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Jerusalem - tram - Muslim and Jewish women sit side by side - Krista photo

Jerusalem - Wailing Wall - cleaning up the praying notes - d.j. photo

,, I’m lucky enough to have visited many places in my life, but nowhere exceeded my expectations so completely, or impressed me quite as much, like Jerusalem. I completely fell in love with this city, and I’m desperate to go back!
From the bus station, we traveled to our accommodation by tram (the Light Rail), and the minute we got off, we were sucked into the amazing atmosphere of Jerusalem on a Thursday evening. With the lights of the night illuminating that special stone architecture of the buildings on the Jaffa Road, and the warm spring air touched our faces, we felt as though we had been both catapulted into another dimension and abruptly brought to life.

We started early on Friday morning since we knew that things would start to close by 2 PM on account of Shabbat. We went up to Mount Herzl by Light Rail. Mount Herzl is the terminus, so you can’t miss it. This mountain, also known as the Mount of Remembrance, is named after Theodor Herzl, the father of modern Zionism. His grave can be found at the top of the hill, but he is not the only one buried there: this is Israel’s national cemetery, and prime ministers, generals, and national heroes have also been given a resting place here.
At the entrance to the complex can be found the Herzl Center, while the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum is just a short walk away. The Yad Vashem shows the horrors of the Holocaust and commemorates the victims, and even now I find that my throat constricts when I think about it. It is an extremely well-thought-out museum.
Pictures, books, videos, clothes, personal effects, notes, severed sidelocks and much more can be found here, all relating to the Holocaust. I felt my heart almost break in places, but there’s simply no other way to experience this place. Prepare yourself emotionally, then go, if you’re in Jerusalem! The entrance is free.” (2018)

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Jerusalem is, without a doubt, one of the most magical places in the world. It’s also a dense, crowded place, and the senses are overcome by a mixture of omnipresent spirituality and the various aromas of the bazaars. It appears that you can get used to living in this sort of environment, and the atmosphere is cheerful – only the rigorous inspection at checkpoints reminds a visitor that peace here is fragile.

The narrow alley of the old town which surrounds the Wailing Wall is a good precursor to the sight of that great square, and the iconic silhouette of the Temple of the Rock. Several hours flew by unnoticed on that square, as we watched the parade of lively, cheerfully devout worshippers. Also a great place for taking photos.

By the Wailing Wall, it’s even easier to sense that there is something special in the air. While the Jewish people bowed and prayed, each standing a little way apart from the others, we often heard in the distance the muezzin’s call. Had we not known about the millennium-old conflict between the Jews and the Palestinians, often aggravated by those of Christian faith, we might have imagined that they understood one another well…

My young son loved being able to go into the male section of the wall and speak his wishes to it. He also bought an artistic silk kippah as a memento for himself. Many say that it’s worth spending Shabbat in Jerusalem when you can see the religious life around the Wailing Wall in an even more lively form.

The roof of the Austrian Hospice offers one of the most beautiful panoramas of Jerusalem. The name is misleading – today it is a hotel – but no sign or board indicates this along the Via Dolorosa, the road Christ took to his crucifixion. You have to ring the doorbell for admittance, and they charge five shekels per person to use the lift up to the roof. The Via Dolorosa is full of bazaars these days, and Jesus would have been hard-pressed to squeeze past the stalls of the street vendors.

We took a look at the obligatory Christian sites of pilgrimage and skipped only the places with long queues. The truth is, they’re only really of interest to those who are devoutly religious. The top experience for me was the blue-and-gold timelessness of the Temple Mount. Despite being one of the most politically and religiously contested places on the planet, to me, it radiated peace and tranquility.” (2017)

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“The tram down from Yad Vashem was crowded since school had just ended and all the pupils were going home. There were also a few soldiers on their way back from service. Never before have I traveled with three armed soldiers, their Kalashnikovs – or some close relative – slung over their shoulders on a crowded tram. It struck me as bizarre, but nobody else seemed to notice them. They got off downtown.” (Krista)

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“For me, Jerusalem was like an island of peace. Late every afternoon – no joke – the Jerusalem wind blows in, and the air cools to just the right point for people to enjoy going outside. There’s nothing similar in Tel Aviv, where the air outside the apartment is always stifling.

Jerusalem is a jewelry box – see it, if you ever get the chance! Wander the narrow streets of the old town, haggle with Arab vendors, see with your own eyes the Wailing Wall and touch it with your own hands! Walk through the nearby system of tunnels! Buy a bunch of grapes at the Machane Yehuda market, and choose from among a range of fresh spices!”

