The most prominent feature on the Jerusalem skyline is the Dome of the Rock. It’s brilliant gold color stands out against the more monotone limestone structures the make u much of the rest of Jerusalem.

The Dome of the Rock is on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. The Temple Mount is the third holiest site for Muslims after Mecca and Medina. The site is known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif or the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The dome is not made of gold (that would be far too heavy for the building to hold it up), but it is coated with a very thin layer of gold. It’s 24-karat gold leaf, and cost over $7 million in 1992, when it was set in place.

The shrine was originally not intended to be a mosque; instead the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik wanted to build an ornate and beautiful Muslim building that could compete with the majestic Christian churches in the city. There are beautiful mosaics inside. More pictures of the mosque.

View of the City of Jerusalem

The pic. above is a view of the city of Jerusalem. Due to time constraints, we just drove past the Mount of Olives. Located next to the Old City, The western slopes of the mount, those facing Jerusalem, have been used as a Jewish cemetery for over 3,000 years and holds approximately 150,000 graves.

Several key events in the life of Jesus took place on the Mount of Olives. In the Acts of the Apostles it is described as the place from which Jesus ascended to heaven,

Bill in Bethlehem

We were back on the bus headed to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, which is about 6 miles south of Jerualem. Since the Oslo Accords, which comprise a series of agreements between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority, Bethlehem has been designated as part of Area A of the West Bank, nominally rendering it as being under full Palestinian control.

There is a checkpoint when you enter the Palestinian area, but our tour bus was just waved right through (as were most vehicles). Tourism is a vital part of the economy of the Bethlehem area. The area was somewhat hilly and the old streets were not designed for big tour buses. The area is also hilly, which gave us beautiful views of the valley that stretches into the desert to the south. Also, by agreement, we changed buses and tour guides when we entered the Palestinian area.

Time for me to get on with my day…I’ll continue our time in Bethlehem in a separate thread.