Few cities inspire as much passion as Jerusalem (Yerushalayim in Hebrew, Al-Quds in Arabic), rooted deep in the past and revered by three major religions.
With its pleasant, temperate climate, fine upland setting, extraordinary historical sites and world-class museums, Jerusalem fascinatingly contrasts ancient and modern, oriental and western.
The larger part of the city, including the city centre with its shopping and leisure district, is vibrant, Jewish West Jerusalem, characterised by broad avenues, busy pedestrianised streets and squares, cafes, restaurants and vivacious nightlife. Smaller East Jerusalem, predominantly Arab, is a 19th-century neighbourhood lying north of the Old City. It has a slow but chaotic pace of life, with crowded, colourful street markets.
The Old City, on the eastern boundary, is where most of Jerusalem's main sights are found. Enclosed within awesome 16th-century stone walls, are a labyrinth of winding lanes where visitors to the city spend much of their time.
The Old City is divided into quarters, named after its four major communities in the 19th century: Arab, Jewish, Christian and Armenian, and preserving those sharp distinctions to this day. Within minutes, you may wander from calm squares where Jewish children play under the watchful eye of their mothers, to the hustle and bustle of an Arab souk, and into a tranquil Armenian garden, before arriving at the splendour of a medieval citadel.
Jerusalem came into being over 3,000 years ago as the site of the Jewish Temple. The Western (or Wailing) Wall at the foot of Temple Mount is all that survives of the Temple, destroyed by the Romans, yet it remains Judaism's most revered place of prayer.
Extensive restoration and archaeological exploration gives astonishing insight into the structure and layout of the vast Temple in the time of Jesus.
For Orthodox and Catholic Christians, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre encloses the site of the Crucifixion and tomb where Jesus was laid, having carried the cross here along the Via Dolorosa.
The Muslim's beautiful gilded Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount is Jerusalem's most iconic landmark, while Al-Aqsa mosque, beside it, is proclaimed Islam's third holiest shrine.
Israel declared Jerusalem its capital in 1950 but this is not internationally recognised. Most national institutions are in West Jerusalem, part of the state of Israel since the War of Independence following its creation in 1948. East Jerusalem and the Old City were first annexed by Jordan in 1948, then in 1967 by Israel, which integrated them into a reunited Jerusalem.
GMT + 2 (GMT + 3 from 31 March to 1 October 2006; changes every year).
220 volts AC, 50Hz; unique Israeli three-square-pin plugs are standard in newer buildings (many sockets also accept older two-pronged plugs).
Average January temperatures
Average July temperatures
486mm (19 inches).
Prices for tourist services are sometimes quoted in US Dollars. This is usually where the expectation is that a credit card will be used, for example when hiring a car. In these instances, the amount paid would be written in US Dollars.
1 Israeli New Shekel (NIS1) = £0.16; US$0.24; C$0.29; A$0.33; €0.19 Currency conversion rates as of April 2009
Hotel rates are subject to 18.25% VAT (Value Added Tax) only if guests pay in Israeli currency. Tourists are exempt from taxes if paying in a foreign currency. This includes meals eaten in hotel restaurants (and included in the hotel bill). It is customary to tip hotel staff.
The hotels below have been classed into four different pricing categories: $$$$ (over U$300) $$$ (US$150 to US$250) $$ (US$50 to US$150) $ (up to US$50)
Dan Panorama Located in central Jerusalem just half a mile from the Old City, this hotel has tastefully decorated modern rooms with 5-star facilities. Rooms on upper floors, and the rooftop pool have spectacular Old City views.
Moriah Classic Spacious, luxurious and grand in the Israeli style, and well located for the Old City and East Jerusalem, this busy hotel has Internet access, meeting rooms, pool and fitness centre and enjoys panoramic views.
9 St Georges Street Tel: (02) 532 0000. Price: $$$
American Colony Hotel Located in East Jerusalem, this beautiful luxury hotel - the former palace of a 19th-century Turkish pasha - is popular with journalists and others who enjoy its romantic Arab ambience. It opened as a hotel in 1881 and is the oldest in Jerusalem. Its rooms reflect a bygone era, while the grounds include lush gardens and a tiled courtyard with fountains. It is within easy walking distance of the Old City.
King David One of Israel's most luxurious and prestigious hotels, the majestic King David was built in the 1930s. It has all modern facilities, with fine views towards the Old City and is a historic building in its own right - when used during the British mandate as the British Army HQ, it was the scene of a dramatic anti-British bombing by militant Zionists.
The Olive Tree Hotel With kitsch Arabesque décor (which might not be to everyone's taste) in the public areas, this hotel in the American Colony neighbourhood offers good value. Rooms are subdued and functional. The hotel is in easy walking distance of East Jerusalem and the Old City but it's a longer walk or taxi ride to central Jerusalem. However, the health club complete with pool and sauna make it an attractive option.
23 St George Street Tel: (02) 541 0410. Price: $$
Tulip Inn Jerusalem Golden Walls This is a conveniently located hotel - just outside the Old City walls and a short walk from most of the main sites. Rooms are modest but comfortable with cable TV. The western side of the hotel tends to be noisy as it overlooks the East Jerusalem bus station, while rooms at the front have a view over the Old City. The hotel has a bar and restaurant and offers good value for money.
Sultan Suleiman Street Tel: (02) 627 2416. Price: $$
The King Solomon Hotel This 5-star hotel located in the centre of Jerusalem caters to religious Jewish travellers by offering a Glatt Kosher menu and Shabbat lights in the bedrooms, and separate male and female swim times in the pool. The stunning views (the hotel pool overlooks the Judean hills and from the roof you can even see the Dead Sea) make up for the slightly outdated décor. The centrepiece of the lobby is a globe-shaped metal sculpture of Jerusalem, created by the English-born artist Frank Meisler. The hotel is just 10 minutes' walk from the Jaffa Gate of the Old City and the Montefiore Windmill and Yemin Moshe are close by.
New Imperial With an air of slightly shabby faded grandeur, the New Imperial dates from the 1880s, when it was the city's most luxurious hotel. Today it offers a place to stay for those on a budget who want a great location. The sweeping staircase in the lobby sets the tone - all the rooms have high-ceilings and en-suite facilities. Some of the rooms have balconies overlooking the streets of the Christian quarter. The hotel has an Internet lounge and coffee shop.
