Jerusalem is the capital and the largest city of Israel. It is located in the Judean Mountains between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea.
The city is surrounded by Kidron Valley on the east and the Hinnom Valley on the west. It has a rich history that reaches back to the 4th millennium B.C. and is one of the oldest cities on Earth. Jerusalem has an important religious role since it is considered a holy city by the three major Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It is the holiest city is Judaism and their spiritual center since the 10th century B.C. The city is also the third holiest city in Islam and is also home to many significant ancient Christian landmarks. The city's inhabitants come from various nations and religions but the majority of population is Jewish.
The walled part of Jerusalem, now called the Old City, was proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site n 1982. Covering less then a square kilometer in size, the Old City consists of four ethnic quarters: Armenian, Christian, Jewish and Muslim. It contains many of Jerusalem’s most important and controversial religious sites. These include the Western Wall, the Temple of the Mount, the Dome of the Rock, al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Church or the Holy Sepulchre. The surrounding part of Jerusalem is a modern cultural and urban center, extending from Western Jerusalem toward Israel’s other urban areas to the west. The Arab inhabitants live mostly in the northern, eastern and southern districts. The main languages spoken in Jerusalem are Hebrew in West Jerusalem and Arabic in the East Jerusalem. Many strictly orthodox Jews speak Yiddish.
The city has a shifted hands several times in its history and is one of the most controversial in the history. Even today, Jerusalem remains a political hotspot.
Jerusalem has a Mediterranean climate with hot dry summers and cold wet winters. Snowfall is rare, occurring only every couple of winters. The coldest month is January, with the average temperature 7.7°C. The hottest months are July and August. The average temperature is 21°C. Summers experience very low humidity with practically no rainfall. Autumn and Spring are characterized by hot desert wing ‘sharay’. Rain mostly occurs from October to May.
January average temperature 7.7 deg Celsius, 140 mm rainfall February average temperature 8.8 deg Celsius, 110 mm rainfall March average temperature 10.5 deg Celsius, 116 mm rainfall April average temperature 15 deg Celsius, 17 mm rainfall May average temperature 12 deg Celsius, 6 mm rainfall June average temperature 19 deg Celsius, 0 mm rainfall July average temperature 21 deg Celsius, 0 mm rainfall August average temperature 21 deg Celsius, 0 mm rainfall September average temperature 21 deg Celsius, 0 mm rainfall October average temperature 20 deg Celsius, 11 mm rainfall November average temperature 15 deg Celsius, 68 mm rainfall December average temperature 10 deg Celsius, 129 mm rainfall
From Terminal 3 take the shuttle (10 minutes) to the Airport City commercial complex where you change to the bus for Jerusalem (numbers 947, 432 and 943). The buses leave every 30 minutes during the day, and less frequently at night. An even better option is the Sherut shared taxi - minibus with 10 seats, waiting just outside the arrival area. They depart when full and drop off passengers along the way. Agree upon the price beforehand.
Buses are the most effective public transport.
Light rail line is under construction and is scheduled to open in 2010.
There are numerous taxis. Be careful though, the drivers are known to take the newcomers via longer routes to rip you off. Check if the meter is turned on. Taxis can be ordered by telephone, flagged in the street or picked up at the hotels and taxi stands.
SHERUT / MINIVAN
Shared 7 to 10 seat taxis or minivans run along the same routes as the buses.
Much of Jerusalem is pleasant to walk, especially the Old City which is closed for the cars in the most part.
Visit the birthplace of Jesus, located just 10 km south of Jerusalem. The place is a major tourist attraction but the town manages to retain its charm. The major sight is the Church of the Nativity, which was built on the site of Jesus’ birth. Another important sight is the Bethlehem Museum which houses traditional clothing, jewelry, household items and old photographs.
You can explore the countryside surrounding Jerusalem on a 4WD jeep tour. These tours take you to the remote places off the beaten track. You can appreciate wonderful ancient sites and monasteries set in the incredibly scenic countryside.
THE DEAD SEA
The Dead Sea is a unique place: it is the saltiest water and the lowest place on earth. There are a number of activities you can undertake: from floating effortlessly in the incredibly salty water, to full scale medical or beauty treatment in one of the spa resorts. The area is also famous for the therapeutic black mud which contains sea minerals and organic elements. The area around the Dead Sea has numerous remains of the Persian, Greek and Roman civilizations. In addition, the notorious biblical city of Sodoma was located here.
