Jerusalem Architecture: From Ancient to Modern
Jerusalem has been at the forefront of Jewish spirituality and history for thousands of years. Today, Jerusalem is considered by many the heart of Israel and the country’s largest city. While you may know that many visit the city for religious purposes, cultural experiences, and to learn more about its history, many also come to see the city’s astounding architecture and its development over the years.
Ancient Jerusalem Architecture
In order to truly understand Jerusalem architecture and it’s significance today, we need to understand its history. Archeologists have uncovered structures and buildings in Jerusalem dating back thousands of years. Numerous cisterns, aqueducts and retaining structures have been uncovered from ancient Jerusalem and now provide insight into what life was like for the Jewish people living during those times. What’s fascinating, is that all architectural remains seem to indicate that Jewish life was centered around one physical house. That is, of course, the First and Second Temple. The Temple was the center of religion for the Jewish people and the focus of their life, both literally and physically. When the temple was destroyed, so was a part of the Jewish people. Ever since it’s destruction, the Jewish people have been waiting for the re-establishment of the Temple in Jerusalem. While the physical building no longer remains, its physical location still remains a central part of Jewish life. Jews and non-Jews alike travel from all over the world to visit the Western Wall, the only remains from the Temple. Jewish prayer is directed towards the wall and Jerusalem continues to be of primary importance and centrality throughout the world.
Oldest Building in Jerusalem
The oldest building in Jerusalem is located in Jerusalem’s Old City; known as the Siebenberg House. The home dates back 3,000 years to the days of King David and the First and Second Temple. The house hosts mikvaot (Jewish ritual baths) and Jewish artifacts from the time period including pottery, coins, and mosaics. The significance of these findings is that it links Jews to architecture and life in Jerusalem for nearly three thousand years; including their usage of Jerusalem stone.
What is Jerusalem Stone?
Jerusalem stone is made up of limestone, dolomite, and other related rock types located around the Jerusalem area. These stones were used in ancient times for the building of many important buildings and sites, including the Western Wall and most likely the Temple. In fact, Jerusalem stone is one of the reasons that so many ancient buildings and constructs still exist today. The stone’s durability has allowed these structures to withstood war, fire, nature, and time itself.
While modern construction has far more materials and supplies at our disposal today, the law in Jerusalem requires that all buildings be at least faced with Jerusalem stone. Jerusalem stone has become much more than than just rock or even a tool for building; it’s become a symbol. The stone represents the Jewish presence in Jerusalem dating back thousands of years and the nation’s determination to continue to persevere, flourish, and build in the city that has forever been the home of the Jewish people.
Modern Jerusalem Architecture
Today, Jerusalem is a thriving city. Home to hundreds of thousands of residents, the city continues to grow every day. You can walk around the city and see construction happening everywhere, all the time. While it’s often a burden on your daily work commute or when you’re in rush to catch the train, it’s symbolic of something bigger and more important going on; which is that the city of Jerusalem is growing. New restaurants are constantly opening up, new companies and businesses developing, and bigger stores, wider roads, and better apartment buildings and houses being built. But the city is not only building more, its building better. Living in Jerusalem has never been as incredible as is it now One no longer has to take a step down in comfort and lifestyle to make Aliyah (immigration to Israel). Luxury apartments are being built throughout the city, including in beautiful areas like Baka, the German Colony, and Old Katamon. But what’s truly amazing about Jerusalem architecture, is that while it’s developing and evolving, it has always remained true to its roots. Even the most luxurious Jerusalem apartments are founded on Jerusalem stone. This is essentially true of the people of Jerusalem as well. While culture and modernity develop, the people have remained true to their values, beliefs, and spirituality. Jerusalem architecture is symbolic of the story and history of the Jewish people in Jerusalem. It tells the story of how they have persevered, remained steadfast in their beliefs, and are continuing to grow and flourish to this day.