This walking tour, which might take up 3-4 hours, leads you through modern Jerusalem. That ‘modern’ Jerusalem is relative, because we are talking from the year 1860! Anyway, you will visit all the major interesting sights from ‘modern’ Jerusalem on foot. As usual, print out this page or at least the maps. This walking tour is guide-less, but it would enhance your pleasure to get the guide anyway.
By the 1860s the Old City had become overcrowded, and the need for more space gave rise to a period of unrestricted building activity outside the walls. The earliest developments, such as Yemin Moshe, Nakhalat Shiva and Mea Shearim, were Jewish
community projects or, like the Russian Compound, intended to cater for Holy Land pilgrims. The architecture of the new city became increasingly eclectic as colonial builders imported their own national styles. As a result, exotic features such as Muscovite domes and Florentine towers form the backdrop to the equally multi-cultural bustle on the streets of the modern city.
24 King David St. Map 1 A4. Tel 972-2-569-2692. Open: 8am–6pm daily.
Built in 1926–33 by Arthur Loomis Harmon, who also created New York’s Empire State Building, Jerusalem’s YMCA is one of the city’s best-known landmarks. It consists of three sections – the central body, dominated by a bell tower offering extraordinary views of the city, and the two side wings. The stone and wrought-iron decorative elements on the outside of the building, including the 5-m (16.5-ft) bas-relief of one of the six-winged seraphim described in the Old Testament (Isaiah 6:2–3), reflect a stylized form of Oriental Byzantine design, combined with elements of Romanesque and Islamic art.
Yet the exterior, splendid as it is, does not prepare the visitor for the fabulously elaborate decor on the inside. Here design elements from three different cultures are woven through with symbols from the three main monotheistic religions.
In the concert hall, the dome’s twelve windows represent the Twelve Tribes of Israel, the Twelve Disciples of Christ and the Twelve Followers of Muhammad, while depicted on the chandelier are the Cross, Crescent and the Star of David.
The entire creation has a kind of Art Deco gloss, while the ethos of its eclectic design is clearly one of peace and tolerance between faiths and cultures.
King David Hotel 2
23 King David St. Tel 972-2-620-8888.
Eye-catching not least for its pink stone walls and green windows, this impressive 1930s hotel is a grandiose display of colonial architecture. It was designed by Swiss architect Emile Vogt for the Jewish-Egyptian Mosseri family.
Inside, the spacious lobbies and public areas, with their discreet period wooden furnishings, reflect a sense of splendor from an altogether different era. The richly
ornamental style is achieved through a mixture of various ancient architectural and
decorative elements, including Egyptian, Phoenician, Assyrian and Greek, as well as aspects of Islamic art. The hotel boasts an impressive list of former guests, including Winston Churchill and Haile Selassie and for a long time, part of the British Mandate administration was housed here. In 1946 it was the target of a bomb attack perpetrated by the Zionist paramilitary terrorist group Irgun, led by Menachem Begin. It was rebuilt and the two top floors were added later.
There is much more history here with this VIP hotel, but you must ask Wim the guide tell you the interesting and juicy parts of it.
Jerusalem Time Elevator 3
Beit Agron, 37 Hillel St. Tel 972-2-625-2227. Open 10am–8pm Thu–Sun.
On the southern edge of the neighborhood of Nakhalat Shiva, this is a theme park-style ride through 3,000 years of Jerusalem’s often-turbulent history.
The audience is belted into their seats and given surround-sound headphones for an audiovisual journey enhanced by computer-generated animation and other special effects. It begins in the times of King David and Solomon, and rattles through dramatic highlights of conquest, destruction, earthquake and fire, ending with the Six Day War of 1967 and reunification.
The special “motion” seats jolt and sway through the experience, which culminates in an “aerial” ride over the Jerusalem of today. It is a useful introduction to the city’s complicated chronology, especially if visited in conjunction with the Tower of David Museum at the Citadel – buy a discounted joint ticket. The ride lasts about 30 minutes, with shows at 40-minute intervals. It is not recommended if you do not enjoy roller coasters (like Wim the guide).
