Instead I bought hummus and pita bread in the market, then checked into a bed and breakfast about five minutes north of Damascus Gate.
Maga's House, as it is called, occupies the lower part of a rambling old mansion on Heleni Hamalka Street in the Musrara district, which sits on the border between what was Israeli West Jerusalem and Jordanian East Jerusalem before 1967. Among the accommodations in this B&B was a renovated 19th century cistern.
This was one of the strangest places I've ever stayed.
The apartment is entered by a spiral staircase that leads to a bedroom on the first level, below ground.
The primitive bath is on the next level down, followed by a big living room and kitchen at the bottom. The cistern has a skylight and lamps, but it still felt like a bomb shelter. I was amused to learn that before Maga turned the cistern into an apartment, it was an 80-seat jazz club.
I contemplated leaving the next day, but slept soundly that night. And then I met Maga, who lives in an adjacent apartment and made the experience of staying there worthwhile. She is a psychotherapist who came to Israel from Argentina in the 1960s.
I arrived at the Jaffa Gate on the west side of the Old City early enough the next day to be one of the first people on a nearby section of the ramparts that's open to tourists.
The view to the right is of the Christian quarter, to the left of modern, western Jerusalem, shelled by Jordanians from the ramparts, a sign said.
Just south of Jaffa Gate is King David's Tower, once a Crusader castle, now a history museum, instructive, but hardly as compelling as the real thing at its feet.
Sightseeing company Sandemans New Jerusalem offers free 3 1/2 -hour walking tours that start at Jaffa Gate. I joined one of them, led by a smart, young Hebrew University student who explained that around 1900, Europeans began buying property in Jerusalem where they established churches and hostels.
Some of the best guest houses and cafes are still run by religious institutions, including the Austrian Hospice and French Ecce Homo Convent in the Muslim Quarter.
The guide led my group through a labyrinth of alleyways and up crumbling staircases to the rooftop of the city near where its four quarters meet.
Here we got a sweeping view of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Western Wall Plaza and Temple Mount, surmounted by the gleaming gold hemisphere of the Dome of the Rock.
Looking closer we could see how the densely packed warrens of the Muslim Quarter differed from the lighter, more orderly Jewish Quarter, destroyed during the Jordanian period but later skillfully reconstructed by the Israelis.
There is a mosque in the Christian Quarter and an Anglican hospice in the Armenian. Our guide said that Muslims aren't welcome to live in the Jewish Quarter but several ultra-Orthodox Jews recently moved into the Muslim area. Together with several Israeli government development projects, this has been seen by Palestinians as part of an effort to "Judaicize" Arab East Jerusalem in order to influence negotiations about the ultimate disposition of the city.
After the tour I visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which even quibbling archaeologists tend to agree is the site of Christ's crucifixion and burial. It is a dark, cave-like place, gerrymandered among different Christian sects. I got there just as the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem was arriving with acolytes, and a Coptic Christian woman was weeping over the stone slab where it's thought Jesus' brutalized body was laid.
Then I walked the Via Dolorosa backward and found my favorite place in Old Jerusalem, the sixth Station of the Cross, where Veronica wiped Christ's forehead with her veil.
The next day I toured Temple Mount with a dapper Muslim guide who took me to the west side of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is closed to non-Muslims and women. But through a little window there I could scrutinize the empty space inside, supported by Italian marble columns donated by Mussolini.
The plaza around the mosque is an uplifting, airy place shaded by old olive trees and illuminated by the golden Dome of the Rock, which tourists can make little sense of because they aren't allowed to enter.
From there I made my way through St. Stephen's Gate on the east side of the Old City, heading toward the Mount of Olives, a rocky hill mostly covered by a Jewish cemetery where plots are worth millions, I heard.
The hill -- mountain is too big a word for it -- is a stop for phalanxes of tour buses because it is thought to be the site of the Garden of Gethsemane, where Christ almost lost faith before going to his crucifixion.
A chain of sanctuaries has been built there by Christians from many nations. Along the winding lane leading to the top, a huckster with a white donkey poses for pictures with pilgrims.
Near the summit is the Church of Dominus Flevit, commemorating the place where, weeping over Jerusalem, Christ said, "If this day you only knew what makes for peace. But it is hidden from your eyes."
Now, as then.
Who would not shed a few tears standing on the Mount of Olives looking over Jerusalem?