Jerusalem

Immerse yourself in Jerusalem. Of course, you can see the primary sights in a couple of days—some visitors claim to have done it in less—but don't short-change yourself if you can help it. Take time to wander where the spirit takes you, to linger longer over a snack and people-watch, to follow the late Hebrew poet, Yehuda Amichai, "in the evening into the Old City / and . . . emerge from it pockets stuffed with images / and metaphors and well-constructed parables. . . ." The poet struggled for breath in an atmosphere "saturated with prayers and dreams"; but the city's baggage of history and religion doesn't have to weigh you down. Decompress in the markets and eateries of the Old City, and the jewelry and art stores, coffee shops, and pubs of the New.

The city is built on a series of hills, part of the country's north–south watershed. To the east, the Judean Desert tumbles down to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth, less than an hour's drive away. The main highway to the west winds down through the pine-covered Judean Hills toward the international airport and Tel Aviv. North and south of the city—Samaria and Judea, respectively—is what is known today as the West Bank. Since 1967, this contested area has been administered largely by Israel, though the major concentrations of Arab population are currently under autonomous Palestinian control.

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  • 1. Church of the Holy Sepulcher

    This church, which was built by the Crusaders in the 12th century (the fourth to be built on this site), is believed to be the...

    This church, which was built by the Crusaders in the 12th century (the fourth to be built on this site), is believed to be the place where Jesus was crucified by the Romans, was buried, and rose from the dead. The site was officially consecrated, and the first church built here, following the visit in AD 326 by Helena, mother of the Byzantine emperor Constantine the Great. It and the adjacent Via Dolorosa encompass the stations of the cross.Steep steps take you up from the church to Golgotha, or Calvary, as the site of the crucifixion is described in the New Testament. At the foot of the hill, opposite the main entrance, is the rectangular pink Stone of Unction, where, it is said, the body of Jesus was cleansed and prepared for burial. The tomb of Jesus, encased in a pink marble edifice, is in the rotunda to the left of the main entrance of the church. The church is shared, albeit unequally and uncomfortably, by six Christian denominations: Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Egyptian Coptic, and Ethiopian, under an agreement imposed by the Ottoman Turkish authorities in 1852. Each section is guarded by its own denomination.If you visit in the late afternoon (the time changes with the seasons), you can watch the groups in turn—Greek Orthodox, Latins (as Roman Catholics are known in the Holy Land), Armenian Orthodox, and Egyptian Copts—in procession from Calvary to the tomb. A modern agreement among the Greeks, the Latins, and the Armenians on the interior restoration of the great dome was hailed as an almost miraculous breakthrough in ecumenical relations. For information about the church, see the feature "Jerusalem: Keeping the Faith" in this chapter.

    Between Suq Khan e-Zeit and Christian Quarter Rd., Israel
    02-626–6561

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 2. City of David

    Just south of today's Old City walls, the City of David was the core of Old Testament Jerusalem, built more than four millennia ago on...

    Just south of today's Old City walls, the City of David was the core of Old Testament Jerusalem, built more than four millennia ago on a 15-acre spur over the vital Gihon Spring. It was given its royal Israelite sobriquet 1,000 years later, when the legendary King David conquered the city and made it his capital (II Samuel 5). Begin with the great rooftop observation point above the visitor center. Consider the 15-minute 3D movie, despite its ideological bias; it's a good historical introduction to the site, especially for kids (call ahead for English-language show times). Below the floorboards of the center are the excavated remains of a large building of the 10th century BC, identified by some archaeologists as King David's fortified palace (though others demur). A few flights of steps down from the center is Area G, dominated by a sloping structure of the same period, possibly a support ramp for the "palace" above. The most intriguing artifacts found here were 51 bullae, clay seal impressions no bigger than a fingernail, used for sealing documents or official correspondence. Some were inscribed, in ancient Hebrew, with the names of personages mentioned in the biblical book of Jeremiah. There is strong circumstantial evidence to suggest that the bullae were baked into permanent pottery by the Babylonian burning of Jerusalem in 586 BC. Take the steps about a third of the way down the hillside: a small sign on the right directs you to Warren's Shaft and the descent to the spring. Charles Warren, a British army engineer, discovered the spacious, sloping access tunnel—note the ancient chisel marks and rough-cut steps—in 1867. The deep vertical shaft that drops into the Gihon Spring may not have been the actual biblical "gutter" or "water-shaft" through which David's warriors penetrated the city 3,000 years ago—it was apparently hewn in a later era—but an alternative access to the spring has kept the biblical story alive. Three centuries later, King Hezekiah of Judah had a horizontal tunnel dug through solid rock to bring the spring water safely into a new inner-city reservoir. The tunnel—variously called Siloam, Shilo'ach, or Hezekiah's Tunnel—can be waded today. You will need water shoes or sandals, a flashlight (cheap LED ones are on sale at the visitor center), and appropriate clothing: the water is thigh-deep for the first few minutes, and then below the knees for almost the entire length of the tunnel (a 30-minute walk). The visitor center has lockers for your gear. In this very conservative neighborhood, it's advisable to wear covering over swimsuits when walking outside. The wade is not recommended for very small children or for claustrophobes of any age. If you don't fancy getting wet, you can still view the spring, and then continue through the dry Canaanite tunnel to emerge aboveground. The tunnel ends in the Pool of Siloam, mentioned in the New Testament as the place where a blind man had his sight restored (John 9); the current pool is its Byzantine successor. From the exit, modern wooden steps take you down and over the large flagstones of a 1st-century-BC commercial street to the edge of an ancient pool unearthed in 2004 by city workers repairing a sewage pipe. Archaeologists exposed finely cut steps and two corners of the pool, apparently a large public mikvah, or Jewish ritual bath, for pilgrims who flocked here 2,000 years ago—and arguably the very pool of the Gospel miracle. Hezekiah's original pool remains hidden. An underground Roman-period drainage ditch is the adventurous route back up the hill. For an additional fee you can continue still farther north through the ditch (bypassing the visitor center), to the Jerusalem Archaeological Park inside the city walls. There is a shuttle van (NIS 5) from the pool up the steep hill back to the visitor center, but currently not from the dry exit.

