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  Western Wall with Dome of the Rock above (c) Vanda Biffani

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Over the millennia, many have yearned for a spiritual Jerusalem. As a result, for visitors perhaps the hardest thing to grasp is that Jerusalem is no mere dream or spirit, not a myth or metaphor, but a real, vibrant, modern living city, home to over one million people, most of whom are not religious and view it as simply a working town like any other.
  However, in truth, this really is not a town like any other. Jerusalem is one of the most intriguing, fascinating and rewarding cities in the world. It's also an inspiration. Above all, the New City - West Jerusalem - is a triumph of hope over adversity, the reborn capital of a once shattered land. As recently as 1967, Jerusalem re-emerged as Israel's capital after nineteen hundred years of oppression and occupation.
  The Old City and the area surrounding it contains a staggering wealth of history, dating back to the building of the Second Temple on Temple Mount, which Jesus attended with the crowds of other Jewish pilgrims and worshippers like himself. Close by stand the sites and structures at the heart of Christianity, and vitally important Islamic monuments, one of which - the gleaming Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount - has become the most recognisable sight in all Jerusalem.


 Get the feel

As you cross the city boundary into Jerusalem, there's a frisson of excitement about its long history and immense religious and political importance.
  However, the busy central area (in West Jerusalem) with its traffic, crowds of shoppers and lively, upbeat atmosphere, is surprisingly like any other city, albeit with weightier political concerns than most.
  Pass through the mighty fortifications into the Old City - where most of the historic and religious sights are located - and come face to face with an awesome heritage and complex cultural diversity.

 What, why, where

Jerusalem - Yerushalayim in Hebrew - is located on Israel's eastern boundary, in the region historically called Judaea.
  The city dates back at least to the construction in about 1000BC of the First Temple where the Jewish priests made sacrifices, and which was the focal point for all Jewish religious observance at that time. It stood on Temple Mount.
  That Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in about 586BC, but just 70 years later was rebuilt as the even grander, more vast, gold-clad Second Temple. Although Jews had become more scattered by now, the Temple remained the focal point of their religion and nationhood.
  The Temple was further reconstructed, enlarged and adorned
by King Herod in about 19BC, during the Roman occupation of Judaea. However, because the Jewish people resisted Roman rule, the Temple was again destroyed in 70AD, along with most of Jerusalem (135AD).
  Having crushed the Jewish Revolts and banished the Jews from Jerusalem, Emperor Hadrian also changed the name of Judaea to Palaestina and brought in measures to humiliate the population. Most fled from Judaea and became scattered throughout the Roman empire, beginning the Jewish exile which lasted until the decline of Rome and the Arab conquest (638AD), after which Jews began to return to Jerusalem. Most of the Jewish Diaspora
remained scattered in different countries in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Having to flee the medieval  Crusades of western Europe, the majority were eventually living in Eastern Europe, for a period of some 1000 years.
  Under the impetus of extreme anti-semitism in the 19th-century Russian Empire, while many Jews fled to the Americas, Zionism emerged as the Jewish national liberation movement and led to an organised, idealistic return to Jerusalem and Judaea, especially during the early 20th century. By this time, the British had taken control of the Jewish homeland, under the British Mandate.
 
The rise of the Nazis in 1930s Germany, their conquest of Europe during WW2 and their extermination of Jews during the Holocaust, gave an extreme urgency to Zionism.
 
Zionism triumphed over Arab and British colonialism in 1948, and the liberated Jewish land was renamed Israel. Jerusalem was finally fully re-conquered by Jewish forces in 1967, and once more became the Jewish capital.

 Getting started

The main tourist office is just inside the Jaffa Gate into the Old City.

 Compass points

Although it has many neighbourhoods and districts, the city consists principally of three distinct zones, which are historically and culturally quite separate.
The Old City is the walled ancient city that lies on Jerusalem's eastern edge.
East Jerusalem is a small, densely populated Arab district north of the Old City.
West Jerusalem extends west from the Old City, and includes the busy Jaffa (Yafo) Road and the vibrant modern downtown area around King George V Street and Zion Square.

 Getting around

Walking is easy, pleasant and safe at all times in West Jerusalem (almost the whole city). Take more care in the Old City and East Jerusalem.

There's an extensive and inexpensive public transport network, run by different companies. For an overview and information, visit the Jerusalem Transportation website.

Single-fare tickets are available
before boarding from machines at stops. Locals normally travel using a pre-paid Rav Kav card (a plastic smart card like London's 'Oyster', that can be topped-up with prepayment). This is available for visitors too: just complete an application form at the bus station; you'll need ID and a passport style photo.

Buses - also Express Buses running in dedicated lanes - are operated by Egged. Useful for visitors is the hop on/hop off Line 99 which follows a circular sightseeing route. There's no service on Shabbat. East Jerusalem has its own buses.
Egged website.


Taxis can be hailed in the street or pre-booked. Shared taxis called sheruts [Hebrew: sherutim] run along set routes, usually the same as the bus routes, and generally cost less than the bus.

