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Jerusalem: Something Old, Something New

Maybe your itinerary for your tour to Israel includes a trip to Eilat, or a few days in the Golan. But no matter where you go in Israel, Jerusalem will surely be your number one destination. Jerusalem is a city of “most” – the most sacred, most densely populated, and most popular destination for tourists.

Jerusalem's History

Jerusalem is sacred to Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and has a long, rich history. King David wrested control of the city from the Jebusites and declared it his capital; his son, King Solomon, built the first of the two Holy Temples in Jerusalem. Since the destruction of the Second Temple, Jerusalem changed hands numerous times throughout history until its final capture by the Israeli forces after the Six Day War in 1967. After its reunification, Jerusalem flourished into a modern city, while retaining its holiness and history. The Old City of Jerusalem is divided into four quarters – Jewish quarter, Armenian, Christian, and Muslim, and the city’s holy sites are visited by religious pilgrims throughout the year.

Muslims consider Jerusalem their third holiest city, as it is home to the famous Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque, both commemorating Mohammed’s Night of Ascension. Jews come to pray at the Western Wall, the only remnant from the holy Temple. The Western Wall is known as a place of worship, but the area is a fascinating archaeological park as well. Many visitors take the tour of the Western Wall Tunnels – the underground tunnels beneath the Wall – and visit the Jerusalem Archaeological Park and Davidson Visitor Center.

Culture in Jerusalem

Jerusalem has gained prominence as a city of culture. Any Israel travel guide should definitely include the Israel Museum, home to the famous Shrine of the Book and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Another worthwhile visit is Israel’s Holocaust Museum, called Yad Vashem, which contains the largest collection of Holocaust information in the world.

Jerusalem has grown into an arts center in recent years. Visit the internationally renowned Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, take in the yearly Israel Festival, which features Israeli performance artists, and stop by the annual Jerusalem Film Festival at the newly restored and picturesque Cinemateque. Jerusalem is also home to Muslim culture, housing the Palestinian National Theater and the Islamic Museum. And no trip to Jerusalem would be complete without a trip to the famous Machane Yehuda “shuk” (outdoor market).

For those looking for a little political action, visit the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, headquartered in Jerusalem. The Knesset elects the president and prime minister, enacts laws, and supervises the work of the government. Guided tours are offered to the public in six different languages, and individuals or groups can also observe Knesset sessions from the public gallery three days a week. The nearby Supreme Court building is an architectural masterpiece.

Go Shopping in Jerusalem

Join the throngs seeking fresh produce and good bargains. Remember – haggling with the shopkeeper is part of the “havayah” (experience)! Ben-Yehuda Pedestrian Mall, located in the city’s center, is a popular attraction. The mall, with its wide, cobble-stone paths is chock-full of jewelry shops, stores selling unique, hand-crafted Israeli Judaica, and souvenir shops stocked with t-shirts, Israeli flags, and hats. Cafes and restaurants tempt the weary traveler with everything from coffee and pastries to sushi and steak.

The weather in Jerusalem is much more temperate as well, thanks to the surrounding Judean Mountains. Even during summer, it is cool at night, and in the winter, Jerusalem has even been known to receive the occasional (rare for the Middle East) snowfall! (Caveat emptor: Because of the observance of Shabbat, Jerusalem more or less shuts down on Saturday.)

Jerusalem’s economy, like in the past, is still heavily dependent on religious tourists. Tours of local churches, mosques, synagogues, and archaeological sites, in addition to walking tours through the Old City, are available year round. No matter where else you plan to go on your Israe tour, make sure to come “home” first – to Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Time Elevator

The Time Elevator experience is a ride through the 3000 year history of Jerusalem. A 30-minute, semi-virtual multimedia show illustrating the history of Jerusalem is presented in a former auditorium refitted with special chairs and a floor that provides special motion effects.

A great way to get a grip on the dizzying history of Jerusalem is to visit the Time Elevator, a virtual roller coaster ride, narrated by Fiddler on the Roof star, Chaim Topol. The performance is based on a 3000 year old man, who has lived in Jerusalem and experienced its history.

This is a fun introduction for children and those wanting a framework for further understanding Jerusalem's past.

ARZA World travelers can experience the Time elevator on their next visit to Israel.
ARZA World is committed to using a holistic approach to the educational experience. Our programs are designed thematically, combining educational and geographical considerations while in Israel. Introductory sessions, usually in the form of interactive programs, (discussions, workshops presentations) precede most topics of study, and site visits are conducted with text in hand, always connecting the various sites to the specific daily and weekly themes. To contact us about your next trip to Israel and the Jewish World call 888-811-2812 or email: groups@arzatravel.com.

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