Churches & Monasteries
Rechov Ha-Nevi’im (Street of the Prophets) was the “Christian street” of 19th-century West Jerusalem, and still has a variety of churches and missionary societies. From Zion Square, in the heart of downtown Jerusalem, cross Jaffa Road and go up the hill on Ha-Rav Kook Street. Opposite the intersection of Ha-Rav Kook and Ha-Nevi’im streets is the entrance to the narrow, high-walled Ethiopia Street, with its 19th-century stone mansions. Here you’ll find the splendid Abyssinian (Ethiopian) Church. The elegant building with the Lion of Judah carved into the gate above the courtyard is the spiritual home of the Coptic Ethiopian clergy. The lion symbolizes the meeting of the Queen of Sheba (an Ethiopian empress), and King Solomon, from whom she received the emblem, according to legend. The interior of the century-old circular church is filled with a wonderful array of icons and paintings; although none are in the Ethiopian tradition, many were chosen for their charm and native beauty. Bungalows for clergy and pilgrims from Ethiopia surround the church enclave.
Notre Dame de France, built in 1887, is at Zahal Square, just opposite New Gate in the Old City walls. The monumental buildings of the complex, on the old border between East and West Jerusalem, were badly damaged during heavy fighting in the 1948 war. Part of the complex, restored in the 1970s, contains a restaurant, a hotel, and a Roman Catholic pilgrimage center.
Saint Andrew’s Church of Scotland, its interior decorated with Armenian tiles, was built by the people of Scotland in 1929 and was dedicated by General Allenby, whose army liberated Jerusalem from the Ottoman Empire in 1917. This Presbyterian Church is situated on a scenic hilltop near Abu Tor and the old Jerusalem railroad station.
The Russian Orthodox Holy Trinity Cathedral is just off Jaffa Road. This white, multidomed architectural gem in the Renaissance style was constructed after the Crimean War for pilgrims of the Russian Orthodox faith.
The Monastery of the Cross, in the Valley of the Cross outside Rehavia, was built in the 11th century and is now maintained by the Greek Orthodox Church. According to tradition, this medieval, atmospheric monastery is located on the spot where the tree stood from which the True Cross was made. The monastery is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm. Admission is NIS 5. Bus 9 or 17.
There are also a number of interesting churches and monasteries in Ein Kerem and in Abu Ghosh.
Two Dreams Restored
Israel’s older branch of Hadassah Hospital is on Mount Scopus, overlooking Jerusalem’s Old City. The Mt. Scopus branch, opened in 1938 in an ultramodern building designed by Erich Mendelssohn, was funded by the contributions of Hadassah members throughout the world: It was the pride of the Jewish community during the British Mandate and the embodiment of a dream to bring quality medical care to all in Jerusalem “without regard to nationality or religion.” By chance, at the time of the cease-fire at the end of Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, the Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus became a small, Israeli-held military bastion in the middle of Jordanian-controlled East Jerusalem, protected by international agreement but cut off from Israeli-held West Jerusalem.
A new Hadassah Hospital was built in Ein Kerem at the far western edge of Jerusalem, where it would be relatively safe in case fighting broke out again. Marc Chagall created 12 jewel-like stained-glass windows depicting the Twelve Tribes of Israel for the synagogue of the new Hadassah in Ein Kerem—windows so special he claimed he dreamed them while he worked. Ironically, when the Six-Day War erupted in 1967, one of the first places hit by Jordanian bombardment was the new hospital. When Chagall learned that his windows had been shattered, he promised to return and make them “more beautiful than ever.” He more than succeeded.
Today, the original Hadassah on Mount Scopus is again open, and both Hadassah hospitals serve all the people of Jerusalem.