    Off Ophel Rd., Israel
    02-626–8700

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: NIS 28, or NIS 62 with guided tour, Closed Sat. and Jewish religious holidays, limited entry Fri.
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  • 3. Dome of the Rock and Haram esh-Sharif (Temple Mount)

    The magnificent golden Dome of the Rock dominates the vast 35-acre Temple Mount, the area known to Muslims as Haram esh-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary). At...

    The magnificent golden Dome of the Rock dominates the vast 35-acre Temple Mount, the area known to Muslims as Haram esh-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary). At its southern end, immediately in front of you as you enter the area from the Western Wall plaza (the only gate for non-Muslims), is the large, black-domed al-Aqsa Mosque, the third in holiness for Muslims everywhere.Herod the Great built the Temple Mount in the late 1st century BC, and included on the center of the plaza was the Second Temple, the one Jesus knew.Jewish tradition identifies the great rock at the summit of the hill—now under the gold dome—as the foundation stone of the world, and the place where Abraham bound and almost sacrificed his son Isaac (Genesis 22). With greater probability, this was where the biblical King David made a repentance offering to the Lord (II Samuel 22), and where his son Solomon built "God's House," the so-called First Temple. The Second Temple stood on the identical spot, but the memory of its precise location was lost after the Roman destruction and the banning of Jews from Jerusalem. The Haram today is a Muslim preserve, and tradition has it that Muhammad rose to heaven from this spot in Jerusalem to meet God face-to-face, received the teachings of Islam, and returned to Mecca the same night, and the great rock was the very spot from which the Prophet ascended. The Muslim shrines are closed to non-Muslims to leave the faithful alone to enjoy the wondrous interiors of stained-glass windows, granite columns, green-and-gold mosaics, arabesques, and superb medieval masonry. Even if you can't get inside, the vast plaza is both visually and historically arresting and worth a visit. Take a look at the bright exterior tiles of the Dome of the Rock and the remarkable jigsaws of fitted red, white, and black stone in the 14th- and 15th-century Mamluk buildings that line the western edge of the plaza. Security check lines to enter the area are often long; it's best to come early. Note that the gate near the Western Wall is for entrance only. You can exit through any of the other eight gates on the site. The Muslim attendants are very strict about modest dress, and prohibit Bibles in the area. For information about these sites, see the feature "Jerusalem: Keeping the Faith" in this chapter.

    Access between Western Wall and Dung Gate, Israel
    02-595–5820

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, Closed Fri.–Sat.
  • 4. Ein Kerem

    Ein Kerem

    The neighborhood of Ein Kerem still retains much of its old village character. Tree-framed stone houses spill across its hillsides with a pleasing Mediterranean nonchalance....

    The neighborhood of Ein Kerem still retains much of its old village character. Tree-framed stone houses spill across its hillsides with a pleasing Mediterranean nonchalance. Artists and professionals who have joined the older working-class population over the last 40 or 50 years have marvelously renovated many homes and made an effort to keep most developers at bay. Back alleys provide an off-the-beaten-path feel, and occasionally a serendipitous art or craft studio. Tradition identifies Ein Kerem as the birthplace of John the Baptist, and its most prominent landmarks are the orange-roofed Church of St. John the Baptist in the heart of the village, the Church of the Visitation up the hillside above the Spring of the Virgin—both Roman Catholic—and the gold-domed Russian church above that along the road to Hadassah Hospital. The neighborhood is served by city Bus 28 from Mount Herzl. There is free underground parking in the neighborhood center. Ein Kerem is less than five minutes from Mount Herzl by bus or taxi, and about 15 minutes by taxi from Downtown.