Jerusalem, like the rest of Israel, has an informal approach to business etiquette. Suits and ties may be worn but more relaxed ‘smart-casual' clothing, while doing business or attending meetings, is more usual. In business life as in other personal dealings, Israelis tend to be direct and straightforward - plain speaking is much appreciated. Business hours in Jerusalem are Sunday to Thursday 0830-1730/1800. On Fridays, businesses shut at 1230 or 1300 for the Sabbath (Shabbat), which starts at sundown on Friday and continues until Saturday evening. Business meetings may be held over dinner and can take place in a private home or in restaurants. If in a private home, a small gift (of flowers or chocolates, for example) is usually appropriate.
Ben Gurion International Airport, also known as Tel Aviv Airport, is located near Lod on the main Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway (Highway 1), about 20km (12 miles) southeast of Tel Aviv and approximately 45km (29 miles) west of Jerusalem. It is Israel's principal hub for international and domestic air traffic. Whether flying in or out of Israel, the normal check-in period is three hours prior to departure. All passengers are normally subject to one-to-one interview by security personnel. High-tech body scanning machines may also be used.
Approximate flight times: Flight time from London is 4 hours 30 minutes, from Los Angeles 17 hours, from New York 11 hours, from Toronto is 10 hours 55 minutes if direct and from Sydney 14 hours 35 minutes.
Airport facilities: Facilities include 24-hour banks, restaurants, duty-free shops, general shops, post office and 24-hour tourist information. Avis,Budget, Eldan, Hertz and Sixt all provide car hire services. It is worth noting that most airport services (including public transport) are reduced on Shabbat (approximately one hour before Friday sunset to one hour after Saturday sunset).
Transport to the city: Public transportation services from the airport are located in the three-storey bridge on the second floor, next to Gates 21 and 23. Israel's national bus network is mainly operated by the Egged National Bus Co-operative (tel: (03) 694 8888; website:www.egged.co.il/Eng). Egged run a shuttle bus around the airport connecting with bus services to Jerusalem (buses 945 and 947). The fare can be paid on the bus. Buses terminate at Jerusalem's Central Bus Station on Jaffa Road in west Jerusalem.
Taxis are located on the right outside the airport arrivals hall: the fare to Jerusalem is about NIS225. The Nesher Company (tel: (02) 623 1231) runs a sherut (shared taxi) service between the airport and Jerusalem, charging a fixed rate per passenger of around NIS45. For an extra charge, they will take passengers and their baggage to (or collect from) anywhere in the city. It is also possible to travel to Jerusalem by train direct from the airport: the station is at the entrance to Terminal 3.
Getting There By Rail
Israel Railways(tel: (03) 577 4000 or 5770; website:www.israrail.org.il/english) is the national rail transport operator. Modern air-conditioned trains run down the coast from Haifa to Tel Aviv and inland to Jerusalem via the airport. However, there are frequent train cancellations, and the journey to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv or from the airport takes longer than the bus, though the fare is cheaper.
Getting There By Road
Israel has an excellent road network and, because the country is relatively small with varied scenery, travelling by car can be a great pleasure. However, major roads can be very congested, so motorists are advised to allow plenty of time for journeys. Traffic drives on the right and road rules are similar to those in Western Europe and North America. The minimum legal driving age in Israel is 18 years, while the maximum legal alcohol to blood ratio for driving is 0.05%. All passengers must wear seat belts at all times and children under 14 should not travel in the front seat. Road signs are international, distances given are in kilometres and all signposting on major roads is in Hebrew, Arabic and English. The speed limit is 100kph (62mph) on motorways, 80kph (50mph) on intercity roads and 50kph (31mph) within towns. It is compulsory to carry either a national driving licence from any country or an International Driving Permit. Insurance is mandatory in Israel and is organised by the government. Visitors driving their own vehicles can purchase the insurance through a local agent. The certificate must be carried in the car at all times - a photocopy is not acceptable. A departure tax is payable for those who leave Israel by land if they arrived in the country by air.
The Automobile and Touring Club of Israel - MEMSI (tel: (03) 564 1122; website:www.memsi.co.il, Hebrew only) provides information and assistance, with free services for members of affiliated motoring organisations, such as the AAA (in the USA) and the AA and RAC (in the UK).
Routes to the city: From Tel Aviv (and Ben Gurion International Airport), Highway 1 runs to Jerusalem. Routes from north and south connect with the highway close to Tel Aviv. From the east, the city is reached by the Yeriho (or Jericho) Road from Jericho, Qumran and the Dead Sea.
Coach services: The Egged National Bus Co-operative (tel: (03) 694 8888, website:www.egged.co.il/Eng), a worker-owned co-operative, is Israel's national bus and coach service operator. The comprehensive network of buses to all parts of the country depart from Jerusalem's Central Bus Station, on Jaffa Road, west Jerusalem (tel: (02) 530 4704). Services come to a complete halt for Shabbat (generally from around 1500 on Friday to about 1900 on Saturday).
Depending on the security situation en route, local tour companies also run coach services from Jerusalem to Cairo and Jordan. MetzadaTours, at Jerusalem Pearl Hotel, 15 Jaffa Street (tel: (02) 623 5777, website:www.mazada.co.il), offers several cross-border tours, with full information on visas and other requirements.
The Egged National Bus Co-operative (tel: (03) 694 8888; website:www.egged.co.il/Eng), provides an inexpensive, frequent and efficient bussystem within Jerusalem, as well as elsewhere. All routes are based out of the Central Bus Station (tel: (02) 530 4704) on Jaffa Road. Bus services run daily, except on the Sabbath (Friday afternoon to Saturday evening) or on Jewish religious holidays. Ordinary one-way tickets are purchased from the driver. All drivers speak at least enough English to deal with basic enquiries. Although Egged buses do not generally cross the ‘Green Line' into the West Bank, in Jerusalem they do serve the annexed areas which have become fully integrated districts of the city of Jerusalem, such as Gilo.
