Day 7, Part 1: Things to keep in mind before visiting Jerusalem

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The Israel flag waving at the Wailing Wall. You’ll learn why this is important later.

Jerusalem was one of the biggest highlights of my trip! As I was writing this article, I realized it was getting big and unwieldy due to the abundance of content, so I decided to break it into two parts. Before we talk about the tour proper, here’s some tips if you decide one of the oldest, most famous, most culturally richest cities in the world.

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A fleeting glimpse of a Pinoy tour group!

Tip #1 – Do NOT take a pilgrimage tour!

A common way most Filipinos visit Israel is via pilgrimage, so you can learn more about the Christian faith. That’s fine and all, but you miss a major portion of what makes Jerusalem so special!

Jerusalem is an important city for all three of the major religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. There is a TON of things you will discover, and you’ll miss it if you focus on only one faith. Jerusalem is very layered and very complex, due to its significant role in culture and history. It’s full of great facts and opportunities for discovery, and it’s a true shame if you see (at a maximum) only a third of that story.

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What’s this? One of the holiest places for Orthodox Christians, yet something unknown to most Roman Catholics. Things you’ll miss if you do a pilgrimage. Learn more in the next post.

Tip #2 – Keep an open mind!

Jerusalem has exchanged ownership across the three religions throughout its history, and you will see evidence of it along the way. Some of your own beliefs can be challenged or it may reveal some beautiful things about your own faith and others that may be new to you. The worst thing to do is to close off all of that. Keep an open mind, learn, and you’ll truly enjoy it in ways you may not have anticipated. 

Tip #3 – Don’t take too many things with you!

People ask is it safe there, and my answer is YES! Having said that, due to the nature of Jerusalem, there is some current of differences going on (I will explain later) but to help keep it safe ,there is a number of security checks in certain areas. If you bring too much you’ll take longer to get through the security checks.

Tip #4 – You can get a free tour to go around Jerusalem!

Jerusalem is actually relatively small, about the size of Intramuros. It’s very dense and I bet even if you go around the whole day you won’t see everything (well, you’ll see it, but you won’t know what it is). There are many local tour operators that can bring you around Jerusalem, but there is one that does a FREE trip that’s about 2 hours long: check out http://www.abrahamtours.com. Abraham Tours also owns Hostel Abraham where I am staying. Having said that, due to my limited time in Israel, I took the paid whole day tour, which is relatively cheap at only 90 NIS (PHP 10000 or USD 20). 

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Fantastic cultural architecture abounds around the walled city.

Some of the people who joined the whole day tour said that it was worth still getting the free tour, but do the free one first. The free tour focused quick highlights and the paid tour focused on details. As an example, in the free one they point “that’s the Wailing Wall” so you can go there later on your own. In the paid one, you go in and they spend more time explaining the place. You also only go to the Dome of the Rock on the paid tour.

So in summary: Don’t take a pilgrimage tour, keep an open mind, don’t take too many things with you, and you can do it for free (though the paid one is not to be missed). With that in mind, I’ll talk about my own tour of Jerusalem in the next post. Don’t worry, it’s all written up and won’t take too long after this post 🙂

Leo

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