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Daily Destination: Jerusalem

October 17, 2013

A swirling, vibrant chaos, Jerusalem’s Old City is home to major sites of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. A suggested itinerary, based on chronology: First, visit the Western Wall (in Hebrew Ha Kotel), where devout Jews pray and visitors place slips of paper — notes to God — between the stones.

Second, pay a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, believed to stand on the site of Jesus’s crucifixion and burial. This handsome domed church is always packed with tourists from widely varying Christian denominations. It is crowded but well worth a visit. Tombs that date from the time of Christ are still intact in the church. A second possible burial site for Jesus is in the pretty Garden Tomb discovered in the late 1800s in East Jerusalem.

Don’t miss the Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount, which marks where devout Muslims believe that the Prophet Mohammed ascended into heaven. Jews believe that this is the place where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac before a divine reprieve. The mosque’s golden dome and lovely mosaic tiles make it a landmark visible from all over Jerusalem.

Be sure to visit Jerusalem’s great museums, especially the Israel Museum (where you can see the Dead Sea Scrolls) and the extraordinarily moving Yad Vashem memorial and holocaust museum.

Save some time to play. Visitors this fall can step back in time at the Jerusalem Knights Festival, held in the Old City’s Christian Quarter. Medieval knights and maidens perform acrobatics, fire-eaters do their thing, and magicians and fortunetellers entertain, free of charge, every Thursday evening from Oct. 31 through Nov. 21.