Bus 99, designed for tourists, follows a guided circular route through the city, with a commentary, passing almost every place of interest: a ticket allows you to get off wherever you wish, and continue your journey later with no extra charge. Although very inexpensive already, fares are discounted for many groups of people, including children, students the disabled and seniors. Visitors planning to spend more than a few days in Jerusalem should consider buying a ‘two-trip' ticket (15% discount) or akartissiyah, a multi-fare punch card that offers 11 journeys for the price of 10. Other discount cards include hofshi yomi (‘freedom for a day') allowing you to ride buses all day long, and hofshi-hodshi (‘freedom for a month') that is good for one month of unlimited travel on urban buses. The price is equal to 40 ordinary one-way tickets.
Taxis, which look like ordinary cars with a coloured light displayed, are legally required to use a meter for every journey. However, travellers sometimes need to insist that the meter be turned on. Taxis can be hailed in the street or booked in advance. About 20 different taxi companies ply the streets of Jerusalem, including the popular Nesher Taxis (tel: (02) 623 1231), based at the intersection of Ben Yehuda Street and King George V Avenue in west Jerusalem, right across from the City Tower. Other recommended taxi companies are listed on the Jerusalem city website (www.jerusalem.muni.il). Fares are 25% higher at night and on Shabbat. Tipping is not usual, and not expected, although a very small gratuity of say 5% is sometimes given.
Sherut An alternative to a taxi or bus is the popular sherut (literally ‘service', ie service taxi). These shared taxis are usually stretched Mercedes or minibuses, seating seven or 12, and they generally follow fixed public bus routes. However, they allow passengers to get on and off anywhere on the journey and may take alternative routes when necessary to dodge heavy traffic. Delays are rare and passengers should board quickly as drivers pull away sharply - both drivers and passengers are very impatient of anyone holding things up. Some sheruts run on Shabbat. Sherut fares are about the same as bus fares; Sheruts running regular set routes within the city are mostly only available in west Jerusalem, but will go to other areas on request (for a fee). They also serve as a popular way of travelling from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv or the airport.
Driving in the City
Driving in all parts of Jerusalem, except the Old City, is fairly straightforward, although traffic on the main roads is bad and driving tends to be aggressive. For most sightseeing or getting around in the city centre (west Jerusalem), it is more enjoyable to walk or use local buses. Vehicles are only permitted to enter the Old City through Jaffa Gate, following the road through the Armenian Quarter, where there is limited parking. Alternatively, the Karta parking lot, below the walls of the Old City, near Jaffa Gate, has space for 5,000 vehicles and is open six days a week (closed on Shabbat).
Much of Israel uses the EasyPark smartcard system, an in-car electronic device (about the size of a pocket calculator), which automatically deducts the cost of street parking from the driver's credit or debit card and which can be read electronically by parking attendants. Most locals have one of these devices in their cars, but it is also possible to buy traditional parking cards. These can be obtained from street kiosks, post offices and petrol stations. The traditional parking card is a strip of paper with punched tabs for the hours of the day; drivers tear a tab to designate the month, day and hour they parked. Five different kerbside colour codes indicate what parking is permitted - blue and white means parking is allowed with pre-paid parking cards only. Visitors should not park where there is any other kerbside colour as they all represent restrictions and parking regulations are rigorously enforced.
The majority of car hire companies are located in central (ie west) Jerusalem. If a car is hired locally, fees are moderate; pre-booking through an agency abroad may result in a higher price. Rates tend to go up at peak holiday times. To hire a car, drivers must be over 24 years and in possession of a full national driving licence with at least two years' driving experience, insurance and an international credit card. Car hire companies will not allow hire cars to be driven into the Palestinian territory at the moment.
Eldan, 24 King David Street (tel: (02) 625 2151/2/3; website:www.eldan.co.il/en), is the main Israeli car hire company. It has a user-friendly website accepting secure online payment and offers substantial price discounts for Internet bookings. International companies include Avis, 22 King David Street (tel: (02) 624 9001; website:www.avis.co.il), Budget Rent-A-Car, 23 King David Street (tel: (02) 624 8991; website:www.budget.co.il) and Hertz, 19 King David Street (tel: (02) 623 1351; website:www.hertz.com).
Despite the hills and the traffic, cycling is popular in Jerusalem. However, bike hire in the city is almost unknown.
The compact size of Israel means that almost anywhere (with the exception of Eilat) is accessible for a day trip from Jerusalem. The coastal cities of Tel Aviv, Akko and Haifa, or the coastal ruins of ancient Caesarea, can easily be visited in a day, as can the area around the Sea of Galilee. There is enough to see in most of these places to merit a longer visit but, in terms of historical and religious sites, there is little to match Jerusalem.
The first stop for any visitor has to be the Old City, which contains the sacred sites that have caused such turmoil and unrest. It's divided intoquarters (the Armenian, Christian, Jewish and Muslim) each with its unique identity and character.
When sightseeing or just exploring, visitors should be aware of the intense campaign of terrorism being waged against Israel. Popular crowded venues, such as busy street markets, restaurants and cafes, crowded buses, discos, have especially been targeted by suicide bombers. Security guards have now been posted at the doorways or entrances to most such locations and it is advisable to be wary of venues that have not put any security measures in place. To date, tourist sights have not been struck by the bombers, and Arab areas or Muslim sites are of course unlikely to be hit.
Israeli Government Tourist Office (IGTO) Tourist Information Center, Jaffa Gate, Old City. Tel: (02) 628 0382. Website:www.jerusalem.muni.il Opening hours: Sun-Thurs 0830-1545, Fri 0830-1245.
A two-day pass for the 99 bus, which gives a guided tour of the city, will allow discounted entry to the Israel Museum, Tower of David Museum and the Biblical Zoo. It can be bought at ticket offices at these sites or from the bus drivers (see Bus Tours in Tours of the City).
Temple Mount Temple Mount (Har Habayit in Hebrew, Al Haram ash-Sharif in Arabic), also called Mount Moriah, is sacred to both Islam and Judaism. It is a natural hill, which was built up artificially to support the huge Jewish Temple that stood here for a thousand years in Biblical times. Temple Mount has remained the focus of the Jewish religion ever since - when praying, Jews worldwide still face Temple Mount.
