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Exploring the rich history of Jerusalem

“Today” show host Matt Lauer profiles the holy sites and culture of the city, in part one of “The Mystery of Faith” series.
/ Source: TODAY

The Western Wall — it is the holiest place in the world for members of the Jewish faith. Traditionally, Jewish worshippers would leave written prayers in the cracks of the wall, and you still can. But now, thousands of people a year mail their messages to be delivered to the wall, and, as a sign of the times, you can also fax, e-mail or even text message your prayers to be placed within the cracks of the wall by a rabbi.

The Western Wall is part of what's known as Temple Mount, where two temples once stood. Now, on top sits the Dome of the Rock, one of the holiest sites in Islam. The wall was built back in 37 B.C. as part of a renovation project to help hold up an ancient temple. When the second temple was destroyed, the Western Wall remained standing and the Jewish people see it as a sign of God remaining with them despite great hardships. “Today” show host Matt Lauer profiles the people and places of Jerusalem:

Jerusalem is rich in history and tradition. For thousands of years this narrow corridor of land has been revered by millions as the holy land.

Events that took place here in antiquity gave rise to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Jerusalem and its neighboring areas throughout Israel draw believers from around the world.

Jerusalem is a city more than 3000 years old.

People of three great religions consider it to be their holy land, a place of great spirituality and hope — the closest man can come to God here on Earth.

Isaac Herzog, Israeli tourism minister: The proximity from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre all the way down to the Wailing Wall is nothing and you understand that in this tiny piece of land so much of the world's emotions and beliefs is concentrated.

To Jews, Israel is the promised land, the kingdom of David and Solomon.

Islamic tradition holds Jerusalem as one of its holiest sites, the “farthermost place” from which Mohammed ascended to heaven to meet God. And to Christians, it is the birthplace of their religion, where Jesus Christ was crucified and resurrected.

Tourist: To see where Jesus lived and died and rose again is just so fantastic. People come here seeking hope and comfort in a biblical land filled with promise.

Not far from Jerusalem is Israel's holiest river, Jordan, where Christians renew their faith through baptism in the same holy waters Jesus Christ was baptized in more than 2000 years ago.

This holy land has natural wonders, too. The Dead Sea, with its salty, mineral laden waters, helps you float and heal. People come here looking to cure skin disorders, heart disease ... even stress.

And there's hope to be found here if you're unlucky in love ...

In northern Israel, people visit the tomb of Rabbi Yonosson Ben Uziel, where tradition holds that those who pray to him will find their soulmates

Young man: I pray to God to help me find a good woman. Father: This is why I came here also to pray for my daughter to hope that she will be married.

Reportedly there have been many cases where those who prayed were married within one year!