The Israel Museum is a world-class museum, comprising over 50,000 square meters. It features an impressive array of artifacts ranging from prehistoric archeology to modern art. The most popular part of the museum is the Shrine of the Book with its distinctive onion-shaped roof. Its prime attraction is the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in 1947. The Judaica Wing houses various objects from Jewish communities around the world. The Archeology Wing, the largest section of the museum, houses objects found in Israel; it is the world’s largest such collection.
CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE
Address: Via Dolorosa, Old City Phone: (02) 627 3314 Open: April – September: daily 5:00 am – 9:00 pm; October – March: daily 4:00 am – 7:00 pm Access: Bus to Jaffa Gate - then walk through Old City Admission: Free
The Church is located within the walled Old City and is considered the holiest Christian site in Jerusalem, as well as one of the holiest places on earth for Christians. It commemorates the place where Jesus was crucified and resurrected. The site also features the place where he was buried (the sepulcher), as well as the Chapel of Golgotha and three Stations of the Cross where Jesus was crucified. Originally the church was constructed by Emperor Constantine in 330 AD and has been an important pilgrimage destination since the 4th century. Today it serves as the headquarters of the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Catholic Archpriest of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre.
The Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall or Kotel, is the world’s most sacred place of prayer for the Jewish. The 584 meters of the wall is what remains of the Second Temple of Jerusalem (516 B.C. – 70 B.C.). Here the men and women come to pray. There are separate prayer sections for men and women. Men are obliged to wear the skullcap and women must be dressed modestly. The wall is at its busiest on Friday of Sabbath when men come here to pray. It now serves as an open air synagogue. The wall is also an important Muslim monument as they believe it was here that Mohammed tied his winged horse before ascending to heaven.
TEMPLE MOUNT (AL-HARAM AL-SHARIF)
Address: Temple Mount, Old City Open: Saturday – Thursday: 7:30 am - 11:00 am, 1:30 pm - 2:30 pm (Fridays and prayer times - closed). The site is temporarily closed to all non-Muslims due to religious tensions. Phone: (02) 628 3393 Access: Bus to the Dung Gate
Temple Mount is the holiest site for Judaism. It is also a place of great importance for Muslims and Christians as well. The site is located within the walled Old City and is one of the major attractions. This was the site of the Jewish Temple of Jerusalem, the first and the second – now both destroyed. And according to Jewish belief it is going to be the site of the third when the Jewish Messiah comes. The site features the golden Dome of the Rock, which is one of the most notable city features. The rock is, according to the Christian and Jewish traditions the place where Abraham offered his son Isaac for sacrifice. The Muslims consider the same rock as the place where Muhammad ascended to heaven in a dream. To commemorate the event the Temple Mount was built here in the 7th century. This is one of the three most important sites in Islam. The complex also features the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Islamic Museum, housing a collection of Korans and Islamic relics.
CITADEL - TOWER OF DAVID
Address: Jaffa Gate Web: www.towerofdavid.org.il/eng Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: (02) 626 5310 Open: Monday – Thursday + Saturday: 10:00 am - 4:00pm; Friday: 10:00 am -2:00 pm Access: Bus 20
The Citadel is located on the western side of the Old City and has been a city landmark since ancient times. It was originally constructed as a fort for King Herod in the 1st century B.C., and has since served to protect the city. The Citadel includes the Tower of Phasael, the highest tower offering a splendid view over the city, the Herod’s Tower and the Tower of David minaret housing the Tower of David Museum which is well worth a visit. It depicts the entire history of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is a multicultural city where a wide variety of food is available. The city itself stands on the crossroads between North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East. The dishes are composed mostly from fresh fruit and vegetables growing in the surrounding area. You can indulge in wonderful salads, fresh juices and vegetarian dishes. The local cuisine includes a lot of pine nuts, eggplant, mint, chickpeas, tomato, cucumber, avocado, figs and Bulgarian cheese.
The Jewish laws do not allow meat and dairy dishes served in the same restaurant. Kosher dairy restaurants serve no meat but usually do offer fish. The Jewish immigrants in Jerusalem come from all parts of the world so the culinary offer is very diverse. The favorite snacks, widely available throughout the city, are falafel (deep-fried chickpea balls) and schwarma (slices of lamb meat) both served in pita bread with hummous and vegetables. The cheapest falafels can be found in the Arab section of the Old City. A typical local drink is sahlab, made of orchid roots, served with nutmeg and shredded coconut topping. A popular local pastry is boureka, containing a filling of mashed potato, spinach, mushrooms or white cheese.
Restaurants usually open quite late, around 9:00 pm. The majority of eateries and restaurants in the Western part or the city are condensed around the pedestrianized area around Zion Square and Ben Yehuda Street, as well as in the Nahalat Shiva and Yoel Solomon. The area offers a wide range of eateries from around the world. The area is also popular with tourists.