It was from a black rock within the complex, that, according to the Koran, Muhammad made his ascension to Heaven at the conclusion of his dreamt ‘Night Ride' from Mecca, and, according to the Bible, it was here that Abraham offered Isaac for sacrifice. With the arrival of Islam in the seventh century, the octagonal, blue-tiled Dome of the Rock, with its huge gold dome, was built over the large black rock. Dominating the skyline of the Old City, its dome glinting in the sunshine, this beautiful building is Jerusalem's most famous landmark and an absolute must for visitors.
Also on Temple Mount is the Al Aqsa Mosque, the oldest mosque in Israel and (unlike the Dome of the Rock) an actual place of Muslim worship. Its silver dome dates from the 11th century. The Islamic Museum, the third building within the complex, contains Islamic artefacts and relics. Only one of the 10 gates to the complex, Al-Mughradia (Moors) gate, allows entry for non-worshippers. This is located to the right of the Western Wall and is accessed from Western Wall Plaza.
Access from Western Wall Plaza (Old City) Website:www.al-aqsa.com(Muslim site) orwww.templemount.org(Jewish site) Opening hours: Closed during all prayer times (variable); otherwise Sun-Thurs 0730-1030 and 1230-1330; Sun-Thurs 0730-1030 (during Ramadan); closed to non-Muslims Fri and Muslim holidays. During periods of tension, the site may be closed. Free admission for Temple Mount; charge for Dome of the Rock, Al Aqsa Mosque and Islamic Museum combined ticket.
Western Wall Situated along one side of a vast plaza at the bottom of Temple Mount is the historic Western Wall (HaKotel in Hebrew). Also historically known as the Wailing Wall (a name offensive to some Jews) from the sounds of Jews chanting lamentations on Tisha b'Av, the annual fast, mourning the destruction of the Temple. The Western Wall, constructed of massive rough blocks of golden stone, is a remnant of the outer retaining walls of the Second Temple as reconstructed by Herod in 30BC (the First Temple, constructed by Solomon, occupied the same site but was destroyed by the Babylonians).
Since the final complete destruction of the Temple by the Romans in AD70, the Western Wall has been the holiest place of prayer for the Jewish people. Jews come from all over the world to pray or to contemplate. Some place notes with hopes, dreams and messages of goodwill in the cracks of the Wall. In keeping with Orthodox Jewish practice (because the entire site is technically an Orthodox synagogue) the length of the Wall has been divided into separate sections for men and women. Any man or woman may enter their respective section, provided men have their heads covered (visitors can borrow a kippah or skullcap when entering) and women are modestly dressed. The Wall can be reached either through the Dung Gate or through the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.
Western Wall Plaza (Old City) Opening hours: Daily 24 hours. Free admission.
Citadel or Tower of David The tall, slender stone tower rising elegantly from the ancient walls of the Old City is almost as familiar an image of Jerusalem as the Dome of the Rock. But despite its name, the citadel has nothing to do with King David (the city's founder) and was in fact constructed in the first century BC, as a fortress for Herod the Great. It has therefore formed part of Jerusalem's defence structure for over 2,000 years. What remains today is largely medieval. It now houses the outstanding Museum of the History of Jerusalem, which vividly chronicles the entire history of the city. The Citadel's tallest tower, the Phasael, offers a superb panorama over the Old City. The main entrance is adjacent to Jaffa Gate.
Via Dolorosa The Via Dolorosa (literally ‘Road of Sorrow') is the route believed to have been walked by Jesus as he carried the Cross to his crucifixion at Calvaryor Golgotha. The route begins at the Lion's Gate, passes through theMuslim Quarter and leads to the Calvary in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is marked along the way by the 14 Stations of the Cross. The stations indicate events along the journey and at some of these points churches have been founded. Every year, tens of thousands of pilgrims walk this route in the belief that they are following in the footsteps of Christ.
Old City Opening hours: Daily 24 hours. Free admission.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre Containing the last five Stations of the Cross of the Via Dolorosa, this is the holiest Christian site in Jerusalem. Upon entering the church, the little stairway to the right lead to the Chapel of Golgotha and three Stations of the Cross - where Jesus was stripped, crucified and removed from the cross. The Sepulchre itself is at the centre of the church and marks where Jesus is believed to have been buried and resurrected. Downstairs is theAngel's Chapel, where the resurrected Christ made known himself to Mary Magdalene. The site of the church was first chosen in the fourth century by Queen Helena and the existing structure dates mainly from the period of the Crusades. It is divided into sections, which are each under the jurisdiction of a different Christian denomination. Protestants do not accept that this was the site of the Crucifixion or Resurrection.
Yad Vashem The name of this, the world's most important Holocaust memorial, means ‘A Hand and a Name', the word hand also meaning ‘memorial' and implying that every victim will be individually remembered. Yad Vashem (or the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority) is located on the western edge of Jerusalem. It is best known as a monument to the devastation wreaked upon the Jewish people by the Nazis during WWII. There are indoor and outdoor exhibits, including museums, memorials, sculpture and a research and documentation centre. The tree-linedAvenue of the Righteous Among the Nations commemorates and honours gentiles who risked their lives to save Jews and leads to theHistorical Museum, Yad Vashem's prism-like central concrete structure lying mainly below ground, where the course of Hitler's ‘Final Solution' is traced.
The Hall of Remembrance is a solemn tent-like structure that allows visitors to pay their respects to the dead. Also contained within the Yad VaShem complex is the wooded, walled Valley of the Communities, recording the names of Jewish communities wiped out in their entirety, and the Hall of Names, where the names and details of over three and a half million individual victims have been recorded and are being constantly added to. There is also a poignant Art Museum, containing work produced by Jewish inmates of the death camps. Possibly the most moving, however, is the Children's Memorial, where, in a dark underground chamber, names from the list of 1.5 million children murdered in the Holocaust are constantly read out.
Har Hazikaron (near Mount Herzl, western edge of the city) Tel: (02) 644 3400. Website:www.yadvashem.org Opening hours: Sun-Thurs 0900-1700 (2000 on Thurs), Fri 0900-1400. No entry under 10 years old (including babies). Free admission.
The Israel Museum The Israel Museum is the nation's leading showcase for its archaeology, anthropology and art. It houses a vast number of fascinating exhibits relating to the long history and culture of the Jews in the region. Among the highlights are the modern sculptures of the Art Garden, the 20th-century artworks of the Art Pavilion, and the Archaeological Galleries, where major discoveries are displayed. In the Ethnography and Judaica wing, exhibits include a collection of ancient Jewish artefacts. A Youth Wing features hands-on activities for families and art classes for children.