Jerusalem Light Rail is a slick, modern tram service. To date only Line 1 (or Red line) is open, with 23 stops from Mount Herzl to Air Force Street, including all along Jaffa St, King George St, Mechane Yehuda and Damascus Gate (for the Old City). Trains run every 10 minutes throughout the day (except Shabbat - though they do run on Saturday after Shabbat finishes).
Jerusalem Transport Light Rail webpage.
Jerusalem Light Rail operator's website.

 Eat and drink in Jerusalem

There are hundreds of cafés, outdoor tables and open-fronted snack stalls as well as numerous smarter restaurants in and around Zion Square and Ben Yehuda Street and on all the busier streets. Most of the 4/5-star hotels also have good quality restaurants open to the public.

For a street snack or take-away, try an Israeli classic, "falafel in pitta" (falafels, houmous, salads, tahina all in a pitta 'envelope') or shwarma (same as kebab). For a variations, ask for a laffa (a tasty flat bread) instead of pitta.

Almost all eating places in Jerusalem, other than Arab establishments, are kosher, meaning that meat and milk cannot be served together and all ingredients conform to Jewish religious law.

Israelis drink relatively little alcohol, but Israel produces good wines from very ancient grape-growing areas. The wines of Israel, now produced in modern wineries, range from light white to dry red and sweet rosé. The best come from the Israel's Golan and Carmel regions. All are kosher.

 Hotels in Jerusalem

Most visitors to Jerusalem are on package holidays including accommodation. However,  it's easy to choose and book independently. The tourist office can assist with hotel bookings.

The tourist office website includes comprehensive hotel and guesthouse information, with online booking available in most cases.

The main avenues of the city centre (West Jerusalem) are packed with hotels in every price bracket. Rates are higher for any place with a view of the Old City.

An interesting alternative is the quiet, modestly priced hotel at Kibbutz Ramat Rahel (or Rachel), 3 miles from Jerusalem on the Bethlehem road.
www.ramatrachel.co.il

 Flights to Jerusalem

By air - Airlines from every part of the world fly direct to Israel's Ben-Gurion Airport, on the Tel Aviv highway 30km (18 miles) from Jerusalem. Flight time from London is around 5 hours.
Easyjet operate low-cost flights from London to Jerusalem. Other airlines include Monarch, British Airways and El Al.

 In the Know

Book well ahead to stay near the Old City.
Private guided tours in English are available at short notice from the tourist office guide service.
Modest dress is required at places of worship whatever the religion. At Jewish sites,
men should cover their heads (a paper kippah - skullcap - is usually available free if required).
Shabbat shutdown: from Friday afternoon to Saturday evening, almost everything is closed and there is
no public transport at all.

 Jerusalem Basics

Where is it? Jerusalem is in eastern Israel, about 80km (48 miles) from the Mediterranean.
International phone dialling code:
00 372 (+ drop initial 0 from local number)
Time zone: GMT/BST + 2 hours.
Money: Shekel (or New Israeli Shekel, NIS).

 Must-see

      The Old City     

On the eastern edge of Jerusalem is its ancient Old City. Within the encircling ramparts, explore bustling, narrow market lanes and quiet alleyways of the four very different Old City Quarters – Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Armenian. Each has its own distinct character.

 David’s Tower 
As you enter Jerusalem’s Old City through impressively fortified Jaffa Gate, David’s Tower (History of Jerusalem Museum), rises imposingly on the right. Inside, its brilliant displays vividly tell the long and complex history of the city. The rooftop gives a stirring vista towards Temple Mount.
www.towerofdavid.org.il

 Temple Mount / Dome of the Rock 
The elegant Dome of the Rock, its gold shining above beautiful tiled walls, dominates the tranquil, park-like Temple Mount (Har HaBayit in Hebrew, Al Haram al-Sharif in Arabic), site of the ancient Temple, centre of Jewish worship.
  At the southern end of the enclosure stands Al-Aqsa mosque, third holiest in Sunni Islam. Beside the mosque, a 12th-century Crusader building houses the Islamic Museum.
  In recognition of its importance to Islam, the Israeli government allows Temple Mount to be run by the Islamic trust or waqf, who impose strict standards of Islamic modesty and behaviour. 
  Security considerations dictate the changing entry procedures. Generally,
non-Muslim visitors may enter the site (except during prayer times) via Moors Gate on the wooden walkway from Western Wall Plaza, but are not allowed inside any of the buildings on the site. However, the whole site is frequently closed to non-Moslems.
Approach via Western Wall Plaza, Old City.

 Western Wall 
Every kind of Jew from around the world - Sephardi, Ashkenazi, Ethiopian, religious, secular - crowds the huge plaza in front of this awesome wall of mighty stone blocks, the most revered site in Judaism.
  Although this was in fact only the outer retaining wall of the site, it is the last remnant still standing of the great Temple itself. This is one of the few holy sites whose importance is based on historical reality rather than myth or legend. 
  Extending all along one side of the animated plaza, which lies below Temple Mount, the wall is 20.2m (67ft) high and 27.7m (91ft) long.
Western Wall Plaza, Old City.

