The Jewish Quarter

January 10th 2015

The Jewish Quarter

The amount of Jewish history concentrated into the 14,000 square yards of Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter is simply astonishing. There is so much to see in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, often referred to as simply “the Rova,” that it can easily take a few days to get one’s fill. Here are some highlights.

Nearly every tourist to Israel comes to the Jewish Quarter to see the Kotel (Western Wall), often to place a note in the cracks of the ancient stones, or recite a prayer. The Second Temple of Judea was destroyed by the Roman Emperor Titus in the year 70 CE, and the Kotel is actually a remnant of the western retaining wall of the Temple Mount where the First and Second Temples stood. It is widely considered the most holy Jewish site in the world.

It’s worthwhile to book a tour of the reconstructed landmark Hurva Synagogue, which has been built and rebuilt in the Jewish Quarter three times since the 18th century. If you’re able to climb the metal steps to the top, don’t miss the chance to experience the unusual acoustics up there.

The Cardo was originally a Roman commerce street, dating back to the 2nd century. After the Romans destroyed the Temple and the city of Jerusalem, Emperor Hadrian rebuilt the city and renamed it Aelia Capitolina. In its new incarnation, Jerusalem resembled a Roman City, with wide avenues and narrower side alleys. The main avenue became known as the Cardo, and it was here that traders, residents and pilgrims did business and traversed the urban center.

The Cardo you see today was excavated by Israeli archaeologists in the 1970s and now includes a covered shopping area that extends under the homes of the Old City. It features souvenir shops, art galleries and Judaica stores. Stroll through the art galleries to find images of the Cardo in its prime. Also look for a copy of the Madaba map of the Middle East, located under the street level, which shows the original 2nd century Cardo. The original floor mosaic on which it’s based in located in a church in Madaba, Jordan.

Other highlights in the Jewish Quarter include the Four Sephardic Synagogues, the First Temple wall, the Southern Wall excavations, the Kotel Tunnels and the Burnt House from the Second Temple period.