Israeli tourists naturally steer clear of the area, but with all the sites to see, it’s a shame
Jerusalem has always been the focus of the three major monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. However, when visiting Jerusalem, most Jewish Israeli tourists usually focus on the Jewish section of the Old City, and rarely venture out or explore other quarters. For the most part, this is due to lack of familiarity. In an effort to remedy this situation, I’ve prepared a different kind of journey through Jerusalem: a tour of tourist attractions in eastern Jerusalem.
Although east Jerusalem is part of Israel’s capital, due to security concerns, as well as lack of awareness, many Israelis steer clear of this area. This is a shame, because east Jerusalem, like the western part of the city, is full of important tourist sites.
I recently set out with my colleague, tour guide Yaron Hovav, to visit a number of important Christian sites in Jerusalem. Our tour began at the Damascus Gate, continued along Hagai Street and then finally reached the square in front of the Austrian Hospice. The tour is full of rich and interesting history tidbits, and you can visit these sites either on your own or as part of a free guided tour with the East Jerusalem Development Company, which was founded by Ilanit Tzemach in an effort to encourage tourism in east Jerusalem.
We decided to start our day off with breakfast at the American Colony Hotel, which is extremely popular among celebrities from around the world and offers one of the best breakfast buffets in town. The hotel is also a great starting point, since it’s located at 1 Nablus Road, near the Old City.
Our breakfast was more of a brunch, and included both western and Arab cuisine. Guests are welcome to enjoy their meal either in the dining hall or outside in the hotel’s charming courtyard. The meal costs NIS 130 and includes bread, pastries, Belgian waffles, spreads, omelettes, smoked fish, cold cuts and a variety of cheeses. Brunch at the American Colony is very popular, so it is best to reserve a table ahead of time.
Our first destination, St. George’s Cathedral, was just a five-minute walk from the hotel. The impressive edifice belongs to the Anglican-Episcopalian stream that grew from within Protestantism. It was built in 1898 and includes a botanical garden, a museum, and a hostel for Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land.
Built in the neo-Gothic style, the magnificent cathedral is the seat of the bishop of Jerusalem. It has played an important role in the history of the city, including serving as a pilgrimage site for British soldiers stationed in Jerusalem during the Mandate. To this day it exudes a pervasive sense of calm and holiness.
The cathedral is open all week long, but it’s best to make advance arrangements at (02) 628-3261.
Location: 20 Nablus Road, Jerusalem.
A STREET VENDOR sells sage, mint and other greens in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City.