The top five Jewish sites outside the Old City of JerusalemWhile the Old City of Jerusalem may arguably contain the world's highest density of historical and religious sites, the land outside those walls is no desert, at least figuratively speaking. Even though some of these landmark sites, holy or otherwise of note to Jews, may not be able to match up against the Temple Mount, Western Wall tunnels or Hurva Synagogue in sheer religious and archaeological value, they still qualify as musts for any Jew visiting the greater Holy City. Here is GoJerusalem's top five Jewish sites outside the Old City.
Sometimes you've just got to leave those old walls behind. While the Old City of Jerusalem may arguably contain the world's highest density of historical and religious sites, the land outside those walls is no desert, at least figuratively speaking. Even though some of these landmark sites, holy or otherwise of note to Jews, may not be able to match up against the Temple Mount, the Southern Wall excavations, Western Wall tunnels or Hurva Synagogue in sheer religious and archaeological value, they still qualify as musts for any Jew visiting the greater Holy City. Here is GoJerusalem's top five Jewish sites outside the Old City.
The Great Synagogue
In his landmark work Alteneuland, Theodor Herzl famously envisioned Friday night services in the rebuilt Temple. While there is no Third Temple to speak of as yet, Jerusalem is home to what may be considered the next best thing, the Great Synagogue. The inside of the towering structure contains an ornate chamber in the old world style, with seating for hundreds, and is also home to a collection of Jewish artifacts. Head to the synagogue for Friday night services which, though squarely Orthodox, are sung quite unorthodoxly by an all-male choir.
City of David
Most visitors to Jerusalem are surprised to find out the moniker "Old City" is something of a misnomer. While part of today's Old City stretches back to ancient times, "the original Old City" is actually mostly outside the walls to the east (opposite the Dung Gate) in an area now known as the City of David. The walls you see today were mostly erected in Ottoman times. It was here, on what archeologists call the Ophel, that King David established the eternal Jewish capital. Today it is a mixed Jewish-Muslim neighborhood, but below the homes, extensive archeological work is being carried out to uncover the city as it stood 3000 years ago. Visitors can now see the ancient buildings (including what archaeologists believe to be David's Palace) and tour the original water tunnels.
David's Tomb/Mount Zion
King David didn't only live outside today's Old City walls, he also may be buried there. While archaeologists are not convinced that "King David's Tomb" on Mount Zion (located not far from Zion Gate) actually contains the body of King David, tradition holds that that is his grave. From 1948 to 1967, the site was the holiest ancient Jerusalem site accessible to Jews, who made it into something like the Western Wall is today. Following the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967, and the opening of the Old City to visitors of all faiths, the attraction may have lost some popularity, but it is no less significant. The tomb sits on top of what is known as Mount Zion, the holy place made famous by many prayers and Rastafarian tunes.
Mount of Olives
King David isn't alone in being buried outside the Old City. Just opposite the Kidron Valley is the Mount of Olives, the oldest continuously used Jewish cemetery in the world. For eons, Jews have been buried on the mountain. Why is it such hot real estate? Many believe that when the Messiah comes, the dead will rise and travel to the Old City, and a plot on this hill guarantees them the shortest trip and therefore first dibs on Third Temple visitation.
A bit further away but also ensconced in every Jew's heart is Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial and museum on the city's western edge. The museum, a must for tourists, visiting dignitaries, soldiers and locals alike, tells the tragic story of the genocide of six million Jews. The sprawling site also contains several memorial gardens, the heartbreakingly large Valley of the Communities, and is the world's foremost research center for and archive of Holocaust scholarship.
While the Old City may be the center of Jewish life, several Jewish neighborhoods are worth a visit, if only to wander around. These include Meah Shearim, a visit to which which is like stepping back in time to the Old World; Nachlaot, an old blue-collar-Kurdish-turned-hippie-haven that includes the Machane Yehuda market, and the artsy Yemin Moshe neighborhood.
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