The museum's greatest treasure is contained in a striking separate building called the Shrine of the Book. Resembling the lid of an earthenware jar, this structure was created to hold and display the Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient manuscripts. Discovered beside the Dead Sea at Qumran in 1947, the Scrolls consist of the oldest known scripts of the Torah or Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament), as well as the enigmatic scrolls of an austere, scholarly Jewish sect apparently resident at Qumran.
Ruppin Boulevard (near the Knesset, western edge of the city) Tel: (02) 670 8811. Website:www.imj.org.il Opening hours: Mon, Wed, Sat and holidays 1000-1600, Tues 1600-2100, Thurs 1000-2100, Fri 1000-1400. Admission charge.
Mount of Olives Rising beyond the city walls, to the east of Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives is part of the range of hills surrounding Jerusalem. The olives that gave the place its name were cut down in Roman times and the western slope is now covered by the white tombs of the largest Jewish cemetery in the world. Tragically, it was badly vandalised during the Jordanian occupation (1948-1967), when the stones were smashed and defaced and many were removed to be used for construction. Among both Jews and Christians, the traditional belief is that the resurrection of the dead will begin on the Mount of Olives. The mountain has added religious significance for Christians, as the place Jesus came on the night before his arrest and trial. The Garden of Gethsemane, which Jesus visited after the Last Supper, lies at the foot of the slope. The supposed tomb of his mother, Mary, is a Byzantine and Crusader structure reached through a fine doorway that leads to an underground shrine containing various tombs. Although medieval, these are claimed to be the actual graves of Joseph and Mary and her parents. At the summit of the mount, an Arab village named Et-Tur affords a stunning panorama of the Old City.
Mount of Olives (East Jerusalem) Opening hours: Daily 24 hours. Free admission.
Montefiore Windmill Built by Anglo-Jewish philanthropist, Sir Moses Montefiore, in 1858, the windmill is one of the oldest and most famous landmarks outside the Old City. With the windmill and two rows of houses he set about establishing the first Jewish district outside the walls of the Old City, which he called Mishkenot Sha'ananim (peaceful dwellings), but which is now called Yemin Moshe. The windmill was damaged during the 1948 War of Independence, when the British attempted to blow it up. Today it has been restored by theJerusalem Foundation, which plans to create an open air museum and visitors' centre close by.
Walking Tours Leaflets and information on the many government and private tours of the city and surrounding area can be found at the Tourist Information Center, Jaffa Gate, Old City (tel: (02) 628 0382). City tours start at 1000 every Saturday from the entrance to the Russian Compound, Cheshin Street, in west Jerusalem. No booking is necessary and the tours are free. Zion Walking Tours (tel: (02) 627 7588; website:http://zionwt.dsites1.co.il), based at the tourist office, run a good choice of city tours (fee). The tourist office also hires out audio guides, for self-guided walking tours. For an overview of the city, there is the ‘Ramparts Walk'. Built by Suleiman the Magnificent, the ramparts of the Old City are the most complete of any medieval walls standing today. Entrance is from Jaffa Gate, Damascus Gate and from the Moat Fort. The walk can be completed Saturday to Thursday 0900-1600 and Friday 0900-1400, tickets are valid for two days. Ramparts Walk is subject to tight security and sections may be closed - check first with the tourist office.
Bus Tours The Egged National Bus Co-operative (tel: (03) 694 8888; website:www.egged.co.il/Eng), and United Tours, 9 Coresh Street (tel: (02) 625 2187; website:www.inisrael.com/united/index3.html), are the main operators of coach tours in and around Jerusalem (and from the city to other parts of Israel). Similar tours can be arranged (sometimes more cheaply) through numerous smaller private companies. A useful introduction to the city is the bus route 99, which is operated by Egged and known as the circle line because it takes passengers on a circular tour of the city. It starts at the Jaffa Gate and stops at 26 of Jerusalem's tourist sites. One-day hop-on-hop-off tickets are available on the bus or in advance from the bus station or tourist office. The excursion is available between 1000-1600, departing every two hours.
We have selected 15 restaurants, which we have divided into five categories: Gastronomic, Business, Trendy, Budget and Personal Recommendations. Most are in the city centre (west Jerusalem). The restaurants are listed alphabetically within these different categories, which serve as guidelines rather than absolute definitions of the establishments.
Restaurant prices are subject to 15.5% VAT (Value Added Tax; but food and drink taken in a hotel where one has stayed overnight is currently VAT-free). Service charges of 12-15% are generally added to the restaurant bill, if not a tip of this amount, depending on the quality of the service, is expected.
The prices quoted below are for a three course meal for one, including a bottle of house wine or equivalent: $$$$ (over ILS180) $$$ (ILS130 to ILS180) $$ (ILS90 to ILS130) $ (up to (ILS90)
Cavalier Offering a combination of modern and traditional French food with the ingredients and flavours of the Mediterranean, this charming restaurant in the heart of the city centre offers a high level of service and extensive wine list. Rehov Ben Sira 1 Tel: (02) 624 2945.Price: $$$$
La Rotisserie This surprising gourmet restaurant is hidden away by the Old City wall, attached to a pilgrims' guest house. Enjoy classic French cuisine, accompanied by fine French wines, under the vaulted ceilings of this 100-year-old building. Dinner only.
Paratroopers Road (outside New Gate of the Old City) Tel: (02) 627 9111. Price: $$$
Primavera Excellent wines and top-quality Italian cooking are on offer at Primavera, the gastronomic fish and dairy restaurant of Sheraton Plaza Hotel in the city centre. Dishes are imaginative, using highest quality Israeli ingredients, and the setting is attractive with pale woods and flowers.
47 King George Tel: (02) 629 8691. Price: $$$$
Ima An Israeli-Oriental restaurant with a touch of Jewish-Kurdish cooking, Ima is located in a charmingly renovated house taking up several rooms and including a terrace. Private parking is available for guests. There is a separate business lunch menu that is good value.