Ben Yehuda and Nakhalat Shiva 4
At the heart of modern Jerusalem are the pedestrianized precincts of Ben Yehuda Street and Nakhalat Shiva. They constitute one of the liveliest parts of the city, with shops, restaurants, street vendors and musicians coming together to create a rich and varied atmosphere. In the minds of local people, Ben Yehuda Street and Nakhalat Shiva are the embodiment of secular Jerusalem. The contrast with the Orthodox city, just a short distance to the north in Mea Shearim, could not be more marked.
Ben Yehuda Street was built in the 1920s, and has since been the traditional meeting place for Jewish intellectuals, politicians and journalists. South of Ben Yehuda Street is a series of narrow lanes, with low houses and connecting courtyards. These are collectively known as Nakhalat Shiva, meaning “the Domain of the Seven”, which refers to the seven families who built them. Dating back to 1869, this area was the third Jewish residential quarter to appear outside the Old City walls.
Despite being threatened with demolition on more than one occasion, the area was finally renovated in the 1980s. Today it is filled with shops, workshops, bars, restaurants and cafés and is invariably busy until the early hours.
Other streets in this locality also have much to interest the visitor. Buildings of varied architectural styles reflect the diverse cultural influences that have shaped the city.
Italian Synagogue 5
27 Hillel St. Tel 972-2-624-1610. Open 9am–5pm Sun, Tue, Wed, 9am–2pm Mon, 9am– 1pm Thu, Fri. Jewish hols. Website: http://www.jija.org
Originally a German college constructed in the late 19th century, this building now houses an 18th-century synagogue from Conegliano Veneto, near Venice in Italy. In 1952, with no more Jews living there, the synagogue had fallen into disuse. It was
decided to dismantle the interior and bring it here. It is arguably the most beautiful
synagogue in Israel, and on Saturdays and Jewish holidays the Italian-Jewish community worships here. The building also houses the Museum of Italian-Jewish Art, which has some fascinating items, such as medieval ritual objects. On the lower floor is the Center of Studies on Italian Judaism and a library on the same subject.
Ticho House 6
9 Ha-Rav Kook St. Tel 972-2-624-5068. Museum open 10am–5pm Sun,Mon, Wed & Thu, 10am–10pm Tue, 10am–2pm Fri.¢ Jewish hols.
Built in the 19th century as the luxurious residence of a wealthy Jerusalem family, this is one of the city’s loveliest examples of an Arab mansion. Its large central drawing room is the focal point of both the architecture and the social life of the building. In the early 20th century the house was bought by Dr Abraham Ticho, a famous Jewish ophthalmologist who used to give the poor free treatment, irrespective of their ethnic origin or religion. Dr Ticho’s Viennese wife, Anna, was an artist. By day the house was a clinic and by night it was the centre of Jerusalem’s social and intellectual life.
Nowadays the house is administered by the Israel Museum, to which Anna Ticho left more than 2,000 watercolors and drawings. Some of these are exhibited here. The house also has a charming and very popular café overlooking a delightful garden.
New City Hall 7
Jaffa Rd. Tel 972-2-629-7777 Open 8:30am–4pm Sun–Thu, 8:30am–noon Fri.
Completed in 1993, the New City Hall complex is sited just outside the Old City walls, where Jewish West Jerusalem meets Arab East Jerusalem. Its architecture displays an appropriate spirit of synthesis – the complex includes ten renovated historical buildings, along with two modern blocks that refer subtly to historical models (for example, the banding of different colored stone echoes the Mameluke
buildings of the Old City).
One of the renovated buildings, on Jaffa Road, is the old City Hall. It is still pocked with bullet holes from its days as a front line Israeli army post when, between 1948 and 1967, the city was divided.
Russian Compound 8
The Russians were some of the first people to settle outside the Old City in the 19th century. The process began around 1860 when a few acres of land were acquired a short distance outside the city walls. The Russians built a virtually self-contained compound to provide lodgings for the city’s growing number of Russian pilgrims, and erected a cathedral for services. Consecrated in 1864, the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (see also Orthodox Churches in Israel and the 120 minutes Walking tour in West Jerusalem) is fashioned in an unmistakably Muscovite style, with eight drums topped by green domes.
Unfortunately, it is closed to the public. Across the plaza, under a pavement grille, is what is known as Herod’s Column, a 12-m (40-ft) stone pillar, which historians believe was intended for the Second Temple before it cracked and was abandoned. These days the Russians own only the cathedral, as many of the other buildings belonging to the compound were sold off by the Soviet Union in exchange for shipments of Israeli oranges.
