A Brief Guide to Jerusalem: Many volunteers at the Excellence Center, after landing in Tel Aviv, will make their way straight to Hebron, skipping through Jerusalem as they make their way to Hebron. Despite this, many will still want to see this interesting city. From Hebron it is possible to do so in a day, especially if the Old City is your interest.
From Hebron, getting to Jerusalem is a simple serveese away, without having to stop in Bethlehem as is often the case coming the other way. From the Center, the serveese is a simple walk down Ein Sarah. If you cross the road and walk along the side of the road that the football stadium is located on, after about ten to fifteen minutes, the serveese to Jerusalem is located just past the Sports Center (a clothes shop) – if you cannot see any, just ask some of the men hanging around and they will point you in the right direction. Sometimes a taxi type car will act as a serveese. The cost may sometimes change, but it is always around the 25 shekels mark – sometimes the driver will offer a higher price to go straight away, but the wait to fill up the vehicle is generally never that long. The trip can be around 45 minutes, however checkpoints and traffic can extend this out to sometimes over an hour. The checkpoints are not a concern, more times than not, the Israeli’s will just wave everyone through, however at times they may be checking a lot of vehicles which can delay the process. At all times, travellers will need their passport in case this does happen, and in case there are further checks in and around the East Jerusalem area, which again, does not happen all the times, but can.
Once in Jerusalem, the serveese will drop you of at the Damascus Gate terminal. If you want to visit other parts of Jerusalem you can head towards the city rail stop. As you are facing the row of shops, walk left up the road and then at the intersection head left – you will see the rail line and the stop (to the left again). Tickets are purchased from the machine (around 6 shekels), and this service will get you into the heart of Jerusalem. For those that want to wander the Old City, just head through Damascus Gate – once out of the serveese just head towards the Old City wall and through the gate, you can’t miss it.
Part of the fun about the Old City is just wandering its streets. Split into four corners, Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Armenian, the Old City has a charm that is hard to find elsewhere. Of course, being the site of Christianity’s holiest site, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the holiest site in Judaism, the Western Wall, and the site of the famous Dome of the Rock, the city seeps with religious significance. Christians believe the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is were Christ was crucified, while the Dome of the Rock is where, according to Muslims, Mohammed ascended to heaven. All these religious sites are definitely worth a look – the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock are in the same area, while the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is not far away. Getting to the Dome of the Rock can only be done at certain hours, while the Church of the Holy Sepulchre gets extremely busy, it is possible to marvel at the Church – and it is a site to behold no matter your faith – but to get inside the enclosed room believers claim is the site Christ was crucified often requires a long wait in line.
There is of course more to the Old City than just religion. It is a maze of laneways full of all sorts of shops and stores but also little café’s and restaurants. Enjoying a meal and a coffee here gives new meaning to people watching. In the Old City you will encounter throngs of devout religious people from all faiths, tourists from all over the world, all to the sounds of the Islamic call to prayer and church bells. Despite though its religious heritage, Jerusalem is more than the Old City and while it does not pack quite the punch as Tel Aviv does in terms of a hedonistic nightlife, it is still a city, despite its deep religious essence, that knows how to party. If you are in need of a drink, then once you enter the Damascus Gate head straight to Jaffa Gate (through the Old City – go right at the first intersection and follow the signs), and from Jaffa Gate head towards the Mamilla mall – a very luxurious outdoor shopping mall with many world class restaurants. If you still want more, then to the right just before the Mall ends, are a set of stairs. Head up them, cross the road and head towards the restaurants there.
There is much to see and do in Jerusalem that a day will not cover the city, however a day is enough to see the Old City and maybe have a nice meal in Mamilla. Getting back to Hebron is just a matter of heading back to Damascus Gate and, if you can’t find a direct serveese to Hebron, then getting the bus to Bethlehem and then a serveese to Hebron (do not accept the offer from taxi drivers in Bethlehem, a serveese is only 20 or so shekels, get off the bus and go left, cross the road and you will see the serveeces waiting).