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Visiting Jerusalem

Pleasures & Treasures of Travel to Jerusalem


Visiting Jerusalem
(c) State of Israel Ministry of Tourism.
by Susan Breslow Sardone

Jerusalem is one of the world’s first travel destinations. For thousands of years, believers in three of the world's major religions — Judaism, Islam and Christianity — have come to Jerusalem to worship at the holy sites of this ancient city in Israel.

Christians are drawn to Jerusalem to walk the Stations of the Cross, the path Jesus took to his death. Another sacred site in Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher at Golgotha, is divided among six Christian sects: Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Ethiopian, Egyptian Coptic, and Syrian Orthodox.

Jews travel to Jerusalem to visit the Western, or Wailing, Wall, remnant of an ancient temple that pre-dates Christ. In the spaces in between its bricks the hopeful plant prayers and messages.

The most sacred spot in Jerusalem for Muslims is the gold-capped Dome of the Rock. They believe the Prophet Muhammed ascended to heaven from it.

With a culture as ancient as civilization, a youthful spirit, and a climate to rival any sun-drenched resort, the diverse pleasures and treasures of Jerusalem will captivate couples who visit on a honeymoon, a romantic getaway, or a personal journey to a spiritual homeland.

From the narrow alleyways of its bazaars to the golden Jerusalem stone that clads its structures, Jerusalem doesn’t look like any place else in the world.

In the medieval world, Jerusalem was the center of the universe. Ouside of the Old City, Jerusalem is that once more for those who appreciate culture and the arts, markets and restaurants, hotels and museums, shopping and nightclubs.

Museums of Jerusalem

A living repository of so much of the world's religious and ancient history, it should come as no surprise that Jerusalem contains a world-class collection of museums.

To house its treasures and its memories, Jerusalem has created some of the finest museums of the world:

  • Yad Vashem is the haunting shrine to the martyrs and heroes of the Holocaust. In the stirring Children’s Memorial, a single candle is reflected in mirrors endlessly.

  • Adjacent to the Israel Museum, which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls and other treasures, is the Bible Lands Jerusalem archaeological museum.

  • The Museum of the History of Jerusalem, also known as the Tower of David museum, stands at the gateway to the Old City near the Jaffa Gate. The outdoor archeological garden is a dramatic and historical setting that offers unforgettable views of Jerusalem. This museum is open quite late on Saturdays.
Activities in Jerusalem

Touring need not be a passive experience in Jerusalem. With a little effort, it’s possible to meet Israelis at home or where they unwind. Community folk dances are open to residents and visitors alike.

At the Jewish National Fund Center, one may plant a seedling and add to the 240-million plus trees already growing in Israel.

As in any center of thought, social and community activities take place in Jerusalem throughout the year. Lectures are held at the Israel Center. The Jerusalem YMCA holds a variety of events. At the ICCY (International Center for Culture and Youth), one can compete (in English) in Scrabble, bridge, and chess.

Dining Out in Jerusalem

From the Arab bread sold by the Jaffa Gate to the falafel in the Bukharan quarter, food in Jerusalem is, at its best, simple and inexpensive.

Fresh vegetables and fruit, picked when ripe and untreated by chemicals, are a treat. Try St. Peter’s Fish; it’s light and sweet-tasting.

Charm and history meet in the Nachlat Shiva area of Jerusalem, where there are two pedestrian malls and a handful of bars. Here the hungry can choose from Chinese, French, and Indian fare.

Along Ben Yehuda Street, outdoor cafes are for pausing and meeting friends.

When choosing a restaurant in Jerusalem, keep two things in mind: What’s known as Middle Eastern food to Americans is referred to Oriental by Israelis. Appetizers in a typical Jerusalem Oriental restaurant include tabbouleh, cucumber salad, olives, peppers, and pita bread for dipping in baba ghannouj and hummus.

Entrees are grilled chicken or lamb dishes, and dessert consists of a platter of honey-moist and nut-rich baklava.

Secondly, kosher restaurants do not serve pork or shellfish, nor milk and meat together. Non-kosher restaurants in Jerusalem are open Friday nights. People in Jerusalem dress informally, except for dinner in the fanciest restaurants.

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