The building with the crenelated tower – the grandest of the former pilgrims’ hostels – is now home to the Agriculture Ministry. The street on which it stands, Heleni ha-Malka, is one of the city’s nightlife centers, filled with bars and cafés.
The former women’s hostel, behind the cathedral, now houses the Underground Prisoners’ Museum 1918–48, which is dedicated to Jewish resistance fighters, some of whom were jailed in this building during the period of the British Mandate.
Ha-Neviim Street 9
One of the oldest streets outside the Old City, Ha-Neviim (Street of the Prophets) roughly marks the dividing line between the religious and secular halves of modern Jerusalem (ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim lies just to the north;the drinking and dining scene of the Russian Compound is to the south). Once a prestigious address, Ha-Neviim is lined with some grand buildings. At No. 58 is Thabor House, the self-designed home of Conrad Schick, a German who arrived in the Holy Land a Protestant missionary and became the city’s most renowned architect of the late 19th century. The house now belongs to the Swedish Theological Institute, but visitors can admire the eccentric fortress-like main gate. Someone will usually answer the bell and admit the curious into the courtyard to admire the building’s façade, complete with embedded archaeological finds.
A few steps west at No. 64 is the house once occupied by the Victorian painter William Holman Hunt. It is now a private residence and closed to the public. A couple of minutes’ walk to the north, along narrow, leafy Etyopya Street, is Ben Yehuda House, named after the man responsible for reviving popular usage of the
Hebrew language. This was his residence in the early years of the 20th century.
A little further up the lane is the striking, round form of the Ethiopian Church, which sits in beautifully tended gardens. It was built between 1873 and 1911, and is modeled after churches in Ethiopia, with its sanctuary clearly separated from the main body of the church. Just five minutes’ walk away, back on Ha-Neviim Street, the Ethiopians also have their consulate. It is notable for a vivid blue and gold mosaic on the facade depicting the Lion of Judah.
Italian Hospital 10
Corner of Ha-Neviim and Shivtei Yisrael Sts.
The grandest building of all on Ha-Neviim Street is the Italian Hospital. It was built just before World War I to underscore Italian presence in the Holy City, at a time when the colonial powers were using architecture to assert their influence and status.
Designed by prolific architect Antonio Barluzzi, the hospital is clearly inspired by the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. The building now houses the Ministry of Education.
Mea Shearim 11
Possibly the most unusual district in all Jerusalem, Mea Shearim is a perfectly
preserved, living model of 18th-century Jewish Eastern Europe. It is a quarter inhabited exclusively by ultra-Orthodox Jews, where the influence of the outside
world is kept to an absolute minimum. Dress is traditional in the extreme; many men wear black stockings and long black coats, and women keep their hair covered beneath a snood. The streets either side of main Meah Shearim Street are narrow alleyways, which squeeze between long, narrow two-story dwellings, occasionally opening out into washing’s trewn communal courtyards. The area is completely self contained, with its own bakeries, markets, synagogues and, although no longer in use, its own huge cistern.
Mea Shearim was founded in the late 19th century and built in three stages, to a design by Conrad Schick, for Jews from Poland and Lithuania. Until well into this century the quarter was shut off from the rest of the city each night by six gates. The gates are gone but visitors should bear in mind that this is still a very insular
community. Skirts should reach below the knee, and men must not wear shorts or T-shirts. Discretion is advised when taking photographs.
Northwest of Mea Shearim is the Bukharan Quarter, founded in the late 19th century by wealthy Central Asian Jews. Traces of its former grandeur remain in some elegant, if dilapidated, mansions.
Solomon’s Quarries 12
Sultan Suleyman St. Open 9am–4pm Sun–Thu, 9am–2pm Fri.
This is an enormous empty cave stretching under the Old City, with its entrance at the foot of the wall between Damascus and Herod’s gates. Despite the popular name, historians are not convinced that the cave has any connection with Solomon, but it is likely that Herod took stone from here for his many building projects, including his modification of the Second Temple.
The quarry is also known as Zedekiah’s cave, after the last king of Judaea who, legend has it, hid here during the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 586 BC.
