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Jerusalem, Israel

Jerusalem

Great Destination:

4.5

Value for Money:

3

Total Stars:

7.5

Personality Types that Like it Best

Broad appeal to all personality types but for different reasons-cultural, religious and ethnic

Did You Know….?

  • In their very earliest days, Moslems faced Jerusalem to pray.
  • The Temple Mount encompasses 35 acres, about 16% of the Old City.
  • The city is surrounded on three sides — north, east, south — by the West Bank.
  • The Old City walls, extending two and a half miles, were built in the 16th century.
  • The Jerusalem artichoke is a North American sunflower.

Holy three times over

Jerusalem is a sacred place for the adherents of three major religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism.  As a result, large numbers of North American tourists are in fact pilgrims. Other visitors feel a strong cultural bond with Jerusalem because of its importance to Western history.

The Israeli capital is divided into three sections: West Jerusalem, largely Jewish and encompassing the modern city center; East Jerusalem, predominantly Arab, and the Old City, the walled historical center occupying much the same area as Biblical Jerusalem.

Attractions in the Old City include the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, believed to be Christ’s crucifixion and burial site; the Via Dolorosa, Christ’s route to the cross; the Wailing Wall, which is all that remains of the Second Temple, and the Dome of the Rock, a Moslem shrine on the Temple Mount.

That list barely skims the surface. It’s a good idea — even for the most independent — to spend time in the Old City with a professional guide because there is so much to see.

Most of Jerusalem’s attractions are in the Old City. However, the Mount of Olives is just east of the Old City, and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial is in West Jerusalem. Day trips to Bethlehem and Jericho take visitors into the West Bank, an area mostly under Palestinian control.

Jerusalem’s special place in history lures visitors, but there is a bonus: It’s a beautiful city, too. The Old City sports 16th century 40-foot walls in good repair. And, by law, buildings are faced with a local cream-colored limestone known as Jerusalem stone which has a warm golden hue at sunset.

Because Jerusalem sits in the Judean Hills, temperatures are generally comfortable although it occasionally snows in winter.

Finally, millions visit Israel each year despite well-publicized violence in the area. There are no guarantees, but Israelis provide security at tourist sites, at gates to the Old City and especially at the Wailing Wall.

Some visitors feel better avoiding public transportation. But the best advice urges visitors to stay alert to surroundings, read announcements from the U.S. or other governments and follow the news.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Sign on for a package tour to Jericho in the West Bank. Visit Hisham’s Palace there to see some of the best mosaic pieces in the Middle East. When crossing to and returning from the West Bank, you will switch guides, drivers and vehicles. Be alert to current events in the area before joining the group.
  • Consider a night out sampling dance clubs or pubs.
  • After checking out the local situation at the time of your trip, join a group to visit the Temple Mount, site of the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque. As a tourist, you can visit the Mount, but you can enter the mosques only if you are Moslem.
  • Join an archaeological dig. There are numerous opportunities around the country including a selection in and around Jerusalem.
  • Go to Bethlehem at Christmas. Check the current political situation before you go. Or, attend a Christmas parade in Nazareth, which is not in the West Bank.
  • Take a guided bicycle tour in and around the village of Ein Kerem or in Jerusalem. One route features the city’s important Christian sites.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Imagine you are walking the streets of Jerusalem, but it is 2,000 years ago. At the Ophel Archaeological Park just below the southern and southwestern sections of the Temple Mount, excavations that started in 1968 allow you to walk on 2,000-year-old stone walkways.
  • Spend Holy Week in Jerusalem. Attend services at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
  • See a performance by the Off the Wall Comedy Empire (English-speaking). The company describes comedy “as a necessary religious experience.”
  • Learn about the lives of Jewish residents in the Old City from the days of the Ottoman and British Jerusalem, from the 15th century to 1948. At the Old Court Yishuv Museum, exhibits include two courtyards, surrounded by rooms with household appliances and furnishings arranged as they would have been during the 19th century.
  • Tuck a prayer into a crack in the Wailing Wall. If you can, stage your child’s bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah in Jerusalem.
  • Wander the winding lanes of nearby Ein Kerem, an ancient village said to be the source of the stones for the First Temple. Christian tradition says John the Baptist was born here and that Mary drank from the Spring of the Virgin, a still-active spring in the village. Today, the village is a haven for artists, poets and writers.

Things to do for Authentics

  • See Biblical sites you’ve heard about since childhood. Take a comprehensive guided tour of the city, in the Old City and beyond.
  • Spend a little time with the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Shrine of the Book, which is part of the larger Israel Museum. Two-thirds of the shrine is below ground to protect the scrolls. You can visit the Shrine of the Book separately from the associated Israel Museum.
  • See a production by the Jerusalem English-Speaking Theater, known locally as JEST.
  • Visit Yad Vashem, the moving and tastefully presented complex of Holocaust memorials. The main unit is the relatively new Holocaust History Museum. Another memorial remembers every child who died in the Holocaust, and another honors gentiles who risked their lives to save Jews. Entry is free, but guided tours are available.
  • Shop for gifts at the numerous small shops in the Old City. Bargaining is the order of the day.
  • See a performance by one of the Hora Jerusalem ensembles. There are several performing troupes, and the repertoire is wide-ranging but includes plenty of Israeli folk and traditional Jewish dances.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Jerusalem Development Authority at www.itraveljerusalem.com