Exploring Jerusalem with Kids

 

 

Exploring Jerusalem with Kids pin
Jerusalem
, Israel, is a Middle Eastern city holy to three religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. A unique city filled with diverse neighborhoods and ethnicities, it has been the subject of political disputes and wars throughout the centuries. A fascinating destination to explore, the city offers exciting educational and fun opportunities for families to discover. For families wishing to introduce their kids to a city rich in history, culture, and art here are our top five places to visit.

 

Exploring Jerusalem with Kids pin wall

The Western Wall

Known as the Kotel and situated in the Old City of Jerusalem, this is the holiest site in Judaism. It is also the most popular tourist attraction in Israel with over a million visitors yearly of all religions and cultures. Jewish pilgrims have come here since the fourth century to pray and place handwritten prayers into cracks between stones. These pilgrims weep because of the destruction of the Temple – giving it the other name of the Wailing Wall.

Exploring Jerusalem with Kids pillar

 

This wall is all that is left of a building erected by King Herod 37 years before the Common Era. It is a popular place for boys to have their Bar Mitzva – Judaism’s coming-of-age ceremony. In more recent years girls have their Bat Mitzva celebrations there too. Furthermore, it has become customary for soldiers who are in the Israeli armed forces to have their swearing-in ceremonies there too.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • This location can get crowded. Parents should keep this in mind for children who might have a problem with groups.
  • The Kotel is a religious location. Parents need to teach their child to be respectful of those on pilgrimage here.
  • Exploring Jerusalem with Kids rocks

Yad Vashem

Situated on the Mt Herzl, this is the second most visited tourist attraction in Israel. Nine underground galleries display photos, artifacts, and testimonies as well as show videos relating to the Holocaust. Visitors walk through the galleries depicting life before this dark period of history, during the atrocity, and stories of survival.

Exploring Jerusalem with Kids garden

At the Children’s Memorial, one can hear the names of about 1.5 million children read out in the background, so their existence is never forgotten. The memorial candles flicker and give the impression of a million stars in the darkness providing a somber and moving experience.

 

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter, Yad Vashem is not open to children ten and younger.
  • It is also not recommended for children under thirteen. Parents should use discretion to make sure their child can handle the mature content of this national memorial.
  • It is advisable to give children an overview of what to expect because of how graphic the material is at this location.
  • Parents should make sure their children are respectful as they move through the exhibits.

Exploring Jerusalem with Kids alley

City of David

Likely the oldest section of ancient Jerusalem, the City of David is where travelers can take their children to see history come alive. It is now an archaeological site that relays the story of battles and victories, revealing how people lived thousands of years ago. Travelers can walk the Shiloh tunnel, carved from each end through almost 583 yards of solid rock – an incredible scientific feat, especially for that period.

Exploring Jerusalem with Kids tunnel

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Kids interested in history will enjoy exploring this location.
  • The Shiloh tunnel is dark and incredibly small in some places. Children who have problems with tight spaces or darkness might not want to walk through this tunnel.
    Exploring Jerusalem with Kids greek church

Israel Museum

Travelers who want to see everything that the country’s national museum has to offer should budget at least one full day for this unusual and fascinating place. Covering a distance of 31 square miles, it houses various collections, displays, and findings.

There is the archaeology wing arranged in a chronological journey with pottery, glass, jewelry, and ancient writings. Visitors can see a scale model of the city of Jerusalem from before the year 66 in the Common Era. This model gives visitors a good idea of what Jerusalem looked like before its destruction by the Romans.
Exploring Jerusalem with Kids views

The museum has a whole building called the Shrine of the Book dedicated to housing and preserving the oldest Biblical manuscripts ever found, including the Dead Sea Scrolls. There is another wing for Fine Art and an Art Garden. The museum features a Youth Wing dedicated to promoting education and coexistence between Arab and Jewish children and they offer workshops throughout the year which attract locals and tourists alike.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • This place is a mostly non-interactive museum. Parents should make sure kids know what they can and can’t touch.

The Shuk

The Machane Yehuda market is an old and famous landmark dating back to the Ottoman Empire. It used to be exclusively open-air but after undergoing renovations and upgrading over the past few decades, it now also has covered stalls and restaurants.

 Exploring Jerusalem with Kids market

 

Apart from all the vendors selling their fresh produce, amazing fruit and vegetables with all colors and fragrances, there are also ready-to-eat pastries, shawarma, falafel and other street food stalls. One can even buy freshly barbecued meats served with salads and pita bread with hummus and tahini to take home.
Exploring Jerusalem with Kids yard

Autism Travel Tips:

  • This location is a great place for children with autism to practice haggling.
  • The market is usually crowded. The crowds can overwhelm kids with noise sensitivities or those who are claustrophobic.
  • The Shuk offers self-guided tours, including the option of a tasting tour.

