There is much to photograph in and around the walls of the Old City. This article is designed to only cover the Old City, but close to the various gates you will find some interesting photographic opportunities. Here is a sample:
To the east, accessible through St. Stephan’s Gate (Lion’s Gate), you will find an interesting Muslim/Arab Cemetery. Much of it is abandoned and in ruin, but some renovation occurs from time to time. Take care to not disturb any of the graves and be subtle in your photographic efforts as some may not appreciate your presence in the cemetery, especially during times of political tension. Avoid visiting the area on Fridays and during Muslim prayer times. From the cemetery are excellent views of the Kidron Valley (Valley of Jehoshaphat) and Mt. Olives and Mt. Scopus.
If you have a car, you can travel to Har Hamenuchot (Mountain of Rest) not far from Yad Vashem. It is the largest Cemetery and it covers much of the mountain top in western Jerusalem. Other smaller cemeteries are found through out Jerusalem, some ancient with names barely visible on the stones, other new, shining white and pristine. Take care not to intrude or disturb visitors as you photograph, and be prepared to be told to put away your camera, but for the most part, you may photograph if the cemetery is empty.
Around the Gates and Wall of the Old City
All around the gate areas of the Old City you will find many interesting scenes and people. Jaffa Gate is a very popular entrance, close to the Christian, Armenian and Jewish Quarters, and one of the few entrances through which cars are allowed. You will find interesting people, in ceremonial and traditional clothing during holidays and holy days coming and going through these entrances. Lion’s Gate is the beginning of the Via Dolorosa and the entry way for many religous processions following the last walk of Jesus. Damascus Gate hosts a huge market area outside of the wall on most days offering a colorful spectacle of people and wares. Dung Gate is the southern entrance into the old city and leads directly to the Western (Wailing) Wall. During religious holidays, this gate is also a popular entrance for colorfully dressed groups.
Churches, synagogues, and cathedrals are found throughout the Old City and within a few blocks around the Old City. Some are open to the public and may allow photography. Ask if you are in doubt. The Mt. Zion area is interesting with David’s Tomb, the location of the Last Supper of Jesus, and other religious and historical sites. The area of the Garden Tomb, north of the Old City from the Damascus Gate, is considered by some Protestants to be the actual crucifixion and burial site of Jesus, offers a more natural and scenic area.
Jerusalem has more than its fair share, appropriately, of museums. There is a museum for just about any interest, from religious relics from the different religions of the world to archeological remains from all the periods of the world. They also have a wide range of modern museums dedicated to Jewish and non-Jewish art and more modern tastes. Two museums bear special mention and should be on your "must see" list. First, YadVashem is the famous Holocaust Museum. Under massive renovation and construction since the beginning of 2000, it is still an amazing museum that steps into the horrors of Hitler and the Nazi devastation of the Jews of Europe and elsewhere.
From a photographer’s perspective, the historical museum offers amazing stories behind the photographs, as well as stories about the photographers themselves. In one display, a German photographer was permitted to spend a few hours (on his day off) in the Warsaw Ghetto and photograph whatever he saw. As you walk across the bricks from the Ghetto, his images tell the story of the horrors of life there. Starving children, unable to stand, lying by the side of the road waiting for death. Old people, maybe not even 40 years old but aged by their situation, stare empty-eyed into his lens. The Germans were meticulous about recording everything they did on paper, and through the camera, so many of the images displayed come from Germans and Nazi documentation. For photo journalists, this is a master’s class in photographing man’s cruelty.
Outside of the historical museum, Yad Vashem has a lovely park with other memorials in the form of statues, artwork, and trees. Trees are planted all around the hillside honoring those who gave their life, money, and time to saving European Jews. In spring, many of these bloom in gentle pastels of white and pink. While currently under drastic construction and improvements, much of it is still accessible. The construction
is supposed to be complete by 2003 was completed in 2005, making it not only the largest museum of its kind, but the most extensive archive and resource for Holocaust material and studies.
The Israel Museum is another highlight to see. While some of the exhibitions change from time to time, in general it is dedicated to the history of the Middle East and Israel with artifacts from many of the holy sites and archaeological ruins around the country. Photography is usually permitted through much of the museum, though not by professional photographers without permission. Pay attention to warning signs restricting use of a camera. In the outdoor courtyards are found many columns, mosaics, and stone carvings allowing for closeup photography of intricate stone work. Working in direct sunlight, consider using a diffusion cloth and/or fill flash.