JERUSALEM-the 50 sites you may overlook

In a historic and religious city like Jerusalem there is so much to see no matter how much you tour. When time is a limiting factor, even the most efficient tour guides have to compromise while deciding what to incorporate in the itinerary. Although it depends on the interest of the individual visitor as well, there is still a huge must-see-list in Jerusalem that cannot be avoided. At every stop so much information is thrown on a visitor that sometimes s/he tends to forget the details after leaving the place.

I remember when I first visited the Church of Holy Sepulcher, it appeared to me more like a small museum than a church. I was virtually clueless inside a dark and dull overcrowded massive complex of more than 25 chapels with several curious artifacts and antiques scattered under some dusky arches and dingy columns. It took me at least three visits with a proper map in hand to understand the Church complex. A normal visitor for instance would be satisfied with Golgotha, the ‘Stone of Unction’ and the ‘Holy Sepulcher’, but the oldest part of the complex, viz. the first century tombs inside the Syrian Orthodox Chapel could be easily missed.

In the upcoming posts I plan to upload 50 such sites from Jerusalem that I believe can be easily overlooked or go unnoticed by an average visitor. I am incorporating the following sites from my previous visits, again with no specific order of importance. I am sure that a serious traveler who loves history, traditions and the Bible has noticed or been to most of them.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

More from the courtyard of the 'Church of Holy Sepulcher', Jerusalem.

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Armenian shrine marking the spot where the three Marys watched the crucifixion of Jesus (See 1P; Mark 16:1) -Church of Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem.

Armenian Shrine near the tomb of Christ

A view from the Armenian shrine to the stone of unction

The tomb of Jesus Christ

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Armenian Chapel of St: Vartan, Church of Holy Sepulcher-Jerusalem.

At the left side (North) of the main altar of St: Helena Chapel you can find a small metallic door. This locked door leads to a rare Armenian chapel called the 'Chapel of St: Vartan'. It was discovered only in the 1970s and even now not many know about its existence. Inside the chapel are remains of walls built by Hadrian Caesar (2nd century AD) and a unique drawing of a merchant ship on a stone with an inscription DOMINE IVIMVS which means "Lord we shall go." This ancient drawing is also dated from the 2nd Century AD. Unfortunately, the chapel is rarely opened. The key to the chapel is with Armenian priests whom cannot be approached easily.
Armenian Chapel of St: Helena
Door to the Chapel of St: Vartan
Inside the Chapel of St: Vartan
Inside the Chapel of St: Vartan-another view
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Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem. Legend has it that every conqueror of Jerusalem will enter through the Jaffa Gate.

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The Controversial Carta Parking Lot and the Market above, Jaffa Gate-Jerusalem.

Opening of this parking lot on Shabbath frequently invites massive demonstrations and sometimes riots. The friction between orthodox-secular Jewish fractions over this issue is becoming a common incident every Saturday in Jerusalem now.

Posted by PicasaThe market area above the Carta parking lot in Jerusalem.


These beautiful 12 unique glass stained windows were created by the world famous Russian Jewish artist Marc Chagall for the Synagogue of Hebrew University's Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem in February 1962. Each of the 12 windows is approximately 11 feet high and 8 feet wide, and represent the 12 sons of Jacob from whom came the 12 tribes of Israel. However, there is a slight difference in the order of tribes from the original biblical perspective. Chagall includes Levi and Joseph, but excludes Ephraim and Manasseh from his paintings.

Although photography is not permitted inside, by now you know me, I managed to get them. In the synagogue, the windows are distributed in a similar order as described in the Bible (i.e. the order of the tribes around the tabernacle-Numbers 2).

During the 1967 war, the hospital came under severe attack, and four of the windows were damaged. However, Chagall was happy to reapir the damaged ones and the refurbished windows retained small portions of his earlier work also. In 1973, Israel issued a series of stamps commemorating the windows. For more details visit the official site at

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These Windows represent the 12 sons of Jacob, from whom came the 12 tribes of Israel. Chagall's paintings are based on Genesis 49 and Deuteronomy 33.

The colors used in each window are also inspired from the Holy Bible. Mainly from the breastplate of the High Priest in Exodus 28:15, which was described as gold, blue, purple and scarlet, and contained 12 distinct gems.

Western View (Judah, Zebulun and Issachar)-Chagall Windows, Ein Kerem, Jerusalem.

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Southern View (Naphthali, Joseph and Benjamin)-Chagall Windows, Ein Kerem, Jerusalem.

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Eastern View (Dan, Gad and Asher)-Chagall Windows, Ein Kerem, Jerusalem.

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Northern View (Reuben, Simeon and Levi)-Chagall Windows, Ein Kerem, Jerusalem.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A TOMB FOR THREE RELIGIONS-Prophetess Huldah (Jewish) or Saint Pelagia (Christian) or Rabi'a al'Adawiyya (Muslim)- Mount of Olives, Jerusalem.

This three in one tomb is revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims. For, Jews it is the tomb of Prophetess Huldah (7th Century BC); For Christians-the tomb of St: Pelagia (5th Century AD); For Muslims-the tomb of Rabi'a al'Adawiyya (8th Century AD). Although, there are strong traditions identifying Huldah's burial within the walls of Jerusalem and Rabia's in her city of Basra in Iraq, it looks like all three religions strongly desire to get associated with this mysterious tomb. Any how, the nice part is that at least all three accept the tomb's origin to a pious woman.

: According to Jewish tradition, she was one among the seven prophetesses (others are Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, and Esther); a descendant of Joshua and a relative of Prophet Jeremiah. In Bible, Huldah was a prophetess in Jerusalem during the reign of King Josiah, and she is mentioned only in 2 Kings 22:13-20 and 2 Chronicles 34:22-28.

St. Pelagia: was a 5th Century (AD) Christian saint. She was a wealthy singer from Antioch who converted to Christianity after hearing the sermon of a Bishop named Nonus. As tradition goes, she repented her sinful life, donated everything to poor and dedicated herself to God. She went to a cave in the Mount of Olives and lived as a hermit wearing a male garb. Only after death it was discovered that she was a woman.

Rabiya al'Adawiyya: is considered the first female saint in Islam. Born as a slave in 714 AD in Iraq, she became an important figure in Sufism. According to Islamic tradition, she later moved to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem and lived as a hermit.

The tomb is located on the summit of Mount of Olives, near Pater-Noster Church. Note that the modern road in front of the tomb is named after Rabi'a. The key to the tomb is with a Muslim family which resides inside the compound of the Mosque of Ascension. At morning, we reached the mosque and after visiting the Ascension Chapel, I made a request to visit the tomb. We were asked to come after 2 pm. Only after a few attempts to reach the right person, we finally managed to get the tomb opened for us. Here are a few snaps of the tomb which cannot be accessed that easily.

Entering the Tomb of Huldah, Jerusalem

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The Three in One Tomb Contd., Jerusalem.