    Israel
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  • 5. First Station

    This was once the terminus of the old Jaffa–Jerusalem railroad, inaugurated in 1892. It survived two world wars and two regime changes until the suspension...

    This was once the terminus of the old Jaffa–Jerusalem railroad, inaugurated in 1892. It survived two world wars and two regime changes until the suspension of rail service in 1998. Despite being boarded up, the handsome building's limestone facade, gabled roof, and arched doorways stood as a reminder of its glory days. A creative renovation has won accolades, especially from Jerusalemites. In a city not known for its contemporary attractions, First Station made a splash with its cafés and restaurants, shaded crafts stalls, and play equipment for the kids (and sometimes balloon artists or puppeteers). Evening performances and other cultural events have become popular, especially in the warmer months. The compound is open on Saturday, but only really comes alive in the evening.

    4 David Remez St., 9354102, Israel
    02-653–5239

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
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  • 6. Haas Promenade

    Get your bearings in Jerusalem by taking in the panorama from the Haas Promenade, an attractive 1-km (½-mile) promenade along one of the city's highest...

    Get your bearings in Jerusalem by taking in the panorama from the Haas Promenade, an attractive 1-km (½-mile) promenade along one of the city's highest ridges. Hidden behind a grove of trees to the east (your right as you pan the view) is a turreted limestone building, the residence of the British High Commissioner for Palestine in the 1930s and 1940s. In Hebrew, the whole ridge is known as Armon Hanatziv, the Commissioner's Palace. In 1949, the building became the headquarters of the U.N. Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), charged with monitoring the armistice line that divided the city. It remained a neutral enclave between Israeli West Jerusalem and Jordanian-controlled East Jerusalem until the reunification of the city in the Six-Day War of 1967. You can reach the promenade by car from Hebron Road—consult a map, and look for signs to East Talpiot and the Haas Promenade—by Bus 78 from the Central Bus Station, Downtown, and the First Station; Bus 12 from Hadassah Ein Kerem and Malkha Mall; or by cab. If the traffic flows well, it's a 10-minute drive from Downtown, five minutes from the German Colony. There are restrooms just off the sidewalk at the city end of the ridge, before the promenade dips down into the valley.

    Daniel Yanovsky St., Israel

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 7. Herodian Quarter/Wohl Archaeological Museum

    Excavations in the 1970s exposed the Jewish Quarter's most visually interesting site: the remains of sumptuous mansions from the late Second Temple period. Preserved in...

    Excavations in the 1970s exposed the Jewish Quarter's most visually interesting site: the remains of sumptuous mansions from the late Second Temple period. Preserved in the basement of a modern Jewish seminary—but entered separately—the geometrically patterned mosaic floors, still-vibrant frescoes, and costly glassware and ceramics provide a peek into the life of the wealthy in the days of Herod and Jesus. Several small plastered cisterns, with broad steps descending into them, have been identified as private mikvahs (Jewish ritual baths); holograms depict their use. Large stone water jars are just like those described in the New Testament story of the wedding at Cana (John 2). Rare stone tables resemble the dining-room furniture depicted in Roman stone reliefs found in Europe. On the last of the site's three distinct levels is a mansion with an estimated original floor area of some 6,000 square feet. None of the upper stories has survived, but the fine, fashionable stucco work and the quality of the artifacts found here indicate an exceptional standard of living, leading some scholars to suggest this may have been the long-sought palace of the high priest. The charred ceiling beams and scorched mosaic floor and fresco at the southern end of the reception hall bear witness to the Roman torching of the neighborhood in the late summer of AD 70, exactly one month after the Temple itself had been destroyed. Allow about 45 minutes to explore the site.

    1 Hakara'im Rd., 9752268, Israel
    02-626–5922

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: NIS 20, Closed Sat. and Jewish religious holidays
  • 8. Israel Aquarium

    Officially the Gottesman Family Israel Aquarium Jerusalem, this new spot is the first public aquarium in Israel. You can combine a visit with the Tisch...

    Officially the Gottesman Family Israel Aquarium Jerusalem, this new spot is the first public aquarium in Israel. You can combine a visit with the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens next door and see all kinds of aquatic life from the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea's coral reefs and beyond. The museum is dedicated to the conservation of Israel's marine habitats, and its modern exhibits have high-tech digital displays. A devoted and knowledgeable staff guides visitors through the experience. Public transportation reaches as far as the Zoo's main entrance.