Garden Tomb 13
Conrad Schick St. Tel 972-2-627-2745. Open 5:30pm Mon–Thu. Website: http://www.gardentomb.com
Towards the end of the 19th century the British general, Charles Gordon, of Khartoum fame, was visiting Jerusalem and started a dispute among archaeologists. He argued that this skull-shaped hill was the Golgotha referred to in the New Testament (Mark 15: 22) and that the real burial site of Jesus Christ was here and
not at the Holy Sepulchre. Excavations carried out in 1883 did in fact unearth some ancient tombs, but further study found them to date back to the 9th–7th century BC, with an entirely different configuration from those in use in Christ’s time. However, regardless of its authenticity, this place is well worth a visit if only for
the lovely garden.
St Etienne Monastery 14
Nablus Rd. Tel 972-2-626-4468. Open all day, but ring the bell.
The name of this site relates to the belief that in AD 439 Cyril of Alexandria interred the remains of St Stephen (St Etienne in French), the first Christian martyr, in a basilica built on this spot. The basilica was destroyed by the Persians in AD 614, and a subsequent 7th-century chapel on the same site was also destroyed, this time by the Crusaders holding Jerusalem, who feared Saladin would use it as a base for assaults on the city.
The present monastery was built between 1891 and 1901 by the French Dominicans. Its eclectic design includes an Oriental tower, Romanesque walls and Neo-Gothic flying buttresses. Within are remains of the mosaic floor of the original Byzantine church, as well as the Ecole Biblique, the Holy Land’s first school of biblical archaeology.
St George’s Cathedral 15
53 Nablus Rd. Tel 972-2-628-3261. Not generally open for visitors so call first.
This Archetypal Middle England church, with its pretty, cloistered courtyard and connotations of vicars, tweeds and cucumber sandwiches, stands in startling contrast to the chaotic Arab streets of its East Jerusalem neighborhood.
The cathedral dates from 1910 and is named for the patron saint of England, who was actually a Palestinian conscript in the Roman army, executed in AD 303 for tearing up a copy of the emperor Diocletian’s decree forbidding Christianity. He is supposedly buried at Lod (ancient Lydda), now better known as the site of Ben Gurion airport.
In World War I the cathedral was the local headquarters of the Turkish army, and the 1917 truce sanctioning British presence in Palestine was signed in the bishop’s quarters.
Kings’ Tombs 16
Salah ed-Din St. Open: 8am–5pm Mon–Sat.
Despite the name, this single but elaborate tomb is thought to have been that of Queen Helena of Adiabene. In the 1st century AD she converted to Judaism and moved to Jerusalem from her kingdom in Mesopotamia. The tomb was named by early explorers who believed that the magnificent tomb housed members of the dynasty of David. A small entrance leads down into a dimly lit maze of chambers with stone doors.
American Colony Hotel 17
2 Louis Vincent St. Tel 972-2-627-9777.
This elegant hotel built in 1865–76 has long been a favorite of diplomats and journalists. It started life as the home of a rich Turkish merchant. The name American Colony came about in the late 19th century when Anna and Horatio Spafford of Chicago bought the building and made it the center of an American religious community dedicated to good works. When the community broke up in the early 20th century, a Baron Ustinov, related to the actor Peter Ustinov, suggested converting the building to accommodate pilgrims to the Holy Land. Soon after, it was turned into a beautiful hotel, which it remains today. If you cannot afford to stay here, it is definitely worth coming for lunch, taken out in the tree shaded courtyard.
This museum was made possible by a substantial financial gift made in 1927 by the American oil magnate John D Rockefeller. British architect Austin Harrison designed the building along Neo-Gothic lines. It is vaguely reminiscent of the Alhambra in Spain and runs around a central courtyard. Constructed from the white stone typical of Jerusalem buildings, the Rockefeller has Byzantineand Islamic-type decorative motifs. It was once one of the most important museums in the Middle East and the first to make a systematic collection of finds from the Holy Land. These days, it is a branch of the Israel Museum, but still houses a very impressive collection.
Other exhibits worth seeing include a fascinating portrait modeled on an 8,000-year-old cranium discovered in Jericho; a lovely Bronze Age bull’s head; a Canaanite vase in the shape of a human head; sculptures from the time of the Crusades; and Hellenistic and Roman objects found in Judaean desert caves. The museum also holds a number of the Dead Sea Scrolls.