Jerusalem – What to see, what to do.
Jerusalem is a treasure trove of historical jewels; from large to small, from Jew to atheist, there is something for everyone to see. And I will say out of all of the travelling I’ve done, Jerusalem lies at the very top of my travel destinations list. It is a city of soul, bustling with culture, and brimming with artifacts. Not to mention its one of the oldest cities on our planet, being founded in 2000 BCE. Yes that’s 4000 years ago!
From that time forward it has been captured and recaptured, 44 times, attacked 52 times, besieged 23 times, and twice, destroyed completely. And being the center of faith for the three major religions, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam – it still has as much of an importance in the 21st century as it did all that time ago, and the right to own and access the city is still being fought for up to this very day. For ideas other than Jerusalem – What to see, what to do, see our Jerusalem 2 and 3 day itinerary.
Top sights in Jerusalem
Many guide books will tell you that the Temple Mount is the best sight to see on a trip to Jerusalem. I would beg to differ. On the Temple Mount stands the Dome of the Rock. A golden roof Mosque with bright blue tiles, on a hexagonal building. The Dome of the Rock stands over the Rock which Abraham stood on to sacrifice his child to God in a test that is documented in all three major religions. It is also believed to be where God created Adam, the first man on the Earth. In the past the site was the location of the great Jewish Temple until destroyed by the Romans during the Roman-Jewish war in 70 AD. When the Muslim crusaders invaded Jerusalem, they removed all traces of the Holy Temple (Apart from the Western Wall which was actually a retaining wall for the structure) and built the Dome of the Rock.
To visit it today you must queue up in a line, sometimes for hours to be allowed through security checkpoints and up on the Temple Mount during the very brief daily opening hours. After all of that hassle, you cannot even go inside the Dome of the Rock unless you bring your passport with you that expressively states that you are a Muslim. Not to mention the fact that Jewish are banned from the site all together. I have been in many mosque’s all over the world, the most famous of all the Haga Sophie in Istanbul. Entry is allowed into that. As is the great mosque in Esfahan, Iran, a hugely religious country, however they allow all people to enter their Holy Places. The views from the Temple Mount are nice, but it is not the most special Mosque in the world. It is only built over a special place. Oh and that’s not to mention, while we were there a Jewish person snuck through the security onto the Mount and was subsequently almost stoned to death by the crowds of angry Muslims. Enough said.
Western Wall and Western Wall tunnel tour.
Next in Jerusalem – What to see, what to do -The Western Wall is the more peaceful alternative to the Temple Mount. The security checks are swift and you are soon through to see Jewish pilgrims bowing and praying loudly towards their beloved remains of the Holy Temple. God has proclaimed in the bible, his eyes will be forever on those who pray in his temple, and as the Western Wall (Which was originally only a retaining wall for the Temple) is all that’s left, they feel they still have a connection to Yahweh (God) through it.
They tell you to book ahead for this one, but we called up in the morning and managed to get a place on an evening tour through the tunnels. On the trip you are taken underneath the huge structure of the Temple Mount to see the inner construction methods of the platform. As Jerusalem is so old, the city literally builds on top of itself and covers up the buildings and structures from the past to make room for the new buildings on top. In the tunnel tour you can walk down through these generations and access the additional 485 meters of the Western Wall. On the surface, only 60 meters is exposed! There is even an old section of Roman Street from 200 AD that you can walk on. Recommended!
Christian Religious Pilgrimage in Jerusalem
I have covered the Religious sites of Jerusalem (Garden of Gethsemane, Church of the Holy Sepulture, etc. ) in Part 3 of my Walking on Water series, following in the footsteps of Jesus.
There is plenty to see in the old city. You should not follow a route for this one, just allow yourself to get lost in the maze of streets and bazars and see where you end up. Allow a couple of hours! A good idea is to jump onto a daily Free Walking tour with Sanders International (red umbrellas) departing daily. A good introduction to the city. Do this first and then gather your ideas of what you want to see.
Hezekiah’s Tunnels / City of David
The biblical city of David (from David vs Goliath) is a real place. It has been uncovered as a huge archeological site, which is now open as a place for tourists to explore. Allow 2 – 3 hours to see it all fully. The most exciting part of the City (for kids, or big kids like myself anyway!) is Hezekiah’s Tunnel. The Tunnel is a 20 minute underground walk in chest-high water, through an ancient passageway carved to divert the water from a river, to the City of David for times of Siege. The tunnel is even mentioned in the Bible. “Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and all his might, and how he made the pool, and the conduit, and brought water into the city..” Kings 20:20.
P.S Take a flashlight!
New City Jerusalem.
Many people only see the ‘Old City’ of Jerusalem and never venture outside of the City Walls. The New City has plenty to offer too, for the more modern visitor. For a start, the Mahane Yehuda Market is a great upbeat market selling all kinds of Middle Eastern specialties. Fresh fruit, fish, meat and cheeses; nuts, seeds, and spices; wines and liquors, and more than one stall selling the infamous Halva, a flaky, dense, tahini-based candy filled more sugar than a cane field. Good for those sweet-toothed relatives at home!
For other ideas other than Jerusalem – What to see, what to do, click for our Jerusalem 2 and 3 day itinerary