JERUSALEM is the most unique and special city on Earth. A really deep exploring of Jerusalem is like a traveling in time and space. Walking on its streets is like walking on the top of an iceberg, It has so many time layers, each hiding a lot of secrets. If you make a trip to Jerusalem like any other city in the world, looking only for entertainment, shopping, relax, nightlife, local food, and all other standard goals that most of the tourists are searching, you will visit Jerusalem, but only a “small part” of it.
Even if you visit its most remarkable destinations like Temple Mount, Wailing Wall, and the Church of Holy Sepulchre, without the necessary information about them, you will actually miss them. Jerusalem is a city, requiring knowledge about history and religions. Only then it can reveal what actually it is.
How Jerusalem looks like today?
If you go to Jerusalem now, you can see a large and colorful metropolis, with both modern office, and ancient buildings, beautiful housing complexes, parks, boulevards with traffic, an Old City full with tourists, markets, shops, and historic destinations.
You will see two different, but currently peaceful parts of the city- a western part with modern European look (like many Mediterranean cities of Italy, Spain or Greece), and an eastern part with a more oriental look (like many Arab cities in the Middle East).
This is what is now Jerusalem, at least what it looks like from a first sight.
But how all it has begun?
Everything starts more than 4000 years ago when the ancient Canaan tribes settle in this place. There has been no a big empire or a kingdom on this land, but many independent cities. And when I say “cities”, actually they have been small villages with walls. And their leaders (or mayors) has been called “kings”.
One of these newly built villages with walls is Salem (which means “peace”), located on one of the modern Jerusalem’s hills. And his king was Melchizedek (his name means “king of righteousness”). He was not only a king but also a high priest of El-Shaddai (Jehovah)- the Almighty God. He used to live and reigned over his city and the surrounding area somewhere in the second half of 20th century BC.
During his reign, God (El-Shaddai, the name by which He was known at that time) chose a man, called Abram (later his name was changed into Abraham). He sent Abram to the present day land of Israel. Abram was a righteous man, believing and trusting God for everything. He was chosen to be the ancestor of a nation with a special mission in this world. And when Abram arrived in this land, he passed various tests and situations, by which God trained his faith.
In one of these situations, Abram defeated a united army of four kings, rescuing many people from captivity. And when the battle finished, he returned to his tent, passing Salem. There he met the other righteous man- King Melchizedek. Melchizedek blessed Abram and received a tide from him. This blessing from the high priest Melchizedek had a deep meaning- it was a blessing for the future chosen nation, and the place, where its central capital will be- Jerusalem.
Since then, this place passed a lot of rise and fall, days of glory and days of shame, days of flourishing and days of destruction, days of war and days of peace. Many kings, kingdoms, nations, and empires fought for Jerusalem, claiming the city and its holiest place.
Three religions compete for possession of Jerusalem, and you really need to know more about their essence, as well as their origin and relationship, to understand when, how, where and why everything is what is. And all this is not over. It is not stored in museums and tourist attractions, remaining just a misty tale (like in many other tourist cities in the world!). It is real and alive- there, and now!
For everybody, who goes on a trip to Israel, Jerusalem is a MUST to see, it is a main part of such a trip. So, if you want to explore this special city, you have to make two tours. The first tour is the tourist’s tour- visiting destinations, shopping, restaurants, hotels and all other standard tourist’s activities that everyone does. And the other tour is a tour in the time, in the history and the knowledge. It is easy to find a tourist guide about Jerusalem. But if you want to make a really full visit to this city, you need a history guide too.
HISTORY OF JERUSALEM
If I have to write the history of Jerusalem in details, I will need to make a thick book, a whole encyclopedia (anyway, I can recommend this website for further diving deep in Jerusalem’s history). It is so rich in periods, events, stories and phenomenon. The only thing that I can do now, is to sketch out a plan of the whole history, summarizing it by periods. It is important because if you want to make the “second tour” of Jerusalem, combining it with the first one, you would need it as a guide.
Then, with this guide, you can explore every destination, clearly seeing its history event by event. And on the other side, the destinations themselves can serve as keystones, marking the whole timeline of Jerusalem’s history.
