Top Attractions in Jerusalem
9 February 2021
Will you be travelling to Israel soon? And are you planning to visit Jerusalem? Then make sure you do not miss these ten places during your city trip to Jerusalem.
1. HOLY SEPULCHRE CHURCH
The Holy Sepulchre Church is a Christian church in Jerusalem. This church is also called the Church of the Resurrection because it was built on the spot where Christ was crucified, buried and resurrected, according to tradition. The Holy Sepulcher is located in this church. Since the 4th century, this has been an important place of pilgrimage. Several churches have stood on this spot, which were lost during wars and fires. The present church was built in 1149 in early Gothic style. It is worth visiting: the church is beautiful on the inside. Please note that visitors must wear covered clothes. This will be monitored.
2. TEMPLE MOUNT – AL AQSA MOSQUE
On the famous Temple Mount, on the southern side, you will find the Al-Aqsa Mosque. This mosque in Byzantine style belongs to one of the most holy places of Islam. Only the Ka’aba in Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina are more holy. Fun fact: the dome of the mosque is not made of gold, but silver. Several mosques have been built on this spot, the original one was made of wood. Three times a severe earthquake hit this place and each time it was quickly rebuilt. Unfortunately, it is not possible for non-Muslims to enter the mosque. However, the Temple Mount is open for visits, but only between certain hours in the morning and afternoon.
3. WESTERN WALL
The Western Wall (or ‘Wailing Wall’) is the most holy place for the Jews. For them, this place symbolizes the centuries-long longing for a state in which belief in Yahweh is central. It has become the most well-known symbol of the Jews, both symbolizing the suffering of the Jewish people and the promise of recovery. In addition, the Western Wall is the only remaining part of the Second Temple: it is part of the wall built around the Second Temple by Herod in 20 BC. In 70 A.D., Titus saved this part of the wall to show future generations the greatness of the Roman army. The wall consists of huge stone blocks. During Roman times, Jews were forbidden to enter Jerusalem. However, in Byzantine times, once a year – on the anniversary of the destruction of the Temple – they were allowed to visit this place to mourn the dispersion of their people and the destruction of the Temple. That is how this wall got its name, the ‘Western Wall’.
This annual tradition lasted for centuries until 1948. From that year until 1967, Jews were not allowed to go near the wall to pray, because the wall was located in the Jordanian part of Jerusalem. After the Six Day War, the Western Wall became a place of national joy and also again a place of worship. A large square was built in front of the wall to accommodate the thousands of believers who came to pray at the Western Wall. Pious Jews hid small papers (also called Kvittelchen) in the joints between the square blocks, of which the text was only meant for the eyes of God. Head covering is obligated when visiting this wall as the square in front of it is considered a synagogue. Men and women have a separate section here. Kippahs for gentlemen are available here.
View on the Western Wall
4. VIA DOLOROSA
The Via Dolorosa (since 1250) is the path that Jesus is said to have walked when he carried his cross on the way from the place of judgement, through Pontius Pilate to the hill where he was crucified and buried. In 14 stations, the events that took place on this way of suffering are commemorated by the Roman Catholic Church. Nine of these are based on the Gospel and five on tradition. The first two events are located inside Antonia Fortress, seven of them in the streets and the last five in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Every year at Easter, thousands of believers walk these stations of the cross through the narrow alleys of the old city of Jerusalem. The strongest men carry a wooden cross. This tradition is very impressive to see.
5. THE MOUNT OF OLIVES
The Mount of Olives is a mountain eastward of Jerusalem and has a height of 827 meters. This mountain owes its name to the olive trees that grow here. Many Biblical events are said to have taken place on this mountain. For example, at the foot of Mount Gethsemane lies the place where, according to Christian tradition, Jesus was handed over to the Romans. In the Tanakh, the Mount of Olives is mentioned twice: once as a place on the route of King David, who fled from Jerusalem for his son, and once in the prophecies of Zechariah.
In the New Testament this mountain is mentioned much more often. The road from Jerusalem to Bethany passed over this mountain, and Jesus often stayed on this mountain to rest and teach his disciples. The Mount of Olives is mentioned as the place from which God will begin to raise all the dead to life at the end of time. This is recorded in the Biblical book Zechariah. This is why this mountain became a popular burial place for Jews from Jerusalem. Today it is still in use as a cemetery, it is estimated that there are about 150,000 graves here.
Graves of the Mount of Olives
6. THE HURVA SYNAGOGUE
The Hurva synagogue is located in the Jewish district of the Old City in Jerusalem. Construction for this synagogue began in 1700 by Ashkenazi Jews from Poland. This place had to become a new centerpiece for the growing Jewish community in the city. Unfortunately, the construction did not go as expected: after the building was set on fire in 1721 by Arabs, there was even a ban on construction. In 1836, construction continued with the help of the Rothschild family, and in 1856 the very first domed synagogue was finally built. It was one of the largest buildings in Jerusalem that could be seen from afar.
The Hurva Synagogue was even the main synagogue of the city until 1948, when Jordanian troops destroyed it during the Arab-Israeli War. After 1967, when the Jewish Quarter was recaptured by Israel and Jordan during the Six-Day War, plans were emerged to rebuild the synagogue. However, this plan was not realized at the time: only the 16-metre-high great arch of the synagogue was reconstructed in 1977. It was not until 2005 that the final decision was made to rebuild the entire synagogue. The synagogue was consecrated again in March 2010 and it can now be visited by tourists.
