For over two millennia, Jerusalem has been called “the cradle of Christianity.” It attracts millions of Team Messiah fanatics from as far back as the 4th Century—and it still does. Yet for Jesus, the guy whom all these pious pilgrims profess to deify, the city of Jerusalem probably just triggers his PTSD.
Jerusalem is one of the world's oldest cities, and it shows.
Located smack dab in the geographic center of the Holy Land, the city of Jerusalem has been continuously inhabited for two and a half millennia. That's well before anyone thought to invent the wheel, let alone the Uber® ride-sharing app.
Incredibly, the city has even been mentioned in texts as far back as the 19th Century BCE. In fact, Jerusalem is so old, that, when the area was first founded, its inhabitants rode around on dinosaurs. Children weren't taught History because it was still happening. And the Dead Sea was only just getting sick.*
I guess what I'm saying is that the place could use a good power-washing. And some light dusting wouldn't hurt, either.
Jerusalem is one of the world's beige-iest cities, too.
Jerusalem isn't a particularly colorful city unless you're really into earth tones. Everything you can see below the horizon line is either tan, ecru, or khaki. Hell, the city is even beige above the horizon line. Thanks to the Holy Land's sand-saturated troposphere, breathing the air slowly abrades your lungs (mmm, gritty).
Jerusalem's native color palette thematically fits in well with the “Scrubby Desert”-motif most of the Middle East has going on. Still, the look is just a bit too sepia-toned for my tastes. The only time I liked seeing that much sand was on Tel Aviv's Gordon Beach.
Understandably, it's not like Jerusalem's planners could do anything about the city's look, anyhow. Even if they wanted to switch to a less beige-based theme like “Frozen Fairy Tale” or “Winter Wonderland,” they just don't have the subarctic conditions necessary to really sell it.
Jerusalem's milkshake brings a lot of goys to the yard.
Despite its advancing age and reduced color spectrum, Jerusalem has steadily grown in population over the millennia. Today, there are over a million people living and working in the city, only 64% of whom are Jewish. Much of the growth is thanks to 400 new science start-ups in high-tech fields such as biotech, life sciences, and artificial intelligence.
Still, tourism is the major industry in Jerusalem. Almost four million foreigners make a pilgrimage here each year to see the city's 2,000+ active archeological sites. Not surprisingly, many of those excavations pertain to the life and times of the New Testament's Jewish protagonist.
Certainly, whether Mary and Joseph's son was the one, true Messiah or just a long-haired hippie is up for debate. But, I think it's safe to say that Jesus was definitely the savior of Jerusalem's tourism industry.
In this town, a series of unfortunate events went down.
Unlike the towns of Nazareth, Bethlehem and Galilee, Jerusalem probably didn't hold a lot of cheery childhood memories for Jesus. In fact, some very trauma-inducing events happened to him there as a kid.
At the age of only twelve, for example, Jesus was abandoned in the city by his negligent parents [Luke 2:43]. After partying at PassoverFest™ all weekend, Joseph and Mary packed up their stuff and headed home to sleep it off. Without bringing Jesus. That's right, they forgot to bring their only son, just like in the movie adaption of that biblical tale, “Home Alone.”
Jerusalem was no place for a 12-year-old kid.
Somewhere along their three-day, 64-mile walk back home to Nazareth, Mary and Joseph's heads finally cleared. They'd finally sweat out any remaining molly, matzo, and maror. The couple then had the horrifying epiphany that they'd left the Christ child to fend for himself on the mean streets of J-town.
Now, I can certainly appreciate that Joseph was likely butt-hurt about getting cock-blocked by the Holy Spirit [Luke 1:27]. After all, being forced to raise a kid that isn't your own would kinda suck. (Especially, when everybody knows who the real father was.) But leaving a 12-year-old child behind in a major metropolis? A child that might just be your people's Messiah, no less? Well, that's just bad parenting in my book.
When Jesus got older, Jerusalem didn't get much better.
As Jesus grew, his burgeoning reputation as a highly sought-after life-coach and motivational speaker was also growing. In short order, Jesus was playing larger venues, getting higher billing, and taking home a larger cut of the door.
Yet, the tingling of his divine Spidey-sense alerted Jesus to some festering jealousy, resentment, and potential betrayal among his devoted disciples.
With Jerusalem's annual Unleavened Bread Bash™ fast approaching, the Nazarene saw an opportunity to absolve them of their ill intentions. So Jesus invited his entire 12-person posse to supper [Luke 22:1] at an unsuspecting stranger's house [Luke 22:10]. (I mean, what was the stranger gonna do? Refuse the possible Messiah and spend eternity in hell? Or make a quick Kroger® run and spend the afterlife boning Victoria's Secret-style angels? I know which one I'd choose.)
Et tu, Judas? Et tu…?
