Dome of the Rock and Church of the Redeemer

I’d been wanting to go to the Dome of the Rock on Mount Moriah/Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary for months, and when Ted suggested that I ask some of my students to take the instructors, it seemed like I’d found the best way to visit.

In Judaism, the Temple Mount is where G-d rested, gathered dust to create Adam, and called Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. The two Jewish Temples were built here as well around the Foundation Stone. In Islam, the Noble Sanctuary is the third holiest site for Muslims, and it is where the prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven by stepping on the Foundation Stone. The Dome of the Rock, on top of Mount Moriah, is one of the oldest Mulsim buildings in the world.

There’s a very rickety staircase descending from a parking lot by East Jerusalem/Damascus Gate, which has graffiti of which I’m rather fond.

Use at your own risk/I miss you

We met Sandra, Jumana, and her sister Lamia outside of Damascus Gate this morning and began making our way along the crowded cobblestone alleys of the Old City.

Entering Damascus Gate

The guard at the first gate told us that only Muslims could go that way, not tourists, so we pressed onward, opting to cut through the plaza at the Western Wall, then head toward the ramp at the southern end of the Kotel (Western Wall) up to the Temple Mount/Mount Moriah.

Apparently you can’t enter the Western Wall if you’re wearing a hijab, so Jumana and Lamia left the group to go through a Muslims-only gate and rejoin us at top of the mount. We passed through security and emerged into the courtyard in front of the Western Wall/Kotel. I didn’t know if it’d be appropriate to bring Domo-kun into the women’s section, but he did properly morn the destruction of the Temple.

Domo-kun visits the Western Wall

We exited the Kotel plaza, did a U-turn, and entered the security queue for taking a ramp to Mount Moriah. The security fellow tried to give Sandra some hassle, but she stood firm and we were able to pass through the metal detectors. The ramp appears to be temporary: it’s a wooden scaffolding with tarps on the first portion.

Ascending the Temple Mount

The ramp to Mount Moriah

Prayer at the Kotel.


From the ramp, you can see to the south of Jerusalem.

South from the Kotel

At the first turn of the ramp was stacked numerous riot shields. I really don’t want to think about what the Jerusalem police expect here.

Riot gear

We emerged into the relative quiet and calm of the Sanctuary’s plaza, portions of which were covered in remnants of old columns.

Columnar remains


Further in, we saw the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which we are not allowed to enter as non-Muslims.

Al-Aqsa Mosque

Beyond some pine trees and a fountain, we saw the Dome of the Rock in all of its glory. The dome is made of 24 karat gold. The architects did an amazing job creating this building.

Dome of the Rock

Sondy at the Dome of the Rock

Like the rest of Jerusalem, there was even a feral cat.

Kitty in the courtyard

The detail at the shrine was amazing: the tiles were incredible beautiful, and the marble used was out of this world. It makes sense that a shrine for a holy rock would include some pretty phenomenal metamorphic rocks!


Niche details

Mosque detail

Flowering plants

Green marble column

Prayer niche

Wild marble columns


Mosque and arches

Dome of the Rock and ladder

The doors were constructed from copper.

Copper door

Sandra, Ben, and Jumana posed for a photo, and I got one with all three students.

Sandra, Ben, Jumana at the Dome


We left Mount Moriah, passing by other gates.

Morocco Gate

The Old City is always full of surprises.

Love cassettes

Amazing parking job

Sandra then took us to the Church of the Redeemer, built by German Lutherans.

Lutheran Church of the Redeemer

We had to pay 5 NIS to get in, and the church initially seemed a little plain, but Sandra held open a nondescript door and smiled, so I followed her directions. Inside the door was a very narrow spiral staircase going up to the top of a very tall tower. Climbing in the heat was a bit of an adventure, but we eventually emerged to the top of the tower and were rewarded with an incredible view.

Ben in the tower

Church of the Holy Sepulcher

Church of the Holy Sepulcher

Our dorms on Mount Scopus

Dorms at Mount Scopus

Mount of Olives

Mount of Olives

Church of the Redeemer

Spire of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer

South of Jerusalem and the Security Barrier

Security Barrier

We made our way back along the vendors hawking spices, dresses, lingerie from China, cheap plastic toys, men’s clothing, and candy, including a mountain of zatar with a model Dome of the Rock on top.

The Dome of the Spices