Country: Israel
Currency: New Shekel (ILS)
Peak Season: July-August
Shoulder Season: November-March
Median Temperature: 17.40 C / 63.32 F
Main Languages: Hebrew, Arabic, English
Primary Modes of Transportation: Bus, taxi
Recommended Duration of Stay: 6 days
Recommended Pocket Money: $80.00/day
Tourist Passes: Holy Pass
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The sanctity of Jerusalem to the Jewish, Islamic and Christian faiths is timeless, as proved by how many pilgrims from all over the world visit the capital of Israel at least once in their lives. The city has played a pivotal role in the spread of Christianity throughout Europe via the infamous crusades, as well as having been a stronghold of the pagan Roman Empire during the time of Christ. The Muslims, however, revere the city as the third holiest, following Mecca and Medina. And sadly, there is little to no progress between the rift that continues to divide Muslims and Jews from claiming their absolute right to the Holy Land. As for the numbers, the city enjoys a rather large influx of Christian pilgrims—regardless of denomination—during Passover and the Jewish High Holidays. The city has carefully preserved much of its holy sites, including mosques and synagogues extensively depicted in holy books.

Because of the small size of their country, the people of Israel share a certain kinship and often offer that welcoming nature to tourists. As soon as you walk into the old city, you will not only see the glowing culture of the city, but there will be tour guides offering you a full day to see the “holy city”. You will also find Jerusalem to be very tightly monitored for security, supporting its established safety for tourists despite some media-influenced beliefs. Safety aside, Israel is brimming with culture and historicity. You’ll also find Israel to hold some of the most modern cities, despite its deeply rooted and maintained history. The government has been fostering extensive diplomatic ties to many countries to suppress embargos and boycotts imposed by select countries like Egypt.

Jerusalem is an excellent city to explore your (religious and ethnological) roots as well as learn about one of the most interesting cities in the world. Like many people in the world, Israelis will continue to strive for peace. Enjoy your stay here: sample the Israeli and Mediterranean cuisines, haggle on the textiles, converse with the locals, and don’t forget to pay a solemn visit to historical religious sites, regardless of your religious affiliation.

Packing List

  • Decent, loose clothing to enter religious sites and certain districts, as well as good walking shoes and a brand new pair of socks; don’t wear shorts and sleeveless tops—play it safe and dress conservatively
  • Essential medication and toiletries—groceries and pharmacies do not extensively carry brands; bring the basics for semi-arid destinations, which include sunscreen, moisturizers, bottled water/energy drinks
  • A decent camera, plenty of film and battery; do not point and shoot everywhere—get permission before taking photos of locals, especially rabbis and elders, but most religious sites allow photography, though
  • Portable media and books to keep you company during Sabbath (Saturday), when attractions are closed; have a laptop and cellphone ready to communicate easily with travel mates and relatives
  • A very recent and handy travel guide to help you see the most important attractions/religious sites; Islam and Judaism guides are also advisable if you want to delve deeper into these faiths

Things to Do

  • Visiting the Old City, located on the southeastern side—the area seats a triumvirate of historic quarters: Christian, Muslim and Jewish; each quarter harmoniously and independently operates from the other
  • Entering the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, situated in Golgotha (Jesus’ crucifixion site); the site is important for its ecumenicalism, bringing together Eastern and Western Christian denominations
  • Viewing Israeli art, manuscripts and artifacts at the elegant, 20-acre Israel Museum; it currently is the country’s largest cultural institution, containing half a million objects, including the Dead Sea Scrolls
  • Gathering with fellow tourists at the Western Wall, which is a site of prayer and pilgrimage for the Jews; the Wall has been the venue of a number of historic events, including the 1929 Palestine riots
  • Appreciating Islamic roots by visiting Al-Aqsa Mosque, believed to be a key itinerary in Muhammad’s Night Journey; the mosque is not in its most pristine condition but it has undergone several restorations

DON'T

  • Jeopardize your safety by mentioning dissenting comments about the Israeli-Palestinian War; if you are shown hostility by a local, just stay away and don’t retaliate—authorities are known to be biased
  • Talk about religion, politics or anything that will incite anger—even if you mean no harm; There are many different walks of faith present in Israel that you may not know about, so be sure not to offend
  • Trot your camera in forbidden areas—Jews value their privacy; do not visit forbidden/restricted areas— coordinate with your tour guide on proper discourse with locals, especially with older people
  • Wear revealing apparel and disrespect religious sites—remember that many neighborhoods have their own set of standards to follow. You will likely be confronted with any requirements for specific religious areas, but it is good to prepare with such things as proper dress
  • Disrespect the Sabbath by taking pictures from Friday evening to Saturday dusk; Sabbath is very important to Jews, and they expect people from other faiths (even atheists/agnostics) to share respect