What you will find prevailing in Jerusalem - and this is true for much of the country, where holy sites are concerned - is that every time you think you're at a place where something was purported to have happened, there's another place down the road where it's also alleged to have occured.
Which is it? How do we know for sure whether Jesus walked this path, or maybe it was two alleys down....Is the golgotha rock actually under the Holy Sepulchre or is it right outside the Walled City in a recently excavated quarry that dates back a few thousand years....you enter through a doorway over which is scrawled the words "Peter's Prison"....and you feel a rush of excitement! The next day you visit St. Peter's Church on Mt. Zion and puzzle over the allegations that he was imprisoned there....but wait! Which is it? You nod respectfully to an old monk who guards an underground cavelike prison where Jesus was supposed to have spent the last night of his life, awaiting execution....an hour later, you visit another place where the same thing is believed! Outside of the Old City you visit "The Garden Tomb" - alleged burial place of Jesus Christ. But wait! Didn't you just see the Holy Sepulchre and wasn't THAT the place where he was buried and resurrected?! Which is it? Over in the Galilee area, you dip your foot in the Jordan River and visualize John the Baptist proclaiming the coming of the Messiah....until you're driving down the road to Eilat and you pass by Jericho where, along the side of the road, is a sign that leads to the place where John the Baptist allegedly baptized Jesus Christ, among others....but WAIT! WHICH IS IT???!!!
So my advice to you is to just go with the flow and enjoy the experience of just walking along sand and dirt and rock and earth that dates centuries back to a time when any or all of these things were bound to have happened....somewhere along the way.....
The views of the Old Walled City and surrounding area as seen from the front of the Seven Arches Hotel are some of the best in the area. For the most part these views are gratis - but you won't be alone at the top....you'll probably find some tourist buses up there dropping off the masses for their photo ops; you'll also find some local Arabs making the most of the opportunity. If you want to take a photo of this guy and his camel, it will cost you. But like anything there, you can drive the bargain and name the price. And actually it's not really the locals who are the nuisance in question - it's probably more the fellow tourists who are running around posing.
You'd think that the central focus of the Old City would be the religious and historical aspects of it... and in general, it is! BUT.... The markets and shops and taxis are ALL geared towards the tourist. They will HIGH BALL you with prices. Bargaining is expected. Every shop sells the same tourist merchandise. And they will PRESSURE and PRESSURE you into buying something and at the prices they want... which, according to a tour guide I talked to, is AT LEAST 2x what the item is really worth.
So you have a choice... stay firm, or decide up front you're going to help with the city's poverty, and pay more than you need to for anything you buy (including taxi service).
Unique Suggestions: At least act like you are trying to bargain. If you're the meek type... stick with the hotel shops (and even there, you can bargain - they're usually just not as overpriced)... or wait until you get to the airport to buy something.
Fun Alternatives: Shopping in the old-world like markets is part of the fun... Don't wuss out! Go and do it! And don't get so wrapped up in the actual price... enjoy the experience of trying to haggle with someone you've just met who's calling you his best friend for life. :)
It is hard to find bank machines in the Old City and you will possibly be tempted to patronize one of the money changers advertising "No Commission." Do not do it! They are not a charity and in place of a fee will just give you a bad rate. If you do not find a bank machine outside of the Old City, go to the Jewish quarter as there are several places to withdraw money.
Most of the money changers are clustered near the Jaffa Gate and the Tower of David Museum. This is also where most of the tourist shops are located. (Do I smell a conspiracy?!!! Why haven't any bank machines been placed here?) Do not ask any shop owners near this area where there is a bank machine as he will likely lead you to a money changer. After changing money, he will want you to spend it in his shop! From the Jaffa Gate, walk east about 500 meters and then turn right (south). The shop owners in the Jewish quarter will point you in the right direction without trying to pressure you into buying something at their store.
