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The two of us (my wife and I) generally take a vacation outside of the United States about once every other year. Our last trip, in 2008, was to the geographical region of the 'Levant', more commonly called the 'Land of Israel' or 'Holy Land'. The sites we saw there hold particular religious significance to three major religions: Judaism, Christianity and, Islam. A part of that sanctity stems from the significance of the City of Jerusalem where we spent most of our time. Here are a few of the photos I took while there. I've provided some explanation beneath each of these images.
The walled area of Jerusalem, which until the late nineteenth century formed the entire city, is now called the "Old City" and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982. It consists of four ethnic and religious sections: the Armenian, Christian, Jewish and Muslim Quarters. The Dome of the Rock, one of the world's great architectural masterpieces pictured in the center of this photograph, is not a mosque, but a Muslim shrine. Like the Ka'ba in Mecca, it is built over a sacred stone. This stone is believed to be the place from which the Prophet Muhammad ascended into heaven during his Night Journey to heaven. The cemetery in the lower left of the picture is the Mount of Olives. In the Book of Zechariah, the Mount of Olives is cited as the place where the dead will be resurrected in the days of the Messiah. There are an estimated 150,000 graves on the Mount.
This photo of the Western Wall Plaza, on the western flank of the Temple Mount in the Old City, shows the exposed section of the Western Wall (Kotel) and the "Dome of the Rock" above. The Wall functions as a retaining wall, built to support the extensive renovations that Herod the Great carried out around 19 BCE.
The Temple Mount, also called the "Noble Sanctuary" is one of the most contested religious sites in the world. Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority claim sovereignty over the site and it remains a key issue in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The ramp in the center of this picture is a wooden bridge that connects the Western Wall Plaza to the Mugrabi Gate. It was constructed in 2007 as a temporary pedestrian pathway after a landslide, in February, 2004, made the earthen ramp leading to the Mugrabi Gate unsafe.
Underneath the ramp is a gate dating back to the Second Temple period, known as "Barclay's Gate" (named after the American diplomat and researcher, Dr. James Barclay, who first identified the site in 1855). From the Temple Mount side there is access to the inner side of the gate via a staircase to the north of the Mugrabi Gate. These steps lead to a room known to Moslems as El-Buraq Mosque. This room was apparently part of the original or restored passage that led visitors to the Temple Mount from the entrance via the gate up to the level of the Temple Mount plaza.
The 11th Station in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, thought to be the site at which Jesus was nailed to the Cross. The altar of the Latin chapel was made in Florence, Italy in 1588 and given to the church by Cardinal Medici. Above the altar is a 12th-century mosaic of Jesus being nailed to the cross on the vault. The chapel is entered from a stairway located to the immediate right just inside the entrance to the Church.
Our trip to Jerusalem and The Land of Israel was inspiring to say the least. There's lots more to this set of photographs but I'm reluctant to impose by taking up too much space here....if you'd like to see more, let me know and, I'd be happy to post them.
YOUR PHOTOS ARE STUNNING. BY ALL MEANS, FEEL FREE TO ADD THESE AND/OR OTHERS TO THE GROUP COLLECTION.