I would like to share with you my opinion and observations about must-see places and attractions in Israel. Below you can find a description of all places where we were and which I really recommend.
Our first 2 days we spent in Jerusalem. We were wandering through narrow streets of the old part of the city, its surroundings and enjoyed its climate. I fell in love with this place from the first sight. Every street consists of many markets stands full of seasoning, herbs, souvenirs, clothes, shoes etc. Everywhere was so colorfully. The old part of the city was bustling, full of tourists, sellers, soldiers, and citizens. From everywhere you can hear the sound of a living city and haggling vendors, you can see Jews with its characteristic sidelocks, hats, and jackets. It was an amazing atmosphere.
Except for its climate Jerusalem offers a lot of outstanding historical and religious attractions. The old part of the city center is divided into five districts: Christian, Ormian, Muslim, Jewish and the Temple Mount. To each quarter leads the gate. There are 8 gates in total.
If you don’t have enough time to visit Jerusalem I recommend you free tourists tour, for example, Sandemans New Jerusalem Tours. It takes about 2 -2,5 hour and you can admire the main attractions of Jerusalem.
I start from Christian District, near to Jaffa Gate. It’s the main gate to the old part of the city of Jerusalem. When you cross the gate, on your right side you can see David’s Citadelle. It’s a Turkish fortress from the XVI century. It was built to defend the city. Nowadays, inside the citadel, you can find the Tower of David Museum, where you can learn about Jerusalem history.
David’s Citadelle in Jerusalem
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre
If you turn left towards The Christians Quarter Street (from Jaffa Gate it is the third street) you reach to the most important and sacred place for Christians – to The Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is the place where Jesus was crucified and has been buried and resurrected.
Just inside the entrance to the church is located the Stone of Anointing. According to traditional believes it is a stone where Joseph of Arimathea prepared Jesus’ body for burial. Don’t be surprised when you will see a lot of tourists kneeling and praying towards the stone, sometimes beating their heads against the stone. A lot of tourists believe that doing that they can find and feel Jesus.
Next to the Stone of Anointing, on the right side, is located stairway to Golgotha, a place where Jesus was crucified. There is The Altar of the Crucifixion where behind protective glass you can see the Rock of Calvary.
On the left side of the Stone of Anointing, in the center of the Anastasis, you can find the Holy Sepulchre, place where Jesus has been buried. Jesus’s tomb is situated on one of two rooms in the Aedicula.
Muslim Quarter and the Temple Mount
The biggest quarter of the old Jerusalem is the Muslim Quarter.
You can find there the most important and sacred place for Muslim people – the Temple Mount. Unfortunately, tourists can visit only the Al-Aqsa Mosque. To the Dome of the Rock can enter only Muslim people.
The Temple Mount is the third sacred place for Muslim, behind Mecca and Medina. According to Muslim tradition, The Temple Mount is a place where the Prophet Mohammed made his “Night Journey” to the throne of God.
If you want to visit The Temple Mount you have to go to the Mughrabi Gate near the Western Wall. You can enter there for free, but The Temple Mount is open in a specific time so you should expect a long queue. You can visit it from Monday to Thursday. On summertime, it is open from 8.30 am to 11.30 am and 1.30 pm to 2.30 pm, whereas in winter time from 7.30 am to 10.30 am and 12.30 pm to 1:30 pm.
Remember that both women and men should be dressed properly.
In the Jewish District is located the most sacred place for Judaism – the Western Wall. It is an ancient wall, supposedly it is a remain of the Second Jewish Temple built by Herod the Great.
A lot of pilgrims come here to pray and write a prayer or request on a piece of paper and stick it in the wall.
Maybe you knew earlier that The Western Wall is divided into two parts: for men and a smaller part for women. Women, by contrast to men, can’t pray at loud, sing and read the Torah. If they break the rules they will be arrested and attack by Haredim. During your visit, you can observe behavior differences between women and men. A lot of Jewish men clothed in its characteristic black coats dance, sing, pray and read Torah at loud, kissing the wall. Some of them lean their forehead against the wall. The others move rhythmically. But women are silent.
If you want to visit Western Wall you should be dressed properly. Men have to wear a skull cap – it is possible to hire it in place. The Western Wall is opened 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and the entrance is for free.
This district offers for tourists less than three other quarters. You can wander through the Armenian Quarter street towards the Zion Gate, where behind the gate you can visit the Church of the Dormition, Mount Zion, and David’s Tomb.
Outside the old city of Jerusalem
Mount of Olives
The best view of the Temple Mount and the old part of Jerusalem stretches from Mount of Olives. The easiest way to get there leads through the Lions Gate in the Muslim Quarter. When you got past the gate you should turn right towards The Church of All Nations, also known as The Basilica of the Agony. Is located next to the Garden of Gethsemane, a place where Jesus has prayed before his arrest the night before his crucifixion.
