[Jerusalem] “Shalom Jerusalem”. I have meant to publish this earlier, in the period leading towards Good Friday & Easter, and Jewish holiday of Passover.
But nobody would have expected a lockdown to occur in Israel due to the Corona Virus crisis.
However, let’s hope that the people can brave the storm together, and situation will be well soon.
Publishing this today to remember this week. You can bookmark this page if you intend to visit Jerusalem… sometime in the future. Let’s all stay hopeful and in faith.
Jerusalem is a Middle Eastern city that is the capital of both Israel and the State of Palestine. Imbued with spirituality, three major religions consider it a holy place: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Thus, it goes by these nicknames: Ir ha-Kodesh (“The Holy City”) and Bayt al-Maqdis (“House of the Holiness”).
Within the modern city of Jerusalem is the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls, a 0.9 sq. km. walled area designated in 1981 as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Although Jerusalem in known for its religious significance, it houses many artistic and cultural venues. If you have an appetite for history, culture and Middle Eastern food, Jerusalem is a must in your travel bucket list.
Try to schedule it during spring and early fall. With the mind weather, it’s the best time to explore the attractions. Plus, there are less crowds. Don’t forget to check their local calendar for any Jewish celebration, as this often attracts lots of people into the city.
You may even catch the annual Jerusalem Festival of Light where you can see the entire Old City illuminated.
Prepare enough Shekels (Jerusalem’s currency) and learn a bit of Hebrew if you can.
Even without a car, it’s easy to get around Jerusalem as buses and trains are all over the city. You’ll get around via buses known as Egged. They have one light rail line which traverses Jaffo Road in West Jerusalem and has a stop at Damascus Gate.
Do plan your itinerary as some public transport may cease on Fridays just before sundown. That’s when Shabbat/Shabbos/Sabbath begins, a day of rest observed in Judaism. But you could still find some Arab buses and taxi operating outside Damascus Gate.
Flex those leg muscles as you’ll do a lot of walking around the Old City.
Here are the top 10 places (including food establishments) in Jerusalem you shouldn’t miss:
Opening Hours: Western Wall Tunnels: 7am – Till Late Night (Sun – Thur), 7am – 12nn (Fri)
This wall is part of the holiest sites in Jerusalem
The Western Wall (the Kotel in Hebrew) is an ancient limestone wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, spanning 488 meters long. It now stands 19 meters high but originally 30 meters. It consists of 45 stone courses: 28 above the ground, 17 underground. The first seven visible stone layers are from the Herodian period.
For Muslims, it is known as the Al-Buraq Wall since it is where prophet Muhammad tied Al-Buraq (his magical winged steed) on his Night Journey to Jerusalem before ascending to paradise.
For the Jews, it is the most sacred site. In 1st century B.C., Herod the Great erected a rectangular set of retaining walls to support the platform surrounding Temple Mount, and renovate the Second Temple over it. Of the four walls, the Western Wall is the closest to the former Temple, hence a holy site where Jews would gather and pray.
It is also called the Wailing Wall.
Don’t leave without visiting the Western Wall Tunnels. These are a complex set of underground caverns and narrow corridors running along approx. 488 meters of the wall.
A guided tour is a must and takes about 75 minutes. From there you can see the entire exposed length of Western Wall and the Temple Mount. A journey to the depths of the earth.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Between Suq Khan e-Zeit and Christian Quarter Road, Jerusalem, Israel
Opening Hours: Summer (Apr – Sep) 5am – 9pm (Mon – Sat), 5am – 8pm (Sun); Winter (Oct – Mar) 4pm – 7pm (Daily)
The place where Jesus was supposedly crucified and buried
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is located in the Christian Quarter of the Old City, between Suq Khan e-Zeit and Christian Quarter Road.
Its construction was completed in 335 A.D. and has a capacity of 8,000. It is one of Jerusalem’s main landmarks and draws many pilgrims and visitors. 2,000 years ago, the spot was an open area beyond the city walls.
It contains two holy sites: the site where Jesus was crucified (Calvary or Golgotha or “the place of the skull”) and his empty tomb known as the Holy Sepulchre. This tomb is enclosed by a 19th century shrine called the Aedicula.
