The Jewish Quarter is one of the four quarters that make up Jerusalem’s Old City, home to around 2,000 inhabitants and dozens of synagogues and yeshivas (places where Jewish religious texts are studied). A Jewish presence has existed there since 800 BCE, and it is rich in history, archaeological sites, and fascinating museums. Undoubtedly, this is one of the most intriguing places in the world to explore!
Also known as the Wailing Wall and the kotel, this is the holiest site in the world for the Jewish people, and one of the main attractions in Israel. The only remnant of the Second Temple, which was conquered and destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, the Western Wall should be top of your to do list in Jerusalem.
The wall is divided into two sections for men and women, and you must dress modestly–men should cover their heads with a kippa, and women should cover their knees and shoulders. The intensity and depth of feeling you will see among Jews praying at the Wall – it is common to see men sobbing as they fervently rock back and forth while reciting prayers – is truly powerful to witness, whether you are religious or not.
Western Wall Tunnels
The Western Wall that is visible above ground is just a small part of a larger structure. Beneath lie the remarkable Western Wall Tunnels, which give a glimpse into bygone Jerusalem. From ancient cisterns to second temple-era homes, you will be amazed by what you find in these fascinating tunnels. In October 2017, Israeli archaeologists stumbled upon an amazing ancient Roman theatre beneath the Western Wall, which will eventually be made open to the public.
The Western Wall Tunnels, The Ancient City, Jerusalem, 972-2-627-1333
The Davidson Center, in Jerusalem’s Archaeological Park, is located within an Umayyad-period palace and uses visual technology to showcase Jerusalem’s ancient history. In addition, it is home to archaeological remains that date back to the first and second temple periods, including remnants of what was once the main street in ancient Jerusalem.
Roughly 1,500 years ago, this was one of Jerusalem’s busiest roads. Now, it is one of the main attractions in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, due to its impressive, well-restored columns and built-in modern shopping lane. Its original shops, that date back to the Byzantine period, are still in use today as gift shops!
Tower of David Museum
The Tower of David Museum, which showcases the history of Jerusalem from its second millennium BCE origins to the present day, is located within the medieval citadel that it is named after. For anyone interested in sharpening their understanding of the full story of Jerusalem, this museum is a must. The 360 degree view of the Old City that is available from the citadel’s tower is worth a visit on its own.
Tower of David Museum, Jerusalem, 9114001, 02-626-5333
The Ramparts Walk
This walk along the narrow stone walls of Jerusalem’s Old City is one of the best ways to take in the beauty and intrigue of this city. Divided into two different walks from its north and south sides, it is the latter that you can do from the Jewish Quarter (this is also the shorter walk, taking 30-40 minutes). Beginning by the Tower of David, it will take you along the Armenian Quarter, offering panoramic views of Jerusalem before ending at the Western Wall. This is a highly recommended way to experience the Old City from a different perspective. Tickets can be bought at the tourist office by Jaffa Gate for NIS 16.
Opening hours for the Ramparts Walk: Sunday–Thursday: 9am-4pm, Saturday: 9am-4pm, Friday: 9am-2pm. The south and north sides stay open until 19:00 and 17:00 respectively during summer months.
The Hurva Synagogue
The Hurva Synagogue is one of the Jewish Quarter’s prime attractions. It’s beautiful interior is matched by its fascinating yet tumultuous history. Its origins lie in 1500, when a group of Eastern European Jewish immigrants began its construction. However, it was destroyed by local Muslims in 1520. The synagogue was eventually rebuilt in 1864 by Lithuanian Jews, and it stood for almost a century as a significant symbol of the Jewish Quarter.
Fast forward 84 years to the 1948 War of Independence, and the synagogue was destroyed again by Jordanian soldiers from the Arab Legion. In 1967, after Israel emerged victorious from the Six Day War and took back control of Jerusalem from the Jordanians, the Jewish Quarter and the Hurva Synagogue were rebuilt. In the early 2000s, the Israeli Government decided to reconstruct it to emulate its original style from the 19th century. Today, it is an actively used place of worship, and well worth a visit. From the veranda on the synagogue’s dome, you also have a stunning 360 degree view of the Old City.
Hurva Synagogue opening hours: Sunday through to Thursday 9:00-17:00. On Fridays and holiday eves, 9:00-13:00
The Wohl Museum of Archaeology – Herodian Quarter
This fascinating underground museum will give you a glimpse into what luxury and decadence looked like in ancient Jerusalem. The museum is literally built over the remains of an affluent ancient neighbourhood from the time of King Herod’s rule. You are sure to be mesmerised by the stunning mosaics and artworks, lounges, ritual baths and kitchen utensils found here.
The Wohl Museum of Archaeology – Herodian Quarter opening hours: Sunday to Thursday, 9:00-17:00 (summer) and 9:00-13:00 (winter + Fridays and holiday eves)