    3 Derekh Aharon Shulov, 9695700, Israel
    073-339–9000

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: NIS 57, must be purchased online in advance
  • 9. Israel Museum

    This world-class museum shines after a massive makeover that brought modern exhibits and state-of-the-art technology. The Dead Sea Scrolls are certainly the museum's most important...

    This world-class museum shines after a massive makeover that brought modern exhibits and state-of-the-art technology. The Dead Sea Scrolls are certainly the museum's most important collection. A Bedouin boy discovered the first of the 2,000-year-old parchments in 1947 in a Judean Desert cave, overlooking the Dead Sea. Of the nine main scrolls and bags full of small fragments that surfaced over the years, many of the most important and most complete are preserved here; the Antiquities Authority holds the rest of the parchments, and a unique copper scroll is in Jordan. The white dome of the Shrine of the Book, the separate pavilion in which the scrolls are housed, was inspired by the lids of the clay jars in which the first ones were found. The scrolls were written in the Second Temple period by a fiercely zealous, separatist, and monastic Jewish sect, widely identified as the Essenes. Archaeological, laboratory, and textual evidence dates the earliest of the scrolls to the 2nd century BC; none could have been written later than AD 68, the year in which their home community, known today as Qumran, was destroyed by the Romans. The parchments, still in an extraordinary state of preservation because of the dryness of the Dead Sea region, contain the oldest Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament ever found, authenticating the almost identical Hebrew texts still in use today. The sectarian literature provides an insight into this esoteric community. The early-medieval Aleppo Codex, on display in the small lower gallery under the white dome, is considered the most authoritative text of the Hebrew Bible in existence. The quarter-acre outdoor 1:50 scale model, adjacent to the Shrine of the Book, represents Jerusalem as it was on the eve of the Great Revolt against Rome (AD 66). It was designed in the mid-1960s by the late Professor Michael Avi-Yonah, who relied on considerable data gleaned from Roman-period historians, important Jewish texts, and even the New Testament, and based some of his generic reconstructions (villas, a theater, markets, etc.) on Roman structures that have survived across the ancient empire. Later archaeological excavations have sometimes confirmed and sometimes challenged Avi-Yonah's sharp intuition, and the model has been updated occasionally to incorporate new knowledge. The available audio guide is a worthwhile aid in deciphering the site. Taken together, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the huge model, and Roman-period exhibits in the Archaeology Wing evoke the turbulent and historically momentous Second Temple period. That was the era from which Christianity emerged; when the Romans razed the Temple in Jerusalem, it compelled a slow revolution in Jewish life and religious practice that has defined Judaism to this day. The Archaeology Wing highlights many artifacts (in the Canaanite, Israelite, and Hellenistic-Roman sections) that offer evocative illustrations of familiar biblical texts. Don't miss the small side rooms devoted to glass, coins, and the Hebrew script. Jewish Art and Life is the name for the wing made up mostly of finely wrought Jewish ceremonial objects (Judaica) from widely disparate communities. The "synagogue route" includes reconstructed old synagogues from India, Germany, Italy, and Suriname. The Art Wing is a slightly confusing maze spread over different levels, but if you have patience and time, the payoff is great. Older European art rubs shoulders with modern works, contemporary Israeli art, design, and photography. Landscape architect Isamu Noguchi designed the open-air Art Garden. Crunch over the gravel amid works by Daumier, Rodin, Moore, Picasso, and local luminaries. The Youth Wing mounts one major new exhibition a year, interactive and often adult-friendly, designed to encourage children to appreciate the arts and the world around them, or to be creative in a crafts workshop. Parents with younger kids will also be grateful for the outdoor play areas. The vegetarian/dairy café, Offaime, is a great place for a light meal or coffee. The more expensive Modern has tempting meat and fish combinations and remains open beyond museum hours. The lockers and ATM in the museum's entrance hall are useful. Large bags or packs have to be checked. Photography (without flash) is allowed everywhere except in the Shrine of the Book. Check the website for summer days with longer hours and free entrance for kids.

    11 Ruppin Rd., 9171002, Israel
    02-670–8811

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: NIS 54
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  • 10. Jerusalem Archaeological Park and Davidson Center

    Though strictly speaking outside the Jewish Quarter, this site is related to it historically, and is often visited at the same time. A gold mine...