So, let’s summarize it by periods:
Unknown- 18th century BC
Early Canaanite period. From this period are Melchizedek, Abraham, and their meeting and blessing. Then, around 50 years later God guides Abram (at that time already called Abraham) to Mt Moriah (one of the hills of Jerusalem) to sacrifice his son Isaak.
Abraham trusted God, so He replaced Isaac with a ram to be sacrificed, and confirmed His promises to him forever. Not only that but by this event, God approved Mt Moriah to be the place of His Holy house (which is built there many centuries later).
Although no archeological evidence of these events, we have it written in the Bible, as well as some other books. Exploring scene: Temple Mount (Moriah).
18th – 15th century BC
Middle Canaanite period. During that time the descendants of Abraham move to Egypt and live there. The local Canaanites still live in their city-states, mostly as small autonomous kingdoms under the authority of the Egyptian Pharaohs. The area of Salem is populated by Jebusites, and Salem is better known as Jebus.
15th century – c.1037 BC
Late Canaanite period. It begins with the returning of Abraham’s descendants- Jews, to this land. They conquered most of the land under the leadership of Joshua. They conquer Jebus too, but soon after that abandon it still in the hands of the local Jebusites. The scholars consider it is because they knew the importance of this place, so it should be remained unconquered until its proper time from God.
c.1037 BC – 964 BC
United Kingdom of Israel period- the kingdom of David and Solomon. David, the second king of Israel conquers the city and it is renamed into Jerusalem (Yerushalayim). He builds his palace on Mt.Zion (the neighboring of Mt.Moriah hill) and establishes there God’s Tabernacle. During the reign of his son Solomon, the First Temple (House of God) is built on Mt.Moriah. This is the first “Golden age” of Jerusalem. Exploring scenes: Mt.Zion and Mt.Moriah.
964 – 722 BC
Divided kingdom period- the kingdom of Judah. During that time Israel is divided into two kingdoms and Jerusalem remains the capital of the southern kingdom of Judah, under the reign of David’s dynasty. It is a relatively peaceful period, with exception of a few invasions and a strong earthquake in 8th century BC.
722 – 586 BC
The last kings of Judah. The kingdom of Northern Israel is conquered by Neo-Assyria. During the reign of King Hezekiah, the Assyrians invade Judah too, but couldn’t conquer Jerusalem. The last years of this period Judah fall under the authority of Neo-Babylonia. And after a rebellion by the last King Zedekiah, the king of Neo-Babylonia Nebuchadnezzar II conquers Jerusalem and destroys it, along with the First Temple.
586 – 538 BC
Neo-Babylonian period. During that time Jerusalem is in ruins, almost uninhabited. Only a few Jews remain living in its area.
538 – 332 BC
Persian period. After Cyrus II of Persia conquers Neo-Babylonia, the captured Jews return to the land of Israel and rebuild Jerusalem. First, they build the Second Temple (516 BC), then rebuild the walls of the city (around 432 BC). This period is peaceful.
332 – 198 BC
Early Hellenistic period. Jerusalem is included in the Macedonian Empire of Alexander III The Great. Then, after the wars of the Diadochi, Jerusalem remains in the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt. With exception of these wars, it is a peaceful period too. However, at the end of it, the king of Seleucid Syria Antiochus III conquers Jerusalem, then temporary retreats, until 198 BC, when Jerusalem constantly falls into the power of Seleucid kings.
198 – 64 BC
Late Hellenistic period. The beginning of that time is peaceful for Jerusalem. But later, during the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Second Temple is desecrated, and the Jewish religion is persecuted. It causes a rebellion, lead by Maccabeus clan, which little by little establish an independent kingdom, ruled by the Hasmonean dynasty.
64 BC – 70 AD
Early Roman period. During that time Jerusalem is mainly the capital of an autonomous kingdom, ruled by the Herodian dynasty, under the Roman authority. Jerusalem flourish, King Herod the Great makes significant building projects, including the renovation of the Second Temple. This is the time of Jesus and the first Christian believers. Jesus does part of His ministry in Jerusalem.
Finally, He is arrested and crucified. He dies, then He is buried, but only three days later He is resurrected. 40 days after the resurrection He ascends to the Heavens from the Mount of Olives. After that, the first Christian church is established in Jerusalem (not a building, but a community).
