by Venice Kichura,
Exploring the Christian, Armenian, Muslim and Jewish Sections
Before visting Jerusalem without the help of a tour group, be sure you’re familiar with the Old City’s four different quarters. Walking through the streets of Jerusalem is like wandering through a tangled maze. Unless you know where you’re going, it’s advisable to stay with your tour group at all times as you can get lost just by making one bad turn. The narrow winding streets can easily lead you down the wrong path. Jerusalem tour guides suggest you know where you’re staying so if you do get lost, one of the city’s awaiting taxis can take you back to your motel. However, if you insist on traveling there without a tour, here are a few pointers before venturing out alone.
Jerusalem Divided into Four Quarters
The Old City of Jerusalem is divided into four quarters, according to religious groups. Although not equal in size, the four quarters form a rectangular framework. The street running from the Damascus Gate to the Zion Gate divides the city into east and west. The street leading from the Jaffa Gate to the Lion’s gate divides it from north to south.
The Christian Quarter
Located on the northwest side of the Old City, the Christian Quarter includes the major sites relating to Jesus Christ. Many churches, monasteries and shines line the famous Via Dolorosa where Jesus carried His cross to Golgotha. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is built over where it’s believed Jesus died and was buried. Also found in the Christian Quarter is Hezekiah’s’ Pool. Besides the holy sites, hundreds of stores line the narrow streets where you can buy everything from souvenirs to pharmaceutical items. Be prepared for shop owners to bargain against one another for the best deal, as well as young children peddling their wares.
Leaving the Christian Quarter and heading south on David Street you enter the Armenian Quarter.Located in the southwest corner of the Old City, the Armenian Quarter is the center of national, religious, and culture life of Jerusalem’s Armenian Orthodox residents. St. James Cathedral is the most important Armenian church in the Holy Lands.
The Muslim Quarter
Located in the northeastern section of the Old City, the Muslim Quarter is the home to about 22,000 people. Crammed with vendors, the Damascus Gate is the busiest entrance of the Old City. Although it’s in the Muslim Quarter, the Christian Via Dolorosa (Way of the Cross) begins here where pilgrims pray and walk in the footsteps of Jesus as he carried His cross to Golgotha (in the Christian Quarter). The Dome of the Rock (home of the Al Aqsa Mosque) and Temple Mount are also located here. On the east border is the Golden Gate (also known as the Eastern Gate) where Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
The Jewish Quarter
The Jewish Quarter is on the southeast side of the city. Here you can visit the Wailing Wall (also known as the Western Wall) where faithful Jews come to pray. Men and women go to separate sides where they insert their prayer requests in the wall’s cracks. The famous “Burnt House” is a site worth visiting in the Jewish Quarter. Besides viewing the remnants of a burnt Jewish home, you can also see a movie, which tells the story of how one Jewish family suffered when Rome burned down Jerusalem in 70 AD.
Don’t Go Out at Night
As a final caution, do all your exploring during daylight hours. Although some brave souls venture out at night, you run a much higher risk of not only getting lost, but also can face danger if you do your site seeing after the sun goes down.