Most travelers visiting Jerusalem focus their stay within the old city walls, following guided tours or shopping the colorful markets that line each cobblestone alley. I will reflect on the Old City in more detail, but first, let’s venture outside the city walls for just a bit…
Jerusalem is more than a tourist destination or a history lesson on many ancient sites. There’s a modern, vibrant city full of life just outside the old walls! I recommend taking a stroll around the Mammilla neighborhood to explore the many restaurants and bars. This hip part of town is clean and classy with a lively nightlife. Our favorite hidden gem was a speakeasy called Gatsby Cocktail Room (look for the large glass doors with no sign just next to an Aroma Coffee store). We thoroughly enjoyed the view from the top of the Mamilla Hotel, as well as a wonderful dinner in the beautiful gardens of The American Colony in the old embassy district.
We also took time to visit the Holocaust History Museum – Yad Vashem. It’s about a 20 minute train ride, from the station near the New Gate, to the southernmost stop (Mount Herzl). From here it’s just a 10 minute walk to the museum. I think it’s good to seek knowledge and learn more about past events, even when those events may be very difficult to digest. The museum is laid out beautifully, slowly walking you through events leading up to, during, as well as after the holocaust. I spent the afternoon crying (no joke – and I’m not one who is easily brought to tears), as the museum paints a very detailed picture, including personal accounts, that will tug at even the toughest heart’s strings. It’s moving and a very different form of tourism.
Now, let’s reflect on the Old City… where we did spend most of our time…
This is by far the most dynamic place I’ve ever experienced, and that’s saying a lot. There’s so much history, so much culture and (in turn) so much controversy. Jerusalem’s Old City is divided into four quarters: the Muslim Quarter, the Christian Quarter, the Jewish Quarter and the Armenian Quarter. Four different cultures with varying beliefs, all with a deep history that ties them together, and all surrounded by a wall dating back to ancient times.
Our hotel was in the Muslim Quarter, and we arrived during ‘Call to Prayer’ (a methodical wailing that can be heard in almost every part of the Old City). I was reminded of the dedication and piety of the people around me, who stop what they are doing five times a day, every day. The women were covered from head to toe, a symbol of modesty and privacy, and here I am.. an American in short-shorts and a tank-top. For me, it’s important to be respectful when you are fortunate enough to experience a different culture, exploring their world… time to change into more conservative clothes.
I felt moved as we wandered the streets, experiencing passionate people in every quarter. We watched Jewish men and women line up at the Western Wall on separate sides, men wailing and women crying. I spent quite a bit of time on the woman’s side, in awe of the emotion surrounding me. In this specific area, it’s polite to cover your head and lower your voice out of respect for those who are praying. On the men’s side it’s customary to wear a yarmulke (but don’t fear, one will be provided for you).
We continued to wander the streets, and watched Christians line up at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, waiting to kiss the Golgotha Altar (or Calvary), which is believed to be the place where Jesus was crucified.
I recommend taking it all in, and visiting each quarter with an open mind. Regardless of your beliefs, Jerusalem is a uniquely powerful place, and I feel fortunate to have experienced the history and the cultures that created this dynamic city. To those of you who would like to reflect with me, and experience the city through my eyes (albeit, a much more conservatively dressed version of Andrea 😉 Let me take you on a walk through Jerusalem…
We spent three days exploring Jerusalem before setting out on a road trip further south, through the Israeli desert. Our time here was eye opening, educational, and proved to be an experience that I will reflect upon often, especially as the controversy within this volatile city continues to rise.
Amazing visit, I’m sure. Enjoy following your incredible adventures through the eyes of a couple who clearly appreciate other cultures and the opportunity to explore. Keep up the great work.
Thanks Herb! I’m so glad you enjoy following along 🙂
I am really wanting to explore the Holy Lands and would of course like to hit Jerusalem. I will file this away for things to check out!
That’s awesome Melody! Glad you found the post helpful. Stay tuned for more from Israel – after Jerusalem we headed south to the Dead Sea 😉
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Great photos! I loved Jerusalem – one of my favorite places, even from a non-religious perspective. I found it fascinating to walk around and soak in the history and multiple cultures. Would love to go back – I only got to spend one day there.
I agree, Eric! So much history and culture to explore. Glad you were able to experience firsthand.
I loved seeing your pictures of Jerusalem from eye level. Haven’t seen other people writing about the experience so fully.
Thanks so much, Elaine! I’m glad you enjoyed.
I’d love to have these experiences. I have to admit I’ve been very apprehensive about traveling to Jerusalem. But I sure loved seeing your photos and reading your post!
I can understand, Tami. It is a highly volatile area – there was an attack in the Al-Asqa Mosque just a few weeks after we left. I tend to believe that unfortunate situations can occur, regardless of where you are in the world, and I’m rarely apprehensive in visiting any new place; however, my husband is a bit more cautions, and we were very careful during our time in Jerusalem. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post!
Jerusalem isn’t a part of the world I’ve considered travelling in but it does look very interesting and the historic architecture is so beautiful
It is indeed an interesting and unique place, Toni! The architecture is amazing! I’m glad you enjoyed 🙂
I would love to visit Jerusalem. I feel it is not fair on anyone to have an opinion about a place you haven’t been to and I would love to hear everyone’s sides of the story and to experience a place so deep in history
I agree, Mar. It’s hard to fully understand a situation without experiencing the culture and the people firsthand.. and I wouldn’t even consider my short time there adequate in this regard; however, I did discover a city rich and history and full of passionate people. For me, it was well worth the visit.
What an amazing trip! Thank you for sharing it. I would love to visit Jerusalem one day.
Thanks Mags! Hope you make it there soon!
Jerusalem is one of my favorite cities in the world–for the culture and history. I spent 9 days there years ago (including exploring the new city outside the walls a bit). I’d like to go back and see it again sometime.
That’s awesome, Vicki! Glad you explored outside the walls as well. Such a vibrant, modern city!
I recently studied the Dome of the Rock in Art History class, such an amazing temple! I can’t wait to see it in person! We were planning to visit Jerusalem while we were in the middle east though we were recommended not to at the point due to it being the middle of winter and some possibility of volatile issues arising. I’m certain we’ll make our way over their someday though! 🙂 Absolutely stunning photos, I can’t wait to see it for myself. 😀
I think it would be very interesting to visit all the quarters of the old city to see the differences, as well as similarities. Great suggestion to step outside the walls for a different experience as well!
It amazes me how much time they spend in worship and I think it’s wonderful! Good for you for adhering to the traditional clothing customs.
Great photos! Jerusalem looks amazing. The history and scenery sound fantastic. I would love to visit one day!
Reflections from #Jerusalem: http://t.co/1MqwIzNWCC #israel #travel #oldcity http://t.co/otCwjrUKp7