At the end of this period the Jews raise a revolt against the Romans, it is successful for a while, but only 3 years later the Roman army returns, then Jerusalem and the Second Temple are destroyed. Exploring scenes: Temple Mount (Moriah), Davidson center, Mount of Olives, Garden of Gethsemane, Via Dolorosa route, Church of Holy Sepulchre, Garden Tomb.
70 – 325
Late Roman period. From this point, most of the Jews are expelled from their land. Emperor Hadrian builds a pagan city, called Aelia Capitolina at 130, as a “gift to Jews”. They reject the pagan “gift” and raise a revolt by Bar Kochba, which is the last attempt of the Jews to gain independence from Rome. It is unsuccessful, and the result is expelling the Jews from the city, with no access for them inside.
325 – 637
Byzantine period. This period starts with the spreading of Christianity on this land. The pagan temples in Jerusalem are destroyed. Jews are partly allowed to enter Jerusalem, especially during Emperor Julian’s reign. The Byzantines build a temple of Holy Mother on Mt. Moriah.
There are some remains of Byzantine houses in Davidson center today. At the end of this period, Sasanid Persia conquers Jerusalem for 5 years. The Sasanids allow Jews to rebuild their Temple, but the city is reconquered by Byzantines again, the building is stopped, demolished, and the top of Mt.Moriah is turned into a garbage dump.
637 – 964
Arab Caliphate (Rashidun, Ummayad, Abbasid) period. The Arabs conquer Jerusalem and build the first versions of the Dome of Rock (from where, as they say, Mohamed has risen to the Heaven) and Al-Aqsa mosque on the top of Mt.Moriah. They build also many more buildings outside of the walls of Moriah, including some noble palaces. There are some remains of these buildings, again in Davidson center.
964 – 1099
Fatimid period. This is a relatively peaceful period, in which Jerusalem flourish and spread further around the area of today’s Old City.
1099 – 1199
Latin (Crusade) period. The Crusaders conquer Jerusalem, persecuting and murdering the Jews living there. They build headquarters in Al-Aqsa mosque, to the “Templar Knights”.
1199 – 1517
Ayubid and Mamluk period. Sultan Saladin of Egypt reconquers the city and wipes out all the traces of the Crusaders on the Temple Mount. The Jews are allowed to resettle in Jerusalem. The Crusaders and Tatars conquer it again shortly, building and destroying its walls consequently. Many old buildings were demolished in ruins and many new buildings and constructions are raised, thus creating layers of oldest, older, and newer constructions.
1517 – 1917
Ottoman period. A relatively peaceful period. The Ottomans build the last version of the city wall, which is what can be seen today. They also build the Tower of David. From 19th century Jerusalem enters in a gradual modernization process. Many new buildings are raised outside the walls, a railroad and a paved road are build, connecting the city with other parts of the land. The First Aliyah starts at that time, and many Jews settle in Jerusalem and its new neighborhoods.
1917 – 1967
British – Jordanian period. The British general Allenby conquers Jerusalem from the Ottomans. The city starts growing more quickly, including Jewish, Muslim and Christian population, which causes often unrest. When the State of Israel is established in 1948, the eastern part of Jerusalem remains in the hands of the Muslim, controlled by Jordan. Israel controls only the western part.
1967 until now
Modern Israel period. As a result of the Six Days War, the Israel Army conquers the whole city of Jerusalem. Thus it is now part of Israel, however, the eastern part of the city is included of today’s Palestinian territory of West Bank, and Israel has only partial control over it. And Jerusalem remains “an apple of discord” not only between Jews and Muslims, but between religions, nations, and people from all over the world.
Nevertheless, Jerusalem is a capital of Israel. At least it is what the history shows to the world. But, other people have different view on this question. That’s why there is a conflict. And there is an appeal written in the Bible for everybody, to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
The reality today
The history goes on. Since the conflict proceeds, soon we can expect a new period, new solution, or…we will see. One of the future visions (written also in the Bible) speaks about a building of the Third Temple, which obviously will be possible only if the Jews win in the current conflict.
Anyway, when I say “conflict”, now it is not in the form of war, unrest or other dangerous for the people events. However, the conflict still remains as a spiritual tension, which can be felt in this city, both by locals and the tourists.
All these periods and their events are sealed in the destinations of Jerusalem. If you explore them with this knowledge, you can really understand what actually you are are visiting. And vice versa- when you exploring these destinations, you can understand better the history and religions in Jerusalem, seeing and touching, in reality, the scenes of all their events.