Admission to the site of the Holy Sepulchre is free. Visitors of any religion can enter.
As there’s no crowd control at the church entrance, it can get overcrowded at times. You may have to wait in line for about an hour. If you can, schedule your visit as early as possible.
Opening Hours: Summer Hours 7:30am – 11am, 1:30pm – 2:30pm (Sun – Thu); Winter Hours 7am – 10:30am, 12:30pm – 1:30pm (Sun – Thu)
A sacred site to all 3 religions
The Temple Mount is a sacred site to all 3 religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
It has a 140-acre stone-paved courtyard where The Second Temple was located and renovated by Herod. Remember the Western Wall? It’s one of the 4 walls supporting this platform built on Mount Moriah, the most sacred place for the Jewish people.
According to tradition, this is where King Solomon built the First Temple and where the exiles of Babel returned to build The Second Temple.
You’ll find many wells in the Temple Mount courtyard since the temple requires a steady supply of water.
In 70 A.D. the temple was destroyed by the Romans and the platform remained empty and deserted under the Roman era.
In 638, Jerusalem became under Muslim rule led by Calif Omar Ibn El Khattab. In 691, he built the Dome of the Rock upon the platform of the Temple Mount. Later on, El Walid built the Al Aqsa Mosque.
For the Muslims, the Temple Mount is considered Haram esh-Sharif (“Noble Sanctuary”) and the 3rd holiest site in the world, from which Mohammed ascended to the sky and met God and the prophets.
Tower of David
Opening Hours: 11:30am – 2:30pm, 5:30pm-10pm (Mon – Fri), 11:30am – 10pm (Sat – Sun)
Enjoy a 360 view of the Jerusalem from the observatory tower
The Tower of David is an ancient citadel located near the historical Jaffa Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. Thus, it is known as the Jerusalem Citadel.
It is a medieval fortress with architectural additions from later periods. The citadel that stands today dates to the Mamluk and Ottoman periods.
Though named the Tower of David, there is no such connection to King David. During the Byzantine period, the early Church fathers mistakenly attributed the Tower of Phasael to King David. Even the Muslims called it mihrab Nabi Daud aka the prayer niche of the prophet David. In the 19th century, it was the Turkish minaret added to the Mamluk mosque that was mistakenly identified as the Tower of David.
From the Citadel’s observation tower, one has a one-of-a-kind vantage point of Jerusalem. For an entrance fee of 15 NIS, you get a breath-taking 360° view of the Old and New City, the Four Quarters, the new neighbourhoods, the Mount of Olives, Mount Scopus, the Judean Desert, and the Dead Sea in the distance. You can hold the city in the palm of your hand.
You can’t miss the Tower of David Museum as every visit to Jerusalem begins here. Museum admission is 40 NIS for adults and 18 NIS for children up to 18.
Mount of Olives
Mount of Olives Road, At-Tur, Jerusalem, Israel
Opening Hours: 11:30am – 2:30pm, 5:30pm – 10pm (Mon – Fri), 11:30am – 10pm (Sat – Sun)
This once olive grove-lined slope is a 3,000 year old cemetery
Adjacent to the Old City of Jerusalem on the eastern side is a mountain ridge. Mount of Olives, rising 826 meters, is one of the three hills on that ridge. The other two are Mount Scopus and Mount of Corruption.
The slopes were once covered with olive groves, thus the ridge was called Mount of Olives or Mount Olivet.
For more than 3,000 years and up to the present, the mount has been used as a Jewish cemetery and holds around 150,000 graves.
For Christians, this place is significant as many events in Jesus’ ministry took place in the Mount of Olives. It was where Jesus taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer (Pater Noster). Also, it was the place from which Jesus ascended to heaven after resurrection. Here you can find the Chapel of the Ascension, which houses a slab of stone believed to contain one of Jesus’ footprints.
Mount of Olives has been a site of worship since ancient times. Today, it is a major pilgrimage site for Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestants.
Prepare to spend 1-2 hours exploring this attraction.
Ditch the car as parking is difficult to find. If you’re up for it, you can walk from the Old City to the Mount of Olives.
