How to enjoy Friday & Shabbat in Jerusalem

June 25th 2012

A trip to Israel is hardly complete without a visit to Hebron, the second holiest site in the country. It is an ancient custom for Jerusalemites to visit Hebron on Friday’s to pay respects at the Cave of Patriarchs, the burial site of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (yes, the same guys from the Bible).

The second holiest city in Judaism, Hebron (known also as “The City of the Patriarchs”) lies a mere 30 kilometers south of Jerusalem. In addition to its religious and historical importance, Hebron is also famous for its vineyards, fig trees, limestone quarries, pottery studios and glass blowing factories. Hebron’s largest attraction, however, is the Cave of Patriarchs, called Ma’arat Hamachpelah (or “cave of the double tombs”) in Hebrew. It is here that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were buried along with their wives Sarah, Rebecca and Leah. According to Jewish tradition, this is also the site of Adam and Eve’s final resting place.

Nearby, just outside Bethlehem, rests the final matriarch. Rachel’s Tomb, called Kever Rachel in Hebrew, is the burial place of Rachel, one of the four matriarchs of the Bible. The restored tomb is open to visitors, and has beena pilgrimage site since the beginning of the Byzantine period. The third holiest site in Judaism, Rachel’s Tomb is a symbol of the return of the Jewish people to the Holy Land, as well as a memorial to Rachel, the eternal mother.

After paying homage to the matriarchs and patriarchs of Judaism, return to Jerusalem. To complete your visit to the holy sites of Judaism, make a stop at The Kotel (the Western Wall), the most important site in Judaism. Write your prayers on a piece of paper and stick it into the craggy, holy wall, and feel the incredible energy of the place.

If it is Friday, then you will have the opportunity to celebrate Shabbat in Jerusalem, which is an experience like no other. Enjoy Shabbat dinner with a host family in their home for a personal look at life in the Holy Land. Enjoy tastes from around the diaspora, while learning traditional songs and enjoying a laid back evening.

And after Shabbat ends Saturday night, head to bustling Ben Yehuda Street, which is lively any time of day. Restaurants, boutiques, and street performers are all part of the fabric of this street in the heart of Jerusalem. The surrounding neighborhood is home to a plethora of bars and pubs, where you will find people from around the world coming together to hang out.