What other city in the world do you know where you can find an enormous basement in someone’s house which housed Jews 2000 years ago, at the time of the Temple, a modern Yeshiva building with an archaeological museum in the basement with the houses of priests who served the Temple, modern new shops in a 1000 year old Crusader building, a panoramic view of the Old City and the Mount of Olives, an authentic wall belonging to the Temple, and a variety of synagogues?
The Jewish Quarter is the 3rd largest of Jerusalem’s Old City quarters, and 600 families live there. During the War of Independence in 1948, the Jewish quarter, along with the rest of the Old City came under Jordanian control. Only after 1967 was the quarter restored and, during reconstruction, some of Jerusalem’s most interesting and important archaeological remains were discovered.
At the centre of the Jewish quarter, there is a big square from which access to every corner of the quarter is fast and easy.
Near the square, in Rehov Hayehudim, you will find the Cardo Maximus, which is ancient Jerusalem’s main street. It was built in the Byzantine era and you can see the entire 22.5 meters built 1,500 years ago.
In the covered part of the Cardo, you can see a mosaic that is a copy of the Byzantine Madaba Map that is in Jordan and is considered to be the oldest map in the world with Jerusalem on it. You can see the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the centre of the Old City on the map, as well as other churches and structures that still exist today, such as the Damascus Gate.
The souvenir and Judaica shops in the Cardo were built inside the original shops that already existed at the time of the Crusaders in the 12th century.
The Assyrians come to Jerusalem
The wall of Plugat Hakotel Street is one of the remains of the 1st Temple. It was built by King Ezekiel whose rule over Jerusalem was threatened by the Assyrians in 704 B.C.
The wall is 8 meters high and 7 meters wide, which is why it came to be called “the Broad Wall”. You can see where the wall stood if you look at the nearby picture. The wall is clearly mentioned in the Book of Isaiah:
"And ye have numbered the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses have ye broken down to fortify the wall. Ye made also a ditch between the two walls for the water of the old pool: but ye have not looked unto the maker thereof, neither had respect unto him that fashioned it long ago." Isaiah 22
The ancient pool is none other than the Siloam Pool. The Bible states that Ezekiel destroyed the houses in the area and fortified the Pool and, indeed, here is archaeological proof of the biblical passage!
In Shoni Halachot Street, near the Broad Wall, you can see the Israeli Tower, also a remnant of the 1st Temple, and an impressive model of the Temple and of Jerusalem during that period. Recommended!
We return to the big square and continue southwards on Beit El Street towards Batei Machase Square. A few yards before the square, there is a monument to the 48 people from the quarter who died in the War of Independence. Their bodies were buried here in 1948 and after 1967, their bones were transferred to a mass grave on the Mount of Olives. One of those who died was the youngest IDF soldier ever: Nissim Gini, a 10 year-old child.
A two room apartment with a water cistern in excellent condition
The Batei Machase Square was built because of the great population density within the City walls and the housing shortage and the sanitation problems in the Jewish quarter. In 1857, the land was bought by rich Jews who offered free housing in high standard 2-room apartments that had a kitchen, a tiled courtyard, water cisterns and more.
The façade is impressive
The Batei Hamachase Square was the last stronghold of the defenders of the Jewish quarter in ’48 and they held a roll call in front of the Jordanian army before they were transferred either into Western Jerusalem or into Jordanian captivity. Near the square, you can go down into the apse of the Byzantine Nea (new) Church which also appears on the Madaba Map.
A short walk will lead us to the 4 Sephardi synagogues in Mishmarot Hakehuna Street.
At the beginning of the 17th century, the descendents of the Jews expelled from Spain built a synagogue in the name of Rabbi Yohanan Ben Zakai.
The synagogue has 2 Holy Arks. During the War of Independence, the building was destroyed and it was reconstructed after the Six-Day War in 1967. The Shofar (ram’s horn) and the jug of oil over the upper window on the southern wall replace those that were destroyed and dated, according to tradition, back to the time of the Temple. The Torah reading platform at the centre, as well as the seating arrangement, are typical of Sephardic synagogues.
A connecting door leads to the Elijah the Prophet Synagogue. According to tradition, the people attending the synagogue one Yom Kippur realized that one person was missing to make up the quorum of ten men required. Suddenly an old man appeared just in time, and he disappeared after the service.
The legend goes that it was Elijah the Prophet. “His” seat was transferred to a little cave in the northern corner of the synagogue but was unfortunately stolen during the War of Independence, and what is there now is a replica. The magnificent wooden Torah reading platform was brought here from Italy after the 2nd World War.
The 3rd synagogue is called Kahal Zion. Above the entrance, there is a “naked” piece of wall in memory of the destruction of the Temple.
The 4th synagogue is the Istanbuli synagogue. It was built in the 18th century by Jews who came from Turkey and is also refurbished. The Ark is from Turkey and the Torah reading platform from Italy.
There are other tourist sites in the Old City, all of which are very close to one another and are easily accessible from the central square, including the Wailing Wall plaza.