Jerusalem : This is the heart and soul of the Land of Israel, and one of the most emotionally and spiritually charged places on earth. 
The biblical references to "going up" to Jerusalem are literally true.  Jerusalem sits atop the Judean Hills, a significant rise above both the coastal plan and the Jordan Valley also part of Israel.  As one approaches the city on Highway 1 from Tel Aviv, the vegetation changes and the air grows cooler at the higher elevations, and the semi-arid climate gives way to a more temperate, varied climate.  In the winter, Jerusalem occasionally sees snow, and in the summer, evenings are often cool enough to require long pants and a long-sleeve shirt.

 Before the Six-Day War (1967), the city was divided, with the eastern portion, including the Old City and the Mount of Olives under Jordanian occupation.  While formally united under Israeli rule, the city has always maintained two characters, and after the violence of the intifada, that division has sadly reemerged.  The New City, the western section, is the portion that always remained under Israeli control, and it is almost exclusively Jewish, more cosmopolitan, and in some ways much like other Israeli cities. Other areas of the city remain mostly Arab as they have for the past 150 years. Here are located the Knesset and the government offices, the commercial and shopping districts, and most of the Jewish residential neighborhoods.  The Old City, surrounded by the 500-year-old wall erected by Turkish Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, was the portion under Jordanian occupation from 1948-1967, and it is this portion which contains most of the significant historical sites and all of the holy places of interest to the three faiths.

The Old City itself contains four quarters, though these are not physical divisions and are, in fact, only loose descriptions.  The Armenian Quarter was settled in the 4th and 5th Centuries by pilgrims from this first nation to adopt Christianity.  With the end of Armenian nationhood in 1921 – and in the wake of the brutal Armenian genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks – the Armenian Quarter became the spiritual heart of the Armenian people in exile.  Now, with Armenia once again an independent nation, it plays a less crucial role (and has fewer residents), but it is still one of the major centers of the Armenian Orthodox Church.  The Christian Quarter contains the end of the Via Dolorosa (the Way of the Cross) and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  Various churches – Armenian, Greek Orthodox, Coptic, Roman Catholic, Maronite, and Ethiopian – compete for space and control in this holiest place of Christendom. 

The Jewish Quarter was the refuge of the Old Yishuv for centuries, Orthodox Jews who came to Eretz Yisrael to study or simply to die.  After the Jewish Quarter fell to the Arab Legion after the long and bitter siege in the 1948 War for Independence, the Jordanians expelled the remaining Jews and dynamited most of the buildings, including centuries-old synagogues and yeshivot.  Following the reunification of the city in 1967, Israelis rebuilt the Jewish Quarter, and in the process, came upon many important archeological sites from the Second Temple period and the Temple's destruction in 70 C.E. 

Finally, the Muslim Quarter contains the shrines that make Jerusalem the third holiest city in Islam, the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as the Western Wall of Herod's platform which held the Temple -- the holiest place of prayer in Judaism.  The Muslim shrines are built upon the site of the ancient Temple, a raised platform known as the Temple Mount ("Har ha-Bayit" in Hebrew) and  "Haram al-Sharif" ("the Noble Sanctuary" in Arabic).  The Western Wall is one of the outer walls of Herod's Temple Mount.  The Temple was built here on Mt. Moriah, the place where Abraham bound his son Isaac for sacrifice, as well as the site where Muhammad allivated to heaven on his mythical beast al-Baraq.  No place in Israel is more sensitive and more contentious.

The Dome of the Rock, which is famously known due to its distinctive gold dome, and blue moasic design is a not a Mosque but a shrine protecting the foundation stone/place of Muhamads ascension to heaven. It is a secondary Muslim pilgrimage site for those unable to make the Haj to Mecca. Historically the Temple Mount is the site of Solomons temple. Today the Temple Mount has limited access to non-Moslems and is accessible via the Mughrabi bridge Sunday through Thursday from 7:30-10:30 and 12:30-13:30 (an hour later for summer time).