 Jerusalem Archaeological Park 
 and The Davidson Center
One of the most impressive and rewarding sights in the Old City is this immense archaeological site along the south side of Temple Mount. It can be approached via Western Wall Plaza or Dung Gate. Years of excavation have yielded amazing discoveries at this site. Highlights are the underground ruins of a Byzantine House, and the huge Hulda Stairway (partly reconstructed) that gave direct access to the Temple via the Hulda Gates. These stairs were the main access to the Temple. The steps are all different widths to ensure that anyone going up to the Temple had to approach slowly and carefully.
  The Davidson Center, close to the park entrance, uses these archaeological discoveries as the basis for an imaginative high-tech showcase of life in Second Temple times and other periods. A film of a pilgrim visiting the Temple is among the highly effective attractions. The high-tech Virtual Reality Reconstruction (available only to groups, but it may be possible to join a group) is similar, but enables a guide to give you a tour around the Temple exterior, though not inside, as no excavation of the Temple itself has been possible
www.archpark.org.il

 Wohl Archaeological Museum 
Go below ground level to visit genuine 2000-year-old villas and a mansion in this exceptional museum/archaeological site in the Jewish Quarter. Each has a ritual bath decorated in ceramic tiles and collections of household objects from the period.
1 HaKaraim St. T: (02) 628 3448.

 Church of the Holy Sepulchre 
Enclosing what Catholic and Orthodox churches accept as the site of the Crucifixion, this ornate Byzantine church at the heart of the Christian Quarter is a fascinating complex of different shrines in the hands of different denominations.
St Helena Rd. T: (02) 627 3314.

      The New City     

West of the Old City is the extensive urban area built by the Jewish population since the late 19th century, especially during the great influx of Jews in the 1920s and 1930s.

 Yad Vashem 
On the western edge of the city, this remarkable and deeply affecting museum and documentation centre is Israel's principal monument to the millions of Jewish people - approximately half the world's Jewish population of the time - murdered in the Holocaust. The extensive site contains many separate memorials, such as the Children's Memorial. All are deeply moving.
www.yadvashem.org

 Israel Museum 
The Israel Museum is the country’s foremost collection of its archaeology and ancient art, with some of the world’s most impressive archaeological discoveries on display. Among them, the Dead Sea Scrolls, housed in their own building, the Shrine of the Book.
www.imj.org.il

 Buy it

Jerusalem's main shopping experiences are the bazaar-like Street of the Chain, in the Old City; smarter Old City shopping  on the Cardo; in the city centre (in West Jerusalem), the vibrant and colourful Mahaneh Yehuda daily produce market and enjoyable pedestrianised Nahalat Shiva lanes; Malka shopping mall – the city's largest, with hundreds of stores, located in the Malka district at the the end of the Rabin highway.

Judaica - It's no surprise that city centre Jerusalem shops and stalls in the Old City Jewish Quarter sell a wide variety of Judaica (hanukkiot, mezuzot, kippot, dreidels, etc) from classic silverware to innovative designs and materials.

Jewellery - Fine silverwork, gold, jewellery set with diamonds, are all locally made by talented craft workers, often with imaginative designs and very reasonable prices. .

Designer fashions - Israel is fashion conscious, with a stylish informality all its own. Casual clothes and beachwear are specialities.

Arts and crafts - Stroll Nahalat Shiva for artworks and handmade jewelry by local artists. 

Shuk bargains - Along the narrow alleyways of the Old City, open-fronted stores in the Arab Quarter offer hand-blown glass, wood-carved souvenirs and interesting jewellery.

Note that haggling or bargaining is not usual in Israel (except in Arab markets and Arab stores).

 Events & Festivals

Jewish religious festivals and holidays (like Shabbat) start and end at nightfall. Dates are fixed by the Hebrew calendar.  The major festivals are:
Pesach - especially the first night (Seder night); Shavuot; Rosh Hashanah; Yom Kippur; Sukkot; and Hannukah. Find this year's dates here: www.hebcal.com/holidays/

There's always a lot going on in Jerusalem.
For latest events information, see
www.itraveljerusalem.com/Events

Jerusalem Marathon
17 March 2017
Tens of thousands of  runners take to Jerusalem's streets for this annual event
.
www.jerusalem-marathon.com

Jerusalem Arts Festival
April 2017 (dates to be confirmed)
Drama, dance and music staged day and night during a busy week at the city’s major venues.
website

Israel Festival
May-June 2017
Vibrant, inventive, multi-disciplinary three-week arts festival with events in Jerusalem and nationwide, celebrating Israeli and foreign contemporary performing arts as well as music from pop to classical.
www.israel-festival.org.il


Hamshushalayim - Winter Arts Festival
December 2017
Hamshush means weekend and Hamshushalayim is Jerusalem's winter festival of art, music and culture with events every weekend in December
.
website



 

 

 

 

 

 



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Jerusalem
Updated January 2017. All rights reserved worldwide.
Text © Focus Guides and Andrew Sanger.
P
ictures © Vanda Biffani, courtesy of Israel Government Tourist Office.
Permission to use: This guide may be freely PRINTED ONLY for personal non-commercial use. Unless a LICENCE has been obtained it may not, in whole or in part, be COPIED nor used for any COMMERCIAL purpose.
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