After our little excursion to the Dead Sea and Masada, we headed out of the Negev desert and back to civilization. Our next stop was Jerusalem which was what could be considered the main feature of the trip to Israel.
Driving into Jerusalem is tricky so be prepared for a high stress driving situation if you’re behind the wheel. All the maps of the city that we had lacked the small side streets and the Garmin GPS struggled to find certain streets and pronounce the Hebrew accurately in understandable English (You don’t know on-edge driving until you’re in a different country and Garmin spits out “Turn left on Allafuweesa Hearzog” and the only sign you see is Kovshei Katamon Street.)
We eventually arrived at our hotel in one piece – the Eldan Hotel. This place is located across from the famous King David Hotel, so you can use that as a landmark when trying to find it. The hotel itself is very nice, with renovated rooms and it’s in a fantastic location (a quick walk to the Old City, which will be in the next post). There is very limited and tight parking, so again, have a good driver behind the wheel. You will pay a a bit to stay here – at least $200 US a night and there is NO internet (which was very bizarre for the price we were paying for the room), but its location in relation to the sites makes it worth it. If you do want to use the internet, you have to go next door to the YMCA or the King David to get a free WiFi signal.
Here are a few of the highlights from our first day (apologies for the relatively scarce amount of pictures – most of these museums didn’t allow photography):
Sun, Mon, Wed, Thurs 10 am – 5 pm
Tues 4pm – 9 pm (*Please note the Museum is closed on Tuesday mornings and during special holiday hours)
Fri and holiday eves 10 am – 2 pm
Sat and holidays 10 am – 5 pm
***Children under 18 free admission on Tuesdays and Saturdays
The Israel Museum is a solid starting point for your visit to the city. There you can view the Dead Sea Scrolls and Aleppo Codex and get a nice, but admittedly typical, look at a range of Jewish artwork. The Judaic portion of the museum is a good exhibit of the history of Jewish culture and worth walking through. There is also free parking at the museum and some very good free tours that are offered throughout the day.
Yad Vashem and the Holocaust Museum
Sunday-Wednesday: 9:00 – 5:00
A trip to Israel wouldn’t be complete without a very necessary stop at Yad Vashem and The Holocaust Museum. I’m going to say this right off the bat – this part of the trip will be extremely disturbing and emotionally draining, so be prepared for that.
At Yad Vashem, you’ll be able to look at the Hall of Remembrance – a dark, quiet hangar bay like structure that houses the eternal flame and the names of all the concentration camps carved onto the floor. Down the way is the Children’s Memorial. This memorial is a spooky, but beautiful tribute to the children victims of the holocaust. The memorial is a completely dark walkthrough with only one candle in the center and mirrors all around that make the room look like it’s filled with starry candlelight. The only sound that can be heard is the voice of one man reciting the names, birthplaces and ages of all the children victims.
Of the three big parts of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum is easily the most impressive. Being from D.C., I made the mistake of thinking the D.C and Jerusalem holocaust museums would be similar. The museum in Jerusalem is shockingly long, so give yourself at least two hours to go through it and I will admit is FAR better than the holocaust museum in Washington, D.C. As you go through each room and listen to the hundreds of stories and read the thousands of displays, it’s indescribable to fathom just how unbelievably and incredibly horrible of a tragedy occurred. Don’t be surprised if you see a lot of people with watery eyes or if you find yourself crying. At the end of the museum, if you take a look around at all the faces of the other tourists, you’ll just see mass exhaustion and the look that everyone just got hit in the face. Needless to say, this is not a “fun” thing to see or do, but it is an extremely interesting experience.