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

Students arrive tomorrow!

Our lectures are prepared, our labs are tested, but we’ll still have to check our classrooms for cats tomorrow. Twenty-nine year 2 (Y2) students arrive tomorrow, and we’ll get to introduce them to the wonders of software engineering as well as abstraction and modularity. (And no, I haven’t been having dreams about model-view-controller, why do you ask?)

But! Before my life becomes all IM client all the time, here are some more images from around Jerusalem taken during the last week.


I’ve driven about 80% of the time we’ve been here, and it’s actually a lot of fun. Aside from no right turn on red, it’s like driving in Boston, except you’re a lot more likely to get cut off by someone driving at warp factor nine. One of these days, Eric and I are going to take the standard transmission van out and try to refresh our memories on how to use a clutch. Adventures in transporting eight or so people from point A to point B aside, here are some images of the stunning parking jobs we’ve witnessed in the last few weeks.

Parking: you're doing it right

You see some pretty epic parking jobs around here, namely this sedan neatly positioned under a staircase in the Old City. How did they do this? Three hundred-point turn? Your guess is as good as mine.

Parking: you're doing it wrong (or right)

Mr. Timmons is just as befuddled as I am at this parking job at Mount Scopus.


Tiny cat investigates

Remember Tiny Cat who hid in the classroom? I finally got a photo of him, scared to death. Unfortunately, you can’t see his adorable white-tipped tail.

Around Hebrew University

Taking notes

We spent a lot of last week preparing for the students’ arrival. Domo-kun couldn’t wait to take notes.


As part of the teaching workshops, we got to teach anything we wanted for five minutes. I did my usual instruction on how to tie a bowline knot. Justin taught us all about vampires. I’ll give you a hint as to which presentation made it on to YouTube.

Working outside

Eventually we became bored of working in the lab known as the Aquarium and migrated out under the trees on the lawn. Thank you, Hebrew University, for having such lovely, shade-providing arboreal specimens as well as strong outdoor wireless!

In Search of Food

Since I haven’t eaten gluten in over a year, getting proper nourishment around here is a bit of a challenge since almost everything is made of wheat. I know you’re about to say, “try the hummus!”, but you are most certainly incorrect: that stuff is like spackle and turns one’s stomach into concrete. We maintain our rating on the stock of Middle East Hummus Producers Unlimited as a STRONG SELL. Put your NIS toward raw materials instead.

Things here on Mount Scopus shut down on Friday afternoon, and don’t generally reopen until Saturday night at the earliest, though usually it’s Sunday morning when most businesses resume commerce. Thus, everyone does their shopping early on Friday afternoon, so by the time I make it to the grocery store on Sunday it’s like a Soviet supermarket with nothing left on the shelves. Since prepared food doesn’t do much for me, I’m generally good about buying my own food and cooking for myself. The vendors at the Damascus gate have great prices on fruits and vegetables, and Mahane Yehuda’s sellers have good prices on Swiss chard and peaches, though the dried fruits and nuts are a bit expensive. Too bad I haven’t found a source of gluten-free bread yet.

Domo-kun and a pita full of falafel

Domo-kun tried some falafel and chips in pita bread. Verdict? “Domo domo domo…”

Wedding celebration

Last night we decided to head out for dinner, heading vaguely for a schwarma place that George recommended in East Jerusalem. After a long and slightly exciting stroll down Wadi Al-Jos (horses! no sidewalks! accosted by street kids who punched Ben!), we found the place to be closed, so we decided to press on to the next street, where we encountered a wedding celebration. The groom was lifted onto another man’s shoulders while another man played the bagpipes. Everyone was dancing, chanting, and clapping. Fireworks kept being set off further down the street. We later passed the women of the wedding party, hanging out in front of a building further down the street and watching the men dance. The groom, however, did not look like he was particularly enjoying the merriment.

We, on the other hand, promptly discovered the nearby wonders of Azzahra Hotel and Restaurant, and did we ever enjoy that experience. Reasonably priced menu for an upscale place (dishes starting around $14), great service, lovely atmosphere (huge windows surrounded by trees and ivy), and tremendous lamb dishes. Kim and Larisa reported the pizza to be amazing. Our rating on this establishment is a STRONG BUY.

Finally, you’ve reached the end of this installment with a dose of this week’s questions. Respond via email or comment if you so choose, and thanks for reading!

  1. What’s the strangest thing you’ve eaten in the last week?
  2. What made you laugh the hardest in the past few days?
  3. Anything particularly awesome you’ve seen on the roads?

Old City

Last Saturday morning, we trundled out of bed and headed for the Old City, a section of Jerusalem that’s about one kilometer square. Separated into the Jewish, Muslim, Armenian, and Christian quarters, the Old City surrounds Mount Moriah (the Temple Mount), a site holy to both Muslims and Jews. We stated on the Mount of Olives and descended toward the Lion Gate, taking a route purportedly walked by Jesus into the city.

Mount Moriah

The Dome of the Rock on the right, looking west toward the center of Jerusalem

Stained glass

Church of All Nations



Lion Gate

Lion Gate

Rooftop view

Rooftop overlook


Calvary (Golgotha), Church of the Holy Sepulcher


Aedicule, Church of the Holy Sepulcher

The Immovable Ladder

The “immovable ladder” under status quo, Church of the Holy Sepulcher

Gate cat is watching you

Gate cat, perhaps a descendant of Ceiling Cat?

I wonder if the people who built some of these walls and streets thousands of years ago knew that these structures would still be in use in 2010.