Garden of Gethsemane
Tel: +972 2 6266 444
Opening Hours: Church 8am – 12pm, 2pm – 6pm (5pm Oct – Mar), Grotto 8:30am – 12pm, 2:30pm – 5pm (3:40pm Sun and Thu)
Ancient olive trees dating back mid-12th century
The Garden of Gethsemane spans about 1200 square meters in area, and surrounds the Church of All Nations.
Located near the foot of the Mount of Olives, the garden houses some of the world’s oldest olive trees (“Gethsemane” is Hebrew for “oil press”). You can find 8 ancient gnarled olive trees behind an iron fence with Byzantine design. A 2012 research reported they all came from a single parent tree, and 3 of them dated from mid-12th century.
Up to now, oil is still pressed from the annual fruits of the eight oldest olive trees in the garden. The oil is used for Gethsemane’s sanctuary lamps, while the olive pits are used to make rosary beads.
Biblical references point it out as the place where Jesus prayed in agony the night before his arrest by the Roman soldiers for crucifixion.
Around 100 meters north of the Church of All Nations is the 190 sqm Grotto of Gethsemane, a natural grotto where Jesus’ disciples were believed to have slept while Jesus prayed. In the 4th century, it became a chapel with a main altar. Beneath the altar you’ll find bronze figures depicting two of the sleeping disciples. The grotto is also known as the Cave of the Olive Press.
The Israel Museum
Ruppin Blvd 11, Opposite the Knesset, Jerusalem Zip: 9171002
Tel: +02 670 8811
Opening Hours: 10am – 5pm (Sun, Mon, Wed, Thu), 4pm – 9pm (Tue), 10am – 2pm (Fri and Holiday Eves), 10:30am – 4pm (Sat)
Largest cultural institution in the State of Israel
Founded in 1965, The Israel Museum is the largest cultural institution in the State of Israel. It has built a collection of nearly 500,000 objects from gifts and generous support from patrons worldwide.
Ranked among the world’s leading art and archaeology museums, it features the most extensive collection of biblical and Holy Land archaeology in the world.
You’ll find encyclopaedic collections in its Archaeology, Fine Arts, and Jewish Art and Life Wings, as well as works dating from prehistory to the present day.
In 2010, it completed a three-year expansion upgrade of its 20-acre campus. Part of the highlights of the original campus is the Shrine of the Book which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, the world’s oldest biblical manuscripts.
Next to the Shrine of the Book is the Model of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period. You get a glimpse of the past as it reconstructs the topography and architecture of the city before it was destroyed in the Romans.
You’ll also find Billy Rose Art Garden, designed by Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi.
With its Oriental landscape amidst an ancient Jerusalem hillside, the garden is one of the finest outdoor sculpture settings of the 20th century. On view are works by modern masters including Pablo Picasso and Auguste Rodin.
In between tour, you can recharge at Modern, the Museum’s kosher meat restaurant overlooking the Valley of the Cross. Serving contemporary Jerusalem cuisine, it offers a rich collection of quality wines to pair with your meals. You can dine here even without an admission ticket to the museum.
Full-cost tickets to the Museum may be purchased online or at the box office for 54 NIS for Adults and 27 NIS for Children/Teens aged 5-17.
Tel: +972 2 6443 574
Opening Hours: 9am – 5pm (Sun – Thurs), 9am – 2pm (Fri, Holiday eves), Closed Sat and all Jewish holidays
Israel’s official memorial to the 6 million Nazi Holocaust victims
Yad Vashem is Israel’s official memorial to the 6M victims of the Nazi Holocaust. Located hillside on Har Hazikaron, aka Mount of Remembrance, it can be accessed via Holland Junction on the Herzl Route.
Yad Vashem is Hebrew for “everlasting name” and comes from the biblical verse Isaiah 56:5.
“I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name [Yad Vashem] that shall not be cut off.”
Admission to Yad Vashem is free. You can enter up to 4pm on Sundays to Thursdays, and up to 1pm on Fridays and eve of holidays. Children under 10 are not allowed to enter. Men are required to cover their heads (kippahs are available).
You’ll walk through tree-lined paths leading to a sprawling 18 hectare complex with museums, exhibition halls, monuments, a library, an archive and other resource centres.
