Jerusalem in 48 Hours

Why Israel? Isn’t it dangerous? What are you going to eat? Are you going to Jerusalem also? Are you on a pilgrimage?

The questions bombarded us.

The Dome of the Rock or Kippat ha-Sela, Jerusalem
The Dome of the Rock or Kippat ha-Sela, Jerusalem

Sure, Jerusalem is a holy city for the 3 major mono-theistic religions of the world but this one is a contrasting journey of the current Jerusalem and the Old walled city.

Jerusalem itself has been more or less continuously inhabited for the last 4000+ years. The original city, inside the walls, was just about one square kilometer. Now it has grown to 125 Sq KM. Quickly mounting the Mt. Scopus we see before us a sweeping view of the old city. Dome of the Rock shines at its best and Holy Sepulchre stands at a distance.

Almost all the buildings sport a similar color and architecture owing to two reasons. One, by a rule the owners are advised to use the Dolomite stone which is available in abundance in this region and two, to have arched windows on the façade.

View of Walled city of Jerusalem from Mount Scopus. Dome of rock
View of Walled city of Jerusalem from Mount Scopus. Dome of rock is prominently visible

We descend and drive towards Yad Vashem, some distance away, the biggest memorial in Israel to the holocaust victims, on a hill suitably called the Mount of Remembrance.

Hall of names at Yad Vashem or the holocaust museum
Hall of names at Yad Vashem or the holocaust museum

This is not only a memorial for the 6 million Jews who lost their lives in the holocaust; this also works as a research and education center on the holocaust. Entering one room after another we have goosebumps that stay till we step out of the museum. Artifacts, books, clothes, footwear and other belongings bring tears in our eyes. The last room, the Hall of Names, has files and files containing the names of the heroes.

The Children's Memorial at Yad-Vashem or the holocaust museum
The Children’s Memorial at Yad-Vashem or the holocaust museum

Goosebumps start all over again when we enter the memorial for all the 1.5 million children who lost their lives to the mindless killings. Projected on the glass are the photos of the young boys and girls and in the background we can hear their names, age and country of origin. Millions of reflections of twinkling lights, which actually originate from just 5 candles kept at various angles using mirrors, intensify the grief. There is also a memorial named Righteous among the nations, for all those non-Jews who risked their lives and helped Jews at their time of plight.

Anish Kapoor's Turning world upside down at Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Anish Kapoor’s Turning world upside down at Israel Museum, Jerusalem

Jerusalem can also be called the city of museums! The Israel Museum, one of the biggest, is our next stop.

The first thing we notice about Israel Museum is that it looks like an open air museum. The 20-acre campus sprawls across the lip of central Jerusalem’s Valley of the Cross and is divided into three sections featuring an impressive variety of around 50,000 collections from prehistoric archaeology to contemporary art of today.

Miniature Jerusalem at Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Miniature Jerusalem at Israel Museum, Jerusalem

A mini Jerusalem, a model of Jerusalem city depicting its topography and architectural character in the Second Temple Period, greets us with historical context to the Shrine’s presentation of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Among the highlights of the Museum, is the Shrine of the Book resembling the lids of the jar which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest biblical manuscripts in the world.

While the most interactive is the children’s wing with its multiple workshops, the Art Garden is clearly a winner. It displays the evolution of the modern western sculptural tradition. An Oriental landscape combined with Jerusalem hillside, the garden serves as a platter to sculptures by international masters such as Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin, Henry Moore, Mark Dion, James Turrell, Israeli artists Benni Efrat and Menashe Kadishman and India’s Anish Kapoor. Anish Kapoor’s Turning the World Upside Down is the real leader.

A street in Walled City of Jerusalem
A street in Walled City of Jerusalem

Closer to the old city, just outside the Zion Gate, lies the historic Mount Zion. King David is said to have set up his palace and the City of David here, in around 1000 BC. We can see the Tomb of King David, the room where Jesus had the Last Supper (the cenacle), place where he regularly met his disciples, and also Dormition Abbey, where Virgin Mary fell into an eternal sleep. On the slopes is the grave of Oskar Schindler and is perhaps the most visited grave in Jerusalem.
The Tower of David museum, besides presenting Jerusalem’s history, has a sound and light show. Night Spectacular is billed as one of its kind in the world! Suddenly the dead stones of the citadel seem to come to life at night and we are transported many centuries in the past.

