to Armenia. In other words, Armenians whose financial status was good enough have not chosen Armenia as the country they will live in.
In fact, some middle-class Syrian Armenians have applied for Armenian citizenship. According to the data provided by the Armenian Ministry for the Diaspora, 3,300 Syrian Armenians have obtained Armenian citizenship. However, that does not mean all these 3,300 Syrian Armenians will reside in Armenia. Until now, only 60 Syrian citizens have wanted help from Armenia and migrated there.
The Syrian Armenians, who are both Syrian and Armenian citizens, are middle-class Armenians either running businesses in Armenia or holding an American or European country’s citizenship.
Like many of the Armenian diaspora, Syrian Armenians are apolitical and deem themselves lucky if the turnover of their companies are good. The reasons why the Armenian groups have acted in favor of Bashar al-Assad’s regime so far is due to Islamophobia triggered by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB)’s attacks targeting Syrian Armenians in the past and the pro-status quo mentality of Armenian diaspora.
As is the case in Turkey, the uncertainties of a new regime concerning the rights of minorities and their loyalty to the secular regime force Armenians to protect the current situation at the expense of undermining democracy and human rights. Of course, they provide passive support. Thus, it is perfectly safe to argue that even imagining that Syrian Armenians have armed themselves and they are ready to join the clash is impossible. The only thing they would do is have some armed watchmen in the regions with a sizable Armenian population as a precaution against possible attacks.

The aid sent by the Armenian government to Syrian Armenians and arrangements they reportedly have made are over-exaggerated. They would not change their university system. Since the Soviet era, Armenian universities allocate quotas for students of the Armenian diaspora. The only change is a 20 percent reduction of school fees for Syrian Armenian students. For a country that others claim has a serious diaspora policy, asking students who have left their countries and come to Armenia for higher education to pay more tuition fees would be a big contradiction. When we turn to claims concerning the schools, this issue is only a student exchange program that aims to promote teaming Armenian children from Armenia with children from the diaspora. The program lasts only 2 weeks.

The diaspora policy that Armenia cannot develop

Although both the Armenian government and the Armenian Ministry for the Diaspora are trying their best, they neither distribute free flight tickets nor beg diaspora Armenians to migrate to Armenia. Armenian Diaspora Minister Hranuş Hakopyan has underlined that the Armenian community should continue to stay in Syria and maintain their existence there.

The Armenian government has moved the Armenian Embassy in Aleppo to another district with a considerable Armenian population and allows the embassy to grant citizenship to Syrian Armenians who previously applied.

In addition to this, Syrian Armenians are now able to obtain a sticker visa at the border gates. When we consider that for close to 20 years, Armenia has given Turkish citizens — both Turks and Armenians — a sticker-type visa at border gates, this is not a big favor.

Given the fact that Armenia has very serious social security and infrastructural problems, the Armenian government’s decision to provide houses and job opportunities to Syrian Armenians will cause serious unease within the country. In the end, whether the Armenian government accepts it or not, they have two serious problems: easing migration and the economy’s recovery. Thus, they can only help the Syrian refugees in a reasonable way.

The institution that should be concerned about the future of the Armenian diaspora in Syria and is worth studying is the Armenian Ministry for the Diaspora. Although the ministry does not accept that it makes mistakes on this issue, they underlined that they will accelerate their efforts. Stressing that the subjects of these stories are human beings, the ministry warned the media to avoid practicing false journalism. Trying to analyze the developments in Syria and their impact on Armenia, while including discourses on the Armenian diaspora in Russia, Georgia and Turkey, only produces conspiracy theories.

Now, the most ridiculous impact of the pollution of information concerning developments in Syria is leaving its mark on Turkish-Armenian relationships. The unfounded claim that Armenia would resettle Syrian Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh is spreading. And this reminds me of the horrifying headlines run by the Turkish media in response to Turkey’s decision to allow religious ceremonies at Van’s Akdamar Church.

Such illusions are useless. Just like diaspora Armenians in New York, Paris or Buenos Aires, who did not settle in Van after the opening of Akdamar Church, the diaspora Armenians in Aleppo and Damascus do not want to live in Nagorno-Karabakh. They visit Nagorno-Karabakh as tourists and express admiration but they return to Syria.

A realistic perspective would upset those who adopt romantic-nationalist perspectives on the issue but would relieve the Turkish and Azerbaijani people. These ridiculous scenarios are far from realistic and do nothing for the frozen bilateral relations.