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“Nowhere on earth has ever left such a deep impression on me. One highlight was the Kotel, the Wailing Wall, which is a real spiritual experience – you almost feel as though this is where the world’s heart beats. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the world’s most unstable powder kegs and could explode at any moment.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher may not be the most beautiful church in the world, but the spirit of the place, and the sense of multiple religions present in one place, make it a magical place.

Unfortunately, commerce has definitely infiltrated the holy places.

It was truly moving to visit the Yad Vashem memorial, which tells of the indescribable suffering the Jews experienced during the Holocaust. The Israel Museum is also captivating, telling as it does the story of ‘Eretz Yisrael’, or the Land of Israel. The story of the Dead Sea Scrolls is also fascinating. In a word, I want to come back here someday, and hope I will have the chance.”









Practicals

Transport

  • It makes sense to use the Rav-Kav card for public transportation in Jerusalem. You get an automatic transfer for up to 90 minutes from one transit ride to another, whether light-trail or bus. You also get a 25% discount on your fares so that if you pay 50 shekels on to the card, you get a 62.50 shekel credit. 
  • There are additional travel options with the Rav-Kav: there are Day Pass and Week Pass options, too. 
  • If you are going to be using public transit at more than two different times of the same day, then a Day Pass (for 13.50 shekel within the Jerusalem metropolis) makes more sense. 



Most people are getting to the Jerusalem Light Rail terminal from one side or the other and then wait for the train. As a result, the two ends of the trains are the most crowded. If you walk towards the middle of the station and board the train near where the two cars are connected, you’re more likely to find a free seat on the train.


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In Jerusalem, tram and bus tickets can only be used on the day of purchase, and must be validated on boarding the vehicle. It isn’t worth trying to catch a free ride – every time we used the Light Rail we met an inspector, and they take their business very seriously. There are ticket machines at all tram stops.


Jerusalem - Ben Yehuda street - Krista photo

Jerusalem - city bus - Krista photo

Food

A three-course meal for 2 people in a mid-range restaurant: about 70 USD 

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“The Nachlaot district of Jerusalem is mostly populated by locals, and though it isn’t full of tourists, the bars, restaurants, and shops are all crammed. We stayed just a few hundred meters from the Machane Yehuda Market and the Azura restaurant, but we never got back to our accommodation until after closing time, so we were only able to try Azura’s Tev Aviv sister restaurant.

Food in Israel is expensive but good. After eating at a French-Lebanese restaurant at the market I was licking all ten fingers, and I highly recommend a restaurant by the name of Sima in Agripas Street.

The Mahane Yehuda market, with its small, covered streets, was much more interesting to me than Carmel in Tel Aviv. If you only have time for one market, visit the market in Jerusalem.” (2017)


Shopping

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Jerusalem - Old Town - junk - Krista photo

Jerusalem - Old Town - T-shirts, not specifically related to the theme of the Old Town - I don't need Google - my wife knows everything - Krista photo

Jerusalem - kippa shop - Keep us on your head - Krista photo

Jerusalem - Mamilla Mall - Krista photo

Fun

,, The nightlife in Jerusalem could compete with any city in Europe. On the small streets which lead off from the Jaffa Road, there are restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues all side-by-side, and the air is full of the sound of pop hits, or the sounds of young Jewish singers at the Meeting Point. One of the most popular spots in the city is the Mahane Yehuda Market: after the stalls close, it is taken over by the nightlife. It was a good idea to enjoy our Thursday night in Jerusalem, since the next evening was a Friday, meaning that Shabbat had already begun. At least we can say that we’ve seen both faces of the city."

Jerusalem - Ben Yehuda street by night - r.g. photo

Jerusalem - street musicians - they are just performing Led Zeppelin's Stairway to heaven - krista photo

Public safety

Do not ever leave shopping bags or luggage unattended in public places.   If the security forces can not immediately find the owner of an unattended backpack, suitcase, or other “suspicious object,” police will evacuate and cordon off the area. The bomb disposal unit will arrive within minutes with a robot.

Pickpockets work in places where tourists congregate - be careful of your bag around the Central Bus Station, Old City, Garden Tomb, Mount of Olives.

Jerusalem - on the tram - that huge gun of a co-travelling soldier innocently contacts with my bag - Krista photo

Others

1. Most of the bathrooms in the Central Bus Station are pay-toilets, and you need a one shekel coin to get through a gate. But if you go up to the third floor to the far west side (by the SuperBus counter), there’s one set of bathrooms that’s still free. The entrance is opposite Gate 2. Note: those toilets don’t get the same maintenance and cleanliness as the pay toilets.

