A Peek into Jerusalem’s Future

New Jerusalem train station

The escalator that descends to the new underground Jerusalem train station.

I have written before about Batim MiBifnim – Jerusalem Open Houses, both my general appreciation of the free event and about a tour I guided in a previous year. For those who are unfamiliar, this is an annual event that lasts three days. There are walking tours, entry into architecturally interesting private homes and public visits to normally closed, private institutional buildings — all for free! And even though most tours are in Hebrew, there is still plenty to see even for English speakers. In short, it is a peek into a secret side of the city, a real treat for those who love Israel’s capital.

Of course, there is no greater secret than the future. So at this year’s event (a few weeks ago), I focused much of my time on tours that would allow me a window into where the city’s development is heading.

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Jerusalem Walking Tours for Sukkot

What's the connection between Bob Marley and this famous house in Rehavia? Come to the tour on October 13th to find out!

What’s the connection between Bob Marley and this famous house in Rehavia? Come to the tour on October 13th to find out!

It is about time that I brought back my “Jerusalem: Meet Jerusalem” walking tour series. And while I am nearing completion on a few new ones that I hope to publicize and guide over the next few months, I want to reprise the first three I did.

What better time to do that than when many of you have vacation: Chol HaMoed Sukkot.

So, if you missed any of the three tours previously, and/or you are just visiting for the holiday and are looking for something to do, these interesting tours are for you.

I’ll help you learn more about this awesome city in a few short hours!

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My Tour at Batim MiBifnim This Week

Collage Mt. Zion

The Many Faces of Christian Mount Zion

I’ve written here in the past about the always popular and equally awesome Batim MiBifnim event in Jerusalem. Though the name literally means “Houses from Within” or “Open Houses,” the annual event features so much more than just a peak into private homes. Numerous private institutions and historical buildings also open their doors to the public, and a number of theme-focused walking tours are also included.

At this year’s event, scheduled for later this week on Thursday to Saturday, I am proud to be giving a tour (twice) on Mount Zion, outside the Old City walls. For the second year in a row, the JCJCR – Jerusalem Council for Jewish-Christian Relations is co-hosting “A Window to Mt. Zion” — a series of tours and lectures focusing on the various religious communities who call the area home. My tour will be the only one in English, along with a few of the lectures as well.

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In A Place Where There Are No Men

Israel Tour Guide Joel Haber guiding in Even Yisrael

Guiding a group in Jerusalem’s Nachlaot neighborhood

In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man. — Ethics of the Fathers 2:5

I’ve always appreciated the above quote, taken from Pirkei Avot, a book from the Mishnah, full of useful proverbs to live by. And while I think a better translation of the word ish here might be (the non-sexist) “person” instead of “man,” my preferred translation lacks oomph. Essentially, this is a charge to stop looking around and pointing fingers about what needs to be done. If you see something that needs to be done and no one else is doing it, get off your butt and do it!

What does this have to do with Israeli tourism and/or tour guiding here? As you know, even from the start this blog was not just focused on tourism in Israel, but also on the profession of tour guiding here (and in particular, the tour guide training course, while I was in it).

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Top 12 Apps For Your Israel Trip (Part 2)

Waze screenshot

GPS directions, with real-time traffic condition updates, from Waze

CLICK HERE for Part 1 of “Top 12 Apps For Your Israel Trip”.

In Part One of this post, yesterday, I listed the first 6 smart phone apps that I think are essential for anyone taking a trip to Israel (plus 2 alternates). I focused on apps that would help you self-guide tours in Israel, help you communicate while here, and a good Israel news app. Today, I will tell you about a few general apps that should help you manage the day-to-day while you are here, as well as some that will help you to get around (and out of) the country.

Managing the Day-to-Day

One of the things that can surprise and at times even frustrate tourists in Israel, if they are unprepared for it, is how many things are closed on Friday night and Saturday — the Jewish Sabbath. And even for those who are observant, Shabbat in Israel can still require extra knowledge. For example, Candle Lighting Time (Sabbath begins with the lighting of candles) in Jerusalem is 40 minutes before sundown instead of the traditional 18. There are many apps that provide candle lighting times, but I find Shabbat Shalom by Rustybrick to be an excellent and easy-to-use free app.

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Top 12 Apps For Your Israel Trip (Part 1)

Silhouettes in the Old City of Jerusalem

Don’t get lost in Jerusalem’s Old City. Use the official walking tours app!

