Things to see in Jerusalem city.
Jerusalem is an exceptional city, certainly a place of contrasts and highly rich in history, which is written every day. With only a short distance to Bethlehem, you may not miss the opportunity to see the place where Jesus was born. There is a wall between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, which is located in the Occupied Territories of Palestine.
Before you start exploring the city it is good to know Jerusalem city is divided into 4 major quarters: Christian, Moslem, Armenian and Jewish, see the map. Going from Yad Vashem museum to see the beautiful Dome of the Rocks you are entering the muslim quarter of the city and you would need to go through check point. Technically you are entering another country, because half of Jerusalem belongs to Palestine. Both Israel and Palestine claim Jerusalem as their capital.
Public transport in Jerusalem and Israel
Public transport in Israel is very well developed. First thing you should do when landing in Israel is buying a transport card and charging it in one of the kiosks. Sometimes it can be difficult to find them. I would recommend to charge the card whenever you see a kiosk to have enough credits for few days. Green card entitles you to use any kind of transport in Israel – long distance buses, city buses, trains and trams.
In the public transportation you only tap the card inside buses and trams. I observed elder people are highly respected, so be prepared you will be immediately asked to give a seat if an older person gets in.
However, when a girl with a small baby was trying to get in, nobody made an effort to make a space in the crowded tram. I couldn’t believe my eyes! There are many differences in each district of the city. On the muslim side you are allowed to smoke almost everywhere, so be prepared there will be people smoking in the restaurant and other public places!
Tram line No. 1 in Jerusalem is extremely useful when sightseeing the city. It takes you to the two archeological and historical sites you can’t miss to visit – Yad Vashem and the Old Town. The Western Wall is and Dome of the Rock. The bus stops are very well visible and there’s a map and timetable on each of them. Ticket machines are usually located behind tram tops. Single ticket is 5.90 Shekels.
One of the best things to see in Jerusalem is Temple Mount – Dome of the Rock
- Dome of the Rock – the oldest existing Islamic monument, a beautiful mosque (near Damascus Gate – last tram stop). The Western Wall, both located in Temple Mount near the old city of Jerusalem. Temple Mount is the third holiest site in Islam just after Mecca and Medina. From Damascus Gate you will walk around 15 minutes through a long street market to reach the Western Wall. Dome of the Rock is the major matter of conflict between Arab and Israeli world. The entrance is free but there are strict opening hours, in winter the place closes at 2 pm. It is also inaccessible on Muslims holidays. It is always advised to dress properly to avoid problems at the entrance. No tight trousers or uncovered shoulders are allowed. I was stopped and given a long skirt instead. But it is very possible you will be judged on the basis of your outfit and if it’s really offensive you will not be offered any cover and refused entrance. I heard it from number of people so take it as a true story. Head cover is not necessary. Non-muslims are not allowed to enter the mosque. 10 minutes ahead of 2 pm security will remind you to face the exit to leave. And it wasn’t a gentle reminder. Strict rules apply.
- Western Wall in the Old town of Jerusalem. A place of prayer and pilgrimage sacred to the Jewish people, built 2000 years ago. Best time to visit is Friday night, just before beginning of Shabbat.
Mount of Olives.
A Russian Orthodox church of Mary Magdalene is located on the Mount of Olives, near the Garden of Gethsemane in East Jerusalem. There are many stunning historical treasures: Chapel of the Ascension, Mary’s Tomb and Church and Dominus Flevit Church.
Old Town of Jerusalem.
Take a walk through the Old city located around the Dome of the Rock and Western Wall to admire an amazing Arabic architecture and bright yellow colour buildings. Google maps might not show tiny streets but there are actually many more pathways in the area. The buildings of the Sanctuary of the Flagellation and the Chapel of the Condemnation are related to the memory of Jesus’ Passion.
Yad Vashem Musem, Jerusalem.
Yad Vashem Musem – a memorial to the victims of Holocaust. Major part is dedicated to Polish history, together with Warsaw Ghetto Square – Wall of Remembrance. This World Holocaust Remembrance Centre is a huge complex of historical display. Exhibition occupies 4200 square metres, so you may spend few hours exploring the place. I recommend buying a map of the museum, it’s only 12 shekels. The entrance is free! The Hall of Names is the most popular part of the museum, where names and personal details of millions of victims have been recorded on Pages of Testimony and preserved in the Hall of Names.
How to get to Bethlehem from Jerusalem.
It’s very easy to get to Bethlehem from Jerusalem. You would need to get to Damascus Gate and take a bus no 231. Buses run quite often, as there are many people traveling. If you are in the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem you can take local bus no 1 but be prepared it is like it will run late (I waited an hour) and it’s very crowded! Bus 231 drives an hour to Bethlehem – the city is on Palestinian side but surprisingly it didn’t drive through any check points.
Christmas Eve in Bethlehem.
Once you get off from the bus no 231 you need only half an hour to reach the main square – Manger, where Church of Nativity is located. There’s going to be a lot of taxis eager to take you for 15 shekels. So if you are short of time it’s good to take shared taxi. Read a separate past about my incredible experience on Christmas in Bethlehem.