February 21st 2013
When scheduled to take place on a Friday evening or a Saturday, a walking tour in Jerusalem offers opportunities to see a different side of its neighborhoods. The hustle and bustle is replaced by tranquility and holiness, which is evident just by walking the streets. Some of the most picturesque areas of the city – including Yemin Moshe, Nachlaot and the Old City – are best toured on the weekends.
When Shabbat comes to Jerusalem, the city transforms from a busy metropolis to a quiet, friendly village. A siren sounds announcing the arrival of Shabbat every Friday afternoon, and traffic slows down and even stops entirely in some areas. Men, women and children appear dressed in their finest clothing on their way to synagogue or to visit with friends. Early Shabbat morning, the only sounds are the birds chirping, but as the day progresses, the streets and playgrounds are filled with children playing.
A Yemin Moshe walking tour will take you through this unique neighborhood, built onto a terraced hillside with staircases interspersed with houses. The story of Yemin Moshe is also the story of the expansion of Jewish settlement in Jerusalem in the late 19th century. It was the first neighborhood built outside the walls of the Old City and was originally inhabited by underprivileged residents. Today, it is a wealthy community with many artists and international intellectuals maintaining homes here. Yemin Moshe also offers a stunning view of the Old City, particularly beautiful on a Shabbat afternoon.
Nachlaot is an eclectic neighborhood, with a mix of yuppies, hippies, English-speaking immigrants and old-timer blue collar Israelis. Its narrow alleyways and plethora of synagogues guarantee a surprise around every bend. Since vehicle traffic is severely limited in Nachlaot, children roam freely around the neighborhood, playing Shabbat games in every spare corner. Nachlaot is one of the oldest neighborhoods of new Jerusalem, with a rich and storied history.
A walking tour of the Old City will introduce you to the eclectic populations of the neighborhood. Large ultra-Orthodox families, American immigrants and Israelis who bought homes here right after the Six Day War all live in the small Jewish Quarter. The recently refurbished dome of the Hurva Synagogue dominates the landscape, with its amazing story of destruction and renewal. Shabbat finds the Old City full of residents, visitors passing through on their way to the Western Wall, and exploring tourists from all over the world. The quiet of the Jewish Quarter is very much in contrast with the hustle and bustle of the nearby Christian and Muslim Quarters.
A visit to the Western Wall on Shabbat can be a peak experience. Your tour guide will emphasize the history and religious significance of the Western Wall while you soak up the Shabbat atmosphere. The Western Wall is the most popular prayer space in Jerusalem and will be filled to the brim during common prayer times of day. Jews of all stripes pray and sing together. At any given moment, though, you are likely to find a circle of dancing Sabbath revelers who will be happy for you to join in.
Take advantage of your Shabbat in Jerusalem by visiting one of these neighborhoods to see how Israelis relax on their only day of rest each week.