10 places in Jerusalem that “package” tourists don’t know about
Jerusalem is one of the most popular tourist cities. In addition to the main attractions, in the new capital of Israel there are other interesting places that are usually not included in excursion programs …
Jerusalem is a city with almost three thousand years of history. Located at the crossroads of cultures, civilizations and religions, it is one of the most significant cities in the world. Thousands of foreigners come here daily, and travel agencies vying to offer excursions to holy places. That is why by noon in the Old City of Jerusalem crowds of tourists accumulate inseparably following the flags of the guides. To feel the special energy of the holy places, visit them until eight in the morning or after sunset, and in the afternoon explore the corners of the city, saturated with the spirit of antiquity, where there are never “package” tourists.
The Ethiopian monastery of Deir al-Sultan is located directly on the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The tiny cells of the monks, which are white clay huts with bright green doors, were built in the middle of the 19th century. It seems that time in the monastery stopped a century and a half ago. The monks living here are descendants of Ethiopian Christians who appeared in Jerusalem 1,500 years ago. Many of them are friendly and communicative. If you know English, they will be happy to tell you their life story. The monastery offers a beautiful view of the Armenian Church of St. Helena and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher with its blue domes. To win over monks, leave from 1 to 10 shekels as a donation. You can take pictures of cells, monks – only with permission. It is extremely undesirable to come to the monastery in revealing clothes and take pictures against the background of cells in playful poses.
Ethiopian monastery of Deir al-Sultan and the Coptic Church
To get into the Coptic church of the XII century, you need to leave the monastery, overcome several low stairs and enter the small arch in the wall. Near the entrance to the church there is another arch decorated with a cross, and the ninth stop of the Way of Jesus Christ to Calvary. From the entrance to the church you can photograph the main dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The interior of the Coptic chapel is also interesting: the icons in the “children’s” style are very different from the usual Orthodox and Catholic ones.
Previously, it was possible to climb the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher through a door located next to the main entrance, but now it has been closed from unauthorized visitors. There is a secret path that is still open for sophisticated travelers: it is most convenient to face the main entrance of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, turn right and go along St. Helena, then round the facade of the Church of Christ the Redeemer in pink stone, turn left – onto Beit Street Had Bad. An inconspicuous staircase leading up is hidden between the trade stalls on the left side. Near the stairs is the sign “Coptic orthodox patriarchate”. To communicate with the monks, it is better to come after 8-9 o’clock in the morning.
Cistern of St. Helena
A visit to the Coptic church and Ethiopian monastery can be combined with a visit to the ancient reservoir, shrouded in many legends. Archaeologists believe that the underground lake served as a reservoir in the pre-Christian period, but already 2000 years ago it was abandoned. Then, quarrying began to be carried out here, and the lake itself turned into a landfill. Now the reservoir is cleared of ancient rubbish and illuminated by artificial dim light, due to which the atmosphere of mystery of bygone times reigns in the dungeon. The stone arches respond with a loud echo to each sound. If you have good vocal skills, be sure to sing here a medieval ballad, a prayer in Latin or any lyric song.
Cistern of St. Helena
The dungeon is located right in the Coptic church. At the entrance to it, the caretaker sits and lets out to the ancient reservoir for 5 shekels. Tour groups are not usually brought here, but private enthusiastic guides make an exception. It is better to ask the caretaker if there are any groups in the dungeon: it can be difficult to get away with a lot of people on a narrow staircase.
In Jerusalem there is also a church belonging to the Ethiopian branch of Christianity. The religious community appeared in ancient Israel one and a half thousand years ago and has a rich history. The church building itself was built in the 19th century, but the originality of the ancient Ethiopian culture was reflected in its architecture and interior decoration. The church has a round shape: this is due to the fact that during the service, parishioners move in a circle around the main center. The walls inside are painted pink, white and blue and painted with frescoes, and old icons look like funny comics. Church services from the outside look like shamanistic rituals: smiling monks beat drums and burn torches.