|Oct 26, 2005 - Jerusalem - The Holy City|
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|The wall of the Old City of Jerusalem|| ||Stunning Gardens in Yemin Moshe neighbourhood|| ||'Stephen and the sock mishap!'|| |
|Jerusalem - The Holy Land|
Often referred to as the Holy Land, Jerusalem has some of the most important historic references to Jewish, Christian and Muslim religions found anywhere in the world - the Jewish Western Wall, Islam's Dome of the Rock and Christianity's Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Stations of the Cross. Jerusalem and the rest of the country are abounded by biblical references and historic religious sites making this destination very popular for pilgrimages of many religions.
The modern day Jerusalem has become more and more religious while Tel Aviv continues to grow more and more secular. The 2 cities are like opposites. Jerusalem, also the capital of Israel is the second poorest city in Israel while the more modern and secular Tel Aviv is experiencing consistent growth and economic boom. While Jerusalem is on one hand a powerfully moving city with all of the religious references and the incredible diversity and liveliness of the Old City of Jerusalem, on the other hand I found it to be a bit of a depressing city showing its poor economic state with litter and unfinished construction and a somewhat dirty feel. The government has apparently just announced they are channelling funding into Jerusalem to help work on cleaning the city up and bringing it back to the cleaner more vibrant city it was before they were hit hard with the lack of tourism.
Jerusalem is divided into 2 parts - the Old City and the New City. The Old City is the prime attraction for tourists although there is no shortage of things to see and do in the New City either. The walled Old City is divided into 4 parts - the Jewish Quarter, Muslim Quarter, Christian Quarter and Armenian Quarter each with their own share of sites to see an experience. Here is where you will find most of the major religious sites including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Dome of the Rock, Western Wall along with many other churches and cathedrals. Not to be missed is a walk through the Arab Market of the Muslim Quarter with hoards of people buying and selling everything from lingerie and socks to beads, spices or huge slabs of raw meat hanging from metal hooks in the ceiling. The sights, sounds and scents can cause you sensory overload giving you a feeling of peace and serenity when then walk into the neighbouring Christian Quarter.
The New City of Jerusalem is loaded with museums and sites to explore as well. Not to missed is the brand new Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum which I thought was incredibly well done and very moving. The museum leads you chronologically through the plight of the Jews from pre-war times through the rise of Hitler and tragic fate of the millions at the concentration camps. This uniquely designed museum gives you as much information as you could want including powerful and moving video stories from holocaust survivors sure to stir emotions in every visitor.
CARL'S TRAVEL TIPS FOR JERUSALEM
1. Don't miss Yad Vashem and allow yourself about 2-3 hours if you want to explore it thoroughly. The museum has a lot to explore and ton of information presented various multi-media formats.
2. The Arab market although it can be overwhelming to the senses, is an experience you don't want to miss either. Take some time to take in the action, sights, sounds and smells that envelop you in the narrow maze of streets.
3. At the moment, don't have high expectations for your hotel. Even major hotel chains seem to be a little behind in quality compared to their North American counterparts. Don't worry though, the friendly warm Israeli staff are very helpful and make up for any of the materialistic shortcomings.
4. Remember Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath is Friday afternoon to Saturday at sun down and everything closes up with the city looking a bit like a ghost town.
5. Do head out on the streets Saturday evening when Shabbat finishes. Ben Yehuda Street, the pedestrian mall, comes alive Saturday night with people, music and dancing.
6. As Jerusalem is very religious, avoiding booking your trip over any Jewish holidays when museums, restaurants and shops will all be closed.
7. If you would like have a bit of a taste of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighbourhood, similar to the Jewish Ghettos of pre-holocaust times in Eastern Europe, take a walk through M'ea She'arim. Remember to dress conservatively and not to take photos so you do not offend the locals living in the neighbourhood. Do not visit on Shabbat or Jewish Holidays
8. Ask the locals and your hotel for any current safety issues or concerns you should be aware about. When the local Israelis are going all through the Arab Quarter in the Old City this is a good sign peaceful times as it was during our visit.
9. The Israel museum and the City of David Museum at Jaffa gate are suppose to be excellent museums on the history of Israel and Jerusalem although since we were there over the Jewish holidays we did not get a chance to visit either of them.
10. The Western Wall or Wailing Wall as it is sometimes called is located within the Jewish Quarter of the Old City and is the holiest of sites for Judaism and worth a visit.