Unfortunately, one of Jesus' more problematic disciples, Judas, saw this last-minute dinner invite as a ploy to buy his love. So, like a big wuss, he preemptively ratted Jesus out to the Roman authorities [Luke 22:1]. Halfway through the stranger's six course, Prix Fixe meal, Jesus was abruptly arrested [Luke 22:47]. Jesus was taken to jail without ceremony and, worse, without a doggie bag.
Judaea's governor, Pontious Pilate, presided over the case. During the trial, he repeatedly tried to release Jesus with a highly original “He didn't do anything illegal” defense. The angry mob, unmoved by Pilate's unconventional argument, nonetheless demanded Jesus' immediate crucifixion [Luke 23:24]. As a compromise, Pilate suggested “Death by Snu-Snu”[Zapp 11:01]—a more humane, but equally fatal punishment. But those jerks in Jerusalem wanted him dead [Luke 23:34]. Not surprisingly, Jesus' Yelp review of the city read simply, “One star, would not recommend.”
Frankly, Jesus would probably like to forget Jerusalem altogether.
I have to imagine that Jesus, looking down on Earth from heaven, really loves being constantly reminded of the city where he was put to death. I mean, who wouldn't want to repeatedly relive their most horrific life experience? Everyone, that's who.
Moreover, the Son Of God probably likes being reminded of where he was killed about as much as he likes being reminded of how he was killed. “Crucified on a cross” was probably not what Jesus considered his best look.
In fact, Jesus should be pissed about it. We don't depict shooting victims with a bullet exploding through their chest. Or portray industrial accident victims in the process of getting their arm ripped off. Yet every self-proclaimed Jesus junkie has a necklace, painting, or wall-hanging of the messiah immortalized forever on his Worst. Day. Ever.
Jesus really got the TMZ treatment in that town.
Few other humans in history received this type of morbid brand management. Frankly, the only way I could see Jesus being more upset about his eternal brand image is if the Church sold Officially Licensed Merchandise using that horrible photo on his driver's license.
But okay, sure. Let's go ahead and link Jesus to his least favorite city for the rest of time. He's not gonna complain, right? Oh, and you know what else we should do? We should build a church in Jerusalem to keep reminding people about his agonizing execution and entombment. Yeah, I'm sure Jesus would've loved that…
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is architecturally… um, interesting.
Back in the 4th Century, a humble guy named Constantine The Great had that exact same, terrible idea. He ordered the construction of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The ancient structure was destroyed and rebuilt several times over the millennia thanks, in large part, to invading armies, fires, earthquakes, and UNESCO.
Due to its tumultuous past, the building's design lacks a cohesive overall theme. Primarily because it was only a clean-sheet project at the beginning. Each time the church was rebuilt, some of the older structure was used in the renovation.
Today, the exterior of this World Heritage Site, unsurprisingly, looks like it was cobbled together by Dr. Frankenstein while freebasing fentanyl.
The interior of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is likewise awash in quixotic and questionable design decisions. It looks like three different Interior Designers fought a no-holds-barred “Battle Royale.” And during that barbaric conflict, tastefulness and restraint were among the first casualties.
Goth kids would love the Holy Sepulcher Church.
I don't think I've ever seen a more morose, macabre, and excessively ornate chapel in my life. Its bleak appearance helps explain why the church is considered a top pilgrimage site for confused Christian Goths.
What's so dispiriting about this architecturally schizophrenic structure? Well, for starters, it's where Jesus, having not yet completed his mission to spread love and tolerance, was put to death in one of history's most gruesome fashions.
Whose sick idea was nailing people to a cross?
Crucifixion was Ancient Rome's warning to potential transgressors against wrongdoing. It ranked right up there with “severed head on a pike,” another favorite murder method of the time. The Romans were, without exaggeration, some seriously sick and twisted mofos.
Yet Jerusalem isn't only a “must-see” destination for members of the Messiah's morbidly fascinated fan-base. No, the city is pretty popular with Jews and Muslims, too, for a number of other less murder-based reasons.
Jerusalem was considered holy long before Mary got knocked up.
Long before Jesus manifested on the mortal plane, adherents of the major religions made pilgrimages to Jerusalem because it was already an important religious site.
It's where Yahweh allegedly “revealed himself” to a handsome, underage shepherd boy named David. This in no way creepy, sexual predator-style event led to the city becoming a Top-3 holy site for the world's Abrahamniacs. No one had ever seen Yahweh before, so the local vice squad had a lot of questions for the kid.
A notorious groomer, Yahweh later helped his fave boy slay a giant with a slingshot. He then made him king of the region for 40 years, with Jerusalem as its capital. The city is also where David's bastard son, Solomon, would wholly and horrifically transform the ancient world's idea of justice.
Solomon was the OG nepobaby.
Around the mid-Ninth Century BCE, Solomon inherited the throne after David's death and reigned over the Holy Land like a boss. In short order, King Solomon became widely known as a fair and wise arbiter, setting the ethical bar extremely high for modern magistrates like Judges Dredd, Ito, and Judy.