189 Agrippas Street Tel: (02) 624 6860. Price: $$$
La Guta In a lively, youthful pedestrianised street at the heart of the city, this French gourmet kosher restaurant, with stone arches and elegantly laid tables, is rather different from its rowdy neighbours - especially in the evenings. It is open from lunchtime onwards for excellent southern French cooking, including good-value set business lunches.
18 Rivlin St. Tel: (02) 623-2322 Price: $$$
Shonka Serving a range of French-Mediterranean-Italian dishes and with a good wine list, Shonka is a popular city-centre restaurant and reservations are advised. The dishes are simple and the décor modern making it an ideal place for business dining - the business lunch menu is particularly good value.
1 HaSoreg Street Tel: (02) 625 7033. Price: $$$
Arcadia The intimate interior, divided by stone arches and subdued lighting, offers the perfect setting for contemporary dishes combining local ingredients with French style. Arcadia deserves its reputation as one of Israel's best and most exciting restaurants; it is understandably popular with both visitors and locals.
Rehov Agrippas 10 Tel: (02) 624 9138. Price: $$$$
Darna This popular strictly-kosher city centre restaurant offers an extensive menu of North African and middle-eastern food in a Moroccan-inspired setting. It has recently been extended to encompass a restored wine cellar with low ceilings and arches. The atmosphere is completed with the plush cushions scattered around the tables for leisurely reclining.
Restobar Crowded, stylish and pricey, with wooden floors, bare stone walls and an attractive bar at its centre, this is a place to either sit with a drink or enjoy tasty, imaginative cooking (including set business lunch on weekdays) at either indoor or outdoor tables. A wide range of dishes include fresh salads, generous steak in wine and shallot sauce, spicy cajun chicken, fresh pasta, and a selection of fish and seafood dishes including salmon in champagne and saffron sauce. It's located where the city centre meets the upscale Rehavia neighbourhood. 1 Ben Maimon Street Tel: (02) 566 5126.Website:http://restobar.rest-e.co.il Price: $$$
3 Arches This smart and attractive yet unpretentious restaurant attached to the landmark YMCA hotel (across the road from the King David Hotel) specialises in above-average international meat dishes at very reasonable prices.
26 King David St. Tel: (02) 569 2692 Price: $
Maoz Falafel This tiny, historic falafel stand has been a city-centre favourite since it opened in 1967. Like the many that have opened since, it has a small interior with seating space around the service counter. Staff fill your pita bread with falafel, chopped salads, hummus and tahina sauce, which you can then supplement at will from a tempting array of salads and sauces spread out on the counter.
19 King George Street Price: $
Te'enim This all-day restaurant serves a wide selection of vegetarian and vegan dishes in a charming old stone building in the Yemin Moshe district behind the gardens of the King David Hotel. Spread over three floors with a view over the Old City, the best seats are in the arches of the windows but these must be reserved.
12 Emile Botta Street Tel: (02) 625 1967. Price: $
The Armenian Tavern An atmospheric restaurant in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City. It is located in the basement of an ancient Crusader church and has a tiled interior, solid wooden tables, a huge chandelier and a fountain in the corner. The food is served in wooden or painted ceramic bowls. On Fridays, local Armenians come to the restaurant with home-cooked food which they share with visitors.
Armenian Patriarchate Road Tel: (02) 627 3854. Price: $$
Despite the lack of licensing laws, Jerusalem has never been known for its wild nightlife and if you're looking to dance the night away your best bet would be to follow the example of many Jerusalemites and take a sherut the 60km (37 miles) to Tel Aviv. The nightclubs that do exist in Jerusalem tend to be located in the Talpiot area. East Jerusalem is particularly empty after dark. There's a big overlap between bars, clubs and live music venues - several of the most popular places are all three at once.
The legal drinking age is 18-years. Up-to-date listings for club nights can be found in the Friday supplement of the Jerusalem Post (website:www.jpost.com).
Bars: Most of the city's best or most popular bars are located in the city centre (west Jerusalem). Tzoof Bar, 15 Hebron Road, with its arched entrances, brick walls and floor and ambient lighting, summons up the Old City, and serves a mix of drinks including cocktails. It sometimes has stand-up comedy and live jazz. Dublin, 4 Shammai St, is a crowded warehouse-style bar with DJs playing loud and upbeat dance music till late. The city's liveliest area is Nahalat Shiv'ah, between Jaffa Street and King George V Street; its pedestrianised lanes are a focal point for bars, cafes, pubs and restaurants. Clubs: Most clubs are located in the Zion Square/Nahalat Shivah area of the city centre, and the Talpiot district. At Underground, 1 Yoel Salomon (Nahalat Shivah), there have been drinks and dancing as long as anyone can remember. With two rooms of music (one rock and one dance) it attracts Israelis and travellers alike. Bar 17, formerly Haoman 17, at 17 Haoman Street (website: www.17jerusalem.com), long considered among the best clubs in the city, is still going strong, attracting international DJs and boasting two dancefloors where you can groove the night away to a mixture of house and techno.
Live Music: For world-class classical music performances, opera, and rock concerts, it's worth travelling an hour to Tel Aviv. However, Jerusalem offers a wide selection of small, occasional music venues, including cafes, bookshops, theatres and arts centres. More than 150 orchestral performances and other concerts are put on each year at the city's principal performance venue, The Jerusalem Centre for the Performing Arts, 20 Marcus Street (website:www.jerusalem-theatre.co.il), in the charming Yemin Moshe quarter.
The Alpert Music Centre, near the Old Train Station in the city centre's pleasant Abu Tor neighbourhood (website:http://music-center.jerusalem.muni.il) hosts a big band, an orchestra and an Arab-Jewish choir. The community arts centre Barbur, 6 Shirizli Street (website:www.barbur.org), stages unusual musical performances. For live rock or blues nightly, in a packed bar setting, go downstairs at Mike's Place, 37 Jaffa Street (website:www.mikesplacebars.com), which is open into the small hours.
Yellow Submarine, 13 HaRechavim Street (website: www.yellowsubmarine.org.il), is a popular nightlife and performance venue and bar in the Talpiot area, with a wide range of live music, from hardcore to salsa to jazz.
