Touring Jerusalem on Shabbat

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For visitors to Israel, Saturdays can seem like a visit to another world. Jerusalem in particular seems to shut down on Saturdays with only a handful of restaurants and other attractions staying open. However, even though things slow down significantly on Saturdays, there is no reason to escape to Tel Aviv. The city still has plenty to do and see even on the Sabbath.

Haas Promenade

Start with the Haas Promenade in the Talpiyot neighborhood. This viewing point and walking path provides breathtaking vistas of the city, including the Old City of Jerusalem. There is even a plaque indicating that it is the spot where Abraham left his servants as he and Issac descended into the valley before ascending to Mt. Moriah. You can see the roads leading to the city that people would have walked on in the times of Jesus. It is a bit of a walk from the City but well woth the views. Located at Armon Hanatziv in Talpiyot.

Via Dolorosa, Mt. Zionand the Christian Quarter

Next, go to the Old City and enjoy a walk down the Via Dolorosa. This is of course the path that Jesus walked on his way to being crucified. Be sure to check off the various markers along the way and watch for all 13 additional Stations of the Cross. Take in all the sites at and near Mt. Zion, including the Upper room, the Cenacle, the Room of the Last Supper, Dormition Abbey, the Protestant Cemetary,  (where you will find the grave of Oscar Schindler) and St. Peter of Gallicantu.

Take a Bike Tour

Another great thing to do in Jerusalem on a Saturday is to take a bike tour of the city. EcoBike offers a three hour bike tour all over the city with an English speaking guide who will show you everything there is to see. biking in Jerusalem

Walk the Ramparts Walk

Get an entirely different perspective of the Old City by walking it from on the top of the walls. You can begin at the Jaffa Gate and walk south to the Zion Gate and along the way you’ll get a birds eye view into the Armenian Quarter and other parts of the Old City.

Shop in the Arab Market

If shopping is your thing, the bazaar at the Arab Market in the old city is open every Saturday for business as usual. Be sure to bring your best bargaining face as the denizens of this ancient bazaar are always ready to make a deal.

Visit the Garden Tomb

Discovered in 1867 by General Charles Gordon, the Garden Tomb is a fascinating site located on Nablus Road approximately one block north of the Damascus Gate. The site is identified as “the place of the skull” referred to in the bible as the place of Jesus’s crucifixion. The Garden is owned and administered by The Garden Tomb (Jerusalem) Association, a Charitable Trust based in the United Kingdom comprising people from many different denominational backgrounds. Considered by Protestants as a possible burial place of Jesus, and thus the site of his resurrection, due to its proximity to “Gordon’s Calvary” – the site is frequented by many Christians.
garden tomb Partial remains of a burial bench can be seen inside the tomb. The date of the tomb is unknown however it is quitely likely that it is from the period of the Old Testament. There is some evidence that the site has been venerated for many years. The Garden Tomb is open on Saturdays from 8 to 12 pm and 2- 5 pm. There is no charge to enter though a donation is appreciated.

 

Western Wall

While you may not take pictures on a Saturday, the Western Wall is open to the public every day of the week. Those wishing to approach the wall should be aware that men and women will be asked to go to separate areas. Be sure to be as respectful as possible while visiting as the local religious population will be engaged in prayer at the site.

Botanical Gardens

Those looking for a nature walk will be happy to learn that the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens are open for business every Saturday except when it falls on Yom Kippur. The garden hours are generally from 9AM-5PM every Saturday. However, it is a good idea to check with them because they sometimes have extended hours. Located at 1 Yehuda Burla Street on the Hebrew University Givat Ram Campus. Phone:  02 6794012.

Visit A Jerusalem Museum

There are a number of museums in Jerusalem that are open on Saturdays. For example, the Israel Museum is open for business as usual. The great thing about visiting the Israel Museum on a Saturday is that it’s often a bit less crowded than it is during the rest of the week. The museum is massive so don’t expect to see all of it in a single visit. Be sure to check out the Shrine of the Book while you’re here – it is an exhibition of the oldest Hebrew bible scrolls ever found. Open 10AM-5PM on Saturdays and located on Ruppin Blvd. near the Knesset.

Often overlooked on a trip to Jerusalem, the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum is considered to be part of the Israel museum though it is located in the eastern part of the city. Located at 27 Sultan Suleiman Street just outside the Old City, the museum features a superb collection of archaeological finds from the Jerusalem area. Note that the museum is only open from 10AM-2PM on Saturdays.

Another often overlooked museum is the Armenian Museum, which features a collection of artifacts detailing the contribution of Armenians to the Old City of Jerusalem. Located at St. James Street in the Old City, the museum is open every day 9:30AM-4:30PM

Finally, the Bible Lands Museum is a favorite for Christian tourists in the Holy Land. It details the biblical history of the city with various exhibitions, including a number of ancient artifacts. The museum is open on Saturdays from 10AM-2PM. Located at 25 Avraham Granot Street.

The First Station (Ha’Tachana)

No, not the first Station of the Cross. This is a different first station – the first train station in the city of Jerusalem has been completely revamped and includes many trendy restaurants and other things to see.  There is an arts and crafts fair each Saturday which is great for the whole family. The station is open 7 days a week.

The Biblical Zoo

The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo is unique in that it attempts to gather in all the animals mentioned in the bible. The zoo is open 7 days a week though their Saturday hours are reduced to 10AM-6PM.

St. James Church in the Armenian Quarter

Those interested in seeing an old time style church service would do well to drop by St. James Armenian Church in the old city. This church, open since the 12th century A.D. is one of the oldest Armenian churches in the world. It hosts a 3PM prayer service every Saturday which is reputed to be quite interesting.

Barbur Gallery

Finally, consider ending your Saturday at the Barbur Gallery, situated in the cute little area of Jerusalem known as Nachlaot. The venue hosts concerts and other events on Saturday evenings which are open to the public.

Tip: Remember that while many sites are open in Jerusalem, public transportation in Jewish parts of the city is shut down. Taxis do operate though and there are some shared taxi vans available as well. If you are driving, pay attention to street closures which may be in effect in some religious areas. Have fun and enjoy your visit to the Holy City.

Visit a Synagogue

You’re in Jerusalem and you’ve never been inside a synagague? Now’s your chance. Whether you are staying in the Old City, or West Jerusalem, there is synagague near you. Try out the Great Synagague on Karen Hayesod, or visit the newly reopened Hurva Synagague insdie the Jewish Quarter. Here is a listing of synagogues in Jerusalem. If you go, please be sure you dress appropriately – and this differs depending on the synagogue that you may go to. To be sure Men should wear pants, long shirts and kippot, and women should have their arms shoulders and arms covered and wear skirts covering their  their knees, and a scarf that can double as a head covering if needed.


Eric Hammer and Elisa Moed for Travelujah-Holy Land tours, the leading Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land.

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