From the days of King Solomon to the 21st century, the history of Jerusalem is a mosaic of people, faiths and nationalities. It’s a melting-pot of spirituality, rich culture and ancient tradition.
Founded in 1004BC by King David, the city is home to some of the most significant religious sites for Jews, Muslims and Christians, including the Western Wall and Temple Mount, the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Whether you approach Easter in Jerusalem from a position of faith or not, visiting the holy city is an intensely spiritual experience that you'll never forget.
The Easter story is one of death, redemption and transformation, and nowhere is this story more profoundly experienced than on the Via Dolorosa (‘Way of Sorrows’) and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The Via Dolorosa, where Jesus Christ is said to have walked to his crucifixion, contains 9 Stations of the Cross, each representing an aspect of Jesus’ journey towards death. The remaining 5 stations at the culmination are within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which Christians believe is the site of Jesus’ burial and resurrection.
The Calvary chapel in the Church marks the spot where the cross of Jesus stood. There is a crack in the rock said to have been caused by the earthquake when Jesus died.
To the left of the Stone of Anointing is a small Armenian shrine where the Armenians believe the 3 Marys stood during the crucifixion.
In the small chapel located behind the tomb of Jesus is an exposed rock, believed to be the actual tomb of Jesus.
People from all over the world and all religions join to walk with each other along the Via Dolorosa and to light candles, pray and worship in their own way in the Church. With thousands of other pilgrims, you can retrace the footsteps of Jesus Christ along the route and experience his last journey.
The Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall, is a potent symbol of Judaism and the Jewish people.
The Wall’s ongoing survival in Jerusalem’s violent history reflects the endurance of the Jewish race through thousands of years of adversity and persecution.
The Western Wall is also a place of celebration as many Bar Mitzvahs are held here.
Every crack in the wall is filled with hundreds of small notes containing the wishes and prayers of the faithful asking for favours or forgiveness. The faithful believe that petitions in the wall are more likely to be heard by God.
The atmosphere here is one of intense spirituality and peace. Many people come to pray to their own god or simply meditate. It’s a place to experience stillness, a sense of history, and connection with the past.
The Al-Aqsa mosque in Temple Mount, located in the Muslim quarter of the Old City, is the 3rd holiest site in Islam, where Muslims believe the prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven. It’s the central focus of the Muslim community in Jerusalem and prayers and worship are held here every day.
The mosque, built in the 7th century, has been rebuilt many times by groups including the Templars and the Mamelukes. Some older elements have survived, including a mihrab (a niche in the wall of a mosque that indicates the direction of Mecca) decorated in 1187 by Saladin, and mosaics that date from 1035.
Opposite the mosque is the Dome of the Rock, a Muslim shrine with a magnificent golden dome and octagonal blue walls of colourful mosaics built in AD 691.
Currently, non-Muslims may visit the area but are not permitted to pray or to enter the mosque. Visiting Muslims must prove they are of the faith, usually by reciting a verse of the Koran.
If you are visiting the mosque area it’s best to dress and behave appropriately – no shorts, cover your shoulders and head and avoid any physical affection.
Temple Mount is also a sacred spot for Jews because it once housed two Jewish temples. Three times a day, every day for thousands of years, Jewish prayers are directed towards this spot, from which, according to Kabbalistic tradition, all prayers ascend to heaven.
This historic site, with its ancient cemetery containing many tombs of biblical figures, also has incredible panoramic views of the Old City and the Wall. The site of the Mount of Olives has religious significance in both old and new testaments; many of those who believe in the resurrection believe it will begin there.
As well as being the site of many of Jesus’ sermons, it is also where Jesus is said to have ascended to heaven.
At the foot of the Mount of Olives, this landmark is most famous as the place where Jesus prayed and his disciples slept the night before his crucifixion.
Its famous garden of ancient olive trees is among the oldest in the world, but is not, as many believe, from the time of Jesus.
The memorial is a stark reminder of the history of the Holocaust and the resilience and courage of those who survived.
There are many trees planted to remember the Righteous Dead, including one for Oscar Schindler who is buried in Jerusalem.