    Though strictly speaking outside the Jewish Quarter, this site is related to it historically, and is often visited at the same time. A gold mine for Israeli archaeologists, its most dramatic and monumental finds were from the Herodian period, the late 1st century BC. The low-rise, air-conditioned Davidson Center (on your right as you enter the site) offers visual aids, some artifacts, two interesting videos (which alternate between English and Hebrew), and modern restrooms. Allow 30 minutes for the center and another 40 minutes for the site.  The best place to start a tour is the high corner, off to the left as you enter the site. King Herod the Great rebuilt the Second Temple on the exact site of its predecessor, more or less where the Dome of the Rock now stands. He expanded the sacred enclosure by constructing a massive, shoebox-shaped retaining wall on the slopes of the hill, the biblical Mount Moriah. The inside was filled with thousands of tons of rubble to level off the hill and create the huge platform, the size of 27 football fields, known today as the Temple Mount. The stones near the corner, with their signature precision-cut borders, are not held together with mortar; their sheer weight gives the structure its stability. The original wall is thought to have been a third higher than it is today. To the left of the corner is the white pavement of an impressive main street and commercial area from the Second Temple period. The protrusion high above your head is known as Robinson's Arch, named for a 19th-century American explorer. It is a remnant of a monumental bridge to the Temple Mount that was reached by a staircase from the street where you now stand: look for the ancient steps. The square-cut building stones heaped on the street came from the top of the original wall, dramatic evidence of the Roman destruction of AD 70. A piece of Hebrew scriptural graffiti (Isaiah 66:14) was etched into a stone, possibly by a Jewish pilgrim, some 15 centuries ago. Climb the wooden steps and turn left through the shaded square. A modern spiral staircase descends below present ground level to a partially reconstructed labyrinth of Byzantine dwellings and mosaics; from here you reemerge outside the present city walls. Alternatively, stay at ground level and continue east through a small arched gate. The broad, impressive Southern Steps on your left, a good part of them original, once brought hordes of Jewish pilgrims through the now-blocked southern gates of the Temple Mount. The rock-hewn ritual baths near the bottom of the steps were used for the purification rites once demanded of Jews before they entered the sacred temple precincts. This section of the site, directly below the al-Aqsa Mosque, closes at 11 am on Friday, before the Muslim prayer time.

    Inside Dung Gate, Israel
    02-626--8700

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: NIS 65, Closed Sat. and Jewish religious holidays
  • 11. Machaneh Yehuda

    For a unique local experience, head to this two-block-long covered lane and its adjacent alleys, filled with the brilliant colors of the city's best produce,...

    For a unique local experience, head to this two-block-long covered lane and its adjacent alleys, filled with the brilliant colors of the city's best produce, cheeses, and baked goods. It's fun to elbow your way through this decidedly unslick market anytime, but it's riotously busy on Friday, when Jewish Jerusalem does its last-minute shopping for the Sabbath. Its traditional Mediterranean--Middle Eastern character, going back generations, still dominates; but a liberal sprinkling of stall-size Western eateries, wine shops, bars, and a few arts-and-crafts or souvenir shops have given Machaneh Yehuda a more cosmopolitan feel. By night, the market is a nightlife hot spot, with converted stalls serving as bars and lounge areas. The market links Jaffa Street and Agrippas Street, parallel to and just a five-minute walk up from King George Street. Many of the Downtown bus lines stop on King George, and several on Agrippas itself, while the light-rail runs the length of Jaffa Street (which is otherwise closed to traffic). There is some paid parking close to the market, but it is most easily approached on foot.

    Etz Hayim St., Israel

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Sat.
  • 12. Mount of Olives Observation Point

    The Old City, with its landmark domes and towers, is squarely within your lens in this classic, picture-postcard panoramic view. It's best in the early...

    The Old City, with its landmark domes and towers, is squarely within your lens in this classic, picture-postcard panoramic view. It's best in the early morning, with the sun at your back, or at sunset on days with some clouds, when the golden glow and sunbeams more than compensate for the glare. The magnificent, gold Dome of the Rock and the black-domed al-Aqsa Mosque to the left of it dominate the skyline; but look behind them for the large gray dome of the Holy Sepulcher and (farther left) the white one of the Jewish Quarter's Hurva Synagogue for a hint of the long-running visibility contest among faiths and nations. To the left of the Old City, the cone-roof Dormition Abbey and its adjacent clock tower crown Mount Zion, today outside the walls but within the city of the Second Temple period. The Mount of Olives has been bathed in sanctity for millennia. On the slope beneath you, and off to your left, is the vast Jewish cemetery, reputedly the oldest still in use anywhere in the world. For more than 2,000 years, Jews have been buried here to await the coming of the Messiah and the resurrection to follow. The raised structures over the graves are merely tomb markers, not crypts; burial is belowground.

    E-Sheikh St., Israel
  • 13. Nahalat Shiva

    This small neighborhood has a funky feel, with worn flagstones, wrought-iron banisters, and defunct water cisterns. Its name translates roughly as "the Estate of the...

