Ancient stone ramparts surround Jerusalem’s old city for 2.8 miles — with a series of sidewalks wide enough for the perfect run. Departing early (I recommend 5: 30 a.m., before the sun gets too hot) I experienced three different religions in less than 30 minutes.
North of New Gate, near the intersection of Yafo and HaTsanhanim, I see the tiptop of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the grandiose, multilevel basilica towering above the traditional sites of the crucifixion, entombment, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, around which the Christian Quarter was built. I pass by the imposing Damascus Gate, the largest gate of all, leading into the bustling Muslim Quarter. Near Dung Gate, the closest entrance to the Western Wall, I’m suddenly immersed in a crowd of Hasidic Jews (men only) leaving their morning prayers in great fur hats and heavy black coats. They don’t meet my gaze, and I dare not look at them, feeling a little bare in my shorts and T-shirt.
Along the wall’s backside, the Mount of Olives rises above the Kidron Valley in shadows on my left, the silhouettes of olive trees smudging its ridgeline. To my right I spot the Golden Gate, or Eastern Gate — long closed in, but the entrance that Jesus was said to have used in passing between the Mount of Olives and the city. As I stand there, retracing his route with my eyes, two women in headscarves eye me curiously. I smile and they smile back.
On the south side, at the great Jaffa Gate, Palestinian vendors sell freshly baked bagele from sidewalk carts. On my second lap, I can’t help but to stop and buy one of these huge oblong loaves sprinkled with sesame seeds, which I carry like a football around the final corner of the walls. There, a bench in a small park beckons, where I perch and enjoy a little morsel of the still-warm bread.
Mileage: 2.8 mile loop
Best time: Early morning, before the sun gets too hot and the crowds have emerged
Start: New Gate
End: New Gate
Simply follow the walls!