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Favorite thing: Check this official site, it's cool, it will take you to a virtual tour through the old city and you can see all what you always wish for.
Fondest memory: Official site available in Hebrew, Arabic, English & Russian:
Updated Mar 8, 2009
Favorite thing: ATMs are easy to find in Israel and I only used ATMs to get Israeli money while in Israel.
You should be aware that many US banks add an additional fee for foreign exchange on a credit or debit card, something like 3 to 5%. They may also have a minimum fee like $10 to $25. You can call them and ask. However, CapitalOne does not charge (the last time I checked) the additional fee for their credit cards. This is not only for Israel but for all foreign charges.
It is also my understanding that both Visa and Mastercard (no matter who is the bank) charge a 1% fee and this fee may be hidden in the exchange rate. I don't know if this happens with CapitalOne, however, comparing the exchange rate used, and the exchange rate listed on http://www.xe.com/ around the date of the transaction, this does not seem to be the case.
For ATMs, I use my credit union debit card. My credit union does not charge an additional fee. I don't recommend using a credit card at ATMs because you are charged interest from the time you withdraw the money.
The below link is an up to date US banks charge Debit and Credit cards for foreign transactions.
Please rate this and my other tips should you find then interesting, useful are like the photos, thanks.
Updated Feb 19, 2009
Favorite thing: The VT Jerusalem Meet 2008, met and slept at the Notre Dame de Sion hostel, a monastary turned into a B&B (although it is still run by nuns and priests). You can see that Vere, Carmen and Zohara are enjoying the breakfast outside on the porch as well as Antonio and Katherine.
The entrance is a very imposing solid wall with a iron gate, closed until you ring for somone to come open it. You get a key to the main gate as well as your room and they have closed parking also. It was a great place to enjoy a few minutes of peace wandering their gardens and walkways.
Written Feb 2, 2009
Favorite thing: If a city is walled then it must have gates. The Old City walls in Jerusalem have eight gates, seven of them made during the construction and one added in the 19th century. Gates are heavily symbolic and the very act of going through one is of significance. It's a much more exciting way to enter a city than via a motorway or a tunnel and calls to mind all kinds of dramatic scenes from ancient legends.
The Damascus Gate is the entrance into the Muslim Quarter.
The Jaffa Gate is the traditional entrance for pilgrims, next to The Citadel.
The New Gate is indeed the newest of the gates, opened in the 19th century to give access to the Christian Quarter.
Herod's Gate is very close to the Damascus Gate and allows access to the Muslim Quarter also.
St Stephen's Gate/Lion's Gate is on the eastern wall and gives access to the Mount of Olives.
The Dung Gate is on the southern wall and is the smallest of the city gates. It gives access to the Western Wall Plaza.
Zion Gate was added to give access to the Franciscan monastery left outside the walls by Suleyman's architescts.
Golden Gate is perhaps the most interesting of all. The entrance to the Temple Mount, it is sealed and some believe it will only be opened when the Messiah comes.
Before you come to Jerusalem, looking at the location of all these gates and checking which area of the Old City the give access to is a very good way of orientating yourself.
Updated Dec 12, 2008
Favorite thing: If you've read the rest of this page then you'll know by now that I really loved the walls surrounding the Old City. They extend for 4km right round the Old City and were built betwen 1537 and 1542 by Suleyman the Magnificent when the Ottoman Turks ruled Israel and Palestine, a rule that continued some 400 years until 1917. Among the many popular legends about the walls, possibly the most grisly is the one that tells of Suleyman beheading the architects and having them buried inside the Jaffa Gate. The reason for this was supposedly their failure to enclose the Franciscan Monastery or the fact that he didn't want them to build similar walls anywhere else. The walls are amazing and walking around and through them really heightens the experience of visiting the Old City.
It's possible to walk on the walls as well and taking the Ramparts Walk is something I look forward to doing when I come back to Jerusalem. You cannot do the full circuit as one section of the wall is closed for security reasons, so there are two seperate sections. The first is betwen Jaffa Gate and Zion Gate and a longer walk starting at Jaffa Gate and finishing at New Gate, Lion's Gate or Herod's Gate.
Updated Dec 12, 2008
Favorite thing: The old Jerusalem neighbourhood of Ein Karem is host to the St. John Ba Harim church, the birthplace of St.John the Baptist. The entrance is secluded in a side street and you can ask at any of the restaurants where to find it. Take a look at the second photo, a stairway to nothing....it seems like on so many old structures you will find these, some, like this one, do look as if at some time in the past they actually led to someplace...but many others seem to be attached to a blank wall. These plaques in many languages were scattered across the courtyard, this one was from Hrvatska (Croatia). Could not find one in English or Hebrew so not sure what they mention or commemorate. The interior nave reminded me of the Church of the Nativity in Bethleham.
Updated Aug 13, 2008
Favorite thing: go to the wailing wall(ha kotel hamaaravi),touch the wall,it works, you will feel strange!then go up to the mount moriah,if it is not closed,you will see the mosque al-aksa,the third holiest place of islam,after mecca and medina;then finish with the holiest place for christianity(or is it vatican?),the holiest sepulchre,you will see the place where jesus is supposed to be buried,but the tomb is empty,of course!it is empty,but you will have to pay to see it
Fondest memory: I worked during one whole year at the youth hostel:ha'ir ha'atiqa,which is the official youth hostel in the old city;once came a group of tourists asking if is possible to sleep in a cheaper place;and the manager answered:yes,go to an another youth hostel in the area,if you want to be killed,if you want to be raped... but do not complain afterwards;finally,they went to the swedish youth hostel,which is not swedish,but full of palestinian men who love swedish girls
Updated Nov 6, 2007
Favorite thing: If you want to visit the Holy Land as part of a packaged tour, be sure to check out the trips offered by author Stephen Ray. His "Footprints of God" series is highly informative and the off-beat way he presents the information will give you a good laugh or two along the way. (Trying to demonstrate how Jesus rubbed mud on a blind man's eyes to cure him, Ray reenacts the scene by using chocolate syrup as a substitute. While this may be considered silly, Ray does in fact have great respect for the subject matter.)
I watched one of his videos before going to Jerusalem and it was very helpful as it not only pointed out the historical places, it put them in their proper Biblical context.
Ironically, I bumped into Ray and his wife Janet as they led a tour group through the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. As I talked to him, a few people went out of their way to recommend Ray and his tours. Stephen and Janet are very personable and will offer invaluable guidance to your trip. They offer several trips each year to Israel, Turkey, Italy and other places of historical significance.
Updated May 18, 2007
Favorite thing: We are so fortunate to be able to enter Israel without so much hassle and bustle because our country have a very good diplomatic ties with Israel. For some others from the Muslim country, They find it so hard to visit Jerusalem... Even seems like impossible because of the visa.
Fondest memory: Al-Aqsa Mosque...To be able to pray in it...Alhamdulillah!
Updated Apr 4, 2007
Favorite thing: A mug of hot chocolate or a steaming glass of tea are your standard warmer-uppers. Less well-known is sahlab, a Middle Eastern cornstarch pudding/drink with a distinctive flowery scent. Once upon a time, sahlab was made from ground up orchids. But orchids are pretty expensive, and I doubt there is very much of the real thing in the sahlab of today.
Even so, nursing a Styrofoam cup of hot sahlab is a fine way to warm up on a cold night in Jerusalem. In the winter, kiosks in downtown Jerusalem have large metal urns with spigots from which the hot creamy liquid is dispensed. The top is traditionally sprinkled with chopped nuts, shredded cocoanut and cinnamon.
Written Dec 13, 2006
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