We asked the driver to drop us off at the Jaffa Gate and, after a couple of reasonably cheap coffees and some extortionate biscuits, we went into the Citadel. As some small recompense of the devastating attacks on my wallet sustained so far I was given a 5 shekel reduction on the entry fee. This in spite of not really qualifying as you have to be 67 to be an OAP in Israel! The citadel was just what we needed. It was quiet, beautiful and had a very interesting display of Jerusalem’s history. Much of the Citadel’s structure dates from the Middle Ages, but it’s foundations are much older.
We climbed Phasael’s Tower and were presented with stunning views over the city. We walked along the ramparts and entered the various exhibition rooms which gave a superb history of the city. We wandered around the archaeological remains in the gardens at the centre of the structure. It was delightful and an hour and a half passed very quickly.
I had noticed some people on the city walls, so we made an attempt to join them, but unfortunately, like the Citadel, they closed early on a Friday in preparation for the sabbath. Instead we walked into the Armenian quarter and found St James’ Cathedral which is only open for half an hour each day. By luck we were there on time. It is magnificent. I have never seen so many censers in one room in my life! A small group were being shown around and were being harangued by one of the priests about the tiles. Apparently a guidebook had wrongly ascribed them to the Turks in the 12th century. Outrageous! They are clearly 18th century and Armenian! As he became distracted the group slipped away, but we were not quick enough. The harangue continued with documents brought out to prove his point. Desperately trying to dodge his halitosis I found myself cornered and forced to photograph, both the offending page in the guidebook and his letter to the publisher. Finally we were allowed back into the main church as the service was beginning. We melted into the shadows at the back and listened to the mist beautiful intoning of the Bible followed by exquisite monkly singing. A deep sense of peace descended….a little piece of spiritual healing…….a blessing perhaps.
Then it was down to the Dung Gate, the Zion Gate and back into the Christian quarter, looking for St Mark’s Church and the ‘upper room’. Unfortunately it was closed so we headed for the Muristan, which is a square with alleys radiating off of it , lined with shops. There is a fountain in the centre and some rather strange ‘statues’ of storks with fish in their bills. No idea what that was all about. The Greek Orthodox Church of John the Baptist backs on to this but the entrance is hard to find. Eventually we circumnavigated it via the souk and found a narrow door between shops that led into a beautiful courtyard. From there we entered the church, one of the oldest churches in Jerusalem. It us being repainted, but is still very attractive with a massive iconostasis. The white walls are being painted with scenes from the bible in bright colours.
Back into through the Muristan, we visited the Lutheran Church , but decided against going in as it is quite modern and wanted to charge us quite a bit to enter. Instead the Russians got our money. The Alexande Hospice is Russian Orthodox and built over some impressive ruins. In the basement is the remains of a threshold of a city gate, believed to date from the time of Herod the Great. It is likely that this was the Judgement Gate through which criminals passed on the way to Calvary to be crucified. Could Jesus gave passed over this stone? Alongside it is a piece of wall through which is an opening just big enough to allow a person to pass through. When the gates were shut at night, late comers could pass through this, but horses and camels couldn’t. It is shaped like the eye of a needle! This makes so much sense as an explanation of Jesus’s comment about it being harder for a rich man to enter heaven than for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle!
We returned to saunter down the souk, marvelling at the brightly coloured sweets and the hunks of meat hanging in the butchers.
We arrived at the Damascus Gate as it was tinged with pink by the setting sun and looked quite beautiful. Jerusalem is quite some city. The old part is fascinating, quaint, and interesting. The modern part is busy, clean and has excellent public transport. I love it!