Western Wall or the wailing wall, Jerusalem
Western Wall or the wailing wall, Jerusalem

A visit to Jerusalem is not complete without following the paths of countless pilgrims of the 3 religions. One of the walls surround the temple mount, the Western wall, is the most sacred place for the Jews. The wall and the adjoining plaza is in two separate parts for men and women. It is also called the Wailing Wall since many worshippers come here to mourn the destruction of their temple several centuries before. It is believed wishes and prayers written on slips of paper stuck in the crevices between the stones will come true.

A set of stairs leads us to a vantage point from where the golden Dome of Rock is visible. It is situated on the temple mount and is perhaps the oldest Islamic architecture. It is believed that Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven from this spot.

A few hundred meters inside Lions Gate is the starting point of Via Dolorosa which literally means the “way of sorrow”. It is believed to be the route taken by Jesus on way to his crucifixion. Today is Friday and we follow the procession taken out by the priests of various Christian domains.

Station #9 , Via Dolorosa . Holy Sepulchre Church
Station #9 Last point of Via Dolorosa. All other stations are believed to be inside Holy Sepulchre Church

The route starts from the church of flagellation where Pontius Pilates pronounced Judgment on Jesus  to the ninth station just outside the Holy Sepulchre Church, depicting the place where Jesus falls the third time. One priest recites what happened at each station of the cross. Other stations, including crucifixion sites, are all inside the church of Holy Sepulchre, the holiest place for Christians.

Street Market, Walled City, Jerusalem
Street Market, Walled City, Jerusalem

The streets of the walled city seem to be like one big bazaar! Most of them geared to entice the tourists with their beautiful wares. Exquisite ceramic works claimed as original Armenian in one shop vying for attention with another selling souvenirs. So are those selling religious artifacts and clothes. Our favourite, however, is in the Muslim Quarters near Damascus Gate where they sell aromatic spices of all types. This is where we had one of the tastiest falafel.

Mammilla Mall, 48 hours in jerusalem
Mammilla Mall, Jerusalem

Mammilla mall was once a street bazaar but is now home to modern shops, premium brands, fashion chains and posh restaurants. The archeologists had number many of the original stones from the demolished bazaar and used in the new mall. More on each of these will come in separate posts.

Tour of Jerusalem on Segway
Tour of Jerusalem on Segway

We decide to take a ride on Segway to explore the area. After YMCA Tower observation point, archeological museum and Artists Colony where Artists open their studios to public; comes the Teddy park!
It is a huge patch of green in the stone city. Then we see something absolutely out of place here but not so in Netherlands. A Windmill!

In conclusion, whether you are in search for inner peace as a member of one of the three major semitic religions of the world or you are a history buff  who wants to experience word war atrocities this is the place to be in. Maybe you are on a pilgrimage tracing the biblical places. Jerusalem has it all.

P.S.- This piece was first published in national daily Mail Today.

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33 thoughts on “Jerusalem in 48 Hours

  1. I want to go to Jerusalem now! Very nice article – it tells you so much about a historical city without being a bore or being too detail heavy. I really enjoyed reading this piece.

  2. Israel , I think, does not have its place in the list of common people of India to visit but the beauty of this place is attracting more and more people . Israel is coming close in all the ways to India by political , travel , industry . Thnx for the post and beautiful pictures

  3. I must admit that I have never really considered visiting Jerusalem, but I have to say it looks like it has a lot to offer. The Holocaust Museum and memorial must have been extremely moving to visit. On a lighter note, I have always fancied doing a segway tour. Are they easy to control/ride?

    1. Amanda, I agree we had moist eyes when we came out of there. Initially it would seem that Segway has a mind of its own but a few minutes and you can master it. It is actually pretty simple.