So, here I give a list of the most important destinations to visit in Jerusalem, as well as a short guide to them.
12 ESSENTIAL PLACES TO VISIT IN JERUSALEM
Some of the destinations are in the Old City, and some are outside its walls. Some are living remains of the ancient times, some are only artifacts in the museums, and some tell stories about recent history.
1. TEMPLE MOUNT MORIAH
This is the “core of the world”- the holiest part of Jerusalem, Israel and the whole Earth. Passed through many periods, raises and falls, currently, it is a place in the hands of Muslims, although controlled by the State of Israel.
It represents all the periods of the history described above, and you can find traces of the timeline there, from ancient times until now. You can read in the Bible many texts with stories about events, happened in this place, and events which will happen here in the future.
Now it is a rectangular structure, surrounded by a wall. The wall itself is historic multi-layer wall. Its lowest stones are largest and most ancient, dating from the time of Herod the Great. The middle stones are smaller, dating from Arab caliphate times. And the upper stones are smallest, dating from Mamluk and Ottoman times.
There is a large square inside the walls, divided into lower and higher platform, and its two symbolic buildings- Dome of the Rock, built on the higher platform, and Al-Aqsa mosque- on the lower platform.
The Temple Mount today
Now, the Temple Mount, called also Haram esh-Sharif, is free opened for the Muslims. They can walk there everywhere, at any time. But all Non-Muslims are restricted to visit Temple Mount only in certain time: in Summer: 8:30 to 11:30 am, and 1:30 to 2:30 pm; in Winter: 7:30 to 10:30 am, and 12:30 to 1:30 pm.
It is closed on Friday and Saturday. And also the Non-Muslims cannot enter inside the two symbolic buildings Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque- they can see them only outside. Finally- every religious symbols or action, which are Non-Muslim, are forbidden there. There is a strict entrance gate control, and Israeli soldiers everywhere, protecting the current order.
Entrance fee: Free
2. WESTERN (WAILING) WALL
The Western (Wailing) Wall is actually the western part of the whole wall, surrounding Temple Mount. It is sacred for the Jews because its lowest stones are remains from the time when the Second Temple still existed. Thus these stones are holy, and actually, it is the only part of the Temple Mount, where Jews have free access. They wail for their heritage and for the time when this whole land belonged to them.
Now there is a square in front of the Wailing wall, divided into Male and Female parts. Women can enter only in the Female part. And men- only in the Male part. When the men enter, they are required (but not strictly) to take kippa on their heads (there is a shelf with a basket, full with white kippas, which every man can use, then backs).
The sites north of the Western (Wailing) Wall
There is also a big building north of the square, related to the historical multi-layer structure outside of the wall. An important part of this structure is the Tunnels of the Western Wall. They are formed by the empty spaces between the layers. If you explore these tunnels, you can see the largest monolith of the wall, one of the largest in the world.
Also, you can see the place of the tunnels, which is closest to the holiest place of the Temple Mount- where you can see wailing Jews. The tunnels proceed north, related with an ancient water supplying structure from the time of King Hezekiah, and finally go out to the streets of the Old City. They may be not proper for claustrophobic people.
Entrance fee for Western (Wailing) Wall: free.
A tour for the Tunnels of the Western Wall: it is only on certain hours and usually needs to be booked online in advance. There are few more tours and attractions at the Western Wall too. You can see more information here.
3. DAVIDSON CENTER
It is an important archaeological complex under the Southern wall of the Temple Mount and south of the Western Wall square.
Its main points are the Herodian street (an original ancient street from the time of the Second Temple), the Mikva pool (where the ancient visitors of the Temple have to immerse in the water before entering inside), the fallen stones- remnants from the Second Temple destruction at 70 AD, the remains of the Hulva gate- one of the ancient gates leading to the Temple, as well as many structures from various time periods, from the times of Abraham until modern days.
This complex is really like a time machine, where you can dive deep into the history of Jerusalem., and there are so many remains from various ages. So I recommend you explore it with a local guide- there are guides, working in the complex. We followed one of them and he was really professional.
Opening hours: 8:00 to 17:00. Closed in Shabbat and other holidays.
