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Jerusalem’s Old City by Night
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The Old City and the Jewish Quarter
According to the Old Testament, before King David’s conquest of Jerusalem in the 11th century BCE the city was home to the Jebusites. The Bible describes the city as heavily fortified with a strong city wall. The city ruled by King David, known as Ir David, or the City of David, was southeast of the Old City walls, outside the Dung Gate. His son King Solomon extended the city walls and then, in about 440 BCE, during the Persian period, Nehemiah returned from Babylon and rebuilt them. In 41–44 CE, Agrippa, king of Judea, built a new city wall known as the “Third Wall.”
The Jewish Quarter, known colloquially to residents as HaRova lies in the southeastern sector of the walled city, and stretches from the Zion Gate in the south, bordering the Armenian Quarter on the west, along the Cardo to Chain Street in the north and extends east to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount.
The Quarter’s History
The quarter has a rich history, with several long periods of Jewish presence covering much of the time since the eighth century BCE. In 1948, its population of about 2,000 Jews was besieged, and forced to leave en masse. The quarter was completely sacked by Arab forces during the Battle for Jerusalem and ancient synagogues were destroyed.
The Jewish quarter remained under Jordanian control until its recapture by Israeli paratroopers in the Six-Day War of 1967. A few days later, Israeli authorities ordered the demolition of the adjacent Moroccan Quarter, forcibly relocating all of its inhabitants, in order to facilitate public access to the Western Wall.
The section of the Jewish quarter destroyed prior to 1967 has since been rebuilt and settled and has a population of 2,348 (as of 2005). Many large educational institutions have taken up residence.
Before being rebuilt, the quarter was carefully excavated under the supervision of Hebrew University archaeologist Nahman Avigad. The archaeological remains are on display in a series of museums and outdoor parks, which tourists can visit by descending two or three stories beneath the level of the current city. The former Chief Rabbi is Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl, and the current Chief Rabbi is his son Rabbi Chizkiyahu Nebenzahl, who is on the faculty of Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh, which is situated directly across from the Kotel.
The quarter includes the “Karaites’ street” (Hebrew: רחוב הקראים, Rhehov Ha’karaim), on which the old Anan ben David Kenesa is located