  4. Such an amazing journey! Jerusalem is rich in history and culture, what a treat to see it in person. I have only read about it, your photos help bring the city to life.

    1. Thanks Jen. The place is steeped in history and religion, especially the walled city. We also went to Bethlehem, I have still to write about that.

  5. I’d never considered going to Jerusalem as I’m not religious at all, but I’ve heard so many good things about it perhaps I should reconsider! It certainly is a city with a lot of history and must to interesting to visit!

    1. Claire, even I can hardly be termed as religious. However I like the history and culture of the place. I think there is something for everyone in Jerusalem.

  6. Love this post! Powerful images. I really really want to visit Israel and everytime I mention it to people I get bombarded with the same questions! I actually met some Israeli people up a mountain in the French Alps and they told me how they feel safer there than they do in Europe after all of the terror attacks. Thought that was so interesting.

  7. I love this post. I have always had an interest in visiting and wondered what it as like. I think TBEX is actually going to have a conference here next year, if I am not mistaken. Going to bookmark this. Thank you!

  8. You seem to have enjoyed it a lot. Useful guide as I would like to plan something a like … a weekend or long weekend in Jerusalem and see all of that then come back Monday for work!

  9. Honestly I never considered visiting Jerusalem just because of its sad and controversial history that fails to fascinate me. But your post has given me a different point of view about the place that tells me it might be bad just in my mind and not in reality. Loved the post 🙂

  10. This is great. Those questions abound because people just don’t know which makes these kinds of posts all the more important. Great post and sites to see.

  11. Looks like you had a blast in Jerusalem, Nisha. Look at you go on that Segway. How was it? U won’t believe it but I have never tried one. Israel museum sure looks interesting too.

  12. Absolutely gorgeous! I can’t believe you got to do so much in only 48 hours. I’d love to visit Jerusalem in the future as half my family is Jewish and the other half Catholic, and there’s so much to see and witness. I’m pretty sure I’d burst into tears at those memorials.

  13. To be very honest, I would also think it’s dangerous to travel there. It’s the wrong ideas we get from hearing rumors. The city has grown and how much! It has much more than I expected. As others, I thought it to be a religious site. Also, I find that similarity of structure/stone fascinating. I have been to one Holocaust Memorial in Miami and it gives you goosebumps and makes you angry. On a completely different note, do watch or read – The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

    Weren’t you scared on the Segway? I am!

  14. Jerusalem really does sound like the old world it claims to be and genuinely, I would like to step inside the museum there having visited many similar museums in Krakow and Auschwitz. I agree with you too, it’s silly that people are afraid to visit here and a real shame considering they may never get to uncover the history that you clearly did !

  15. You know I have never looked at Jerusalem as a destination but after reading this post I can see why its worth it. It looks absolutely beautiful. Plus there is so much history and seems so fascinating. Thanks for sharing!

  16. Wow, Jerusalem isn’t on my travel list *yet* but after your post and seeing how much history there is, looks like it’s totally worth going! Things about Biblical times really interest me. How long do you think it would be good to stay there for a holiday?

  17. I have been wanting to go to Jerusalem for a long time now. I just may go to TBEX this year so I can dive deep into the culture.
    I have never felt it was unsafe – as a traveler, I have found my own home of Washington, D.C. scarier than most cities I gave ever explored.

  18. I’m going to be in Jerusalem briefly next year and so this is very interesting. I had no idea there were so many museums! That Holocaust museum looks very powerful.

  19. I would love to get to Jerusalem at some point – so much culture and amazing history to explore – amazing that you can fit so much into 48 hours. Thanks for the guide!

  20. The history of Jerusalem is the biggest draw for me. The museums would be nice to visit, but just walking through the streets which such history would be worthwhile alone.

  21. Such an informative post on Isreal. I was getting goosebumps just reading about your museum experience and looking at the photos. I think I would enjoy the Muslim Quarters too, since I am a huge fan of spices. I love visiting spice markets 🙂

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