After Tel-Aviv, it is natural that you will want to travel to the Old City of Jerusalem and Bethlehem next.
If you would like to take more time in the Old City of Jerusalem, this is perfectly okay. However, if you are short on time while visiting the middle east, you can easily visit both the Old City of Jerusalem and Bethlehem in one day.
You can join a free walking tour arranged in your local hostel. The only catch is you should give your tour leader a tip. I would personally skip the walking tour because it is very slow and boring. Go ahead and read wikipedia to get all the information you need before exploring the Old City.
Once you are in the Old City of Jerusalem, you can take your time to visit the four quadrants: Armenian, Christian, Islamic and Jewish.
Each quadrant has their own charm. For me personally, the Armenian and Christian quadrants are a great place to take pictures of the city.
Tower of David in Jerusalem
The Jewish quadrant has the famous Wailing Wall (Western Wall) where people pray and insert a piece of paper with their wish within the cracks of the wall. I accidentally entered the the wrong side of the Wailing Wall resulting in me getting kicked out. Make sure you are also facing the wall when approaching it and walk backwards when you leave the area. Having your back face the wall is a huge disrespect to this place.
Wailing Wall also know as the Western Wall
The Islamic quadrant has great food for a cheap price in the market. Karen and myself got a slushy drink for 1 shekel (33 cents CDN) and a Falafel meal for 6 Shekels ($2 CDN).
Make sure you do your research before entering the city because unfortunately for me, I missed visiting the location of the last supper. Make sure you don’t miss this place when you visit!
After exploring the Old City of Jerusalem, head over to Damascus Gate and grab a taxi to go to Bethlehem. Make sure you find a taxi that is certified to drive to the Palestinian side of Israel.
The cost of the taxi ride from Damascus gate to Bethlehem is 300 Shekels (about $100 Canadian dollar).
Once you reach Bethlehem, do visit the Church of Nativity and the Graffiti Wall (formally known as the Israeli West Bank Barrier).
Church of Nativity in Bethlehem
The Church of Nativity is the birthplace of Jesus Christ and also a UNESCO world heritage site. The Graffiti Wall is a wall constructed by the Israeli’s to prevent terrorist bombings coming from Palestine from occurring. Since the wall’s construction, the number of terrorist bombings dropped from 73 to 9 in the span of 7 years (at the cost of reduced freedom and difficulty of accessing educational and medical services for the Palestinian people).
Once you reach the Church of Nativity, go ahead and decline the tour guide because you don’t need their help! You should also expect long lineups inside the church as there are tons of tour groups inside. During our visit, there was a huge Chinese tour group present in the church. Because we are of Chinese descent, we accidentally snuck to the front of the line when tour operators thought we were part of the group!
In the Graffiti Wall, you can write your own message or write your name on the wall.
Don’t be afraid to travel to both areas as they are safe for tourist. The conflict is typically between the Israeli police and Palestinians.
I love how our taxi driver was casually mentioned that he once watched a gun fight between the Israeli police and Palestinians. During the entire gun fight, he was just standing there calmly drinking his coffee as the fire fight unfolds. The worst thing that ever happened to him was having his coffee knocked out of his hand during one of these fire fights.
Jerusalem and Bethlehem is a safe and amazing place to visit. Don’t miss it should you visit Israel!