Entrance fee: 30 NIS for adults, 16 NIS for children and 16 NIS for a guide
4. TOWER OF DAVID
It is a citadel, located on the western part of Old City, connected with its city wall. Its modern version is built by the Ottomans, on the remains of older towers and citadels in this place, dating back to the Hasmonean period (2nd century BC). There are some stone remnants from even earlier times, probably from the time of King David. This is one of the reasons why it is named “Tower of David”.
Now it is a fortress-type complex. There is a panoramic terrace on its top, where you can see the whole Jerusalem around, especially the Old City and Temple Mount. There are few chambers in the citadel, containing a history museum, presenting artifacts from all periods of Jerusalem’s history.
Opening hours: 9:00 to 16:00. Closed in Shabbat
Entrance fee: 40 NIS for adults, 18 NIS for children
5. CHURCH OF HOLY SEPULCHRE
It is the most sacred place in Jerusalem for the Orthodox and Catholic Christians. This place is accepted traditionally to be Golgotha- the place where Jesus has been crucified and buried in a grave there. The reason for that is because in 2nd century AD the Roman Emperor Hadrian builds a temple of Venus, claiming that this temple will bury the tomb of Jesus. Later, during Emperor Constantin I, this pagan temple is removed and the first version of the Church of Holy Sepulchre is built.
However, this place doesn’t fit with the Biblical explanation about Golgotha and the tomb of Jesus, mainly because it is inside the Old City- both now and in Herod’s time. But the Bible says that He was crucified outside of the city. If it is true, then Hadrian built his temple of Venus on the wrong place, and all the next generations of Christians, coming to the Church of Holy Sepulchre, visit the wrong place of Golgotha too.
Now this church is held by the Greek Orthodox authority. There is a shrine inside the church, considered to be exactly on the tomb of Jesus. The visitors, who enter the church usually wait in a queue in front of the shrine to enter inside and worship.
Opening hours: Summer- 5:00 to 21:00; Winter- 4:00 to 19:00.
Entrance fee: Free
6. STREETS OF THE OLD CITY
The Old City of Jerusalem, in its last modern version, is dated back from the Ottoman period. It is surrounded by a wall with few gates. On the south- Dung gate, Tanner’s gate, and Zion gate. On the west- Jaffa gate. Then on the north- New gate, Damascus Gate and Herod’s gate. Finally, on the east- Lion gate. The City is divided into four quarters: Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Armenian quarters.
Most of its narrow old streets are under roofs and filled with markets and tourists. The most prominent of the streets is the so-called Via Dolorosa route. It starts from the eastern part of the Old City, north of the Temple Mount, from a place, considered to be the palace of Pontius Pilatus, who declares the crucifixion of Jesus. Then the route runs westward, passing 10 stations (places with events), marking the last walk of Jesus to Golgotha.
However, since Via Dolorosa leads to the Church of Holy Sepulchre, which is not for certain the place of the tomb of Jesus, consequently this route is also not certain the real route of Jesus to the cross. But at least the Old City and its streets can give you a good impression of the ancient Jerusalem and the life of those ages.
OUTSIDE THE OLD CITY
7. CITY OF DAVID
It is another archaeological complex, located south of Dung gate of Old City, on the southern slope of Mt.Moriah. It is considered to be the place of the ancient urban part of Jerusalem, where the palace of King David has been built in the second half of 11th century BC.
Another important discovery is the Pool of Siloam, as well as Siloam tunnel, related to the water supplying system, built by King Hezekiah around 710 BC. There is also a monumental step street for pilgrims, ascending to the Temple Mount (dated from the Hasmonean era). There have been found many other artifacts from 11 to 6th centuries BC, including some encrypted names, mentioned in the Bible.
Today there is an Israeli settlement near the archaeological complex, related with the Jewish claim of their ancient history, which however is not accepted by the Arab Palestinians, therefore it makes the place sensitive and controversial. Nevertheless, it is still safe for a visit and now is opened for tourists.
