Why Jerusalem? Largely I think because it’s different. It’s historic. It’s a confluence of multiple cultures. And really…don’t you want to see what the fuss is all about?
I remember wanting to visit when I was fourteen. I had just finished the inspiring and highly entertaining O Jerusalem by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre and thought to myself: What a book, what a place, and what people! I couldn’t wait to go there. And then, last year I got an opportunity and was so freaking excited.
It was everything I had dreamed of. And I cannot wait to go there again. I close my eyes and even now conjure up images of the narrow cobbled market lanes, the gleaming golden dome, the dolomitic limestone walls. Black hats, black coats, long beards. Quiet, simmering on the surface, religious.
I remember what our guide told us when taking us around: Much of the history is probably made up. But then, who cares, as long as it entertains. Only that. No more wars please.
What you should definitely do:
- Take a free SANDEMAN tour to orient yourself in the old city
2. Visit the Western Wall on Shabbat: On a Friday evening, the whole city shuts down. Get to the Western wall at 5 PM and stay until the celebration closes. It’s an experience unto itself. The frenzy. The merriment. The passion. Remember to eat before though. Nothing is open after dusk. The streets empty out. All roads, quite literally, lead to the Western Wall
3. Shop: The old alleyways sell souvenirs, pottery, olive-wood mementos, clothing and food. I thought they were uninspiring and overpriced (coming as I was from India) But walk around the nooks and there are many great shops. I found an artist in the Armenian section selling paintings and scrolls. Gorgeous originals and reprints of Udi Merioz in another backyard shop. Try finding steals in the Armenian, Jewish, Christian, Muslim sections. The MachaneYehuda Market is always exciting to walk around in.
4. Interesting tours: I total recommend the West bank tours run by Abraham Tour Company. I had the most memorable experience visiting a part of the world which is inaccessible and mired in dread for most. And it crushed every image in my head. An experience I will cherish.
5. Simply walk around. Interesting people. Lots of happy kids. Lots of happy soldiers. Many different cultures. Really, nothing like I have seen before.
Here are more options. And a list of 10+ incredible experiences in newly-cool Jerusalem.