The YMCA Center in Jerusalem is located on King David Street, right in front of the King David Hotel. A unique building with a bell tower towering over it. Join me for a private tour of this impressive monument of the Jerusalem skyline. Meanwhile, I invite you to read about the site in this post.
The YMCA (Young Man Christian Association) organization was founded in England in 1844 to nurture the human spirit, mind, and body.
In 1917, small YMCA centers were built near the British army camps during their occupation of the country. Later, the YMCA organization in Jerusalem became a center for people of all religions and nationalities.
The current center in Jerusalem was inaugurated in 1933 by General Allenby, the conqueror of Jerusalem from the Ottomans, in December 1917.
This beautiful and complex structure was designed by the architect Arthur Loomis Harmon, who also designed the Empire State Building in New York.
The entire complex is saturated with religious symbols of the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It symbolizes the Holy Trinity and the connection between mind, spirit, and body.
The decorative elements representing the three religions are scattered throughout the center and organized according to typological numbers from the sacred numbers of the three religions: 3, 12, and 40.
The 12 cypresses planted in the garden in front of the building symbolize the 12 tribes of Israel, the 12 disciples of Jesus, and the 12 imams who succeeded Muhammad. This motif of the number 12 is repeated both in the windows of the concert auditorium and in the gymnasium with 12 windows.
The 40 pillars in the courtyard symbolize the 40 years of the wanderings of the sons of Israel in the desert, the 40 days of Jesus’ temptation in the desert, and the 40 years of Muhammad when he received the good news from the angel Gabriel, Jibril in Arabic.
The capitals of the multiple pillars are decorated with sculptures of flora and fauna of the country.
In front of the building is a tower that rises to 147 feet, with 35 bells.
On the front of the tower is a high relief of an angel, according to Isaiah 6:2: ” Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew”.
At the main entrance – on the left pillar, is a statue of a woman’s head carrying a water jug. This is the Samaritan woman who met Jesus and to whom Jesus confesses his Messianism for the first time. On the column to the right is a lamb. One of the names of Jesus in Latin is Agnus Dei, which means “Lamb of God”.
At the entrance to the building, stone pillars with vine and wheat carvings signifying the bread and wine, the body and blood of Jesus, according to the tradition of the Last Supper, and the “Mass” or “Lord’s Supper” ceremonies held by Christians since then.
At the entrance to the foyer are column capitals with statues representing the attributes, symbols in art, that symbolize a figure or event of the four Gospels, heralds of the Christian gospel: Matthew-man or angel, Markus-winged lion, Lux-bull, John-eagle.
There is an interpretation that these symbols commemorate stages in Jesus’ life: He lived as a man, was sacrificed as an ox, ascended to heaven as an eagle, and will return to reign as a lion. The source of the symbols is in the book of Ezekiel, 10:1-2: “10 As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle. 11 Thus were their faces.”
On the floor at the entrance, we can see a replica of the map of Jerusalem from the Madaba map mosaic, a mosaic from the Byzantine period commemorating Jerusalem as it appeared in the sixth century. It is fantastic to see that the basic structure of the old city has remained unchanged since then.
The ceiling in the lobby is decorated with Damascus wood decorations.
The building is built from three wings, with covered passageways connecting between them that create a single whole: administration in the center, right-to-north: the wing dedicated to the development of the human spirit: concert hall, conferences, shows. At the top of the wing, on the front of the building, there is a Jewish inscription in Hebrew: “The Lord our God is one”.
From left-south: the wing dedicated to body culture: swimming pool, sports hall, and courts. At the top of the wing is the Islamic chant “There is no god but Allah”.
Getting to the top of the bell tower is worthwhile, either by the steps or using the elevator. The view is spectacular!