If you’re planning a trip to Israel, you’re also probably planning to stay in Jerusalem for a few nights! Jerusalem is unique for so many reasons, both historically and in modern times, and you will get so much out of your trip to Israel and the Holy Land by just being there. But, as you know, it’s always helpful to know a few things before you go. So here you have it: The short list of things to know before you visit Jerusalem!
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It’s a Holy City for Three Faiths
It’s true: Jews, Muslims, and Christians all consider Jerusalem to an important, holy city in their faiths. All three religions worship the same God and share elements of the same background, so it makes sense that they would share this in common, too.
Unfortunately, the “love your neighbor” aspect of all three faiths is not on its best display here. Jerusalem is one of the most hotly contested areas in the world. It’s entirely safe to visit because: 1. It’s holy to everyone who wants it, so no one wants to see it destroyed; and 2. It’s almost entirely dependent on tourism, so no one wants to hurt the tourists!
You’ll Need to Dress Modestly
You, and everyone around you, will be more comfortable if you dress conservatively here. You don’t need to wear a head covering or a nun’s habit, but longer dresses (below the knee), sleeves (short sleeves are okay, but 3/4 or full sleeves are better), and higher necklines (maybe button up one more spot) are all appropriate. Women will want to bring a scarf with them to cover their heads in some religious sites, but in general, no one expects the tourists to dress too out-of-character. But seriously, cover up, y’all.
It’s a Good Home Base for Some Day Trips
It is possible to stay in Jerusalem your whole trip and see a lot. You could spend 2-3 days exploring Jerusalem alone! You can also take a day trip to see Bethlehem and Jericho. Or take a longer day and see Jesus’ baptismal site, the Dead Sea Scroll Caves, Ein Gedi, Masada, and the Dead Sea all in one day. Or take a half-day trip to the Valley of Elah, where David fought Goliath. It’s even possible to take a day trip to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem if you like.
I do not, however, recommend trying to visit Galilee, Nazareth, Caesarea, Eilat, Haifa, or the Negev Desert on day trips. These are all worthwhile places to see and visit, but distances and drive times will be longer than you think! It’s best to stay a night or two in a few of these places and plan your trip accordingly. Otherwise, you’ll end up with very long days and more time in the car than you could spend at each site!
Great day trip: 5 Things to Know Before You Visit Bethlehem
You Definitely Want a Tour Guide Here
There is so much history here. There’s historic history. There’s religious history. There’s regular people history. It’s thousands of years’ worth of history, and when you’re walking through Jerusalem, you’re walking through all those layers. Even if you know your Bible and have done your research, it’s so difficult to connect the dots and comprehend it all. As a professional traveler and former tour guide myself, that is why you need a tour guide here!
The City Shuts Down for Shabbat
Shabbat is the Sabbath. It begins at sundown on Friday and lasts through Saturday night. Practicing Jews close up shop and are not allowed to do anything but rest on shabbat. Sounds great for them, right? Sure.
But it can cause a little wrinkle for visitors who are unprepared. Businesses start to close in the afternoons on Fridays, and there are few restaurant options for non-Jews. Even hotels only offer bare bones for breakfast on Saturdays! You can absolutely be in Jerusalem and have a great day on Fridays and Saturdays, but it takes a little research and some extra planning. This is where it comes in handy to visit Israel and the Holy Land with a company like Elevation Journeys!
Read next: 5 Things to Know Before You Visit the West Bank
Want more? Take a look at my dedicated Israel and Palestine Page!
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