Unfortunately I wasn't allowed visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque and to the Dome of the Rock. I don’t know why - may be it was because of Jewish Passover or another reason… But when I came to the passage to the Muslim part of the Temple Mount I was asked by a policemen if I’m a Muslim or not. I answered that I’m not a Muslim.
So I was forbidden to go through the passage to those famous Muslim Holy Sites… Pity, may be next time…
I visited Jerusalem in April. When I left Moscow +3C was there. It was an early spring and I took a coat with me in my trip to Israel. When I explored Jerusalem +34C was there! It was too much for me but what a heat is there in July or August I suppose!
When I went to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem I unintentionally left my coat in a hotel. I forgot about it because I couldn’t even imagine what for I took a coat there when it was such a heat, haha!
Stores along the Via Dolorosa.
Unique Suggestions: We stopped in this shop to pick up a few souvenirs because the owner was such a pleasant man. He said he went to a Baptist school in Waco, Texas of all places! He is a friendly guy familiar with Americans.
The shop is near the Fifth Station.
Via Dolorosa 30
Do not go to shops outside of the walled city in Jerusalem. Most of these little stores are "in bulk" items that are massed produced for a quick sale. In other words junk.
Unique Suggestions: In Jerusalem shop in the walled city and take your time.
Fun Alternatives: Go to shops at real sites or in more rural areas.
I'm sure I wasn't the first or last person to fall for this one but even now I feel very foolish. Having just finished the walk of the Old City walls and man approached me and offered to give me a guided tour. "Duh ! Okay !" We set off at a brisk pace... I had to practically jog to keep up ... into the maze of alleys and streets. Every now and then we'd stop somewhere, he'd give a two second speech about the place before we headed off again. At the Western Wall, after I'd had my photo taken, I finally broached the subject of payment for this not very enjoyable experience. I can't recall the exact figure now but it made me very, very angry. Let's say it was around 50 just for argument's sake .. that's US dollars, not shekels !!! We had a little disagreement at this point as you can imagine. I almost lost my temper totally, but realising where I was and how vulnerable I was I eventually gave him about half of what he wanted before he stormed off.
The atmosphere within the City walls is really tense. And that's not avoidable. I am talking about some spiritual density, something you can feel almost physically. It makes you feel involved in a story much greater and older than you. You may call it Kafkaesque feeling. Honestly speaking, it wasn't very comfortable for me. Outside the walls the air is lighter.
In any case it's incomparable with any other place I've been to. I guess being in a sea storm may produce similar sensations.
I was going to Betlehem by Route 21 bus from Damascus Gate Bus Station. When I came to the station the bus was waiting and boarding passengers. An Arabic guy standing at the bus asked me if I was going to betlehem. When I sad "yes" he told me: "OK, it's 21 Shekels paid to the driver". I handled my money and got a ticket for 6 NIS!!!
On the way back the same driver sold me a ticket for correct price...
Unique Suggestions: Find out the what the price is before boarding yhe Arabic bus. Than be sure of yourself and tell the driver you know the correct price if he wants to ripp you off...
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is very tacky, but a necessary (and still very interesting) item on your itinerary. It's a bit strange to find that both the place where Christ was crucified (pic) and buried are all in the same space that the church now occupies! But all prejudices aside, you just have to ignore it all, and immerse in religion for a little while.
People try to let you pay to much at the markets! Play a good game of high and low bidding. Don't be afraid, it's perfectly normal. Learn the prices well, because bidding to low is an insult. Walking away doesn't help you by the way, salesmen are not impressed by doing that.
You can't beat the Western Wall. Many tourists and pilgrims flock to this holy site. It's amazing watching everyone at the wall, sending chills down your back when you press your hand against its warm surface, touched by millions before and millions to come. Yes, many tourists come to this place, but it's a tourist trap worth coming to.
if you plan a trip to the west bank,you can go to the arab station near nablus road;arab taxi drivers will tell you that it is closed;why?because a bus-ticket to jericho will cost you 2 shekels to abu-dis,then 5 shekels with a collective taxi;but if you travel with a private taxi,the driver will charge you 100 shekels