Opened hours: 8:00 to 17:00
Entrance fee: 65 NIS for adults, 48 NIS for children
8. MOUNT OF OLIVES
It is one of the three hills-summit, marking the watershed between the Mediterranean and Dead Seas, with its highest peak at 818 m altitude, revealing a fantastic view to the Old City of Jerusalem. Located east of the Temple Mount, this hill has a significant history and important meaning for Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
Its western slope has been a long time used by Jews as a cemetery. There are many historical events happened there, many of which written in the Bible. Here King David ascends, escaping of his rebelling son Abshalom around 1018 BC. Here the Glory of God (called Shekina) ascended, leaving the First Temple before its destruction at the beginning of 6th century BC.
Mount of Olives is also closely related with the future resurrection. Many Jews have been buried there, expecting that when the Messiah comes back, the resurrection from the dead will start from here.
Prophecies about the future
Here, on the top of this hill is the place, from where Jesus ascended to the Heavens, 40 days after His resurrection in 30 AD. And again here He will back again, according to the prophecies from the Bible, with His Army. When it happens, Jerusalem will be occupied by an army of a future version of the United Nations.
Then, suddenly, the hill will be split into two hills, with a valley in the middle leading to the east. A part of the Jewish population will escape from this valley. The Messiah will descend, He will defeat the enemies and will enter through the eastern Golden Gate of the Old City (all these events are prophesied in the Book of Zechariah). Now the Golden Gate is sealed by a wall, and it will remain sealed after the Messiah’s entering the City, as it is written in the Book of Ezekiel.
Muslim’s religious views
The Muslims know about these prophecies too. They also establish their cemetery right under the Golden Gate to prevent the coming Messiah from entering the City. It is because it is written in the Law of Moses that everybody walking on graves, or touching graves, would become unclean, and the Messiah wouldn’t enter inside unclean. Instead, they believe that the shrine of Mecca, called Kaaba will come here miraculously.
So it is an example how and why the modern Arab-Israeli conflict is actually mainly about religion and apocalypse, with long ancient roots, and what we see today on the news is only “a peak of the iceberg”.
Today there are many landmarks on the top and on the slopes of the hill, including churches, mosques, tombs, urban buildings, and gardens. There is a road, crossing the western slope, through the Jewish cemetery with a beautiful panoramic view to the Temple Mount. And there is the most famous garden of the hill: the Garden of Gethsemane.
9. GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE
This garden is well known as the place, where Jesus and His disciples used to meet together. But it is especially related to His arrest by the local police in 30 AD, on a night before the Passover, after which He was eventually crucified.
The garden is located on the foot of the Mount of Olives, on the eastern side of Kidron valley. There are few main sites in the garden: the Church of All Nations, the Tomb of Virgin Mary, the Greek Orthodox church and a Russian Orthodox orchard. It is also famous with its olive trees, some of which are the oldest known on the Earth, from around 1100 AD.
Opening hours: 8:30 to 12:00 and 14:30 to 17:00
Entrance fee: Free
10. GARDEN TOMB
This is actually the place that more fits the Biblical text about Golgotha. First, because it is located north of Damascus Gate of the Old City, and north of the Roman version of Jerusalem during the time of Jesus. And as it is written in the Bible, Jesus has been crucified out of the city.
There are many tombs, discovered there during the last 1-2 centuries. One of them (although not fully fit the historical hypothesis of the periods) is chosen to be most fit the description of the grave, where Jesus has been buried. According to the archaeologists, this grave is dating back to 7-8th century BC but probably remained unused until the burial of Jesus. No bone remains have been discovered in this grave, as it is written in the Bible that Jesus stayed in the grave for only 3 days, then He was resurrected.
Now the Garden Tomb is mainly a site visited by the Protestant Christians. A Protestant organization hosts this destination. The garden around the empty tomb is well arranged with many scenes with benches for Christian gathering and worship.
Opening hours: 8:00 to 17:30 (without Sunday)
Entrance fee: Free
11. ISRAEL MUSEUM
This is the biggest museum in Israel. It is located in the western part of the city, near the Knesset, the Menorah monument and Sachel Park. It is actually not just a museum, but a complex, containing few exhibition wings: Archaeology, Fine Arts, Jewish Art and Life, Art Garden and Youth wing- all in a modern art architectural style.
In addition to them, there are two very important sites: the Shrine of the Book- an urn-shaped construction, containing the oldest found manuscripts of the Biblical books, known as the Dead Sea Scrolls (found in Qumran), as well as many other ancient manuscripts. And the other site is the Second Temple model of Jerusalem- a replica of the city as it has been in 66 AD.
