To truly experience Jerusalem, you have to be here on a Friday. Saturday is Shabbat, the day of rest in Judaism, and most of the city shuts down. But Fridays always feel festive as people prepare for sundown.
Just inside Jaffa Gate, one of the entrances into the Old City, the maze of narrow stone walkways takes you back in time. Merchants line the pedestrian-only streets selling everything from hookah pipes to shofars, the ram's horn used to sound the arrival of the Jewish New Year.
In the heart of the Christian Quarter, follow Franciscan monks, Greek Orthodox priests and tour groups into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, revered as the site where Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. A large stone structure designates Christ's tomb, and a small stairway leads up to what many believe to be the actual crucifixion site.
On David Street, enter the Jewish Quarter where the wide streets feel more relaxed without the constant peddling of merchants. You'll pass the Western Wall, the most revered site in Judaism, and the golden Dome of the Rock rising above. This is the heart of Temple Mount, where Abraham almost sacrificed his son Isaac and Muhammad ascended to heaven.
Leave the Old City at Dung Gate and enter the City of David. Here archaeologists are discovering tunnels and waterways used by King David when he first attacked the Jebusites in 1000 B.C. to gain control of Jerusalem and unite the 12 tribes of Israel. Underground you can see the tunnel his army supposedly used to enter the city and Gihon Spring, the major water source of ancient Jerusalem and the spot where Solomon, son of David, was anointed king.
When you get hungry, head over to Mehane Yehuda Market, where wall-to-wall people buy groceries before Shabbat and merchants shout out their wares - challah, rugelach, dates, figs, pomegranates, halvah and colorful spices. Grab a table at the hole-in-the-wall Ochlim B'shuk and choose from tasty beef goulash, matzo ball soup, grilled fish, potato stew, lambkibbeh and, of course, hummus.
Head back to the Western Wall by sunset where crowds gather for Friday night service. Orthodox Jewish men, with long beards and even longer payots (curly sideburns), daven in front of the imposing stones, the last remnant of King Herod's Second Temple. People of all faiths write their prayers on scraps of paper and wedge them into the cracks. No doubt, many of those prayers are for Jews, Muslims and Christians to live in peace so that this city can endure for another 2,000 years.