Religious buffs the world over flock to the Israeli capital city of Jerusalem. Inside this bustling city are tons of sights to see, old and new, Jewish and Muslim, Israeli and Palestinian. Politics aside, I headed on the Holy City Tour while based at the Abraham Hostel nearby.
What’s so Unique About Jerusalem’s Holy City?
Jerusalem itself is a city of immense cultural, spiritual, religious and political history. Inside Jerusalem’s Holy City are sections from a load of different eras, a load of different religions and the architecture and atmosphere reflects this eclectic mix. There is a Jewish Quarter, a Muslim Quarter, a Christian Quarter and an Armenian Quarter. You might get slightly confused as you dander round, so the guide can be a useful way to get your bearings.
When is the Jerusalem Holy City Tour Held?
Meeting point for the Holy City Tour is normally Jaffa Gate and at the time of writing was held at the following times:
9.30 am – Sunday to Thursday
12 pm – Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday
How much does the Jerusalem Holy City Tour cost?
Again, at the time of writing (January 2014) this costs 85 Israeli Shekels (80 for students).
Why do the Jerusalem Holy City Tour?
If you’re really interested in getting a thorough guide and narration to the city of Jerusalem, head on the Holy City Tour. If not you have two other options:
1. Walk around yourself using your map (there may be restrictions on getting into some parts, some entrance fees and you won’t get the “private wailing wall” experience)
2. Do the shorter FREE Tour which takes 2 hours and covers a few of the same sights.
I’m big into the history of Jerusalem, so felt justified on this occasion to do the Holy City Tour.
What are the main sights on the Jerusalem Holy City Tour?
The Jerusalem Holy City Tour includes a load of main sites and stories, including:
– Going to the top of the Temple Mount
– Going inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
– Visiting the Dome of the Rock
– Seeing the Al-Asqa Mosque (non-Muslims cannot go inside)
– King David’s Tomb
– The Room of the Last Supper
– The Second Intifrada
– The Hill of Golgotha
– The secret hidden section of the Wailing Wall
– The main western Wailing Wall
– The Grave of Adam
– Optional lunchtime stop
– Mount Zion and Zion Gate
– The Handprint of Jesus
That’s a lot of things to bung in on the tour, and while the tour was jam packed and I was wisdom-ed out to the max, I really need to whittle it down to a top 5. These are the personal top 5 sights I enjoyed from the tour.
1. The Room of the Last Supper
As a child, I read the Bible a lot, going to Sunday School and Bible Class. To finally see the room where the last supper was held was pretty cool, even though I myself got confused as to whether it was the big room or the small room!
2. The Handprint of Jesus
This was a random part of the tour. Inside the walls which are now very commercial, and a maze of markets and shops, you can put your hand where Jesus once did. Whether it’s true or not isn’t the point. People flock here daily just to place their hand at this point. I did it too – it can get busy, and is hard to spot if you’re not on the tour. It’s on a side street.
3. The Dome of the Rock
This marvellous gold dome is often the main attraction in Jerusalem guide books, and a picture of it features regularly. If you haven’t been, chances are you might have seen a photo of it. The most interesting thing about the Dome of the Rock is that it doesn’t take sides in the religious debate. Well not quite, but the fact remains that this is a holy site that is recognised by Jews, Christians and Muslims.
Muslims believe this is the place where Mohammed ascended to heaven from. For Jews, it’s simply the holiest spot on earth. Christians also know the Dome of the Rock as the former location of the Church of Holy Wisdom. Whatever your beliefs, you’ll admire the beauty of it – plus you get some views of Jerusalem from the Temple Mount (area where the Dome is situated).
4. The Wailing Wall
I was going to include the Wailing Wall twice, as there are two parts to it. But to make things concise and easy, this is what you need to bear in mind:
– There is the main Western Wailing Wall (very busy, full of tourists, everyone touches it, some people leave messages inside it). Pictured above.
– There is a secret hidden Western Wailing Wall (Small Wailing Wall) where you can avoid the tourists and still get your photo taken by the famous wall. Pictured below…
The main part is an “open air synagogue” and is over 2000 years old. For Jews this is a completely holy place, and out of respect you need to dress appropriately and adhere the rules. Men and women are segregated just past the entrance.I actually made the mistake of walking too far with my girlfriend and for a second realised I was the only man around, so made a bolt for the men’s side.
5. Church of the Holy Sepulchre
For Christians this is the number one hit. It gets immensely busy at all times, so be aware of that. You might want to avoid it around the time of Christian Festivals (Easter, Christmas etc.) as there will be pilgrimages and tons of people.
This church is believed by most Christians to be the site where Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. Some hat-trick that. Again it was another touching hand to stone action. Four times on this tour (and 3 of my top 5) are about touching stone…odd!
It’s a massive church complex at the back of a square. You can see examples of different architecture within. If you’re not heading on the tour, please check the opening times of this place.
Having seen Jesus’s childhood town of Nazareth and his birthplace in Bethlehem, this one kind of rounded off the hat-trick of “Jesus spots” on my Middle East Tour. These are just a personal top 5, I have no doubt you will be inspired further and love the Jerusalem Holy City Tour. As the tour was run by Sandeman’s, here is the group photo I’ve taken from their Facebook Page…