From the historical point of view, the Archaeology wing is a place that MUST be visited. It contains original artifacts, found in the land of Israel since the obscure pre-historical times until the Ottoman period. It is arranged as a time-machine walk through a chain of galleries, following the timetable of the history.
Israel Museum is something that must be visited, and it is one of these 12 destinations that requires the longest time to be explored. Think about at least 4-5 hours for a visit! And the best day for it is Tuesday since it is opened until 21:00.
Opening hours: 10:00 to 17:00 (Tuesday- to 21:00, Friday- to 14:00)
Entrance fee: 54 NIS for adults, 27 NIS for children, free on Tuesday and Saturday)
12. YAD VASHEM
This complex, located in the far western part of Jerusalem, although is not exactly related with the city’s history, is still an important place, introducing a time period of the greatest suffering of the Jewish people throughout the whole history. Its main theme is the Holocaust of the Jews during WWII, and Yad Vashem is a memorial of its victims.
Yad Vashem’s most important site is the Holocaust Museum. It is constructed like a long tunnel with zigzag arranged halls, following the timeline of the events. The walk inside the museum starts with a short film, showing the life of the Jews before the Holocaust. After that, from the first gallery, the horrible story of the Holocaust guides begins with the roots and reasons of it- actually not starting from Hitler, but from much earlier. Then you pass all the halls, one by one, until the last one, which is the largest- it is the Hall of Names, where millions of victim’s names and documents are memorized. Beyond it, you go out in a light panorama to the hills on the west.
More tips about Yad Vashem
Other important sites of the complex are the Children memorial, the Photography Archives hall, the Synagogue of Yad Vashem and the Garden of the Righteous among the Nations.
If you visit the Holocaust Museum (which is actually the essential part of the complex), you have to bear in mind the following:
- You cannot take photos inside the museum
- Children under 12 years old are not allowed to enter
- It closes an hour earlier before the closing time of the whole complex. It is because a walk inside requires normally at least 1 hour (but recommended is not less than 2 hours!), so the last visitors to have enough time to go out of the museum.
Opening hours: 9:00 to 17:00 (Holocaust Museum- to 16:00)
Entrance fee: Free
All these destinations are very well known to everybody, who travels to this famous and unique city. But if you visit them without deeper knowledge and information, you actually visit only a part of them. So, the knowledge gives you full access to these places, and they contribute to your knowledge. And the result is an unforgettable journey, which not only will give you great memories but can change your life.
Get some impressions from Jerusalem from the videos below:
Check out some travel and history books about Jerusalem!
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Hi, we are Krasen and Ying Ying. Krasen is from Bulgaria, and Ying Ying is from China. We are passionate about geography and history, and we believe that the best way to experience it is by exploring the Earth in reality, not in a school, and not virtually.
So, we created this blog Journey Beyond the Horizon, where we share geographical knowledge, travel guides and tips how to experience it when you explore our planet, and a lot of inspiration.
And we wish you a happy journey, not just virtually, but most of all- in reality.
21 thoughts on “VISIT JERUSALEM – A JOURNEY DEEP IN THE HISTORY AND REALITY”
This is a fantastic experiential guide to Jerusalem. I love reading about the history of the places before I visit them. Thank you for taking the effort to document the history of thousands of years from b.c ages which helped in bringing the city to life even while reading it. I have saved it for future reference so that I can appreciate Jerusalem more when i visit there
Yes, It was our goal- we tried to help people who visit Jerusalem to really know what is the place, where are they going. It is not only a pleasure to understand this place and to experience it alive, but it can even change your life. We wish you a great trip to Jerusalem! 🙂
What a comprehensive post! You had me want to pack my bags and hop on the next flight!
Unfortunately though, for political reasons I will no visiting that region, which is truly a shame because I believe it would be a unique experience. Hopefully tensions will subside and people of all faiths and origins will be able to cohabit peacefully.
Yes, there is a political tension there, but it is still safe. We also believe one day the tension will subside and the people will live in peace there. But we think it will be possible only when all the people there know the exact history, not only of Jerusalem, but the whole Middle East. We discovered that the history there is very important. In fact, much of the tensions come from lack of knowledge and information. The Jews know one history, but the Muslims know different history. And the world- a third history. But the history is one. Just has to be identified clearly for all, then we believe they all will agree each other and live in peace.
