From Mount Zion to the Jaffa Gate

A diverse tour - from the Dormition to the Jaffa Gate - in the area next to the Ben Hinnom Valley

To one side is the Jaffa Gate and the Tower of David, and to the other is the Jerusalem Cinematheque and the Scottish Church, and in the middle - Sultan’s Pool. A diverse tour - from the Dormition to the Jaffa Gate -in the area next to the Ben Hinnom Valley.

Dormition Abbey, "officially" known by its Latin name, Dormitio Beatae Mariae Virginis, was built as a memorial to the Virgin Mary. According to Catholic tradition this is where Mary fell into eternal sleep (dormition is from the Latin word for sleep) and ascended to heaven.

The church was built when Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm II received the land as a gift from the Turkish Sultan Abd Al Hamid II, in honor of his visit to the Holy Land in 1898 (The historic visit is significant to Jews because Theodore Herzl tried to meet with the Kaiser).

A pleasant coffee shop and souvenir shop greet visitors as they enter through the gate (there is also a public restroom). A left turn takes you into the central hall. The central cupola (main dome) faces east, in the direction of the rising sun. An impressive mosaic on the floor contains three interlocking rings in the center representing the Holy Trinity - the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

There are also additional rings surrounding the center in which one can read the names of Jewish prophets and Christian saints. In the outer ring are symbols of the zodiac.

Altars are positioned on both sides of the cupola. On the left, in the center, is the image of John the Baptist standing in the River Jordan with a billy goat on his body and a snake around his walking stick. (The location in Jordan, which today is believed to be the site of the baptism, does not have an actual historical basis).

Stairs lead to the lower level of the church, the "Crypt." In the center there is a statue of Mary, and above her other important women from the bible such as, Ruth the Moabite, Eve, Miriam, Yael the wife of Hever the Kenite, and Judith and Delilah holding Sampson’s hair. The altars that surround the statue were donated by various countries. The ivory altar was in fact donated by the Ivory Coast.

The man in the wall

From the exit of the church take a left turn and walk between the walls of two cemeteries, continuing almost until the end of the western wall of the church. Just before the end on the right there is a tombstone with Armenian writing sunken into the wall.

Long-time Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek had the wall restored. On the right hand side of the wall there is an Armenian cemetery where

Armenians killed by the Turks during World War I are buried

Walking up to the steps will lead us to the entrance of an additional cemetery. The symbol seen here made up of the letters T and O, is called a "Taphos," or Greek for the Tomb - the symbol of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre.

To the right of the cemetery gate there is another large building, the American College. It is rumored that the young George Habash studied here, later forming the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror organization. From the roof of the College you get a great view of summer-time concerts in Sultan’s Pool down below.

The steps lead to a dirt road and to the southwestern corner of the old city wall; to the west is the new city. Below is the Valley of Hinnom, where Judean King Achaz Ben Yotam sacrificed his eldest son to the Canaanite god "Molech": "Moreover he offered in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire, according to the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out before the children of Israel" (II Chronicles 28:3).

Today, the valley is known as Sultan’s Pool, the popular summertime concert venue and home of the Hutzot Hayotzer artists' village and annual arts and crafts fair.

At the time of King Herod (the Second Temple period), the area was known as the "Snake Pool." Its shape and name come from the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, who built the current walls around the Old City.

Across the wadi is the Jerusalem Cinematheque that houses a movie theatre and a coffee shop with an astounding view named "Cocoa."

The Scottish invasion

Above the Cinematheque on the other side of the street is the Scottish Church St. Andrews, built in 1927. Attached to it is the British consulate.

There is a strange and unreal story told about the building: In 1987 a female educational assistant in the IDF was walking with her soldiers in the area around the church. She saw that there was a good view from the roof and climbed up. When she tried to climb down she was arrested by two of the consulate’s guards who charged her with a military invasion of Scotland.

The consulate that is attached to this church is extra-territorial belonging to Britain. This story has a happy ending, and everyone returned to their respective borders. No one knows if the story actually happened, but this is how modern legends are born.

The church was built by Scottish immigrants for Holy Land pilgrims. The Hollywood version of the story is that before his death, the 14th century Scottish King Robert the Bruce (a historical figure appearing in the Mel Gibson movie "Braveheart") wanted his heart to be buried in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. But during the journey from Scotland the messenger carrying the King’s heart died.

Today, there is brass tablet sunken into the floor of the church as a memorial to the king and his heart. Today the church has a nice coffee shop with good food, and in the courtyard are burial structures from the first Temple period. If you are in the area - don’t miss out.

Beneath the complex and adjacent to the main road is the Menachem Begin Heritage Center.

And thank you Titus

When looking over Sultan’s pool you can see the neighborhood of Mishkenot

Shaananim and the Montefiore Windmill. The neighborhood was built in 1859 and funded by the 19th century British philanthropist Moshe Montefiore. Yemin Moshe, the adjacent neighborhood to the north which stands out with its red roofs, was built in memory of Montefiore in the last decade of the 19th century. Further to the north are the YMCA tower and the King David Hotel.

Back towards the Old City, our path continues north towards Jaffa Gate and the Tower of David. A careful look along the wall reveals three sections: The first part of the wall is clean and at the height of its glory. Further along it is covered halfway with weeds and near the end a lumpy river of earth covers it halfway. The covered section is a remnant of the wall from the days of the Jordanian rule, when the walls were covered in earth. The walls were revealed and restored the walls after the Six Day War.

Across the road, towards the west, in what used to be the Mamilla neighborhood is David’s Village. The area was built early 1990’s and is one of the most expensive addresses in Israel.

Although the landmark is known as the Tower of David, the legendary king never visited the site. The fortress was built by King Herod in the first century BCE, almost 1000 years after King David’s reign. The size and beauty of the fortress convinced Titus, who destroyed Jerusalem in 70 CE, to leave it intact.

There were various immigrants and rulers that had already by the time of the pilgrims become confused about the builder of the fortress and attributed it to King David. Today it serves mainly as a museum of the history of Jerusalem.

A poet, a kaiser and a general

For thousands of years, Jaffa Gate symbolized the main road from Jerusalem to Jaffa. The path followed today’s Jaffa Road and continued south towards present-day Ramle and Rishon Lezion, through the location of the modern-day Tzrifin military base to Jerusalem Boulevard in Jaffa and eventually reaching Jerusalem Gate in Old Jaffa.

Aside from the "practical" name, Jaffa Gate has had many names in its long history, including King David’s Gate, Bab Daud a-Nabi, a name made popular during the Middle Ages and also Bab al-Halil, which means Abrahams Gate or the Hebron Gate – the south-facing path leads to that city.

Here, according to legend, the famous poet, Rabbi Yehuda Halevy met his death after traveling from Egypt. According to the story he was crushed by a knight on horseback when he knelt to kiss the ground before entering the gate of the city. Here the wall was also breached by Kaiser Wilhelm II.

After it was opened for the Kaiser, the gate closed again until 1917 - when General Allenby entered the city. Tradition holds that he dismounted and crossed the gate on foot. The story is also told that he had to do it a number of times as the photographer documenting the event had experienced some technical difficulties.

Hanging on the left side of the gate are two ceramic signs that tell the history of the city over the last hundred years. The bottom sign is divided into two sections - one is written in Arabic and English, the languages used by the Turks, therefore this sign is from before 1917.

The top section, probably a later addition, is in Hebrew and was added after the six day war. The interim period, the British Mandate, appears on the second sign that is written in English, Arabic and Hebrew.