Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem: What to see and where to stay
Do you want to see the Old City of Jerusalem from above? Then go ahead from Jaffa Gate for a tour of the walls of the Old City. It costs around 20 ILS, and is cheaper for groups and children. The longest route is from the Jaffa Gate to the Lion’s Gate, 1.5 km. If you get tired you can get off at the New in 20 minutes or at Herod’s Gate in 50.
The Four Synagogues of the Jewish Quarter
This small complex of four Sephardic synagogues at 1 Mishmeret a Cohen Street is a must-see!
The heart of the Jewish quarter, the Ashkenazi Hurva synagogue, you can see it anyway, at least from the outside (of course, they will not let you in, the orthodox are a formidable force! Ask your guide). And then, the current Hurva is a twenty-first century remake. The real spirit of Judaism can be felt in these small, non-monumental synagogues built by the Ottoman authorities below the Islamic buildings. They still function as synagogues, and, interestingly, the Sephardim are also visited by Ashkenazim to pray. God is one.
Two of them had serious visitors. A woman sneaked in to pray at King David’s tomb, under Ottoman rule. The cowardly guard locked her in there and escaped, she wept in fear, and then David himself appeared to the unfortunate woman – and led her to the Middle Synagogue by an underground passage.
The synagogue of Elijah ha-Navi is not called that for nothing. One day, when there were almost no Jews in Jerusalem (dating is difficult because they were not there very regularly), they gathered on the eve of Yom Kippur (Judgment Day) to pray. But there was no quorum – there were only 9 of them, and the minyan (prayer) requires the presence of 10. They were rescued by an old man, who, after the minyan, disappeared from God knows where. Since then, there has been a chair in the synagogue, in case the prophet Eliyahu stops by again. This is version 0.2, the first one perished in a pogrom in 1948. And Eliyahu’s chair is also involved in the rite of circumcision – a child is placed on it. And before Passover, worshippers put up a chair, pour a glass of wine and open the doors: they say they’ve been waiting for you!
A political leader of Israel played on this tradition. Imagine a modern Jewish family sitting in front of the Passover table. The doorbell rings. A child runs to open the door. Behind the door is a shiny man in a suit and with presents…
The child, with round eyes:
Under the City: Beit Katros and the Vol Museum
Burned down during the time of the destruction of the Second Temple, the house of the family of Cohen Katros and the Vol Museum – several houses of the same time – are on Tiferet Israel Street, next to the synagogue of the same name. Go there: stunning archaeological finds and curious mosaics await you. And it’s so easy to imagine that just yesterday people lived there. Vessels with remnants of incense have been preserved. Not the perfume of a clergyman’s wife, but incense for the Temple!
Remember “the city hated by the procurator”? A look at Cardo Street, built by the Romans, might suggest one of the reasons Pilate hated Jerusalem: the haphazard tangle of narrow streets terrified and perplexed him. He was afraid of getting lost, perhaps.
The Romans built the city according to the principle of a military camp: from north to south we build a street Cardo (Latin for “axis”), perfectly straight, from east to west – Decumanus (here the root is “ten”, in the planning of the camp this passage separated the tenth cohort from the ninth).
Parallel rows of columns with Corinthian capitals, the remains of a sewer (Romans – no sewer? There are no such Romans), the local “casino” for legionaries, marked out for playing, the remains of the sidewalk and trading rows… The rows, however, survived the Romans: the Cardo is actively traded. You can buy a souvenir of the Jewish Quarter – we recommend a knitted kippah: useful if it’s chilly at home and your head gets cold. You can buy any kind of kippah you want – even one with a portrait of Batman on it.
And in general, on the subject of shopping, consult your guide. For example, with Svetlana – a wonderful local guide to the Old Town. She knows everything about the Jewish Quarter – and certainly will tell you where and what to buy at a price that does not turn a normal person into a procurator, who hates this city! You can book a fascinating tour here.
It takes about 20 minutes to get to the Wailing Wall on the Cardo.
The Wailing Wall
There are no crowds of weeping Jews here! There were, but a long time ago – mourning the destruction of the First and Second Temples. The Wailing Wall was the nickname given to it by the Arabs who were watching the spectacle. The Hebrew name for it is Kotel Ma’aravi (Western Wall). And it is not the wall of the destroyed Temple, but a fortification around the Temple Mount, built by King Herod.