    This small neighborhood has a funky feel, with worn flagstones, wrought-iron banisters, and defunct water cisterns. Its name translates roughly as "the Estate of the Seven," for the seven Jewish families that founded the quarter in 1869. The alleys and courtyards have been refashioned as a pedestrian district, offering equal opportunities for photographers, shoppers, and gastronomes. An eclectic variety of eateries, from Israeli and Arabic to Italian and Asian, tempt you to take a break from the jewelry and ceramics.

    Bordered by Salomon, Rivlin, Jaffa, and Hillel Sts., Israel
  • 14. Ramparts Walk

    The narrow stone catwalks of the Old City walls provide great panoramic views and interesting perspectives of this intriguing city. But they also offer an...

    The narrow stone catwalks of the Old City walls provide great panoramic views and interesting perspectives of this intriguing city. But they also offer an innocent bit of voyeurism as you look down into gardens and courtyards and become, for a moment, a more intimate partner in the secret domestic life of the different quarters you pass. Across the rooftops, the domes and spires of the three religions that call Jerusalem holy compete for the skyline, just as their adherents jealously guard their territory down below. Peer through the shooting niches, just as watchmen and snipers did in the not-so-distant past. The hotels and high-rises of the new city dominate the skyline to the west; Mount Zion is immediately to the south; the bustle of East Jerusalem is almost tangible to the north; and the churches and cemeteries quietly cling to the Mount of Olives to the east. There are many high steps on this route; the railings are secure, but small children or the elderly should not walk alone; good footwear, a hat, and water (you'll be in direct sunlight) are recommended. The two sections of the walk are separated by Jaffa Gate, though the same ticket covers both (available from the commercial tourist services office just inside Jaffa Gate and at the entrance to the southern route). The shorter southern section is accessible only from the end of the seemingly dead-end terrace outside Jaffa Gate at the exit of the Tower of David Museum. Descent is at Zion Gate or just before Dung Gate. The longer and more varied walk begins at Jaffa Gate (up the stairs immediately on the left as you enter the Old City), with descent at New, Damascus, Herod's, or Lions' Gates. Allow 30 to 40 minutes for the shorter section to Zion Gate, adding 10 to 15 minutes to get to Dung Gate. For the longer section, it takes 20 minutes to walk north-northeast to the New Gate, another 20 minutes east to Damascus Gate, 15 minutes from there to Herod's Gate, and about 20 minutes more to Lions' Gate. Since much of the long northern route passes through or above Palestinian areas, it's advisable to end your walk at the New Gate during times of tension.

    Entry near Jaffa Gate, Israel
    02-625--4403

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: NIS 25, Northern route closed Fri.
  • 15. Tisch Family Zoological Gardens

    Spread over a scenic 62-acre ridge among Jerusalem's hilly southern neighborhoods, this zoo has many of the usual species that delight zoo visitors everywhere: monkeys...

    Spread over a scenic 62-acre ridge among Jerusalem's hilly southern neighborhoods, this zoo has many of the usual species that delight zoo visitors everywhere: monkeys and elephants, snakes and birds, and all the rest. But it goes much further, focusing on two groups of wildlife. The first is creatures mentioned in the Bible that have become locally extinct, some as recently as the 20th century. Among these are Asian lions, bears, cheetahs, the Nile crocodile, and the Persian fallow deer. The second focus is on endangered species worldwide, among them the Asian elephant and rare macaws. This is a wonderful place to let kids expend some energy—there are lawns and playground equipment—and allow adults some downtime from touring. Early morning and late afternoon are the best hours in summer; budget 2½ hours to see (almost) everything. A wagon train does the rounds of the zoo, at a nominal fee of NIS 3 (not on Saturday and Jewish holidays). The Noah's Ark Visitors Center has a movie and computer programs; check the zoo website for animal feeding times. The zoo is served by city routes 26A (from Central Bus Station) and 33 (from Mount Herzl). The ride is about 30 minutes; a cab would take 15 minutes from Downtown hotels.

    1 Derech Aharon Shulov, 9695701, Israel
    02-675–0111

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: NIS 63
  • 16. Tower of David Museum

    Many visitors find this museum invaluable in mapping Jerusalem's often-confusing historical byways. Housed in a series of medieval halls, known locally as the Citadel (Hametzuda...

