One of the beauties of living in Israel is the amount of exploration that one is able to do within the country. From experiencing the beauty of ma’ayanot (springs), to the depths of history, to the bountiful nature that the country has to offer, it’s impossible to run out of things to do and
places to explore within the country. Surrounded both by wildlife and being the center of the country’s history, living in the Jerusalem area offers you the ability to experience all of these adventures without having to travel more than an hour. In this article, I offer you a list of some of the city’s, and surrounding cities’, most fascinating historical attractions, giving you the opportunity to soak in the country’s rich history without taking more than a day off of work!
Ir David (City of David)
Ir David, the City of David, is located just outside of the Old City in Jerusalem and takes visitors on a journey back to the Second Temple period. The story of Ir David began over 3,000 years ago, when King David settled in Jerusalem and established it as the unified capital of the 12 tribes of Israel. Today, Ir David is one of the most well-maintained historical sites in Israel, revealing some of the most fascinating archaeological finds of the ancient, biblical world. The City of David allows for riveting explorations both above- and under-ground. Through the City of David official organization, you can book a tour that takes you through the entirety of the rich city. It begins with a stunning observation point overlooking Biblical Jerusalem. It then takes visitors through archaeological excavations that span thousands of years of history, including the First and Second Temple periods. The tour then continues to the Gihon Spring, the major water source in historical Jerusalem. Those looking for an added level of adventure can choose to journey through King Hezekiah’s water tunnel, trekking through water that sometimes runs knee-deep. The total time length of the tour is 3 hours. Fees range from 28 NIS for entrance (14 NIS for children and senior citizens), to 62 NIS for a guided group tour, to 575 NIS for a private tour. The site is easily accessible through public transportation and by car/cab.
Ir David official website: https://www.cityofdavid.org.il/en
Tour information: https://www.cityofdavid.org.il/en/tours/city-david/city-david-tours-biblical-jerusalem
To book a tour: call 077-9966-729
Herodium National Park
Herodium National Park is a fortress that is the palace and gravesite of King Herod, also known as Herod the Great, who ruled over the Herodian kingdom in the first century BCE. It is a wonderfully grand and stunning structure. There are a number of different attractions in the
park, ranging from Lower Herodium, a complex that includes the ruins of the palace; Mount Herod, a partly man-made mountain which houses the remains of the palace; Herod’s tomb; escape tunnels; and more. The park is located outside of Beit Lechem, approximately a half
hour from central Jerusalem. Visitors are able to take an archaeological tour of the park and visit the tomb and the palace. On Fridays, you can join a free guided tour.
Herodium park: https://www.parks.org.il/en/reserve-park/herodium-park/
Kfar Etzion is one of the oldest kibbutzim in Israel. It is a religious kibbutz located in the south West Bank, originally founded in 1927 as a farming community by the name of Migdal Eder. It was destroyed in 1929 by Palestinian rioters, and subsequently rebuilt as Kfar Etzion. It was then destroyed again in 1948, the day before the Declaration of Independence, during the famous Kfar Etzion massacre, and re-established yet again in 1967. Kfar Etzion offers a visitor’s museum that documents the history of the kibbutz and tells the story of the Kibbutz’s destruction during the 1948 Massacre. The museum provides an incredibly moving experience, and shares a piece of Israeli history that is generally underrepresented. Kfar Etzion is approximately a 20-minute drive from Jerusalem.
Kfar Etzion museum: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g7290659-d13431475-Reviews-Gush_Etzion_Heritage_CenterGush_Etzion_West_Bank.html
Hebron (Cave of Machpelah)
Hevron, one of the holiest cities in Jerusalem, is located 30 kilometers south of Jerusalem, an approximately 1-hour drive. Hevron holds the resting places of the biblical patriarchs and matriarchs (Ma’arat HaMachpelah) — Adam and Eve, Avraham and Sarah, Yitzhak and Rivka,
and Yaakov and Leah. It is the world’s most ancient Jewish site. Hevron itself is also a fascinating city to visit, as it is one of the most highly tense and fraught political situations in Israel. This makes it a dangerous place to visit on one’s own, and one should bring along a tour guide when planning a visit to Hevron.
Some tour guides option for visiting Hevron:
Dual-narrative tour: https://www.tripadvisor.com/AttractionProductReview-g293983-d11454167- Hebron_Day_Trip_from_Jerusalem_Israeli_Palestinian_Sites-Jerusalem_Jerusalem_Distr.html
More comprehensive West Bank tour (including Hevron):
Hevron tour by local Jewish resident:
Kever Rachel (Rachel’s Tomb)
Kever Rachel is located near the northern entrance to Beit Lechem, approximately 15-20 minutes from central Jerusalem. It is the burial site of Rachel, one of the four matriarchs in the Bible. Kever Rachel is a site frequented both for its historical depth and also for prayer. As with
Hevron, it is advisable to travel to Kever Rachel in a safe way, either with a tour guide or with a group, or during peak times, when there are many other travelers there (for example, on Rachel’s yahrzeit). The tomb is generally open 24 hours a day, and while it is typically accessible to all visitors, large groups may have to coordinate their visit with Israeli security. One should dress modestly when visiting Kever Rachel, and women should be prepared to cover their head upon entry (there are head scarfs provided at the site). The best way to get to the site is by car, as buses do not run directly to the Kever.
More information on visiting Kever Rachel: https://holiday-golightly.com/israel-rachels-tomb/