At the foot of the Mount of Olives lies the Garden of Gethsemane. This garden is famous because it is believed that Jesus prayed here on the night before his crucifixion. In the New Testament it is written that Jesus regularly visited this place with his disciples, which made it easy for Judas to find him that night. Before his arrest, Jesus prayed together with his three best friends because he was terrified. In addition, according to the tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church, this place is the garden where the Virgin Mary was buried and was taken up to heaven after she fell asleep on Mount Zion.
Gethsemane became a popular place of pilgrimage for Christian pilgrims very early on. There are four places on the Mount of Olives that people think might have been the garden. These places are now a place of pilgrimage. The ancient olive trees were believed to date back to the time of Jesus. Currently, it is said that they are up to 900 years old. To protect these trees, the Franciscans built a higher wall around them. The present wall dates from 1959.
The Garden of Gethsemane
On the West Bank lies the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, the birthplace of King David and Jesus. The city lies about 10 kilometres below Jerusalem and has some important sights, such as the Church of the Nativity and the Grotto of the Nativity. It is believed that Jesus was born in the 12 metres long and 3 metres wide cave. The cave can be reached by stairs in the Church of the Nativity. Around this church, various religious groups have placed religious buildings, such as a Roman Catholic church, a mosque and a Greek Orthodox monastery. On the square of the Church of the Nativity, you will also find the Bethlehem Museum.
To enter the Church of the Nativity, visitors have to pass through a very small door, also called the ‘Door of Humility’. Whoever wishes to visit the birthplace of Jesus, will have to bow down for Him like the shepherds and the wise men did. That is the story behind this small door. In addition, this door must have been very practical back in time, because one cannot simply enter with many people at the same time. There are dozens of other churches and monasteries to visit in Bethlehem. Other sights that must be seen are the King David’s Wells, the Shepherd’s Field, the Milk Grotto, where Mary is said to have fed Jesus, and Rachel’s Tomb.
9. ISRAEL MUSEUM
The Israel Museum is the largest cultural institution in Israel, founded in 1965. Near the Israeli Parliament you will find this extraordinary architectural building. There are four wings here: the art wing, the archaeological wing, the children’s wing and the Judaica and Jewish ethnography section. This museum is very strong in diversity and also fun for children because of the interactive elements. In addition, this museum has a sculpture garden where tourists can admire beautiful sculptures and other modern works from all over the world. The museum gives an insight into the past of the Holy Land. Some objects are even 1.5 million years old. The world-famous Dead Sea Scrolls are stored here: these scrolls were very important for the research of the original text of the Old Testament. The Israel Museum is very diverse and interesting visit.
10. YAD VASHEM
Yad Vashem (or Jad Wasjem) is the largest Holocaust memorial in Israel and is located on the Memorial Mount on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The new Yad Vashem museum opened in 2005. Visitors can walk here through nine galleries with interactive historical displays and countless photographs, movies, letters, personal objects, documents and art works found in the ghettos and camps. These represent the Holocaust. A visit to this museum is not ‘fun’ by definition, but we recommend all our travelers to go to this impressive place!
You could choose to spend one or two hours in the museum, or you could stay for a whole day. This is up to the visitor. Guided tours are available as well as audio tours, but we think the best way to experience this museum is at your own pace.
Yad Vashem consists of several parts. Below we describe some of these impressive sites:
1. Visitor Centre: The glass and concrete entrance of the visitor centre is intended as a place of orientation, information, reception and gathering. On the floor below, open to the view of the valley, are service desks, a café, restrooms and more.
2. Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations: Around the museum you will find trees planted in honor of non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Next to these trees are plaques with the names and countries of origin of the honored people.
3. Holocaust Art Museum: The new Holocaust Art Museum displays the world’s largest collection of art made in ghettos, camps, shelters and other places where artistic endeavor was almost impossible. These works reflect the spirit of the victims and survivors.
4. The Exhibition Pavilion: This place contains various thematic, historical and art exhibitions. These exhibitions give you a new perspective on the outer and inner worlds of Shoah victims.
5. Hall of Remembrance: This is one of the most impressive places of Yad Vashem. It is a tent-like building where visitors can pay their respects to the murdered people. When you look at the floor, you will see the names of 22 Nazi-, concentration- and transit camps, as well as murder sites. These were chosen from the hundreds of murder sites that existed throughout Europe. A memorial flame is always lit here, next to a crypt containing the ashes of victims from these camps.
6. Pillar of Heroism: This pillar commemorates the Jewish resistance during the Holocaust. The inscription on the concrete block reads: “Now and forever in memory of those who rebelled in the camps and ghettos, fought in the woods, in the underground and with the Allied forces; braved their way to Eretz Israel; and those who died sanctifying the name of God.”
7. Children’s Memorial: This unique monument has been hollowed out of an underground cave. It is a tribute to the approximately 1.5 million Jewish children who passed during the Holocaust. The names of the murdered children, as well as their country of origin and age, sound in the background.
8. Monument to the Jewish Soldiers and Partisans who fought against Nazi Germany: About 1.5 million Jews fought against the Nazi’s, as Allied soldiers, as partisans, in the resistance movements and in the ghettos. This memorial is dedicated to the hundreds of thousands who lost their lives in this struggle.
9. Cattle Car – Memorial to the Deportees: This is a memorial to the millions of Jews who were transported on cattle cars from Europe to the death camps. At the centre of the memorial site is an original German cattle car given to Yad Vashem by the Polish authorities. On the adjacent wall is the testimony of survivor Abraham Krzepicki.
Would you like to travel to Israel? Here you can find more inspiration for your trip to Israel.