This story was created for the Google Expeditions project by ePublishing Partners and AirPano, now available on Google Arts & Culture
For thousands of years, Jerusalem, which contains hundreds of major holy sites, has been a destination of sacred pilgrimage for millions of people from around the world. Paradoxically, this hallowed city has also been a focal point for war and political and social unrest.
Located about 34 km west of the Dead Sea, Jerusalem was founded in approximately 3000 B.C. While a great deal that is old can still be found here, it is now a modern city with a population of over a million people and an economy based on tourism and service industries.
Roughly 64% of the population is Jewish, 32% Muslim, and 2% Christian. Both Jews and Arab Muslims claim the city as a birthright.
The Old City
Majestic walls surround the narrow cobblestone streets and ancient buildings of Jerusalem's Old City. The Old City is divided into 4 quarters: Jewish, Armenian, Christian, and Muslim. Within the walls, you will encounter numerous holy shrines and places of prayer.
Forteresse près de la porte de Jaffa à Jérusalem (1870 - 1879) by Félix BonfilsThe J. Paul Getty Museum
The Old City’s main entrance, this stone gate was built in 1538 and leads to the Armenian and Christian quarters. Today’s modern entryway dates to an 1898 visit by Kaiser Wilhelm I, who insisted on entering the city on horseback.
The bustling urban area just outside of the Old City walls is filled with modern offerings: high-rise office towers; residential neighborhoods; shopping strips; restaurants and cafes serving diverse cuisine; art, science, and history museums; botanical gardens; and government buildings.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
This Christian church was built by Constantine I during the 4th century as a monument to Christianity's most important events. The church is believed to be located on the site where Jesus was crucified and buried.
According to the Gospel, Jesus rose from the dead 3 days after his burial. Due to Jerusalem's history of war and unrest, the church has been destroyed and rebuilt several times over the centuries.
Worshipers from 6 denominations of Christianity pray here. They are: Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Egyptian Coptic Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox, and Syrian Orthodox. Each denomination is assigned designated areas and times for prayer.
The Stone of Anointing
Immediately upon entering the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, you will see one of Christianity's most sacred objects, the Stone of Anointing. It is illuminated from above with eight continuously burning oil lamps. The stone, which is covered with a flat, red marble plate.
This is reportedly the place where Christ's body was anointed with myrrh and aloe prior to burial. The practice of rubbing a body with oils before burial is described in the Old Testament, and is still sometimes practiced today.
To get to the tomb, you descend a staircase whose walls are lined with crosses. Once downstairs, you will enter the Aedicule, a domed area encompassing the Chapel of the Angel and the tomb site, a tiny interior room.
Western Wall at Night
Known in Hebrew as "Ha Kotel Ha’Maaravi" ("The Western Wall"), this wall is what remains of a retaining wall that surrounded the Second Jewish Temple, which was destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Romans.
It’s been a site for Jewish pilgrimage and prayer for millennia. Between 1948 and 1967, the Wall was under Jordanian rule, and Jews were denied access to it. The Jews regained access after the Six-Day War in 1967.
In addition to daily prayers and pilgrimages to the Wall, important Jewish rituals are often conducted here. Pay attention, among worshipers, you may see a 13-year old boy having a traditional Jewish coming-of-age ceremony, or Bar Mitzvah.
You may see prayer notes crammed into the spaces between the Wall’s stacked stones. The ancient tradition of placing scribbled prayers into the Wall's crevices was revived for “lasting peace” in Israel.
Women and the Wall
Are you male or female? Be sure to stay on the side of the Wall’s courtyard divider assigned to your gender. Orthodox Judaism precludes mixed-gender prayer and there’s an ongoing battle over women’s rights at the Wall.
Israeli lyricist Yossi Gamzu wrote the Israeli song "Ha Kotel" in 1967, to honor fallen soldiers of the Six-Day War. The lyrics make reference to the mystical qualities of the Wall with these lyrics: "There are stones with human hearts."
Inside Wilson’s Arch
This extension of the Western Wall was discovered in 1868 by British researchers Charles Wilson and Charles Warren. Directly after the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel's Ministry of Religious Affairs began excavating to expose the entire length of the Wall.
The excavations led to many revelations about 1st-century Jewish temple life. Work on Wilson’s Arch is ongoing, but its restoration has already enabled it to serve as a place of prayer.
This velvet-clad cabinet in Wilson’s Arch can hold up to 100 Torah scrolls. Jews consider the Torah to be a "blueprint" for both everyday and spiritual life. A traditional Torah scroll is handwritten by a specially trained scribe.
Notice the range of dress at Wilson’s Arch. Bearded men wearing black coats and hats are likely members of a Hasidic Jewish sect, whereas men in more casual clothing and skullcaps usually belong to a more modern Jewish denomination.
A View from the Mount of Olives
A millennia-old Jewish burial ground and a site of Christian worship, the Mount of Olives, east of the Old City, is named for the olive groves that grow on its slopes.
From this point high atop the ridge, occupied today mostly by a Muslim neighborhood, the diverse religious sites of Jerusalem appear to coexist in harmony. Gaze from above at the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Baha’i spiritual destinations and breathe in the peaceful serenity.
Al Aqsa Mosque
For daily Muslim prayers, you could head to this mosque, Islam's 3rd most sacred site. The earliest mosque built here dates back to 710 A.D., but it was destroyed by earthquakes and has been rebuilt several times.
Israel, Jerusalem, The Dome of The Rock (2005-10-03) by Medioimages/PhotodiscGetty Images
Dome of the Rock
An important Islamic shrine, the Dome of the Rock features a tell-tale golden dome and intricate mosaics on its outer walls. According to the Koran, the Islamic prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven from the rock upon which the dome rests.