The Old City has much to offer, with the narrow, colourful souk that follows the Street of the Chain from Jaffa Gate into the Muslim Quarter. Tiny open-fronted shops sell souvenirs of olive wood, silverwork, mother-of-pearl, leather and hand-blown glass. Arabic sweets and pastries are also plentiful. Bargaining here is standard practice and shoppers can generally get about one quarter off the asking price. As the Muslim Quarter leads into the Christian Quarter, souvenirs take the form of religious artefacts.
Continuing into the Old City's Jewish Quarter, the Cardo has several exclusive shops selling clothing and objets d'art. Several hundred shops are listed by the Ministry of Tourism and display a special emblem as a symbol of fair pricing. These carry a range of goods from exclusive jewellery and diamonds to oriental carpets, ladies' wear and leather goods. Bargaining is not usual in Jewish shops and markets, although asking for a ‘discount' on some credible pretext can sometimes bring an immediate price reduction.
In the city centre (west Jerusalem), shops and streets are much the same as in southern Europe. For traditional crafts and Judaica head for theHouse of Quality, the Hutzot Hayotser Arts and Crafts Lane, and the ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim area. The city's busiest shopping thoroughfare is chaotic Jaffa Street. There are also large shopping malls, such as Jerusalem Mall in Malcha Street.
Shopping in east Jerusalem maintains a strongly Arabic, Middle Eastern feel. The hub of this district is Damascus Gate, where traders gather daily, from dawn to dusk, to sell anything from household wares to fresh farm produce. This market is full of life and bustle and (unlike the markets of the Muslim Quarter) sells to locals as well as tourists.
Opening hours for shops are generally Sunday to Thursday 0900-1900 (some close daily between 1300 and 1600). Jewish-owned businesses, including almost all shops in west Jerusalem, are closed on Friday afternoon and Saturday for Shabbat. The Muslim Quarter and east Jerusalem are also quieter on Saturday. Trading on Friday, the Muslim holy day, is also quite restrained. Christian-owned shops close on Sundays.
Value Added Tax (VAT), at a current rate of 15.5%, is quoted in the price of all goods and services. Tourists buying goods at shops listed by the Ministry of Tourism may be entitled to claim the tax back, provided the purchase cost US$100 or more and payment was made in foreign currency. Shoppers must obtain a special invoice form at the time of purchase. The form must be filled out and submitted at the airport and the refund is generally issued by post.
Israel appears at first sight to be a brash, assertive society. However, to see Israelis express themselves in music and art is to realise the underlying emotional depth of this richly talented nation. It is striking that most buskers here are playing classical music. Several world-class classical music events take place in Israel, including the International Harp Contest held every three years (the next one, which will be the 17th, is scheduled for 2009). In addition, there are important classical music festivals, such as those at Kibbutz Ein Gev and the Kibbutz Kfar Blum. The Israel Festival, bringing a high-culture mix of music, drama and dance, turns Jerusalem into the world's cultural stage for three weeks in May and June.
The Jerusalem Centre for the Performing Arts, 20 Marcus Street (tel: (02) 560 5757/55; website:www.jerusalem-theatre.co.il), in the Yemin Moshe area of west Jerusalem, serves as the city's unofficial cultural centre. This venue and the Jerusalem Film Center, Hebron Road (tel: (02) 565 4333; website:www.jer-cin.org.il) (the city's trendy centre for art house films) are worth visiting in their own right, as places to absorb the buzz of creativity amongst Israel's most talented performers.
The best ticket agencies for nearly all concerts and theatre performances in Jerusalem are Bimot, 8 Shamai Street (tel: (02) 623 7000; website:www.bimot.co.ilm) and Klaim, 12 Shamai Street (tel: (02) 622 2333). Travellers to the city hoping to catch live shows can also buy tickets in person from the various box offices.
Listings for major events (with web links) can be found online at the Jerusalem municipal website (www.jerusalem.muni.il).
Music: The Henry Crown Symphony Hall, 5 Chopin Street, is the home of the excellent Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra (tel: (02) 566 0211; website:www.jso.co.il). The world-renowned Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (tel: (02) 645 4647 or 1 700 703 030 (tickets); website:www.ipo.co.il), under its famous director Zubin Mehta, rotates performances between its main base in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem. Visitors to Jerusalem may find obtaining tickets for its concerts in the city very difficult, as they are often sold out months ahead - so it is wise to book before your trip to Israel. Such is the level of devotion to the orchestra, the ensemble boasts almost 30,000 season ticket holders - the largest subscription public per capita in the world. When it performs in Jerusalem, concerts are at the Binyanei Hauma - Jerusalem International Convention Center, 1 Shazar Street, near the Central Bus Station (tel: (02) 655 8558; website:www.iccjer.co.ilm).
Theatre: The city's principal performance stage is the Jerusalem Theatre, 20 Marcus Street, in the Yemin Moshe district (tel: (02) 560 5755; website:www.jerusalem-theatre.co.il), with four fine auditoriums. Arguably the most innovative theatre for new drama is the Khan Theatre, 2 David Remez Square (tel: (02) 671 8281), which performs four or five plays every season. The repertory is divided between new plays from Israel and around the world, classics and adaptations. Performances are mainly in Hebrew.
Dance: Lovers of dance will have no problem finding what they want in Israel. The renowned Israel Ballet (Israel's national classical ballet company) performs mainly in its home town of Tel Aviv, with occasional productions in Jerusalem. Several professional modern dance companies, most based in Tel Aviv, perform throughout the country and abroad - best known are Inbal Dance Theater and Batsheva Dance Company, both based at the Suzanne Dellal Centre in Tel Aviv (website:www.suzannedellal.org.il). Jerusalem's own internationally acclaimed,Mechola Dance Company, 43 Emek Refaim (tel: (02) 563 6663; website:http://us.geocities.com/mehola.geo), stages vibrant, imaginative modern dance, as well as folk, ethnic and jazz dance performances.
Film: Most foreign films in Jerusalem are screened in their original version with Hebrew subtitles. Among the most popular mainstream cinemas areRav Chen, 19 HaOman Street in Talpiot (tel: (02) 679 2799; website:www.rav-hen.co.il), and the GG Gil, Jerusalem Mall, Malha Street (tel: (02) 678 8448). The Lev Smadar, 4 Lloyd George Street (tel: (02) 561 8168), is a highly regarded, comfortable art house cinema. However, the best place for cinema in Jerusalem is the Cinematheque, at the Jerusalem Film Center, Hebron Road (tel: (02) 565 4333; website:www.jer-cin.org.il). The Cinematheque has two auditoria showing classics, critically acclaimed new releases and foreign art house films.
