The Old City is divided into four neighborhoods, which are named according to the ethnic affiliation of most of the people who live in them. These quarters form a rectangular grid, but they are not equal in size. The dividing lines are the street that runs from Damascus Gate in the north, to the Zion Gate in the south — dividing the city into east and west — and the street leading from the Jaffa Gate in the west, to Lion's gate in the east — which bifurcates the city north and south. Entering through the Jaffa Gate and travelling to David Street places the Christian Quarter on the left. On the right, as you continue down David Street, you'll enter the Armenian Quarter. To the left when you cross over Ha-Yehudim Street (Jews Street) is the Muslim Quarter, and to the right is the Jewish Quarter.
Click here to view this on a modern street map.
Click here for its hyperlink in Google maps.
Click here for further details about this overview of the city.
This Wikipedia link to the Old City of Jerusalem shows it to be just 0.9 square kilometers, a walled area having a 4 km circumference. At the time of Josephus when the walls were destroyed, it is recorded as 6½km. These current walls were built in 1538.
The original City of David lies directly south of these walls. Click here for an artist's model of this "stronghold of Zion", the City of Jebus in 1000 BC prior to King David's reign, after which it became known as this "City of David". Where David brought the Ark of the Covenant, and placed it in its own tabernacle (tent).
Click the appropriate number for four sketches of Jerusalem: One at the time of King David Two from the days of Solomon (in 935 BC) to its ransacking by Nebuchadnezzar in 506 BC Three at the time Nehemiah rebuilt its walls in 404 BC Four at the time of Christ in 30 AD.
While Jews outnumber Arabs in Jerusalem proper, inside the Old City Arabs outnumber Jews by nearly 10 to 1, there being about 37000 Arabs and only about 3800 Jews. Jews have been outnumbered here in fact for most of the past 2000 years, ever since Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
Click each image below to see better detail.
The northwestern sector of the Old City. This quarter includes the sites that, since 330 AD, commemorate the place where Jesus was buried and resurrected, and a few metres to the left of this tomb — and somewhat in contradiction of scripture as it is inside the old city walls — a small hill commemorating the place where he was crucified and died. Thus, this quarter includes the final stations of the cross (Via Dolorosa), the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Church of John the Baptist, Muristan (Hospital) Market, and the Church of the Redeemer. In the south west is Jaffa Gate, the main entrance to the city from the west
Its population is estimated at about 4,000 residents.
Now since the mid-nineteenth century, the Garden Tomb that is just north of the Damascus Gate and the old city walls — also having a skull-like hill (Golgotha) close by — has many agreeing that this was in actuality where Jesus was crucified, died, was buried and was resurrected. Click here for photos and a map.
The northeastern sector of the Old City. This quarter is the largest and most populous and extends from the Lions' Gate in the east, along the northern wall of the Temple Mount in the southeast, to the Western Wall route and the Damascus Gate (also known as Sha'ar Shkhem / Shechem Gate or Nablus Gate) in the northwest. The Via Dolorosa also starts in this quarter.
Its population is estimated at about 30,000 or more than 70% of the population.
Today, there are also many Israeli settler homes. It's a warren of alleyways (covered or exposed) and, as you move away from the tourist tack of the Via Dolorosa and immediate surrounds, you find butchers, clothing, bakers, sweet and spice stalls etc. Damascus and the less used St Stephen's (also known as Lion's) gates are the main access/egress points for this section. Damascus gate epitomises the melee of the quarter, with thousands of people leaving and entering the city throughout the day.
One of the most private parts of the Old City, the Armenian quarter in the south west is dominated by high walls with little opportunity to see beyond. The Cathedral of St James is a case in point — only the inner front entrance and inner courtyard are accessible to the general public.
Its population is estimated at about 2,400 residents.
The southeastern sector of the Old City. It stretches from the Zion Gate (midway along the southern wall of the Old City that lines the Armenian Quarter) along the Armenian Quarter on the west, up to ha-Shalshelet / Chain Street in the north, and extends to the Western Wall
Prior to 1967, this quarter was known as the Moroccan Quarter after 1193 when Saladin's son opened it up to Moroccan immigrants, and thus confined the Jews to a narrow neighborhood, Hayya al-Sharif, that allowed them access to the Wall along King David Street.
The quarter was taken over holus-bolus by Jordan in May 1948 thus cutting off this access. It was taken back by Israel along with the rest of the Old City in June 1967. Its population is currently estimated at about 3,000 residents plus an additional 1,500 yeshiva ("academic") students. The numbers have reduced greatly since the year 1900, when it was quite overcrowded at about 19,000 Jewish residents as Jews purchased houses, owning about 20% of the quarter. In 1948 most of these had moved west outside the old city walls, leaving just 2,000 who then left "en masse" with that takeover by Jordan. After 1967, about 650 Palestinian residents received compensation when they had their houses razed to build the Western Wall Plaza.
Today Jordan is the custodian for just the Temple Mount and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the focal point for Palestinians who are seeking for their capital to become East Jerusalem. Click here for some recent history.
Click here for an aerial view of the City of David, an area just south of this quarter. It shows the Gihon Spring, source of the city's water supply, located 67m below the top of the ridge on which the city was first built.
Below is a Google Map snapshot of the old city.
Click here to zoom in or zoom out.
Click here to see maps of Israel, and the surrounding countries.
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