If you are a believer (religion and confession are not important), write a note with a request to the Lord and after washing your hands (there you will see where to do it) put it in the Wall (try not to touch other notes). Do not turn away from the Wailing Wall immediately after praying and placing the note – at least walk a couple of meters away to face it.
If you are a non-believer and just interested in the sight – please, respect the feelings of believers. Last year, a young Belgian model, who brings beauty and freedom to the world through her naked breasts, had her picture taken on the roof of the Old City, against the Wailing Wall. Scandal. The girl was a hit. However, the year before she “gave people mental freedom from the authorities and religion” in Egypt, and in the same 2018, later, in Istanbul’s Sofia Cathedral, raising her hijab over… her lower body. All the words seem to be superfluous in her credo, except one – “mental” … Yes, these are free people, but don’t be like that.
- Guys to the left, girls to the right;
- If it’s hot and you’re a woman in revealing clothes – take a cape at the entrance, they’ll offer it for free. Men – take a kippah;
- Do not eat, laugh or talk too loudly;
- You can take photos and videos, but don’t disturb people’s prayers.
Today it is accessible only on weekdays from 08:00 to 10:00 a.m. unless you are a Muslim. The entrance is next to the entrance to the Wailing Wall, on the extreme right of the Garbage Gate. You have to wait in line and past the checkpoint. Clothing is closed as for the Wall. No need to wear a kippah! By the way, the attributes of any religion, if it is not Islam, too, should not be – the presence of a cross is unlikely to check, but if you have it weighs 1.5 pounds and hangs over your clothes. Do not take laptops or any recording devices. Do not pretend to be a Muslim – if they ask you to read a surah of the Koran, you’ll be burned. Do not try to get into mosques – non-believers will not be allowed.
The Golden Dome is Qubbat al-Sakhra, also known as the Dome of the Rock. There once was the Holy of Holies of the Temple of Jerusalem with the Cornerstone, from which God began the creation of the world. There is also a Muslim shrine – the rock from where the prophet Muhammad took off into the sky. He even left a footprint and lost three hairs (now they are relics of the Dome of the Rock). And ascended. How about that, Elon Musk.
The gray dome is actually the place where Muhammad – again, by air, on the aircon Burak – flew in from Mecca to pray. This is Al-Aqsa, once the prayer house of Caliph Umar. It has grown over the centuries, been destroyed twice by earthquakes and rebuilt again. You can see it. From the outside. But be careful – it bites…
Sadly, the Islamists of today have turned an innocent temple into a “house of evil” – a symbol of religious intolerance. It is ridiculous: they regard the archaeological excavations on the Temple Mount as an attempt to bring Al-Aqsa down. It is not at all funny when a religious fanatic approaches a Jewish activist and says: “I’m sorry, but you are the enemy of al-Aqsa. And shoots him at point-blank range. There was a precedent.
Where to stay in the Jewish Quarter
Experienced travelers advise newcomers to settle in the Jewish Quarter: it is quiet and peaceful.
We’ve picked some great options for you:
- Jewish Quarter Jerusalem Apartments at 4 Beit El is located in an old building with a patio. It has a living room, bedroom, small kitchen with microwave and kettle and a bathroom with shower and hairdryer. The interior is very cozy, homely. Wi-Fi is free. The hostess’s name is Tzipora, languages spoken other than Hebrew are English and French. The Wailing Wall is no more than 400 meters away. Follow this link to book the apartment.
- The Sephardic House welcomes guests 24/7 and is located near Zion Gate. It has all the amenities, including a TV with cable channels, a shared terrace, a lounge and a game room. Cleanliness, nice peaceful interior of the rooms, lots of positive reviews. The Sephardic Home is 550 meters from the Wailing Wall. If you wish, you can book a hotel room here .
All accommodation options in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem can be found here .
Arriving in Jerusalem and checking into a hotel? Then go ahead and see something new! Get more acquainted with the Old city will help you local guides who are happy to lead tours in Russian and tell you and show you the most interesting things. Find a suitable tour and sign up for this link.
Just remember: it is not a good time to walk around the Jewish Quarter – the Sabbath. Anything can be out of order, as long as it is Jewish.