This guy handed down the landmark “Cut That Kid In Half” decision [Good Mom v. Bad Mom, 1 Kings 3:16–28]. King Solomon's famous decision, while controversial at the time, set judicial precedent for almost three millennia. Luckily for Jerusalem and its prospects for future population growth, the renegade ruler had other interests beyond cleaving kids in twain.
Solomon built a temple on Mount Moriah.
Jerusalem was also thought to be the region wherein Yahweh tried to scare Abraham into sacrificing his only son, Isaac, on a fiery altar. This event gave Jerusalem a lot of street-cred with both Old Testament believers and, more recently, fans of the TV series, “Punk'd.”
To honor the Lord's hilarious, attempted-murder prank, King Solomon oversaw the construction of a temple on Mount Moriah [2 Chronicles 3:1]. Solomon's “Temple Mount” was used to house Moses' ten commandments, a very popular tourist attraction at the time.
An ornately gilded box, called the “Ark of the Covenant,” was constructed to both protect the stone tablets and prevent others from chiseling their own commandments into it.
Whether the Ark of the Covenant is still inside the Temple Mount today is hotly debated. Many people believe the Ark is actually lost in a vast US government storehouse. Do your own research: watch this documentary about it and decide for yourself.
The OG temple that Solomon built lasted a good 370 years without incident. In 587 BCE, unfortunately, it was destroyed by the Babylonians, who came from what's now modern-day Iraq. And, if it weren't for their penchant for marauding and massacring, these so-called “whores, gluttons, and magicians” might've been a fun bunch to party with.
Only one of the Temple Mount's walls is OEM.
In 516 BCE, the Second Temple Mount was hastily built in the same spot as the First. Why? Because, even though God is theoretically everywhere, Jerusalem's Temple Mount was the one spot on earth where God momentarily stopped ghosting his groupies.
This shabby Second Temple appalled the locals for 400 years until King Herod renovated the place into something larger and grander. Everyone was thrilled with the new temple, though Herod's addition of mirror-balls and nightclub laser-lighting was controversial at the time.
All good things must come to an end and, in 70 CE, the Roman Empire crashed the party and turned on the house lights. “Domum ire non habes, sed hic manere non potes.”
They besieged the city and, just to be dicks, destroyed most of the temple (…again). So the Western Wall is the only remaining part of Herod's Second Temple which is still intact. For that reason, the Western Wall is considered Judaism's most sacred…um, you know… wall.
A stone wall, or Yahweh's personal communication portal?
For nearly 300 years, Jewish people have come from all over the world to visit this blessed bulwark. All along this ecclesiastic enclosure, they lay their hands upon the wall, praying and jamming notes between its crumbling stones. These written prayers and wishes are a refreshing alternative to the loud moaning and lamenting you hear at religious sites and soccer games.
The fact that Jewish people still come to this place is certainly a testament to their belief in a higher power. And that's understandable, considering that their treatment on Earth over the same time period hasn't done all that much to inspire faith in humanity.
Jerusalem's Holocaust Museum was a straight-up downer.
Yad Vashem is one of the largest information repositories on the Holocaust. It houses more than 50 million documents about the Nazi genocide. Countless photographs and films shine the light of truth on one of humanity's darkest periods.
“Why would anyone even need to display images of horror and violence like this,” you might ask? Sadly, the answer isn't good.
In a 2014 poll by the Anti-Defamation League, only 54% of the world's population has even heard of the Holocaust. (Way to eff up the curve, Asia!) In my country, at least, that figure was 75%. Better, sure, but still an indictment of America's corrupt mass media and grossly underfunded educational system.
Luckily, I found a tiny ray of sunshine in this terrible testament to mankind's inhumanity. At the end of a seemingly endless procession of horror stories, I saw a glimmer of justice. A small sign that's far too easy to miss—especially with tears in your eyes—noted that 31,000 Nazis had been arrested after the war.
It's small consolation for the six million innocent lives they took, granted. But it's nice to know that not every Nazi bastard escaped to South America. Or, worse, was recruited into NASA's Space Program.
The Jerusalem of today is a lot different from the one in ancient texts.
The Jerusalem described in the Torah, Bible, and Quran existed more than 2000 years ago. But I only read the Bible about 40 years ago as a kid. So the disconnect between the Bible's depiction of the place at the time, and what Jerusalem looks like today, was nothing short of jarring. A lot has really changed over the course of the city's existence—they have electricity and indoor plumbing, for starters—but not everything.
Even all these years later, many people are still vying for control of the city. Israelis and Palestinians both claim Jerusalem as their capital. Yet, it's a title that seems perpetually up for grabs, and one that likely will continue to be. That is, until Yahweh/Allah/God returns to earth and finally picks a winner. (Anyone know the over/under on that…?)
*Okay, I admit it. I stole that Dead Sea joke.