This is a fantastic, comprehensive guide – I bookmarked it for my trip to Israel in March. I’m familiar with the city’s history but I also learned some new things from your post. Visiting ruins from thousands of years ago at one of the cradles of civilization is definitely something I must do. Thank you for sharing this, I’m even more excited about my trip now.
Great Daniel! Yes, it is very exciting to see the history alive there! As I wrote in the article, the history of Jerusalem is happening right now and you can feel it there. We wish you to have a great trip to Israel! 🙂
Jerusalem really fascinates me. I remember reading it in the bible and even searching it online. I really want to see Tower of David in person. It’s really interesting and there’s a rich history behind it.
Yes, Tower of David is only one of the amazing sites of Jerusalem. Although it is not very old, only 4-5 centuries, but its museum, its image and its panoramic view from its roof are really great!
I am not a religious person by visiting Jerusalem is something that I invited. I wish to explore and understand more of their culture and story, so I can understand more the people that surrounds me who have huge faith. Historically speaking, I would like to understand more its stories from the locals per se.
Actually in Jerusalem is difficult to distinguish history from religion- they are one whole thing together in this city. And the historical facts are what they are (they just happened in the history, regardless of the various people’s like or dislike 🙂 , and we can see their remains there. Then yes- various people have different points of view to the historical facts. It is interesting to understand what they think. But often their point of view comes from lack of enough historical information, so having more historical knowledge about this place can form better point of views.
This brought back some fond memories of my time n Jerusalem. Even for someone who’s not religious, I definitely felt more spiritual when I was there. Your detailed history of the country’s so impressive too! I loved seeing the Tower of David, but didn’t get to see the Garden of Gethsemane. Hopefully next time I can see it!
Yes, usually only one visit to Jerusalem is not enough. Especially if you have more information, it opens new horizons and new points of view to the sites that you visit, especially in this city. About the Garden of Gethsemane- wish you can see it next time, along with the whole Mount of Olives!
Well that was quite an informative history lesson! I know most of the stories but it was great to read more in depth of the things I was not taught. I am ashamed that the Western Wall and the Mount of Olives were the only two destinations I have heard of. The Garden Tomb looks like such a lovely place, but it’s also incredible how they think that’s the actual tomb Jesus was buried in! I definitely want to experience that. This seems like such a complete list, thank you!
Thank you Amanda. Yes, actually there are many more places of interest in Jerusalem, but they are not basic to understand the city, so I just wrote about the basic ones. About Garden Tomb- they think that this is the actual tomb just because it better fits with the stories in the Bible, which are the main source of information about Jesus. I really wish you can make a good quality trip to Jerusalem, it is really worth to do it! 🙂
Jerusalem is one of those places that are the richest in history and you’ve done a great job here to list the entire history down, with different periods identified. It has to be an awe inspiring experience to visit a place that goes back so many centuries, to unimaginable times! Visiting ruins from thousands of years ago is quite overwhelming, and I’ve always felt it whenever I’ve travelled to places so rich in history. I remember seeing some of these sites (especially Temple Mount Moriah & Church of Holy Sepulchre) in a documentary by Morgan Freeman (Story of God) on Netflix.
Yes, if someone wants to visit Jerusalem and wants to make a meaningful trip there, knowing Jerusalem (and better whole Israel’s) history is a must. Otherwise he doesn’t have a clear idea where is he walking and what’s really happening in this part of the world. Knowing the history not only gives more understanding, but also makes the trip there much more exciting. The history of Jerusalem is very long and complicated, so I just tried to summarize it to be more simple for everybody. 🙂
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Thank you! Yes, I have experienced it all during my trip to Jerusalem. And I wish you have a great journey when you go there too!
This is a fantastic, extended, and thorough guide – so helpful when I go to Jerusalem. I’d love to see it since – like you point out and document – it’s a very special place; one of the cradles of many cultures. I’ll definitely pin this for future reference – such a great work!
Yes, there are many “old towns” in the world, presenting a past history like a museum. But in Jerusalem’s Old City the history is alive, it is not past, it is now. Not only that, a really deep exploring may change your life.
Jerusalem looks beautiful and I would love to visit one day. The history and old city look simply fascinating and its something I need to explore!