The Emek Refaim area, a few kilometers south of the city, is preferred by the locals. Here you can find many nice places serving salads and Continental style food.
Note that during Sabbath many eateries in the Western Jerusalem are closed but non-kosher restaurants are open, as well as numerous restaurants in the East Jerusalem and the Old City.
moving ceremony is held in remembrance of those who died during the holocaust. The President and the Prime Minister gather together with the survivors. Tickets are free but must be obtained at the museum.
This is the major performing arts festival in Israel, attracting the best of world’s as well as Israel’s own artists. Opera, ballet, classical music, dance and theatre are all represented in the varied program. The festival also features a number of free performances and shows.
INDEPENDENCE DAY (YOM HAATZMAUT)
Date: May Location: various
The event is celebrated by Jews all around the world, and Jerusalem is not lagging behind, either. The city celebrates with numerous fireworks, parades and concerts.
Date: November or December
Muslim holidays are not so evident to tourists as other are. The holy month of Ramadan is spent fasting during the day, so many Arab cafés and eateries may have limited opening time. It is a personal and family event.
Date: Christmass Eve Location: Church of Nativity, Betlehem
The midnight mass on Christmas Eve is a big deal. The event attracts a huge crowd of worshippers to Betlehem’s Church of Nativity. The church interior is jammed with people as tickets are sold out weeks in advance. Those who stand outside can follow the goings-on on huge monitors set up outside the church.
The Old City of Jerusalem is throbbing with activity during the Easter. The celebrations, however, are held on various dates. irst, the Roman Catholics and the Protestants celebrate. Next is the Orthodox Church, who celebrates two weeks later. The event attracts a huge number of pilgrims to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the surrounding streets.
Jerusalem’s unofficial cultural center is the Jerusalem Center for the Performing Arts (20 Marcus Street; phone: (02) 560 5757/55). Another good option to feel the buzz of the city is the Jerusalem Film Center (Hebron Road; phone: (02) 565 4333; web: www.jer-cin.org.il).
For those who love classical music the best option is the Henry Crown Symphony Hall (5 Chopin Street; phone: (1700) 704 000; web: www.jso.co.il), home to the excellent Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. The Khan Theater (2 David Remez Square; phone: (02) 671 8281), performs five or six plays per season, its repertory includes new plays from Israel as well as from around the world. Most performances are in Hebrew. Film screenings are held in original languages with Hebrew subtitles. The best place to catch a movie is the Cinematheque, located in the Jerusalem Film Center (Hebron Road; phone: (02) 565 4333; web: http//www.jer-cin.org.il). The venue also shows classics, new releases and foreign art films.
Israel Ballet is appreciated around the world. The national classic ballet performs mainly in Tel Aviv but there are occasional productions in Jerusalem as well.
There are also several options for the party people, even though Jerusalem is a religious city. Many bars and clubs can be found in the Ben-Yehuda Street area in downtown. Most clubs open around 1:00 am, and stay open until 6 or 7 in the morning. Bars open earlier and stay open late.
Jerusalem has a long and rich history. Its beginnings reach millennia back. Around 2500 B.C. the Canaanites inhabited the city. Around 1000 B.C. David, King of the Israelites, established the first unified Jewish capital here, making Jerusalem the capital of his kingdom. Solomon built the first Temple where the Ark of Covenant was housed. The kingdom existed until 734 B.C. when Assyrians conquered it. Until 586 the Jewish inhabitants of the city continued to live and trade there but when it fell under the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, they were driven to Babylonia. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city and the Temple. In 537 B.C. Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered Babylonia and allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple. Jerusalem remained under the Persian hand until 333 B.C. when Palestine was annexed by Alexander the Great to his empire.
The Jews remained here all through the political shifts. In 63 B.C. the Rome took the city, and local dynasty, the house of Herod, was set up, which ruled over most of Palestine. Herod rebuilt the Temple, along with a big part of the city. Roman governors had the ultimate power. Pontius Pilates, one of the Roman governors, authorized the execution of Jesus Christ. In AD 70 the Jews revolted against the Roman rulers and during the revolt the second Temple was destroyed. In 125, after another failed revolt, the Jews were all banished from Jerusalem or sold as slaves. The Romans demolished the city and rebuilt it as Aelia Capitolina. In the early 4th century Christianity became legal in Roman Empire and Jerusalem became a center of pilgrimage. During this time the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was erected, along with numerous other shrines. The city remained under Roman and later Byzantine rule except for the brief period between 614-28 when it was in Persian hands. In 638 the Muslim Arabs took the city, claiming it was the sacred city because the prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven there. On the site of the Temple the Arabs built the Dome of the Rock mosque.
