Jerusalem Travel Overview
Christianity, Judaism and Islam all consider Jerusalem to be the central to their respective faiths. Jerusalem is the home of numerous holy sites, that are the focal point to three different religions. For generations, followers of these religions have descended on the city in order to explore their roots and deepen their faith. A beautiful panoramic view of the city can be seen from the Mount of Olives. Many pilgrims will walk the Palm Sunday route from the Mount of Olives down to the Garden of Gethsemene and the Church of the Agony. Other sites in the area include the Church of the Ascension. The mosques of Islam including the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque lie on the plaza that once contained the Jewish Temples and which Jews and Christians refer to as the Temple Mount. The Mount is also known as Mount Moriah, and is the traditional site of where Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac. Jesus’s footsteps are walked by millions of pilgrims who visit the Stations of the Cross situated along the Via Dolorosa, Jesus’s final path leading up to his crucifixion and adjacent and/or surrounding which are numerous churches including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, St. Anne’s, St. James, Ecco Homo, and numerous others serving each of Christianity’s affiliations. Other important Christian holy sites include the many sites situated on Mount Zion including the Cenacle or Upper Room or Room of the Last Supper and Dormition Church,. A very important site for believers visit the Garden Tomb which lies outside the walls of the Old City but near to the Via Maris. This site is considered by believers to be the final resting place of Jesus before he rose and many tour groups will partake in a communion service at this site.
Jerusalem’s old city consists of four major quarters,the Jewish Quarter (entered through the Dung Gate), Moslem Quarter (entered through the Damascus Gate and Herod’s Gate), the Christian Quarter (primarily entered through the New Gate or the Jaffa Gate) and the Armenian Quarter (primarily entered through the Jaffa Gate). There is also a very small Indian Quarter as well.
The Old City of Jerusalem and the surrounding area is home to many Old Testament sites including the Western Wall, the City of David, Tower of David along with others including the Southern Walls of the Temple which can be visited inside the Jerusalem Archaeological Park along with the Davidson Center Museum.
Exciting attractions that should be reserved in advance include the Western Wall tunnels, the Hezekiah’s Tunnel, City of David archaeological sifting, Sound and Light show at the David Tower as well as the new light show at the City of David, among others. For those seeking an active visit to Jerusalem, the city also offers many segway, bike and walking tours. Families can enjoy a Jerusalem Old city of New city scavenger hunt. The Friends of Zion Museum, situated in downtown Jerusalem is an inspiring audiovisual exploration of Christian personalities that have had a tremendous impact on the Jewish people in Israel.
Important museum sites of interest include Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Rememberance Museum, the Islamic Museum as well as Israel Museum which is home to the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Holy Land Model of Jerusalem during the Second Temple Period.
Famous markets include the Old city shuk as well as the Machene Yehuda market.
The approach to Jerusalem from any direction one must ascend, and the city’s limestone glow is always awe-inspiring.
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I do not set Jerusalem above my chiefest joy.” (Psalms 137:5-6)
The Arab Souk– Wandering around the Old City you are almost certain to pass the Arab market. The heart of the market is the area on David Street which is easily accessed from the Jaffa Gate. Many souvenir shops offering Christian, Jewish and Moslem souvenirs as well as clothing and household goods are situated here. Definitely worth a look! Other areas within the market include the Meat market, the spice market and the many bakeries and humus shops. Abu Shukri and Lina’s are two known humus restaurants that are extremely popular and Zabatimo is a famous bakery situated near the Church of the Holy Seplulchre that sells Arabic specialty pastries..
Machane Yehudah Market-Machene Yehuda is one of Jerusalem’s more colorful venues attracting 10’s of thousands of tourists and locals weekly. Known locally as, The Shuk, because it’s the largest shuk in Jerusalem it is a partically covered outdoor market that encompasses a small neighborhood situated between Yafo and Aggripas. And don’t miss Marzipan’s world famous rugelach or Rachmans Kurdish kibbe!
A description of Jerusalems most prominent museums can be found below:
Yad Vashem – Yad Vashem is the most extensive Holocaust memorial and teaching institution internationally and includes museums, memorials, art exhibitions, archives, research facilities as well as international training facilities for school teachers. Yad Vashem’s function as a memorial to the millions of Jewish victims of the Holocaust adds a unique aspect to any visit to the modern state of Israel.
Mt. Herzl – Mount Herzl is a memorial site honoring the memories of Israel’s early Zionist leaders, soldiers killed in battle, prominent government figures and others that greatly influenced the State of Israel. The cemetery is named for Theodor Herzl, the visionary founder of modern day Zionism who died before the State of Israel was established. Prominent prime ministers such as Yitzhak Rabin, Golda Meir, and Levi Eshkol are buried here. There is also an interactive museum on the site that teaches about Theodor Herzl, his youth and his contributions over his lifetime.
Davidson Center Archaeological Park – One of the biggest archaeological sites in Israel, located to the south of the Temple Mount this excavated site is part of an Umayyad Palace from 7th century CE. The center also showcases artifacts of some of the most important findings from the Second Temple Period. One of the highlights of the visitor center is the virtual reality 3D reconstruction of the Herodian Temple Mount where you can actually visualize the pilgrim experience as it was before it was destroyed in 70 CE by the Romans.
A wide and impressive street near Western Wall was discovered and is believed to be the primary street used 2000 years ago by thousands of Jews who would make their way up to the Temple Mount. The stone street was visited frequently by pilgrims, tourists, and sages such as Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai and Rabbi Akiva. You will note the large stones on the plaza on the sides of this street. With the destruction of the Temple, the stones were knocked off the walls of the Temple Mount and continue to remain on the ground where they can be seen today.
