with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Jerusalem: Perspectives of the Old City

Churches and mosques from the rooftop of Jerusalem, photo by Lorelle VanFossenThere are many different ways of viewing the myriad perspectives of Jerusalem. If there are any specific symbols that represent Jerusalem, among them would be scenic views of the city with the golden Dome of the Rock highlighted, Orthodox Jews with their long beards and black hats and suits, and the Western (Wailing) Wall. But for each visitor and resident, Jerusalem means many things. Here are a few more interesting perspectives to help you tell your story and find your perspective on the Old City.


Many of the streets are sloped, allowing for interesting perspectives looking up the slope or down over the view through the street towards interesting Looking up a sloped street in Jerusalem. Photo by Brent VanFossenbuilds. Look up and see interesting overhanging “window boxes”, small rooms built out from the wall to provide more room within, and often to increase the light coming into the home. Interesting stone arches connect buildings and support walls throughout the city, casting shadows onto the narrow streets. Laundry can be seen drifting in the slight wind hanging from windows and balconies.

As with any old town, pay attention to the stonework and the electrical wires criss-crossing the walls. Shop signs are fascinating with their combinations of English, Hebrew, and Arabic. Grafiti isn’t common, but it is found from time to time, often political in nature, but usually teenagers expressing themselves in all three languages in many different colors.

Long lenses allow isolating the specific subjects of interest, and wider lenses allow for street scene perspectives. A flash is recommended, including fill flash for filling in harsh shadows.

Photo Resources in Israel
In Jerusalem, you can find many photographic supplies at shops scattered through the marketplace of Jerusalem and in the pedestrian mall of Ben Yehuda Street in the new center of the city.

In Tel Aviv, around the intersection of Ben Yehuda and Allenby you will find many professional camera shops within a block or two in all directions.

For serious professional assistance and supplies, the Brothers Judean is located at 10 Ben Yehuda, down a small alley-like stairway to the west. It can be hard to find. Look for the sign down the narrow break next to a building atop the open staircase going down. For more information call 03-517-4829 or email jugend@inter.net.il. Web: jugend.co.il

Rooftop Views

Jerusalem is a city of levels, some going deep below the surface of the streets and others going high above them. There are many access routes to the rooftops of the city, but most are hard to find in the maze of back streets. One easy-to-find roof access is just off Habad Street south from David Street. As you walk up the slope from David Street, you will come to St. Mark Street on your right. To the left you will see a metal staircase going up. This takes you to a safe roof top area. Walk north up a slope in the roofs and turn left (west) to a raised roof top creating a large platform. One of the highest points within the area, it offers a dramatic view of the Al-Aska Mosque and Dome of the Rock with Mt. Olives and Mt. Scopus rising up in the background.

Sunrise is excellent for the warm, golden light touching the many minarets, domes, and cathedral towers. Sunset light illuminates Mt. Olives and Mt. Scopus, turning the Dome of the Rock into a glowing golden ball. Arrive at the top of the hour, especially at 9:00 AM and noon and the ringing of the bells will vibrate to your bones, and your hair will stand on end as you listen to the bells blending with the Muslim calls to prayers.

From the rooftop of Jerusalem, photo by Lorelle VanFossenDo watch your step and take care not to trip on any of the rubbish or fall off the roof edges. Most areas are protected with railings, but do take care. Speak softly as your voice can easily be heard by those living below and around you, and take care not to stomp too hard or make too much noise to bother those below.

In addition to the views, again, look for photographic details like curtains in the windows, laundry drifting in the wind, and patterns and textures in the stone walls, electrical wires, and building details. You can use a variety of lens lengths here to capture the wide angle views around you as well as using long lenses to concentrate on the distant details.

Tower of David Museum/Citadel

Originally a citadel, or fortress, built in the Herodian period, then destroyed and rebuilt over the centuries, next to Jaffa Gate is the Tower of David Museum. Pilgrims used to mistake the 17th century Turkish minaret along the southern edge of the fortress as part of the ancient tower of King David. Thus it became known as the Tower of David, though Israelis use its traditional name of the Citadel. Crossing the ancient moat, one steps back Jaffa Gate entrance, Jerusalem, photo by Lorelle VanFosseninto the 5,000 year history of Jerusalem. You can easily spend hours exploring the restored fortress and all the exhibitions within. English films and tours are available. Call for specific times.

The central courtyard is an archeological ruin providing interesting photographic opportunities. Climb up and walk the ramparts and the high towers for some dramatic and interesting views of the new and old parts of Jerusalem.

The walls are very thick and offer interesting pattern possibilities. They also keep the temperature cool, so bring a sweater or sweatshirt even during the summer if you are prone to the cold. Bring a flash to photograph within the rooms of displays (ask permission first) and to overcome any bright sunlight outside. Due to the high walls, the courtyard is in shadow much of the day except midday. Use caution with a tripod as the walkways are narrow and can be crowded on busy days.

The Ramparts

Men in the Arab section sit around and smoke hassish and talk for hours in the cafes. Photo by Lorelle VanFossenThe Ramparts are the wall sections around the entire Old City. There are two sections of the city wall which are accessible: The North side and the West and South sides. The Northern section begins at either Jaffa Gate or Damascus Gate. The Western and Southern section begins either at Tanners/Dung Gate or by the Tower of David and Jaffa Gate. Walking along the top of the wall offers some interesting perspectives on the Old City as well as the surrounding new city area. There are some very high steps, but in general it is an easy walk.

Long lenses will isolate interesting views of the buildings and towers, and moderate to wide angle lenses will give you a wider scenic view. Opening at 9 AM, during the winter you can catch a bit of the warm morning light, or take advantage of winter clouds for gentler light. Winter allows for some sunset light when the sun sets early, as the wall closes at 4PM. The Stone window along Via Dolorosa, photo by Brent VanFossenwall can be windy as it is exposed, and during the summer it can be very hot with direct exposure to the sun. It is narrow in places, so take care if using a tripod.


The doors, windows, and walls of Jerusalem are fascinating. Especially the doors. Some are ancient, some are just worn from use. All offer great photographic Door to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, photo by Lorelle VanFossenopportunities in color, texture, and patterns. A moderate to wide angle lens is recommended as the streets are narrow and you can’t move back very far. Fill flash or full flash will help fill in some shadows and low light areas. A tripod is a must for longer exposures in the low light. Look for interesting door knobs, locks, handles, door bells, knockers, and address blocks or tiles. The styles of the doors and architecture changes from area to area, with the newer and more substantial looking doors found in the Jewish Quarter and the older looking doors found in the Arab areas.


    Posted October 24, 2006 at 8:40 | Permalink

    I am trying to find out about the tower of furnance mentioned in Neamiah when building the Jerusalem wall.

  • Posted October 24, 2006 at 10:04 | Permalink

    A simple Google search of Nehemiah tower of furnace uncovered a lot of information. You might want to search first.

    Also, using capital letters when writing in emails and on web pages is considered bad form. It implies shouting and yelling and anger. I fixed your comment but you might want to restrain from using the caps lock key in the future. ;-)

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