Jerusalem: A Walk Through Christian History

St. Mark's Church

The apse of St. Mark’s Syriac Church, a small and very old church in Jerusalem’s Old City

Recently, I have been preparing my next Jerusalem: Meet Jerusalem walking tour, which will focus on Christian Jerusalem for Non-Christians. In the process I have come to explore and discover many of Jerusalem’s churches. Obviously, Jerusalem is a very holy city to Christianity, and there are innumerable churches here, many of them within the approximately one square kilometer surrounded by the Old City walls.

But as I began to explore more, and uncovered some of the lesser known churches here, I became endlessly fascinated by the variety of Christian sects. There are tens of different denominations, split into a number of larger branches of Christianity, many of which are fairly unknown to most people — Christians and non-Christians alike! And of those many sects, tons of them have churches in Jerusalem, including a number of those less known denominations.

I began to organize them all for myself, grouping them into related branches and placing them in the sequence of their various splits from each other. By looking at them this way, I could see the very development of Christianity itself, reflected in the distinctive churches in my city. I soon realized that walking through Jerusalem’s Old City is like a walk through a living museum of Christian history.

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Art is Happening Now in Jerusalem

Cutting a limestone block into a sculpture

Russian sculptor Alex Shestakov at work in Jerusalem

Last night, as I wandered the streets of Jerusalem, I unexpectedly came across two awesome art events happening simultaneously in this city. Following the summer’s Jerusalem Season of Culture, these two events are extending the cultural happenings into the fall. I am hoping that they become regular events, added to the already extensive and diverse cultural calendar of this city.

First, I was walking along the Park HaMesilah, the narrow park that about two years ago transformed the old train tracks from a hideous eyesore to a usable (and well-used) recreation and relaxation zone. I was heading to the newly redeveloped Tachana HaRishona (First Station), the old Ottoman-era train station that has been transformed into a lovely shopping, dining and events venue for the entire family. I’d recently discovered some of the newer things added there (as it is still new, there are constantly new places opening there), and was thinking about getting a quick drink at a new beer-garden (of sorts) there.

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Today in Israeli History: Yom Kippur War

Syrian tanks on their sides in a defensive tank ditch.

Disabled Syrian tanks following the battle of the Valley of Tears

Okay, actually I should have written “Tomorrow in Israeli History,” but since I will be observing Yom Kippur, I am posting this today. As many of you know, this Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) marks the 40th anniversary of one of Israel’s more difficult wars — the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

You will most likely see many articles and posts about the war, and so I will not summarize the entire thing. But I would like to make a few points that may be less known or about which people may have some misconceptions.

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Jerusalem, Meet Jerusalem: Rehavia

International Style building in Rehavia, now a branch of Bank Leumi

The house of Dr. Paul Bonem, built in the International style by Leopold Krakauer in 1935

My first two Jerusalem, Meet Jerusalem walking tours focused on the early expansion of Jerusalem outside the walls of the Old City. Thus, I focused first on the first three neighborhoods built outside the walls in the mid 1800s. Then we moved on to the collection of micro-neighborhoods known as Nahalaot, a step towards the New City’s solidification overall.

The third tour in the series focuses on Rehavia, a neighborhood right smack in the heart of Jerusalem. In many ways, Rehavia epitomizes Jerusalem’s modernization. Built in the 1920s and 1930s, Rehavia was planned as a Garden Neighborhood, a reaction to urbanization that was first created in Europe. From its origins and still until today, Rehavia is a neighborhood populated by leaders in politics, culture and academia.

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Today in Israeli History: British Mandate

Herbert Samuel, T.E. Lawrence and others at Cairo Convention

British High Commissioner Herbert Samuel at the Cairo Conference

I am inaugurating here a new blog feature where I will periodically highlight something historical that is connected with the day on which I am writing the post. These will be fairly short, and hopefully will open windows onto interesting people and events throughout this land’s history.

Today I will start with the British Mandate era. Following World War I, with the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the British Mandate Period began here, lasting just over a quarter of a century until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. The start of the British Mandate was 93 years ago today, on July 1, 1920.

