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Hidden gems in Jerusalem *

Inside the Saint James Cathedral in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem. Photo: Claudius Prößer

Hidden gems in Jerusalem: Amazing unknown sites in the Old City of Jerusalem. Most tourists visit the Wailing Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. But the Old City of Jerusalem has much more to offer: there are a lot of special, unknown sites.

The Little Western Wall

Hakotel Hakatan which may be holier than the one you know. The Kotel Ha-Katan is a small portion of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, which is exposed (with no houses covering it).  It is located approximately 200 meters south of the Western Wall Plaza, and next to Sha’ar Ha-Barzel (the Iron Gate).  The Kotel Ha-Katan is close to the middle point of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, and it is the place second closest to the Holy of Holies (outside of the Temple Mount) where Jews can pray.  The closest location is within the Kotel Tunnels, and is exactly facing the Holy of Holies.

Prayer at Hakotel Hakatan Photo: Deror Avi

The Austrian Hospice

The ecclesiastical institution known as the “Austrian Hospice of the Holy Family” was established for pilgrims in 1854 by the Austrian Catholic Church in the Holy Land.

The Church of the Holy Family  is a Catholic church building located in the Austrian Hospice in the Old City of Jerusalem.

The church building originated as a pilgrim hostel of the Catholic Church created in 1853 by the Austrians in Jerusalem (Österreichisches Hospiz zur Heiligen Familie).

Jerusalem, chapel of the Austrian Hospice
Photo: Berthold Werner 

Today, the interior design is modern whilst retaining the 19th-century ambience. The guest house offers two options: dormitories (between 5-12 beds) or guest-rooms (single, double, or triple rooms). Catholic Liturgy is celebrated daily in the house-chapel.

The Oldest Tattooing Family in the World

Wasim Razzouk learned the art of tattooing from his father, Anton, who learned it from his father, Yacoub, who was taught by Jirius. In North Africa, the tradition of tattooing small crosses on the inside of the wrists dates back to the seventh century. Following the Arab invasion of Egypt, members of the Coptic community were tattooed to distinguish themselves from the conquerors. These tattoos began as a mark of persecution, but eventually became a part of the Egyptian-Christian identity. With his wooden tattoo stencil and ink, Jirius Razzouk played a vital role in continuing this tradition, and when he came to Jerusalem, he brought the custom with him.

Cathedral of Saint James, Jerusalem

The Cathedral of Saint James is a 12th-century Armenian church in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem, near the quarter’s entry Zion Gate. The cathedral is dedicated to two Christian saints: James, son of Zebedee (James the Greater) (one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus) and James the brother of Jesus (James the Just).

Byzantine streets in Jerusalem

Because of the need for thorough repair of the infrastructure in the region, the Jerusalem Development Authority initiated rehabilitation work on the infrastructure in this area in general, and next to the entrance to David Street (known to tourists as the Stepped-Street with the shops) in particular. Thus it is possible for both archaeologists and the public to catch a rare glimpse of what is going on beneath the flagstone pavement that is so familiar to us all.

From the Madaba Map, Dr. Ofer Sion, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, surmised that the place where the infrastructure should be replaced is where a main road passes according to the map. After removing a number of archaeological strata, at a depth of c. 4.5 m below today’s street level, the large flagstones were discovered that paved the street. The flagstones, more than a meter long, were found cracked from the burden of centuries. A foundation built of stone was unearthed alongside the street on which a sidewalk and a row of columns, which have not yet been revealed, were founded.  It is wonderful to see that David Street, which is teeming with so much life today, actually preserved the route of the noisy street from 1,500 years ago.

Elia Photo Shop

Business owner George Kahvedjian is the son of legendary Armenian photographer Elia Kahvedjian who beginning in 1924 documented the history of Jerusalem through the lens of his camera. In the shop you can acquire a wide range of rare historical photographs of the Old City from before the Six Day War in 1967.

George Kahvedjian photographs capture individuals in the midst of prayer, pilgrims, Old City vendors, moments of co-existence and the streets and alleys of Jerusalem. George’s book, ‘Jerusalem Through My Father’s Eyes’ can be purchased as well.

Abu Khalaf Oriental Fabric

Bilal Abu Khalaf’s store sells imported Syrian fabrics to Hasidic Jews, Christian clergymen and Muslim imams. A Christian, a Muslim and a Jew enter a fabric store. They run their hands over the goods, chat cordially with the salesman and among themselves. It sounds like the start of a bad joke, but it’s actually the reality that has characterized the Abu Khalaf family shop, in Jerusalem’s Old City, for the past 18 years. The proprietor is Bilal Abu Khalaf, 53, a third-generation fabric merchant.

The View at the corner of St. Mark and Habad Streets

An underground water pool dating back 2000 years

About Israel and You

Cameling in the holy land since forever