The 3 major monotheistic world religions – Christianity, Islam, and Judaism – all consider Jerusalem to be a sacred place. Inside the emotionally charged city, each of these religions has sites they consider sacred and central to their faith. What are the sacred places to Christians, Muslims, and Jews in Jerusalem, and where are they located? Which ones can you visit on your trip to Israel? What does this all mean for modern day Jerusalem? Keep reading to find out.
Is Jerusalem a Holy City?
Today, Jerusalem is a large metropolitan city that is the capital of modern day Israel. It’s bustling, diverse, and lively. At its heart is the Old City of Jerusalem, walled in by 500-year-old Ottoman design. Inside the walls of the Old City is where Jerusalem turns from a regular place to a sacred one. The Old City is about one kilometer squared, and contains the most holy places for the three world religions.
While each religion has its own holy site, thes three religions – Christianity, Islam, and Judaism – each revere the Temple Mount. This is the home of the ‘foundation stone’, the site of the biblical story of the Binding of Isaac, one of the first stories in the Bible.
Jerusalem’s Significance for Jews
The oldest of these three religions, Jerusalem is mentioned many times throughout the Hebrew bible. The most well known holy site to Jewish people in Jerusalem’s Old City is the Western Wall. This is the last remnant of the Second Temple from the Hebrew Bible, and sees thousands of pilgrims daily.
Next to the Western Wall Plaza is the Western Wall Tunnels. Here, you’ll take an incredible journey deep underneath today’s Old City. You’ll see more original stone from thousands of years ago, while learning all about the Jewish history of Jerusalem. Just a few minutes outside the old city is the historic City of David, or Ir David. This archaeological site is dedicated to uncovering remains from the original settlement described throughout the Bible. Artifacts have been discovered from as far back as the Early Bronze Age in the City of David – that’s almost 6,000 years ago!
Soak up the Jewish history of what lies beneath the stones of the Old City in this Underground Jerusalem and City of David Day Tour of Jewish Jerusalem.
Jewish Modern Jerusalem
There are countless other Jewish attractions around Jerusalem, both in the Old and New City. The modern day city of Jerusalem is home to thousands of religious Jewish Israeli people. Jerusalem is around 60% Jewish, and of that 60%, over half of Jewish people consider themselves Orthodox. About a quarter of Jerusalem’s Jewish residents are Ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi. When you walk around the city you’ll see a huge amount of diversity among its residents, as well as quite literally hundreds of synagogues dispersed throughout the alleyways of the city.
One of the most special things a Jewish person can do in Israel is have their Bar or Bat Mitzvah at the Western Wall. Learn more about a Bar/Bat Mitzvah family tour package in Israel. Or, contact us about creating your own custom tour of all the most important Jewish spots in Jerusalem with an expert guide. Looking to experience more Jewish history in Israel? See all our Jewish heritage tour packages.
Jerusalem’s Significance for Christians
Jerusalem is home to one of the most important places in the Holy Land in the Christian religion: the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This church is built around two incredible places: the Calvary, or Golgotha, the crucifixion site; and lower down in the church in a different area, the remnants of the tomb where it’s thought Jesus was buried and resurrected. This special church sits in the Christian Quarter of the Old City, which is the largest of the four quarters. The Old City has the marked Via Dolorosa path that Jesus walked to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Both the Christian quarter and the Armenian Quarter are dotted with beautiful monasteries, churches, and seminaries.
Outside the Old City, there are many hidden gems for Christians in Jerusalem. In East Jerusalem you’ll find so many revered locations mentioned in the New Testament. Such as: Place of the Ascension, Pater Noster, Mount of Olives, Garden of Gethsemane, and the Church of All Nations. Delve into all these Christian landmarks of the Old City and East Jerusalem in this guided Christian Jerusalem day tour.
On the opposite side of the city, nestled in the beautiful forest neighborhood Ein Karem, there are monasteries and holy sites ascribed to Mary, Mother of Jesus. There are also lots of lesser-known but incredible sites for Christians. For example the Saint Andrews Church in Jerusalem’s First Station complex, and the ancient Monastery of the Cross near Nachlaot neighborhood. Intrigued? Speak to us about a private Jerusalem tour with an expert guide in Christianity to see all the city has to offer for Christians.
For Christians exploring Israel for a few days, we’ve got you covered with package tours ranging from 4-6 days that are eye-opening and jam-packed with adventure. On our 4 Day Christian Tour, visit important cities like Bethlehem, Nazareth, and the holy city of Jerusalem in a sensible timeframe. Enjoy visiting prominent Christian sites from northern to southern Israel on our 5 Day Christian Tour, and if you want to utilize a week’s worth of sightseeing, consider our 6 Day Christian Tour.
Check out all our Christian Israel tours.
Jerusalem’s Significance for Muslims
Upon the Temple Mount (also known as al-Haram al-Sharif) sits the Dome of the Rock, or the al-Aqsa Mosque, and it is one of the holiest sites in Islam. Alongside the shared significance of the Foundation Stone, this is the place where Muslim scripture describes the Prophet Muhammad’s Night Journey starting from. The iconic mosque is also the oldest surviving work of Islamic Architecture in the world. Thanks to new peace agreements in the Middle East, more Muslim visitors than ever from neighboring countries are able to make pilgrimage to the third-holiest site in Islam, following Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. Read more about taking a package tour of Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Exiting the Dome of the Rock, you will find countless mosques nestled in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. This is the biggest and most residential of the four quarters. Jerusalem’s population is about 38% Muslim, making it the most diverse city in terms of religion in Israel. Most Muslims in Jerusalem live in East Jerusalem, which is connected to the Old City via Damascus Gate.
The Dome of the Rock and Temple Mount are at the heart of the conflict that divides Jerusalem, and subsequently are crucial places to understand on your trip to Israel. Tours of the Temple Mount complex operate every Wednesday. Reserve your spot here, or speak to us about arranging a private tour of East and West Jerusalem, visiting significant and holy Muslim landmarks along the way.
Is there More to Jerusalem than Religion?
Despite the plethora of religious landmarks in the holy city, there’s much more to Jerusalem than this. Though, whether you’re religious or not, these landmarks are sure to be incredibly interesting for any traveler. Check out this one day walking tour of Jerusalem, where you’ll spend your morning in the Old City seeing all these incredible landmarks of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, then spend your afternoon in the modern day metropolis.
Jerusalem is just one small slice of what Israel has to offer for travelers. See our first time in Israel guide, and our pick of the top 10 tours to join in Israel to find out more about this fascinating country. But one thing is for sure, you’ll never forget your first visit to Jerusalem.