Often, when you hear Jews discussing the British Mandate Era here, they describe it in negative terms. People complain that the British were pro-Arab and anti-Jew. It is for this reason that they nicknamed the Jerusalem location of the High Commissioner’s mansion as the “Hill of Evil Counsel.” The name relates to a site which, according to Christianity, Judas met with the leaders of the Sanhedrin to betray Jesus. But that site was almost certainly not at this spot, as it is too far from Roman-era Jerusalem. Rather, the name stems from the fact that Jews here thought that the end of such a long period of Muslim rule would bring good things for their life. But when they discovered this was not 100% the case, they sarcastically nicknamed it after that event.

That same building, located a short 10-minue walk from my home, also gave its name to the next neighborhood over from me: Armon HaNatziv (Hebrew for “The Governor’s Mansion”). Nowadays, the building is occupied by the United Nations, so many Israelis might think the “Hill of Evil Counsel” name might once again be appropriate.

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A Photographic Tour of Tel Aviv

Pagoda House with convex mirror

A view of Tel Aviv’s famous “Pagoda House”

I find niche tours to be interesting, and it is for that reason that I offer a few specialty tours of my own. For example, being a big foodie, and knowing many of the unique food-related sites in this country, I love giving culinary tours. But while I have been taking photos virtually my whole life, and have even been paid for this work a bit, I would not say that I am an expert in the field of photography. I have more knowledge and skill than many, but not nearly as much as a true professional.

Thus, while I’d heard of people offering photography tours before, I never really offered one of my own. I’m sure I could do a decent job, but some things are better left to others. Thus, when I heard about Rinat Halon‘s photography tour in Tel Aviv, I decided to join her to see what it was all about.

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Israel Mystery Photo #20

Statue of a man on a horse

Who is this gentleman, and why is he here?

Time for another of my Israel Mystery Photo posts — a series of photos in which you as tourists try to recognize where in Israel each photo was taken, and I as tour guide explain and give more information on the previous mystery photo! I knew the last one would be a bit tough, since it is fairly new and not in a big tourist destination. But I wanted to use the photo to create an opportunity for me to tell you about a cool project.

But before I tell you about it, leave a guess about the current picture that you see to the left. It should be a fairly easy one for many of you, as it is in a well-trafficked area. But even for those who recognize it, I might still be able to give you a bit more info about it in my next such post!

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Visiting the Israeli Air Force Museum

Dark blue and white fighter jet

Israeli-made Kfir, based on the French Mirage 5

Ahead of next week’s Yom HaZikaron (Israeli Memorial Day) and Yom HaAtzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) holidays, I thought a post about the Israeli Air Force Museum would be appropriate. The Air Force Museum is located at Hatzerim Air Force Base, just southwest of the Negev city of Beersheva.

Though many people know about and visit the tank museum at Latrun, with its array of tanks from around the world, fewer people are aware of this museum with its collection of over 150 airplanes from Israel’s aviation history. Perhaps this is due to its more remote location, but a visit is well worth your time if the subject interests you, and it is a particularly good place for kids to learn a significant aspect of Israel’s history.

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Spring is Springing in Israel

Fresh produce in mahane yehuda market, Jerusalem

These mangold leaves were fresh in the shuk this past week

One of my favorite things about food in Israel is that almost all of our produce is grown locally and is only available when it is in season. While I sometimes miss being able to make any dish at any time of year, like I could in the States, I know this is more environmentally friendly and that the produce is better too. Plus, you get really excited when a fruit or vegetable that you haven’t seen all year comes back into season!

With that in mind, I wanted to start keeping track of the various things as they come into season at the shuk (outdoor market) here in Jerusalem. I’m not going to be doing this in a truly formal fashion, but I do want to do my best to at least increase the available information about what is in season when in Israel. And while I did find this series of posts from the author of the Israeli Kitchen blog up at the Green Prophet website, I figured I’d take it a drop further. Just another part of my exploration of culinary Israel!

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Israel Mystery Photo #19

Bridge, shaded on one side.

This is fairly new. Wondering who has seen it so far…

Now that the new website is up and running, I have been able to get back to posting on a more frequent basis. And in so doing, I want to finally get back to the Israel Mystery Photo posts I started a while back!

To refresh your memory, these are a series of pictures I’ve taken around Israel during my travels as a tour guide. You try to guess where the image was taken. So far this is just a “contest” for fun, but perhaps I’ll offer prizes in the future. This was the last Israel Mystery Photo I posted a while back.

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