Near to the Garden of Gethsemane, you can find The Church of Mary Magdalene – a Russian Orthodox church, dedicated to Mary Magdalene, the first who saw Christ after his resurrection.
At the top of Olives’ Mount is situated The Chapel of the Ascension, a place where according to traditional believes Jesus ascended into Heaven after his resurrection. There is a slab of stone, which contains one of Jesus footprints.
Next to The Chapel of the Ascension is located The Church of the Pater Noster, bible place where Jesus has has taught his Apostles the Lord’s Prayer. You can find there the plaques with The Lord’s Prayer in many languages. The church makes a huge impression.
Another worth visit place is the Roman Catholic church named Dominus Flevit. The church was built on a place, where according to Luke’s Evangel Jesus wept over the future fate of Jerusalem.
Mount of Olives Cementary
On the Mount of Olives, there is also the most ancient and most important Jewish cemetery in Jerusalem. It contains between 70,000 and 300,000 tombs, including the tombs of famous figures in Jewish history. You can observe that Jewish don’t put a light on the graves, but they put little stones or piece of parchment.
Mahane Yehuda Market
Outside the old part of Jerusalem, 15 minutes on foot you can get to the Mahane Yehuda Market. It’s a marketplace with more than 300 vendors. It’s located at two major streets: Eitz Chaim Street with the covered market and Mahane Yehuda Street with the open-air market. Around the market are situated bars, coffees and other places where citizens can meet each other. You can find them a lot of market stands full of seasoning, herbs, fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods, meat and cheeses, clothes and shoes etc.
The Mahane Yehuda Market is open every day, but on Friday evening, when starts the Sabbath, is closing and then you can admire outstanding artworks decorating walls, trash bins or the metal shutters and doors of the shops.
The next day we have woke up early and went to the bus station to take a bus to Masada fortress. Unfortunately, the bus was full and we had to wait 25 minutes for another bus.
Masada was the bastion of Jewish freedom fighters against the Romans. It was built by Herod, king of Judea as a palatial fortress in the style of the ancient Roman East. Masada is located on the eastern fringe of the Judean Desert, 450 meters above the sea level. It is about 650 meters long and 300 meters wide.
You can get to Masada by 3 ways: on the east by cable car or by the Snake Path (on foot), or on the west via Arad and the ramp path.
Masada National Park and Museum are open from April to September from 8 am. to 5 pm. and from October to March from 8 am. to 4 pm.
The entrance fee to Masada, including a two-way ticket for cable car costs 76 NIS. If you want to climb by Snake Path the entrance fee is 29 NIS. You can also buy a one-way ticket for a cable car, paying 29 NIS.
From fortress, you can admire astonishing views of the desert and the Dead Sea. I really recommend you to visit Masada, especially when the sun rises above the desert.
I have read a lot about an organized tour to Masada fortress, which goes from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Eventually, we visited it independently. If you want some additional information about this option, please contact me.
The Dead Sea
From Masada fortress, we went towards the Dead Sea to Ein Bokek. I have read that in Israel there are only two opened beaches.
It was an amazing adventure swimming in the Dead Sea and feeling that water is so salty and oiled. If you have some wounds, don’t be surprised that it will smart.
The Dead Sea is an endorheic salt lake, located in the Jordan Rift Valley. To the east, it bordered by Jordan and to the west by Israel and The West Bank. It’s one of the deepest hypersaline lakes in the world. Its salinity and density makes swimming or floating easily. You can’t drown.
Remember to take with you swimming shoes, because the Dead Sea is full of salt grains which can hurt your feet.
A lot of people visit the Dead Sea to take a mud bath. The sea attracts thousands of tourists, because of its health advantages. Salt and mud from the sea are used to create cosmetics.
The last night we spent in Tel Aviv. We arrived in the city at late hours, so we decided to rest and next day go to explore its attractions before our flight back to Poland.
Tel Aviv is a lively city, with many clubs, bars, and places where you can meet each other. It has own atmosphere.
We were wandering through the city, its attractions and worth see places trying to feel the climate.
I really liked the Jaffa – the oldest part of the city center. It’s an ancient port city in Israel, famous for its association with the biblical stories of Jonah, Solomon and Saint Peter. You can visit there a museum, churches, and monasteries or el mosque Al-Mahmudijja from XII century very popular among tourists. What I like the most is the view: from one side the old Jaffa and from another side the modern Tel Aviv with skyscrapers, promenade, and beaches.
Have you ever been to Israel? What did you visit? Share with us your opinion!