A drainage channel was found under the street, containing rare finds from the days of the destruction of Jerusalem. This channel can be entered at the nearby City of David site and you can exit onto the plaza.
The Burnt House Museum – The museum presents a excavated house which belonged to the Katros family from the time of the Second Temple. It is believed that the house was set on fire during the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE. The house was excavated between 1969-1982 following the Six Day War and the rebuilding of Jerusalem.
Wujoud Museum-This small museum is located within a 650 year old building owned by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, situated in the heart of the Christian Quarter on David Street. Built during the Marmeluke period the rooms have been renovated and offer extraordinary views overlooking the dry Hezekiah pool inside the Old city. A very small museum offers insight into the Palestinian culture and presence in the Holy and.
Kishle Museum– Adjacent to Herod’s Citadel inside the Old city and part of the Tower of David complex lies the recently excavated “Kishle”. Erected in 1834 by then governor Ibrahim Pasha from Egypt, the site served as a military compound through the Ottoman period, and later, through the British mandate period, it was a police station and prison that housed members of the Jewish underground. Remains from the early 6th century BCE and walls from the time of King Herod can be viewed. Most interestingly is a wall from the First Temple Period which is fascinating.
Israel Museum – The Israel Museum is the largest cultural institution in the State of Israel offering an extensive encyclopedic collection of Archaeology, Fine Arts, and Jewish Art. Founded in 1965, the Museum is ranked among one of the world’s leading art and archaeology museums featuring the most extensive holdings of biblical and Holy Land archaeology in the world. Endowed with a far-ranging collection of nearly 500,000 objects, the Israel Museum is a highly recommended visit for both tourists and locals alike.
Rockfeller Museum – This museum is associated with the Israel Museum and lies just outside the Old city walls in East Jerusalem and houses an extensive collection of ancient artifacts.
Bible Land Museum – The Bible Lands Museum provides a wonderful overview of Bible related history in all the lands where it took place, from Afghanistan in the east to Israel in the west. The museum is unique due to its exhibition being in chronological order, and not thematic, giving the viewer the opportunity to easily compare the developments in the various geographical areas involved.
Mt. Herzl Museum – Situated adjacent to Yad Vashem and at the site of the Mt. Herzl military cemetery, this museum deals with activities and vision of Theodor Herzl.
Biblical Zoo – The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo is a sprawling nature park that gathers many animals mentioned in the bible. The zoo is open 7 days a week.
Friends of Zion – Located in the downtown area of Jerusalem, the Friends of Zion Museum uses technology to bring important biblical figures, academics, business people, and other primarily Christian persons of deep fait that have made a significant impact on connecting with the Jewish people and Israel.
Museum of the Shroud – Located inside of Notre Dame, this museum contains a replica of the Shroud of Turin.
The L.A. Mayer Islamic Museum of Art– is situated near the Presidents Residence in the neighborhood of Katamon. The museum contains Islamic pottery, textiles, jewelry, ceremonial objects and other Islamic cultural artifacts.
Menachem Begin Center – This museum offers a 1.15 hour long guided tour that focuses on the life and legacy of Menachem Begin, Israel’s sixth Prime Minister. The Center is situated near the Mount Zion hotel, on the Hinnom Ridge, overlooking Mount Zion and walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.
Temple Institute – The Temple Institute, located in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, is a religious organization that strives to realize a third temple and the content contained within the center focuses on the rebuilding of the temple as well as educating the public on its history.
Israel National Library – This major cultural institution owns over 5,000,000 books including the world’s largest collections of Judaica and Hebraica. Currently the building is located on the Hebrew University Givat Ram campus and a new building is under construction near the Knesset. The Library contains many rare and unique manuscripts, books and artifacts and Travelujah VIP tours can be arranged which include special visits to see the ancient maps and hebrew bibles as well as other unique artifacts.
The Jay and Jeanne Schottenstein National Campus for the Archaeology of Israel – When completed in 2020, this Moshe Safdie-designed new campus situated near the Israel Museum will contain nearly two million archaeological objects, among them 15,000 Dead Sea Scrolls. The museum will showcase the cultural heritage of the Land of Israel and enable an ingathering of all of the precious objects in the National Treasures, the various conservation and restoration laboratories, as well as the largest and most complete collection of Dead Sea Scrolls. In addition, the Campus will house the Center for Excavations, Conservation, Research and Publications of the Archaeology of the Land of Israel. This will be a must see for all visitors when it opens.
The Ramparts Walk – Climbing on top of the walls of Jerusalem’s Old city is a fun way to explore the city and get a birds eye view of the ancient quarters. There is a small entrance fee that can be paid at the entrance near the Jaffa Gate and walkers can either walk towards the Zion Gate and lets you off near Dung Gate. The walk offers incredible veiws of the Old City rooftops, the Mt. of Olives and several areas outside of the Old city such as Sultans Pool (a venue for concerts), the neighborhood of Yemin Moshe, founded by Moses Montifiore, the British financier and philanthropist. You can also access the ramparts from Damascus Gate follow them to Lion’s Gate. Note that this walk requires lots of climbing and descending and the steps can be quite steep and thus it is not recommended for children.
Museum of the Seam– This socio-political contemporary art museum focuses on controversial social issues and is considered by the New York Times to be on of the top 29 “must see” cultural institutions. Founded in 1999, it is housed in within the family home of its original architect, Andoni Baramki, a Palestinian Arab whose property was appropriated by Israel after 1948.