    Many visitors find this museum invaluable in mapping Jerusalem's often-confusing historical byways. Housed in a series of medieval halls, known locally as the Citadel (Hametzuda in Hebrew), the museum tells the city's four-millennium story through models, maps, holograms, and videos. The galleries are organized by historical period around the Citadel's central courtyard, where the old stone walls and arches add an appropriately antique atmosphere. Walking on the Citadel ramparts provides unexpected panoramas: don't miss the wonderful view from the top of the big tower. The basement has a model of 19th-century Jerusalem, constructed for the Ottoman pavilion at the Vienna World Fair in 1873. Guided tours in English are offered weekdays at 11 am. You'll need 90 minutes to do justice to this museum. The outdoor "Night Spectacular" is a stunning 45-minute sound-and-light pageant of historical images played onto the ancient stone walls and towers. The event runs throughout the year, but days and times change with the seasons. Reserve in advance.

    Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate Rd., 9114001, Israel
    02-626–5333

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: From NIS 40
  • 17. Via Dolorosa

    Christian Quarter

    Commonly called "the Way of the Cross" in English, the Latin Via Dolorosa literally translates as "the Way of Sorrow." It's venerated as the route...

    Commonly called "the Way of the Cross" in English, the Latin Via Dolorosa literally translates as "the Way of Sorrow." It's venerated as the route Jesus walked, carrying his cross, from the place of his trial and condemnation by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate to the site of his crucifixion and burial. (Stations I and II are where the Antonia fortress once stood, widely regarded as the site of the "praetorium" referred to in the Gospels.) The present tradition jelled no earlier than the 18th century, but it draws on much older beliefs. Some of the incidents represented by the 14 Stations of the Cross are scriptural; others (III, IV, VI, VII, and IX) are not. Tiny chapels mark a few of the stations; the last five are inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Catholic pilgrim groups, or the Franciscan-led Friday afternoon procession, take about 45 minutes to wind their way through the busy market streets of the Muslim and Christian quarters, with prayers and chants at each station of the almost-mile-long route. Here are the 14 stations on the Via Dolorosa that mark the route that Jesus took, from trial and condemnation to crucifixion and burial. Station I. Jesus is tried and condemned by Pontius Pilate. Station II. Jesus is scourged and given the cross. Station III. Jesus falls for the first time. (Soldiers of the Free Polish Forces built the chapel here after World War II.) Station IV. Mary embraces Jesus. Station V. Simon of Cyrene picks up the cross. Station VI. A woman wipes the face of Jesus, whose image remains on the cloth. (She is remembered as Veronica, apparently derived from the Latin word vera and the Greek word icon, meaning "true image.") Station VII. Jesus falls for the second time. (The chapel contains one of the columns of the Byzantine Cardo, the main street of 6th-century Jerusalem.) Station VIII. Jesus addresses the women in the crowd. Station IX. Jesus falls for the third time. Station X. Jesus is stripped of his garments. Station XI. Jesus is nailed to the cross. Station XII. Jesus dies on the cross. Station XIII. Jesus is taken down from the cross. Station XIV. Jesus is buried.

    Israel

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  • 18. Western Wall

    The 2,000-year-old Western Wall is in a class of its own. Its status as the most important existing Jewish shrine derives from its connection with...

    The 2,000-year-old Western Wall is in a class of its own. Its status as the most important existing Jewish shrine derives from its connection with the ancient Temple, the House of God. It was not itself part of the Temple edifice, but of the massive retaining wall King Herod built to create the vast platform now known as the Temple Mount.After the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70, and especially after the dedication of a pagan town in its place 65 years later, the city was off-limits to Jews for generations. The memory of the precise location of the Temple—in the vicinity of today's Dome of the Rock—was lost. Even when access was eventually regained, Jews avoided entering the Temple Mount for fear of unwittingly trespassing on the most sacred, and thus forbidden, areas of the long-gone ancient sanctuary. With time, the closest remnant of the period took on the aura of the Temple itself, making the Western Wall a kind of holy place by proxy.Jewish visitors often just refer to the site as "the Wall" (Kotel in Hebrew); the "Wailing Wall" is a Gentile appellation, describing the sight—more common once—of devout Jews grieving for God's House. It is a telling point that, for many Jews, the ancient Temple was as much a national site as a religious one, and its destruction as much a national trauma as a religious cataclysm.The Western Wall is in the southeast corner of the Old City, accessible from the Dung Gate, the Jewish Quarter, and the Muslim Quarter's El-Wad Road and the Street of the Chain. It functions under the aegis of the Orthodox rabbinic authorities, with all the trappings of an Orthodox synagogue. Modest dress is required: for women, this means no shorts or bare shoulders. Men must cover their heads in the prayer area. There is segregation of men and women in prayer, and smoking and photography on the Sabbath and religious holidays are prohibited. The cracks between the massive stones are stuffed with slips of paper bearing prayers and petitions. (These are collected several times a year and buried in a Jewish cemetery.) The swaying and praying of the devout reveal the powerful hold this place still has on the hearts and minds of many Jews. The Wall is often crowded, but many people find that it's only when the crowds have gone (the Wall is floodlit at night and always open), and you share the warm, prayer-drenched stones with just a handful of bearded stalwarts or kerchiefed women, that the true spirituality of the Western Wall is palpable. (Expect a routine security check at all four entrances to the modern plaza, including a magnetic gate—visitors with pacemakers can avoid this—and examination of bags.) For more information about this sight, see the "Jerusalem: Keeping the Faith" feature in this chapter.

