We will start our Old City Jerusalem Jewish Tour on top of Mt. of Olives. There is no other vista towards the Holy City that can even compare to this one. Firstly, you can see right below; sloping down towards the Kidron Valley; which is one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in the world. The burial at the Mt. of Olives Jewish Cemetery started some 3,000 years ago in the days of the First Temple.
Now I know about some prominent figures buried there. For example, Menachem Begin, the sixth Prime Minister of Israel. Because he asked to be buried next to Meir Feinstein from the Irgun and Moshe Barazani from the Lehi, who committed suicide in jail shortly before their scheduled execution by the British. Today they are memorialized in Israel as one of the Olei Hagardom.
While touring this enormous Necropolis we will talk about the different Jewish burial practices and visit the more monumental tombs like the Tomb of Benei Hezir, dated to the Second Temple period. Next on our tour will be the City of David. Even Though today it is located outside the Ottoman city walls the City Of David is the ancient Biblical Tel of Jerusalem. In other words, where it all began so we would dedicate a couple of hours touring the site. Among other things, we will see from up close the different water systems. Also, the homes of Israelites dated to the Babylonian destruction. We will also explore the Acropolis where Eilat Mazar found the Palace of King David.
Old City Jerusalem Jewish Tour: Exploring the Old City
We will continue our tour of Davidson Archaeological Park which is the home to some of the most important archaeological finds from the time of the Second Temple. Notably Robinson’s Arch, a monumental staircase carried by an unusually wide stone arch dated to the Second Temple period. It was built as part of the expansion of the Second Temple initiated by Herod the Great at the end of the 1st century BCE. We examine ancient Jewish Ritual Baths and elaborate on this ancient practice. In the end, we will enter the museum where the archaeological finds are kept today. If time permits there is a nice audiovisual 3D film about Jewish Pilgrimage while there was a Temple.
A visit to the Western Wall
Probably the most visited place by Jews from all over the world. The Western Wall is an actual remnant of the Second Temple. Or is it really? What makes the Western Wall so holy for Jews? Is it a real piece from the actual Second Temple? I will elaborate on this matter when we’ll visit the site. Worth saying now that today if you really want to see the original Western Wall, we will have to go underground.
Old City Jerusalem Jewish Tour: The Western Wall Tunnels
Our tour continues underground to check out the original foundations of the Western Wall. On our way along the entire western wall, there is a gigantic stone waiting for us to examine. It weighs over 500 tons and ranks as one of the heaviest objects ever lifted by human beings without powered machinery. Also, we will pass next to Warren’s Gate. This point next to the gate is the closest point next to the Holy of Holies. After this one-hour-long tour, we would go and explore the Jewish Quarter together.
Old City Jerusalem Jewish Tour: The Jewish Quarter
The Jewish Quarter where Jews lived along the centuries moved around the Old City perimeter. The Jewish quarter today is dated to the 15th century. But still, there are amazing finds worth explaining above and below ground. A good start could be the Hurva Synagogue, one of the most impressive structures that form the Old City skyline. The current structure is an exact restoration of the 18th century that got destroyed by the Jordanian Army after the 1948 war. Apart from the amazing panoramic view from the top, we will also enter inside and discuss the importance of synagogues along with Jewish history. And since then they are becoming the beating heart of every Jewish community.
Old City Jerusalem Jewish Tour: Yeshivat Aish HaTorah
Aish Hatorah is an Orthodox Jewish educational organization and Yeshiva. We would use our time there to elaborate on the diverse Jewish world and the different streams in Judaism today. Jewish learning goes centuries back to the Geonim period. I will try in our limited time visiting Aish Hatorah to shed some light and elaborate on the world of the Jewish Yeshiva as an institution. But also as a way to preserve Judaism and pass it from generation to generation. We will focus on the most magnificent ones in Europe in the 18th-19th centuries, now long gone; to the magnificent ones erected today all over the world like Torah VeYirah, a famous Hasidic Yeshiva in New York. By the way, there is an amazing view of Temple Mount from the top of the Yeshiva in the Old City. If you have time go check out!
Old City Jerusalem Jewish Tour: The Burnt House Museum
Under the current street level, six meters below, there is a house that was destroyed one month after the Jewish Second Temple and Lower city. During the excavations, it became clear that the Romans were the ones that set fire to the house when they stormed the Upper City. Also found in the house was a round stone weight, on it, in square Aramaic script was the Hebrew inscription “Bar Kathros” which means the “son of Kathros”. This indicates that the house belongs to the Kathtros family. According to the Talmud, the Kathros family was a priestly family that had abused its position in the Temple. The visit to the Burnt House Museum is super cool!
Old City Jerusalem Jewish Tour: The Herodian Quarter
This is the Aristocratic quarter of the city of Jerusalem during the Second Temple period. Where the Upper crust of Jersalmite society resided. Among others living here were Jewish priests. This claim does coincide with the archaeological finds dug on site. We will enter the cellars; kitchens and living rooms of those Jews. Also, we shall see mosaics floors, mikvahs, and decorations. All of which will remind us of how Jerusalem was before the destruction. A unique find that the archaeologists discovered was a Jewish Menorah engraved on one of the walls.
Old City Jerusalem Jewish Tour: Lunch Time – Mahane Yehuda Food Market
Mahane Yehuda Market or in like Jerusalemites just say “The Shuk” (meaning the market). Because everybody knows which market you are actually referring to. Oh my gosh, there is so much good food in this little area. For example Falafel; Shawarma; Kanafeh; Baklava; Halva and much more! I will take you to my favorite place located at the Iraqi Market in the Shuk – Azura! I remember as a student at Hebrew University I used to go and stock up before Shabbat. You should note that on Thursdays and Fridays the marketplace is filled with shoppers. In recent years, the shark emerged as another Jerusalemite nightlife center; with restaurants, bars, and live music.
Old City Jerusalem Jewish Tour: The Holocaust Museum – Yad Vashem
The Holocaust Museum or in Hebrew Yad Vashem is one of the best museums to visit in Israel. After the new museum was dedicated in March 2005; it became, to my opinion, one of the most memorable museums in Israel. Even after working there for five years I always get emotional guiding in the Museum. The concept of the new museum is completely different from the older museum, today not operational.
The new museum focus on the personal stories of the Jews killed in the Holocaust. This indecipherable number of 6,000,000 victims is narrowed down to one individual. Another important difference between the old and new museums is that the new museum does not try to shock you. You won’t see heaps of close or piles of shows like in Auschwitz for example. On the contrary, the museum does not try to traumatize the visitor. Moreover, the idea is not to shatter the visitor but to retell the story of the Holocaust. And let’s face it many today simply do not know.