For starters, I am currently recovering from shoulder surgery, which is why I haven’t posted in a while. But now, some four weeks into my recovery, and back to typing with both hands, I’ve decided to address some topics I have been wanting to write about for a while.

I love my iPhone. I don’t often buy expensive things, but for me, this has been one of the tools that was most worth the expense. I have come across some great apps that can aid me as I explore this country, and so I wanted to share with you some of the best. I recommend you download them before you visit this country.

Many are apps that will help you on a visit to any country, or even while traveling at home. But some others are specific to Israel and touring here. And while a couple might even be seen as “competition” for me as a professional tour guide, we all know that they can’t possibly compare. So I am including them here anyway for the time you are on your own, or if you are someone who can’t afford to hire a guide.

So, here they are. My Top 12(+) apps for a trip to Israel! These are all available on iPhone, and I don’t know if all are on Android as well. But if not, maybe they can give you the idea to search for a similar app. Best of all, they are all free!

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Art is Happening Now in Jerusalem

Cutting a limestone block into a sculpture

Russian sculptor Alex Shestakov at work in Jerusalem

Last night, as I wandered the streets of Jerusalem, I unexpectedly came across two awesome art events happening simultaneously in this city. Following the summer’s Jerusalem Season of Culture, these two events are extending the cultural happenings into the fall. I am hoping that they become regular events, added to the already extensive and diverse cultural calendar of this city.

First, I was walking along the Park HaMesilah, the narrow park that about two years ago transformed the old train tracks from a hideous eyesore to a usable (and well-used) recreation and relaxation zone. I was heading to the newly redeveloped Tachana HaRishona (First Station), the old Ottoman-era train station that has been transformed into a lovely shopping, dining and events venue for the entire family. I’d recently discovered some of the newer things added there (as it is still new, there are constantly new places opening there), and was thinking about getting a quick drink at a new beer-garden (of sorts) there.

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Jerusalem, Meet Jerusalem: Rehavia

International Style building in Rehavia, now a branch of Bank Leumi

The house of Dr. Paul Bonem, built in the International style by Leopold Krakauer in 1935

My first two Jerusalem, Meet Jerusalem walking tours focused on the early expansion of Jerusalem outside the walls of the Old City. Thus, I focused first on the first three neighborhoods built outside the walls in the mid 1800s. Then we moved on to the collection of micro-neighborhoods known as Nahalaot, a step towards the New City’s solidification overall.

The third tour in the series focuses on Rehavia, a neighborhood right smack in the heart of Jerusalem. In many ways, Rehavia epitomizes Jerusalem’s modernization. Built in the 1920s and 1930s, Rehavia was planned as a Garden Neighborhood, a reaction to urbanization that was first created in Europe. From its origins and still until today, Rehavia is a neighborhood populated by leaders in politics, culture and academia.

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A Photographic Tour of Tel Aviv

Pagoda House with convex mirror

A view of Tel Aviv’s famous “Pagoda House”

I find niche tours to be interesting, and it is for that reason that I offer a few specialty tours of my own. For example, being a big foodie, and knowing many of the unique food-related sites in this country, I love giving culinary tours. But while I have been taking photos virtually my whole life, and have even been paid for this work a bit, I would not say that I am an expert in the field of photography. I have more knowledge and skill than many, but not nearly as much as a true professional.

Thus, while I’d heard of people offering photography tours before, I never really offered one of my own. I’m sure I could do a decent job, but some things are better left to others. Thus, when I heard about Rinat Halon‘s photography tour in Tel Aviv, I decided to join her to see what it was all about.

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Exploring Herod’s Tomb

Geometric tiled floor and stone tub.

Opus Sectile tiled floor and Herod’s private bathtub. (Photo courtesy of Howie Osterer)

Herod the Great is a tour guide’s dream. He is such a colorful and complex character that he offers as many good stories as amazing sites to marvel at. He was an unparalleled builder, a bloodthirsty madman who killed many members of his own family, an egotist with major insecurities, a paranoid who suspected both Rome and the Jews of hatred, a brilliant businessman, and a tenacious ruler, to name just a few of his more significant aspects.

Generally, tour guides explore different aspects of King Herod’s character via different sites. But it’s difficult to visit a single site that fully captures his complexity. Until now, that is. The Israel Museum in Jerusalem has just opened a special exhibit entitled Herod the Great: The King’s Final Journey. And while I can’t say that it covers all sides of Herod’s life, it does a great job of building a multifaceted portrait of the king.

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