Our guided tour of the Christian Quarter of Old Jerusalem didn't start until after lunch, so Sara and I walked to the Old City after breakfast to explore a bit on our own. I also wanted to see if my directional skills would work in this ancient town!
We only got turned around once, still making the 20 minute walk in under 30 minutes. The Old City of Jerusalem is divided into four quarters; The Jewish Quarter, The Armenian Quarter, The Christian Quarter, and The Muslim Quarter. We decided to explore the Muslim Quarter on this bright Saturday morning. We walked up and down the narrow stone streets through the marketplace filled with gift shops, cafes, food and clothing stores
Before we knew it, we had walked all the way across from the Jaffa Gate to the Damascus Gate! As we turned around to head back and meet for our group tour I couldn't help but notice the mezuzah (doorpost blessing) on Jaffa Gate. It brought me comfort.
As we met up with the group we took a quick detour on the rooftops of Old Jerusalem before making our way through the Christian Quarter and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is said to be the place where Jesus was crucified and buried. It is widely regarded as Christianity's holiest place. Like so many other things in Israel, there are layers to this church as well. It is shared by the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox, Egyptian Copt and Ethiopian Orthodox denominations of Christianity.
With all these different denominations within the church, who is in charge of guarding the door? To keep neutrality, the church's gatekeeper is not a Christian; members of a Muslim family have locked and unlocked the Holy Sepulchre's front door every day for the last 800 years.
We had one more site to visit- the Israel Museum. We began outside with a look at an incredible model of ancient Jerusalem of 2 thousand years ago. It was created in 1965 on a 1 to 50 scale.
If you look at the middle of the picture below, you'll see a red arrow, in between the two towers, on the wall of The Temple. That is the section of the West Wall that stands today.
The most important exhibit at the Israel Museum is the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered on an excavation site in 1947 by accident! This is the oldest actual biblical text that has ever been found. No photography is allowed - however, this video from the Israel Museum will give you glimpse into this important discovery.
We had another hour or so to explore the museum, which features exhibits on archeology, Jewish life and culture and Israeli modern art. Wish we'd had more time!