Friday afternoon and the city of Jerusalem rapidly slows down; restaurants close, shops bring down the shutters and markets are selling what is left of their stocks of exotic spices, pulses and punnets of fruit. Because in Jerusalem, Friday is the eve of Shabbat.
Shabbat is the sabath or day of rest in the Jewish week, and come Friday afternoon people are making the final preparations so spend Shabbat with their families, having stocked up in the local markets and shops of Jerusalem.
The more observant Jews will follow convention which means they don’t cook, spend money, drive, operate electrical equipment or refrain from many other activities prohibited during Shabbat. This means that the day itself results in a calmness and peacefulness which is totally alien to most major capital cities.
Despite this serenity, Jerusalem and The Holy Land, still has much to offer for the visitor who may not be observing Shabbat. Apart from it being the home to three major religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – it is not solely a destination for those making religious pilgrimages.
Tel Aviv offers a great contrast to the more conservative Jerusalem. With great beaches, vibrant nightlife, and a eclectic mix of cuisines, Tel Aviv is a real cosmopolitan mix of cultural options making it an ideal place to visit as part of a multi-centre holiday to Israel.
Back in Jerusalem, visitors can easily spend a week or longer in this city which is one of the longest inhabited cities in the world. The Old City has three distinct areas which are related to each of the three main religions mentioned earlier in this post, with The Dome of The Rock having significance to all three religions; Jews visit the Western Wall to recite the Torah and to place their scribbled notes in the wall’s crevices; for Muslims, the Al-Aqsa Mosque is sacred and for Christians, Temple Mount has tremendous significance as Herod’s Temple which has numerous reference throughout the Gospels.
Jerusalem’s new town also offers much for the first time visitor. The Knesset is the Israeli Parliament and the Moshava is an upscale German colony which was originally established in the 19th century. The Israel Museum houses exhibitions on art and history and the Mount of Olives is a peaceful beauty spot which is covered in graves and affords panoramic views across Jerusalem.
Probably the best way to see Israel is with an escorted tour. With so much going on and the vast range of must-see attractions, an organised tour will ensure that visitors get to maximise their time in Israel.