For centuries Muslims, Jews and Christians lived in peace and tolerance until religious differences provoked conflicts. In the 11th century the tolerance was over and the persecution of Jews and Christians begun. The Christians retribution took the form of the bloody Crusades, conquering Jerusalem in 1099 and establishing a Crusader state. Their victory was short-lived as Saladin took over the control in 1187 and reinstated Islam as the dominant religion. The Ayyubid and the Mameluke dynasties ruled until 1517 when the Ottoman Empire seized control.
MODERN (20TH CENTURY)
After the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem in 1099 the Crusader state was established. In 1187 Saladin reclaimed Jerusalem for the Muslims. The Ayyubid and Mameluke dynasties ruled until 1517 when the Ottoman Empire took over. During this time many of the city's distinctive Islamic buildings were erected.
During the 18th and the 19th centuries the Jewish immigration increased until they reached the status of majority. The Ottoman Empire was in decline and European superpowers' interest was growing. In 1917 Britain seized the city from the Turks. Jerusalem became the capital of mandated Palestine from 1923 until 1948. In 1948 the British pulled out and a war between the Jews and the Arabs broke out. West Jerusalem was under siege and Jews were forced out of the Old City, losing their right to pray there. The city was divided into an Israeli and a Jordanian sector: the West Jerusalem was in the hands of Israel while the Old City and East Jerusalem was under the control of Jordan.
During the Six Day War in 1967 the Israeli took the Old City and East Jerusalem. The Israeli government then annexed these territories to the city and united Jerusalem under one administration. The Arab East Jerusalemites were offered regular Israeli citizenship but chose to remain Jordanian. Many Arabs were evicted from the Old City but the Israelis promised access to the holy places to people of all religions.
In 1980 the Israelite government proclaimed Jerusalem the nation’s capital. The formerly Jordanian territory became the suburban area with many housing developments.
Today the conflict over Jerusalem continues and the city remains divided. The Jewish and Palestinian communities live separately each have their own central district, their own schools, police and media. East Jerusalem, annexed by the Israeli, is still considered by the Palestinians as the eventual capital of their own state.
The Israeli hold over the East Jerusalem is still not recognized by the UN, but in 1998 Israel announced a controversial plan to annex nearby towns in order to expand Jerusalem.
In certain areas in the city visitors should be mindful of the dress, religion and time of visit. Visitors should dress modestly when visiting holy sites and religious neighborhoods, such as churches, mosques, synagogues, the Temple Mount, the Western Wall and the religious neighborhood of Mea Shearim. Men should wear long trousers, a nice shirt and head covering. Women should wear below-the-knee skirt, a shirt or a top with elbow-length sleeves and no exposed cleavage.
Non-Muslims are not allowed to the Temple Mount during the prayer time.
During the Shabbat and on Jewish holidays you should not use electronic devices or smoke in any synagogue, at the Western Wall or in any orthodox Jewish neighborhood.
Jerusalem is a safe place for tourists despite the alarming headlines. Street crime is almost non-existent; however pickpockets do operate in the Old City, especially in the area around the Western Wall. Do not carry excess cash with you and leave your valuables in a hotel safe. Do not leave valuable items in your car or in your hotel room.
Security checks are frequent, especially when entering hotels, cinemas, theaters, and shopping areas so carry identification at all times. There is a large amount of military personnel in certain areas of the city.
Military attacks within Jerusalem are scarce since April 2006 but visitors are nevertheless advised to remain alert and vigilant. Tourists have never been the prime target of attacks but have occasionally found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. The attacks however do occur in the outlying regions of e.g. Hebron and Ramallah, as well as Tel Aviv. Visitors should remain vigilant in the bars, nightclubs, markets and buses which have often been the targets of terrorist attacks. The Gaza Strip and the West Bank should be avoided; there is a continuing threat of kidnap of foreign nationals in the area.
Visitors should check with the embassies for the latest travel advisory notices and maintain at all times a high level of vigilance and keep up to date with developments.
Jerusalem has very hot summers. Low humidity makes the heat bearable but keep in mind – it is hot. July and August are the peak season when the prices go up and attractions are all crowded. Autumn and spring are pleasant periods in Jerusalem so it is advisable to visit during this time to avoid the crowds and get better rates. During the winter, the prices are lowest, but the weather can be cold and wet.