 

Touring the City of David, Jerusalem

                                                               Guest post by Darya Short

The City of David, considered by many to be the birthplace of the holy city of Jerusalem, is an archeological park detailing the city’s historical past.
Families can tour ancient houses and the watch towers used to defend the water well during numerous enemy sieges as well as a 533-meter long tunnel carved through solid rock that connects the city to the pools of Shiloh.

 

Getting  there

From the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem, visitors can take the 1, 1A, 2 and 38 Egged buses to the Western Wall.The closest parking to the Tunnel Tour is in the Karta Western Wall parking lot. Most of the parking in and near the Old City requires a fee.
We came from out of town by car and parked underground in Jerusalem’s Mamilla Mall. We walked through the outdoor promenade of the Mall which might be a future shopping outing one day!
Then, we went past the King David Citadel, followed the signs to the Western Wall, known as The Kotel in Hebrew, all the way to the Tunnel tours on the Northern side.

Touring the City of David, Jerusalem kotel

 

When to go

The only way to go on this tour is by making reservations ahead of time through the Western Wall Generation Centre.
In our experience, it is extremely busy regardless of the time of day or week, so there is no advantage to booking an early in the morning versus a late in the afternoon tour.
When we arrived, we saw that there were groups scheduled for every 10 minutes and each group was full.We found that they were punctual and organized so make sure you arrive before your scheduled time slot to avoid a chance of missing your tour.

The tour runs Sunday through Thursday from 7 AM to 8 PM. On Fridays and on the eve of the celebration Biblical festivals, they are shorter from 7 AM to midday.On Shabbat (Saturday) and the somber Biblical festivals as well as the day before Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, and on Tisha B’av – the day the Jewish Temple was destroyed, the venue is closed.

During the week-long holidays like The Feast of Tabernacles, Chanukah and Passover, except for the first and last days of these festivals, the site is open as usual.

Make sure to choose the language you want your tour to be conducted in, at booking since it is impossible to switch later.
The tours are in English and Hebrew but in August, there are also tours in French.  Touring the City of David, Jerusalem citadel

The  Tour

We began our tour by going underground down some stone stairs.  Without lights, it would be pitch dark, but it was well lit and smelled like a cave which added to the whole experience.

All the low arches were padded, so we felt safe and secure. We were shown into a room where our guide gave us a brief overview with a visual display condensing a few thousand years of history in fifteen minutes. It was incredibly fascinating!

As it was a bit disorientating being underground, it was good to be shown where we were and in which direction we were going to be walking. Bear in mind that what you see on the outside is nothing like what you experience inside!

The whole tour lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes, and we went through eons of time with history, archeology, geography thrown in; enthralled with everything we heard and saw.

We passed narrow passages, high archways and large rooms that were used to hold drinking water for the city’s population.  The guide pointed out how every part of the tunnel looked different, because of the various functions each part fulfilled over the different centuries. Some ceilings even had chimneys and trap doors in places which added to the mystery and fun. On the way, our son even noticed a few stalactites clinging to the ceiling rock that were beautiful.

Much care has been done to make sure that tourists are safe, so there are railings along the whole route of the tour, which includes the stone stairs visitors use to climb and down. Our guide did an excellent job of warning our group that steps were uneven in places and that we should all be careful; a fact we thought was great especially for special needs travelers. We all liked the individual glass panels on the ground in several places where guests could see deep down all the way to the bedrock.

The tour ended in the section of the Wall directly under the Muslim Quarter of the Old City.We climbed the stairs and came into the market area which is famous for dining as well as bargain shopping. We wandered into the Armenian Quarter and Jewish Quarter before making our way back to our car.
Overall, we had a fantastic day and our child with sensory needs mentioned how he didn’t feel claustrophobic and asked when we could come back which made us all very happy.

Touring the City of David, Jerusalem wells

 

 

Autism Travel Tips

  • Jerusalem is a very densely populated city with over 3 million tourists visiting each year.Respecting personal space doesn’t always get a chance to feature. There are ongoing archeological excavations, drilling and building all over the city, including underground, so there is a higher decibel of noise.  This adds to the incredible atmosphere that is Jerusalem but can be hard for a traveler with noise sensitivities. Make sure you pack noise canceling headphones if needed
  • The stairs are uneven and slippery when wet.Wear non-slip, comfortable walking shoes when you visit the Old City of Jerusalem
  • The Old City with its narrow streets and alleys can be quite confusing, so I recommend having a map of the Old City to avoid getting lost.
  • Depending on the time of year, one can make this into a day trip. No matter how long you are planning to stay for, ensure that you have drinking water with you at all times.

 

 

Darya  Short lives in Jaffa, one of the oldest still-functioning port cities of the world.  Her husband, Antony, is the Headmaster of Tabeetha School, established in 1863.  Together with their two teenaged children, one of whom has Sensory Integration issues, they try to see as much of the Israeli countryside as possible, visiting National Parks, museums, and historical sites.  

Pin It on Pinterest