    Near Dung Gate, Israel

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  • 19. Western Wall Tunnel

    The long tunnel beyond the men's side of the Western Wall is not a rediscovered ancient thoroughfare, but was deliberately dug in recent years with...

    The long tunnel beyond the men's side of the Western Wall is not a rediscovered ancient thoroughfare, but was deliberately dug in recent years with the purpose of exposing a strip of the 2,000-year-old Western Wall along its entire length. The massive construction, part of the retaining wall of King Herod's Temple Mount, includes two building stones estimated to weigh an incredible 400 tons and 570 tons, respectively. Local guided tours in English are available and are recommended—you can visit the site only as part of an organized tour—but the times change from week to week (some include evening hours). The tour takes about 75 minutes and includes computer-generated graphics of how the area might have looked in its heyday. During daylight hours, tours end at the beginning of the Via Dolorosa, in the Muslim Quarter. After dark, that exit is closed, and the tour retraces its steps through the tunnel. The ticket office is under the arches at the northern end of the Western Wall plaza, but advance booking online is essential.

    North of Western Wall, Israel
    02-627–1333

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  • 20. Yad Vashem

    The experience of the Holocaust—the annihilation of six million Jews by the Nazis during World War II—is so deeply seared into the national psyche that...

    The experience of the Holocaust—the annihilation of six million Jews by the Nazis during World War II—is so deeply seared into the national psyche that understanding it goes a long way toward understanding Israelis themselves. Yad Vashem was created in 1953 by an act of the Knesset, and charged with preserving a record of those times. The multifaceted campus includes a museum, an archive and research facility, an energetic education department, art galleries, and numerous monuments. (The name Yad Vashem—“a memorial and a name"—comes from the biblical book of Isaiah [56:5].) The Israeli government has made a tradition of bringing almost all high-ranking official foreign guests to visit the place. The riveting Holocaust History Museum—a well-lit, 200-yard-long triangular concrete "prism"—is the centerpiece of the site. Powerful visual and audiovisual techniques in a series of galleries document Jewish life in Europe before the catastrophe and follow the escalation of persecution and internment to the hideous climax of the Nazi's "Final Solution." Video interviews and personal artifacts individualize the experience. Note that children under 10 are not admitted, photography is not allowed in the exhibition areas, and large bags have to be checked. The small Children's Memorial is dedicated to the 1½ million Jewish children murdered by the Nazis. Architect Moshe Safdie wanted to convey the enormity of the crime without numbing the visitor's emotions or losing sight of the victims' individualities. The result is a single dark room, lit by just a few candles infinitely reflected in hundreds of mirrors. Recorded narrators intone the names, ages, and countries of origin of known victims. The effect is electrifying. Also focusing on children is a poignant exhibition called "No Child's Play," about children's activities during the Holocaust. It's in an art museum beyond the exit of the Holocaust History Museum. The Avenue of the Righteous encircles Yad Vashem with thousands of trees marked with the names of Gentiles in Europe who risked and sometimes lost their lives trying to save Jews from the Nazis. Raoul Wallenberg, King Christian X of Denmark, Corrie ten Boom, Oskar Schindler, and American journalist Varian Fry are among the more famous honorees. The Hall of Remembrance is a heavy basalt-and-concrete building that houses an eternal flame, with the names of the death camps and main concentration camps in relief on the floor. A detour takes you to the Valley of the Communities at the bottom of the hill, where large, rough-hewn limestone boulders divide the site into a series of small, man-made canyons. Each clearing represents a region of Nazi Europe, laid out geographically. The names of some 5,000 destroyed Jewish communities are inscribed in the stone walls, with larger letters highlighting those that were particularly important in prewar Europe. There is an information booth (be sure to buy the inexpensive map of the site), a bookstore, and a cafeteria at the entrance. Allow about two hours to see the Holocaust History Museum, more if you rent an audio guide. Visits to the history museum must be reserved online. If your time is short, be sure to see the Children's Memorial and the Avenue of the Righteous. To avoid the biggest crowds, come first thing in the morning or around noon. The site is an easy 10-minute walk or a quick free shuttle from the Mount Herzl intersection, which in turn is served by many city bus lines and the light-rail.

    Hazikaron St., 9103401, Israel
    02-644–3400

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