Jerusalem is a holy city on the edge of the desert, high in the Judean Highlands. It is an extraordinary convergence between history, culture, and religion. Vibrant, traditional, and fascinating, Jerusalem has a way of getting deep inside of you. It will fascinate you with its history. It is revered by the world’s three major religions and is the birthplace of monotheism, spirituality, and the earliest civilizations. People come here for history, for art and culture, pure authenticity, and most importantly, to closely experience the divine.
Does traveling to Jerusalem raise any safety concerns? The conflict and political unrest have been widely covered in the press all around the world. This attention may cause false concern. If you know anyone who has visited Jerusalem, ask and they will tell you how safe they were. Visiting Jerusalem will be the trip of your dreams. You can also consider hiring a professional and licensed private tour guide who will make it easier for you to navigate the city.
Here are 5 things to know to get the most out of your trip to Jerusalem and better understand the Holy City of the Promised Land:
- Language Barrier
The most spoken language is Hebrew, followed by Arabic. But you don’t have to worry. English is also spoken almost everywhere. Although it doesn’t enjoy a recognized status, most Israelis can speak English fluently. You’ll be able to communicate in English practically everywhere. In Jerusalem, though, knowing a few Hebrew words will give you an advantage. Here are a few phrases that will help you navigate the city, break the language barrier, and win a few smiles:
- Shalom – Used as a salutation to greet. The word actually means ‘peace’.
- Bevakasha – please
- Slicha – sorry/excuse me
- Boker Tov – good morning
- Erev Tov – good evening
- Mazel Tove – congratulations/good luck
- Toda/Toda Raba – thank you
- Lehitra’ot – goodbye/see you later
2. Religious holidays are observed with great rigor.
Americans and Europeans have become accustomed to stores, services, and businesses being open 24/7. But Israel strictly observes holidays and religious practices during which it may be difficult for a tourist to get around the city. It may be useful to know about the city before visiting. If you plan to visit Jerusalem during one of the Jewish festivals, you need to be ready. Make sure to arrive somewhere in Jerusalem by Friday at 4 o’clock when you fly there. All public services are closed on Shabbat (except for emergency ones). Both trains and buses do not operate.
3. Jerusalem is closed on the weekends
If open stores are important to you, you can avoid visiting or staying in Jerusalem on the weekends. Same if you are not religious and you are a tourist for whom every day counts. If you would like to experience the quiet of the Sabbath, perhaps it would be beneficial to try the weekend. Shabbat is a day of rest for most locations in the Old City. You can visit the Western Wall, but the Jewish Quarter’s attractions, eateries, and stores will be closed. Some places, like churches and the Tower of David Museum, are open. You can plan travel arrangements to other locations like Tel Aviv or Haifa, where businesses are open over the weekends.
4. Respectful and modest clothing
Jerusalem is a holy city. Being cautious about what to wear while visiting is among the most crucial travel advice. While Israel is a mostly liberal country, there are distinct dress norms and expectations in the various towns and areas. You should dress modestly if you plan to visit holy sites in Jerusalem and other orthodox areas. Even though it may be warm during the summer, it is advised to dress in long skirts or slacks and t-shirts with sleeves that fall below the elbow if you intend to visit places like the Western Wall or the holy site of Jesus’s crucifixion. Always keep a scarf or shawl on hand in case of need. Worry not if you fail to bring appropriate attire; These are given out close to the Western Wall.
5. Expect to see army personnel for your safety
The Israeli government makes every effort to maintain extremely high standards of security for all residents and tourists. In Jerusalem, you will see soldiers patrolling, but they are there for your protection. Although seeing armed people on the streets may make you feel uncomfortable, in Jerusalem, it is the standard for protection of the religious sites. The army and the police are dispersed across the city to keep an eye on you and to safeguard both residents and visitors. In terms of street safety, Jerusalem is safer than most European and American cities. Pickpocketing risk is modest, as it is in all large cities and tourist destinations. Exercise simple caution and keep an eye out when using public transportation, in busy places, or at the Old Souq (market).
More important information:
What is Kosher food?
Jerusalem typically accommodates orthodox people who follow their religion with great rigor and excitement. Being respectful of others’ beliefs is expected from tourists when they visit. When it comes to eating, you can expect Kosher food in most places. In Jerusalem, you will find people following some food restrictions. The majority of eateries in Jerusalem provide Kosher cuisine, about which you may ask what it entails. It is similar to the Muslim principle of ‘Halal’ food. According to Jewish law, kosher food indicates that the animal was killed as humanely as possible. Additionally, they oppose pairing dairy with meat. This can be one of the things to keep in mind.
If you are planning to visit and want a local’s help, don’t hesitate to contact us. Let our passion for Israel be your inspiration.