Haggle with vendors at Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market, view Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, get up close with Arabian camels and stroll through the Old City Gates to experience morning prayers at the Western Wall.
Mount of Olives
The Mount of Olives, named for the olive groves that once covered its slopes, is a mountain ridge that has served as a Jewish cemetery for over 3,000 years. Believed to be the site for the resurrection of the dead when the Messiah returns, today the Mount is a pilgrimage site for Catholics, Jews, Protestants and Eastern Orthodox. Some landmarks on the Mount include Garden of Gethsemane, Tomb of the Virgin Mary, Beit Orot, Tombs of Absalom, Chapel of the Ascension, Brigham Young University, and Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene.
Jesus is said to have spent time on the Mount including his ascension into Heaven. During the days of the Second Temple, the start of each new month was celebrated on the Mount. After the Temple’s destruction, Jews celebrated Sukkot on the Mount to view the Temple site. After 1948, Jews and Israelis were barred from the Mount and thousands of graves were desecrated; following the Six Day War, the cemetery was restored.
Established in the 1920s, Carmel Market is Tel Aviv’s largest open air market and an integral part of the city. Known as Shuk HaCarmel in Hebrew, Carmel Market is filled with vibrant noises, colors and smells and is a favorite spot for tourists and locals alike. Boutique stalls with artisanal beers, Middle Eastern fare, local roasted coffee and fresh pressed juices sit next to vendors selling flowers, clothing, electronics and home accessories. Tuesdays and Fridays are its most popular days as local artists sell handmade crafts across the way at Nahalat Binyamin.
Old City Gates
The city of Jerusalem is a walled in city with gates built during different time periods. Until 1887, the gates would be closed before sunset and opened at sunrise. There are nine open gates: New Gate built in 1887, Herod’s Gate built in 1875, Damascus Gate, Dung Gate, and Lion’s Gate all built in 1538, Tanner’s Gate built in the twelfth century and, Jaffa Gate and Zion Gate, leading to the Jewish Quarter, were built in the 1540s. The ninth gate, the Excavators’ Gate, was built in 705 BC and destroyed during an earthquake. It was walled up during the Ottoman Empire but rebuilt in 1968. The sealed gates are the Golden Gate built in the sixth century and, Huldah Gate and Single Gate, leading to the underground area of Temple Mount, both built during the time of King Herod.
The Western Wall, also called the Kotel, is a small segment of an ancient retaining wall encasing the Temple Mount. The Wall faces a plaza while the rest lies behind structures in the Muslim Quarter who also view the Wall as an Islamic holy site. The visible layer of the Wall is made of limestone each weighing two to eight tons and it is customary to walk backwards away from the Wall as a sign of reverence. Large crowds gather at the Wall on Tisha B’Av to commemorate the Temple’s destruction. The practice of placing prayers on paper into crevices of the Wall dates back to 1743. Over a million prayers are placed in the Wall each year and others can email prayers that organizations place in the Wall for them. The plaza facing the Wall is used for Bar Mitzvahs and Israeli Defense Force ceremonies. Tens of thousands of Jews worship the Wall each year.
The Wall was erected upon First Temple foundations during the Second Temple Period. The Second Temple was destroyed by Romans in 70 CE. Beginning during Roman rule, Jews were barred from the Wall and would view it from the Mount of Olives. Many attempts were made to purchase the Wall and the Moroccan Quarter nearby. The right for Jews to enter the area and pray at the Wall was confirmed during the British Mandate which led to friction between Jews and Muslims. After the 1948 War, Jordan expelled Jews from Jerusalem until they regained control during the Six Day War. After establishing control of the site, the Moroccan Quarter was razed to create a plaza to hold over 400,000 people. Recent restorations include a library, heat, air conditioning, oil-burning light and a women’s prayer section.
Camels were once a major part of trade and travel in the Middle East which eventually led to the Silk Road trade route into Asia. Perfectly adapted for desert life, camels can go many months without water and have multiple layers of eyelids and eyelashes to protect from sand. Camels can be found on five continents; however, wild camels are largely endangered. Camel racing has become popular in some Arab countries.