Jerusalem - Wailing wall - sitting man in Real Madrid baseball cap - d.j. photo

Bethlehem - bitter humor - Wall street - Krista photo

Jerusalem - free riders - t.w. photo

Background

Jerusalem - Wailing Wall and Al-Aqsa Mosque - Krista photo

Destination in brief

Population (in 2020): 931,000 - 64% Jews, 34% Arab

Average net monthly salary (in 2020): 2200 USD

Jerusalem is a walled city: its walls are about 4 kilometers (2,5 mi) long,

Municipal law orders all buildings to be covered in Jerusalem stone to protect the city's unitary historical scenery.

Geography

Some of the olive trees in Jerusalem are more than 800 years old.

Nowadays

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Jerusalem - Yemin Moshe Jewish residential neigborhood - Arab girls came here to take photos of each other in a flowery setting - Krista photo

Jerusalem - Ben Yehuda street - Krista photo

Jerusalem&Bethlehem - wall - Krista photo

Jerusalem - calm time of day within the Downtown Triangle - Krista photo

People

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Jerusalem - Wailing Wall - Leaning on the dividing screen, women loudly assist the men in a ceremony - Krista photo

Jerusalem - Wailing Wall - prayer - d.j. photo

Tourist etiquette

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Jerusalem - Mea She'arim ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhood - Groups passing through our neighborhood severely offend the residents - Please, stop this - Please do not pass through our neighborhood in immodest clothes - Krista photo

Attractions

Old Town

Jerusalem - Old Town view - Krista photo

Jerusalem - Old Town - alley - Krista photo

Jerusalem - Old Town - Krista photo

Jerusalem - Old Town - Via Dolorosa - Krista photo

Jerusalem - Old Town - Krista photo

Old Town

Jerusalem - Old Town - Muslim Quarter - Krista photo

Bethlehem

Bethlehem - Basilica of the Nativity - Krista photo

Bethlehem - Basilica of Nativity - touching holy stones - Krista photo

Bethlehem - Basilica of Nativity - Krista photo

Betlehem - This side of the wall with graffitis and street art - Krista photo

Wailing Wall

Jerusalem - Wailing Wall - dividing screen between male and female visitors, prayers - Krista photo

Jaffa Road

“Jaffa Road is Jerusalem’s main street, and the Light Rail runs its full length. My first impulse, when I got off the tram here one February day, was that this was the beginning of true love! The unique color of those low-rise buildings with their small balconies, the religious yet cosmopolitan effervescence, the zest for life I sensed in people, simply bowled me over.

Jaffa Road is popular not just with tourists, but with locals too. It is crammed with stores, cafés, and breakfast bars. My favorite was the You Need Coffee café, and the GreenMe salad bar, but the cakes in the English Cake bakery impressed me too. During Shabbat, in the cold  rain, Jaffa Road takes on a quiet, empty, meditative atmosphere.” (2018)

Downtown Triange

Jerusalem - Downtown Triangle - Krista photo

Yad Vashem

“A very detailed and informative, yet also deeply moving memorial park about the Holocaust. I’d recommend that anyone who visits Israel should set aside perhaps half a day to visit this museum because it’s something everyone should see once. I particularly liked the small stretches of the street which really made me feel, in spite of the surrounding crowd, that I had stepped back in time. There are plenty of objects, photographs, documents, and screenings, and each one is worth lingering over.

We were lucky enough to visit as part of a small group, so we got more information about the place from our tour guide, who also helped contextualize it.

The children’s memorial was an almost indescribable experience – very shocking, even heartbreaking, but also unmissable.

Also, one piece of practical advice: inside the building, it’s extremely cold! (We experienced this in many places). It’s worth bringing a pullover or scarf because by the end of the exhibition this cold can be very uncomfortable.”



Mea Shearim

“Visiting this district is like traveling back in time – maybe a visit to one of those Eastern European neighborhoods populated primarily by Jews in the early 20th century. It’s especially interesting to see what a community looks like when it adheres strictly to tradition and builds a mini world for itself. This is conservatism itself, with its spirituality, but with its acceptance of backwardness too. Globalization has been barred from this place and depending on our views, we may see this as a positive thing, or a source of regret.

The shops selling relics are nice. On the afternoon of Shabbat (Saturday) the many Orthodox Jewish men walking the streets in their shtreimel, or fur hat, is quite a sight. Residents of the district have mixed feelings towards tourists. They accept that it is an interesting area for tourists, but at the same time, they do not like to be seen as museum exhibits.

It’s a little disagreeable to see the run-down, neglected state of the buildings, and smell the stale air. There is also sometimes litter in the gutters. On the other hand, the impression of a very family-centered everyday life leaves a very positive impression. Somehow I had the feeling that the biggest winners of this lifestyle were the children, who were left to unselfconsciously roam the streets and get up to mischief.” (P.A., 2015)

Yemin Moshe neigborhood

Jerusalem - Yemin Moshe neighborhood - Krista photo

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