The history museum is a long dark corridor carved into the mountain. You’ll begin the tour underground and walk upward towards a balcony overlooking the Jerusalem valley. This is a symbolic depiction of the passage of the Jews through the dark days of Holocaust to the light of Israel.
Ten exhibition halls present different chapters of the Nazi Holocaust. You’ll find one avenue lined with plaques bearing the names of the “Righteous Among the Nations” – thousands of non-Jews who sacrificed their lives rescuing the Jews from the Nazis.
The archive contains 68 million pages of documents, nearly 300,000 photographs and thousands of films and testimony videos of survivors. There is also a memorial site for the 5000 Jewish communities destroyed during the Nazi era. The Hall of Names lists the millions of survivors.
Mahane Yehuda Market
Bounded by Jaffa Road, Agrippas Street, Beit Yaakov Street, and Kiach Street, Jerusalem
Opening Hours: 8am – 7pm (Sun – Thu), 8am – 3pm (Fri)
One of the most beautiful markets in Israel
Visit Shuk Machane Yehuda or Machane Yehuda Market, one of the most beautiful markets in Israel and a world-famous Jerusalem icon. It dates back to the Ottoman period, starting as an empty lot in the end of the 19th century. Local peasants began selling produce and eventually grew into an organized market.
Here you can find everything from clothes to housewares; flowers, art, accessories; and a variety of fresh and specialty food. It is recommended to visit the market on weekdays from 9:30am-5pm.
On Saturday evenings, the market is closed but most of the restos, bars and music clubs are open. Want to experience Jerusalem’s night life? The shuk is a great place to go. From time to time, there are open events too.
There are a variety of regular guided tours which you can join, including the Chef-guided Tasting Tour.
For independent travellers, get yourself the Bite Card, which costs 105 NIS and has 6 curated coupons. A convenient way to try a variety of products at your own time! Have a taste of Georgian or Jerusalem Baked Goods, Kubbeh Soup or Stuffed Veggies, Meat Patty a la Plancha or Hummus, a healthy drink, Boutique Beer and Spicy Popcorn or Dim Sum, and Fresh Coffee or Artisan Ice Cream.
If you’re arriving by car, paid parking is available at the Shukenyon Building, about 60 meters from the market entrance. Or park at the Mesillat Yesharim St. or Haneviim St. at the city’s center, just a 5-minute walking distance away from the shuk.
Another option is to take the Light Rail all the way to the entrance of the market. Then, simply lose yourself to the market’s colours, scents and sounds!
Beit Ya’akov St 10, Jerusalem, Israel
Tel: +972 2 533 3442
Opening Hours: 12:30pm-4pm, 6:30pm-12am (Sun-Thu), 11:30am-3pm (Fri), 6:30pm-12am (Sat)
One of the best restaurants in Israel
Helmed by Jerusalemite Uri Navon and Assaf Granit, Machneyuda is a restaurant that offers Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Israeli cuisines. Located next to the Machne Yehuda Market, it serves a changing market-to-table menu using ingredients from the shuk.
It is part of the MachneYuda Group which also includes The Barbary and The Palomar Restaurant, two popular restos in London.
In case you have special diets, they have vegan and vegetarian options as well as gluten-free dishes.
Book your table way in advance as this is one of the most popular dining places in Israel.
The ambiance is full of life – brisk, bustling and the music loud! If you have some elderly in your group, they might find the place too loud. Here you’ll be served by young, friendly and efficient staff. An open kitchen allows you to see the action. Try to get a table on the first floor near the bar to get the best experience.
Get the Tasting Menu for 295 shekels per person. A dinner for two, with drinks, should cost you around 300-400 NIS.
Have an amuse bouche like taramasalata, grated tomato, and flutebread; or a bandora salad with three variations of tomatoes and crutones.
For starters, try the polenta with mushrooms, parmesan and truffle oil, or the sirloin tartare with green almonds, fava bean, and gazpacho.
Main course specials include Filet Minion on a skewer with tahini, cabbage and oregano chimi; Lamb T-bone with lamb crumble, and the vegan-friendly burger with vegan aioli and vegan stuff.
Cap off your meal with Uri’s Mom Famous Semolina Cake with fruits and cream. Don’t forget to try the “special dessert” – it will cost you more but it’s worth the surprise.