Theme Week East Jerusalem – The Old City of Jerusalem

Wednesday, 12 September 2018 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, UNESCO World Heritage, Union for the Mediterranean

Old City of Jerusalem - Temple Mount © Andrew Shiva/cc-by-sa-4.0

Old City of Jerusalem – Temple Mount © Andrew Shiva/cc-by-sa-4.0

The Old City of Jerusalem is a just about 0.9 square kilometers (0.35 sq mi) wide walled area in East Jerusalem and forms the core of the Middle East/Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Until 1860, when the Jewish neighborhood Mishkenot Sha’ananim was established, this area constituted the entire city of Jerusalem and Israeli right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is unintentionally right in pointing out that Jerusalem is indivisible, as to this day the Palestinian old town remains to be a self-contained and undivided entity. The Old City is home to several sites of key religious importance: The Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Christians, the Temple Mount and Western Wall for Jews, and the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque for Muslims. It was added to the UNESCO List of World Heritage in Danger in 1982. Although the Mount Zion with the Abbey of the Dormition is located outside the city walls, it is occasionally seen as part of the Old City. In 2011, UNESCO issued a statement reiterating its view that East Jerusalem is “part of the occupied Palestinian territory, and that the status of Jerusalem must be resolved in permanent status negotiations.” The border between East and West Jerusalem, the City Line, which has survived to this day due to the repeatedly annulled Jerusalem Law by the UN, as part of the Green Line, runs between the Old City Wall and the Mamilla Mall in West Jerusalem.

Traditionally, the Old City has been divided into five uneven quarters, although the current designations were introduced only in the 19th century. Today, the Old City is roughly divided (going counterclockwise from the northeastern corner) into the Muslim Quarter, Christian Quarter, Armenian Quarter and Jewish Quarter. The Old City’s monumental defensive walls and city gates were built in the years 1535–1542 by the sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. The current population of the Old City resides mostly in the Muslim and Christian quarters. As of 2007 the total population was 37,000.

Armenian Quarter - Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem © flickr.com - Jorge Láscar/cc-by-2.0 Christian Quarter © flickr.com - Ricardo Tulio Gandelman/cc-by-2.0 Jewish Quarter © Zairon/cc-by-sa-4.0 Muslim Quarter © flickr.com - Paul Arps/cc-by-2.0 Old City of Jerusalem © Shmuel Spiegelman/cc-by-sa-1.0 Old City of Jerusalem - Temple Mount © Andrew Shiva/cc-by-sa-4.0
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Armenian Quarter - Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem © flickr.com - Jorge Láscar/cc-by-2.0
Armenian Quarter
The Armenian Quarter is the smallest of the four quarters of the Old City. Although the Armenians are Christian, the Armenian Quarter is distinct from the Christian Quarter. Despite the small size and population of this quarter, the Armenians and their Patriarchate remain staunchly independent and form a vigorous presence in the Old City. After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the four quarters of the city came under Jordanian control. Jordanian law required Armenians and other Christians to “give equal time to the Bible and Qur’an” in private Christian schools, and restricted the expansion of church assets. The 1967 war is remembered by residents of the quarter as a miracle, after two unexploded bombs were found inside the Armenian monastery. Today, more than 3,000 Armenians live in Jerusalem, 500 of them in the Armenian Quarter. Some are temporary residents studying at the seminary or working as church functionaries. The Patriarchate owns the land in this quarter as well as valuable property in West Jerusalem and elsewhere. In 1975, a theological seminary was established in the Armenian Quarter. After the 1967 war, the Israeli government gave compensation for repairing any churches or holy sites damaged in the fighting, regardless of who caused the damage.

Christian Quarter
The Christian Quarter is situated in the northwestern corner of the Old City, extending from the New Gate in the north, along the western wall of the Old City as far as the Jaffa Gate, along the Jaffa Gate – Western Wall route in the south, bordering the Jewish and Armenian Quarters, as far as the Damascus Gate in the east, where it borders the Muslim Quarter. The quarter contains the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, viewed by many as Christianity’s holiest place (Jerusalem in Christianity).

Jewish Quarter
The Jewish Quarter lies in the southeastern sector of the walled city, and stretches from the Zion Gate in the south, bordering the Armenian Quarter on the west, along the Cardo to Chain Street in the north and extends east to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount. In 1948, its population of about 2,000 Jews was besieged, and forced to leave en masse. The quarter was completely sacked by Arab forces during the Battle for Jerusalem and ancient synagogues were destroyed. The section of the Jewish quarter destroyed prior to 1967 has since been rebuilt and settled and has a population of 2,400. Many large educational institutions have taken up residence. Before being rebuilt, the quarter was carefully excavated under the supervision of Hebrew University archaeologist Nahman Avigad. The archaeological remains are on display in a series of museums and outdoor parks, which tourists can visit by descending two or three stories beneath the level of the current city. The former Chief Rabbi is Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl, and the current Chief Rabbi is his son Rabbi Chizkiyahu Nebenzahl, who is on the faculty of Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh, which is situated directly across from the Western Wall. The quarter includes the “Karaites’ street”, on which the old Anan ben David Kenesa is located.

Moroccan Quarter
There was previously a small Moroccan Quarter in the Old City. Within a week of the Six-Day War‘s end, the Moroccan quarter was largely destroyed and razed by Israeli forces in order to give visitors better access to the Western Wall by creating the Western Wall plaza. The parts of the Moroccan Quarter that were not destroyed are now part of the Jewish Quarter. Simultaneously with the demolition, a new regulation was set into place by which the only access point for non-Muslims to the Temple Mount is through the Gate of the Moors, which is reached via the Mughrabi Bridge.

Muslim Quarter
The Muslim Quarter is the largest and most populous of the four quarters and is situated in the northeastern corner of the Old City, extending from the Lions’ Gate in the east, along the northern wall of the Temple Mount in the south, to the Western WallDamascus Gate route in the west. Its population was 22,000 in 2005. Like the other three quarters of the Old City, until the riots of 1929 the Muslim quarter had a mixed population of Muslims, Christians, and also Jews. Today, there are many Israeli settler homes and several yeshivas, including Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim, in the Muslim Quarter. The Via Dolorosa starts in the quarter.

Here you can find the complete Overview of all Theme Weeks.

Read more on Times of Israel, 29 January 2019: Israel advances controversial cable car to Jerusalem’s Old City, Jerusalem Post, 21 March 2020: Jerusalem’s iconic Old City appears deserted amid coronavirus pandemic, Wikivoyage Old City of Jerusalem and Wikipedia Old City of Jerusalem (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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