Many well-known films include scenes in Jerusalem, such as the finale ofSchindler's List (1993). Israel has a productive film industry of its own, andThe Jerusalem Foundation offers funding to film makers whose works are set mainly in the Israeli capital. Several award-winning films have been set partly in Jerusalem - and not usually the parts tourists see, such asUshpizin (2004) depicting an encounter between the ultra-secular and Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox community, Someone To Run With (2006), a drama of teenage runaways in the city, based on a novel by David Grossman, or Sour Milk (2007), about a girl caught up in anti-Jewish riots in 1929.
Literary Notes: Some of Israel's greatest writers were born in the 1930s. Many of them lived in Jerusalem at the start of the Arab-Israeli War, which followed the foundation of Israel in 1948. Constant themes are the conflict between the religious life of Judaism and the life of the modern secular Jew; and the contradiction of Jerusalem as the holy, eternal city of God and Jerusalem as the man-made, political city of human conflict.
A B Yehoshua deals with these issues in his novel, The Lover (1977), which describes a husband's attempt to trace his wife's lover, who disappeared during the Yom Kippur War of 1973. The husband finds the man living within a community of Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem and attempts to persuade him to rejoin the modern secular reality of life in the city. In Amos Oz's novel, My Michael (1968), the tension between violence and spiritual yearning in Jerusalem leads to strains within a Jewish couple's marriage as they become more aware of both the threat and the hope offered by the city's Arab population. Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000) was one of the country's most admired and most successful writers. The author of more than 75 books, Amichai's works have been published around the world. While also much admired for his love poems, it was his ability to capture the dynamics of Israel's inner tensions and historical evolution that proved to be his most enduring contribution to Hebrew literature.
All Jewish religious festivals and holidays (like Shabbat) are 24 hours long, starting the previous evening at nightfall and ending at nightfall. Jewish religious festivals fall on a different date every year.
Pesach (Passover) April (starts with ‘Seder Night' festive meal) Nothing with yeast or which is ‘leavened' is allowed all week - that includes bread and beer, first and last days are public holidays. Throughout the city Israel Independence Day May Celebrations of the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948. Throughout the city Israel Festival May-June Major cultural events. Various city venues
Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day) June Celebrations of the 1967 reunification of the city. Throughout the city
Hutzot Hayotzer August Jerusalem's big annual arts, crafts and folklore festival. Opposite David's Tower
Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) Two days in September/October Throughout the city Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) 10 days after Rosh Hashanah Solemn religious fast day.
Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) October Throughout the city
For a Half Day
Bethlehem: Situated just 12km (7 miles) south of central Jerusalem, the town of Bethlehem lies just across the ‘Green Line' in the West Bank, and is fully under Palestinian control. It is an interesting excursion if security considerations make it possible. Extreme care is required on a visit to this town, and it is very important to check the current situation before travelling there. Visitors should keep abreast through English-language daily newspapers, such as The Jerusalem Post (website:www.jpost.com), but also check with locals before planning a trip.
Bethlehem is known worldwide among Christians as the birthplace of Jesus Christ. However, Bethlehem also appears in the scriptures nearly 2,000 years before Jesus, and has great importance in Judaism as the burial place of Rachel, wife of Jacob. The events of the Book of Ruth took place here, too, and this was also the birthplace of King David. Bethlehem is therefore of great importance to Christians and Jews alike, but the population of this once-Christian town is today 88% Muslim. In the fourth century, a cave was selected as the exact place where Jesus was born and the Church of the Nativity erected over the site. The ornate and atmospheric medieval church, standing along one side of Manger Square is the focal point for any visit. The Cave of the Nativity is reached by going down some steps inside the church and a star on the floor shows where Jesus was supposedly born. Other sites in and around Bethlehem include the Shepherds' Field and Grotto and, on the Jerusalem side of town,Rachel's Tomb - however, these are both particularly dangerous spots.
For a Whole Day
Masada: Situated on an isolated flat mountain top in the Judean Desert and overlooking the Dead Sea, Masada (pronounced ‘matzada' in Hebrew and meaning ‘fortress') was the scene of the final heroic Jewish resistance against the Romans. The group of Jewish zealots who had fled with their families to Masada realised that they faced imminent defeat and, rather than surrender to the Romans, all 967 men, women and children committed suicide. The extensive ruins include Herod's Palace (tel: (08) 658 4207), the synagogue, the fortress, an elaborate bathhouse and much more. Guided tours are available.
Masada (tel: (07) 658 4117/8; website:www.parks.org.il) is run as a national park. It is open Saturday to Thursday 0800-1700 (until 1600 Oct-Mar) and Friday 0500-1500 (cablecar operates from 0800). There is an admission charge with the cablecar costing extra. Masada lies on Route 90 close to the Dead Sea, 22km (14 miles) east of the desert town of Arad, and 20km (12 miles) south of Ein-Gedi. Approaching from the east, the road ends at the parking lot at the foot of the mountain. From there the ascent is either by the cablecar, or by walking up the Snake Path - a tiring climb taking just under an hour. From the west, the road ends at the western parking lot, from which there is a 15- to 20-minute easy climb to the top. Masada can be reached by bus 444, 486 or 487 from Jerusalem.
Ein Gedi, Dead Sea: Located on the western shore, the Ein Gedi Resort (tel: (08) 659 4221; website:www.ngedi.comandwww.ein-gedi.co.il/en_index.htm) offers a chance to float in the Dead Sea, relax in its sulphur pools and enjoy its excellent restaurant. Bathers can be covered in black mud before going for a dunking in the sea, which, at some 400m (1,320ft) below sea level, is the lowest point on earth. Famous for its curative powers, the Dead Sea is the saltiest and most mineral-laden body of water in the world. The Ein Gedi Spa is open Saturday to Thursday 0700-1800, and Friday 0700-1700 (admission charge). It can be reached by bus 421, 444 or 486 from Jerusalem.
It is possible to combine the Masada and Ein Gedi Spa in a day with one of the tours run by the Egged National Bus Co-operative (tel: (03) 694 8888; website:www.egged.co.il/Eng).