Our coverage of Israel is broken up into regions or areas of the country. This article covers Jerusalem. There is so much history in Israel that you would be well served to use a tour company in order see all the different regions of this magical country and hear its story as told by a local. To say that Israel is fascinating is an understatement. It is a country where old meets new, where ancient biblical history and cutting-edge technology unites in perfect syncrinisity. In fact, some have compared parts of Israel to today’s Silicon Valley.
Jews are bound by a set of dietary laws called “Kashrut” which, among other restrictions, forbid the consumption of pork and shellfish as well as the consumption of both meat and milk products at the same meal. While not all Israelis observe these rules, many restaurants do, making most restaurants in Israel “vegan-friendly”. Currently, Israel has the largest percentage of vegans per capita in the world according to Vegans On Top. This makes Israel an ideal destination for those seeking a vegan-friendly experience.
Jerusalem is the home of many sites of significance. The Dome of the Rock, the Wailing Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Tomb of the Virgin Mary bring religious significance to Muslims, Jews, and Christians. As you meander along the narrow alleyways of the Old City, one ponders the religious leaders who walked the cobblestone streets. The Old City is divided into quarters: Jewish quarter, Christian quarter, Muslim quarter, and the Armenian quarter. You can easily spend multiple days in the Old City and not see everything.
The City of David is a preserved area that should not be missed. It is located just outside the walls of the Old City. There is an entrance charge to view this preserved area but it is more than worth the expense. You will see ancient artifacts and tunnels from the old water system.
Outside the walls of the Old City, Jerusalem sprawls with residential neighborhoods, parks, museums, and government buildings. I cannot think of any other place that effortlessly unites ancient history with modern day living. As you explore the city, it is evident that archeological digs support settlement in Jerusalem dating back more than 3,000 years. Yet, newer apartment buildings and business towers are changing the city’s skyline and the light rail train system now transports residents to and from home and work. There is also an extensive bus system that connects to local destinations as well as destinations in other parts of the country. One of the easiest ways to get from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv is by bus. Buses are scheduled every hour or so and are comfortable and safe. Don’t miss Yad Vashem (Holocaust Museum). It is a once in a lifetime experience. Also visiting the Knesset (Israeli Parliament and Government Building) is another important stop. The Chagall Windows at Hadassa Hospital is a must see.
In order to see Jerusalem, one must be willing to stay several days, a minimum of three or four days is recommended. The single most important place for vegans to find food items is Mahane Yehuda Market, also referred to as “The Shuk”. Popular with locals and tourists alike, the market has more than 250 vendors selling fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, fish and other items. Give yourself at least an hour to roam around in this market. Many of the vendors are willing to provide samples before you buy. Everything in Jerusalem closes down early on Friday and most establishments do not re-open until sundown on Saturday.
One of our favorite shopping and dining areas of Jerusalem is Ben Yehuda Street. It has many stores with plenty of good deals for souvenirs and supplies. Ben Yehuda Street has good little take out restaurants as well. We really enjoyed Sam’s Bagels. They make custom salad to order which always includes a bagel. Yum! There is also a great falafel/Shwarma place just off Ben Yehuda Street called Melech Falafel and Schwarma at King George St 5. For an affordable hotel in a great location, check out the Palatin Hotel. We have stayed there twice and it is very reasonably priced and conveniently located. It is not fancy but breakfast is included every day with vegan options available. We used Expedia for both visits to this hotel.