A private tour of the holy city of Jerusalem is a special journey that every Jewish person should experience at least once in their life. It doesn’t matter if you’re religious or secular, when you explore the ancient streets of this beautiful city, you’ll be immersed in thousands of years of Jewish heritage and tradition.
A Jewish private tour in Jerusalem is one of the best ways to experience the ancient spiritual and cultural center of Judaism. We’ll highlight some of Jerusalem’s most important religious, historical and cultural sites in this blog post.
We’ll also show why a Jerusalem private tour, arranged by a leading Jewish travel agency, is not only the most comfortable and convenient way to see the city, but brings you a level of local knowledge, insight and understanding that most visitors to Israel can only dream of.
Before we go on and explore all the great reasons one should take a private tour of Jerusalem, let me share some history about his magnificent city.
A Potted History of Jerusalem
Jerusalem is built on a plateau in the Judean Mountains and overlooks the Judean Desert to the East. The city was the capital of King David’s United Kingdom of Israel and, three thousand years later, is now the capital of the modern State of Israel. The glory days of the ancient Jewish capital were during the reign of Solomon, who built the famous Temple and other major works.
Jerusalem’s beauty and prosperity, and also its political, religious and strategic location, made it a target for waves of invaders. The Jewish capital is one of the world’s oldest – and most coveted – cities. Its history is written in blood, having been besieged on 23 separate occasions and attacked more than 50 times.
For all its suffering, Jerusalem endured and still outlives its occupiers. The Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, the Caliphates, Crusaders and Mamluks, the Ottomans and finally the British all left their mark on Jerusalem. They contributed to the city’s architecture and history, and to its laws, culture and character, but all are gone.
In 1948, West Jerusalem became the capital of Israel. In 1967, the city was united after a fierce battle that drove the Jordanian Army out of their fortified positions. Today, Jerusalem is steadily gaining international recognition as the capital of Israel and is a prosperous and thriving modern city and cultural center – with many wonderful ancient neighborhoods and enclaves.
- 4500–3500 BCE is the estimated period of the earliest known settlement in Jerusalem. The Chalcolithic settlement was established near Gihon Spring in the Kidron Valley.
- 1010 BCE saw the conquest of Jerusalem (Jebus) by King David. The new City of David became the capital of his kingdom.
- 962 BCE is believed to be the year that King Solomon built the First Temple.
- 587–586 BCE was a tumultuous period in Jewish History. The 2nd Babylonian siege led to the destruction of the Temple and the exile of the Jews to Babylon.
- 167 BCE was another important year in Jerusalem’s history. 165 years after Alexander the Great took the city, the Maccabean Revolt broke out.
- 19 BCE: Jerusalem was under Roman rule. Herod rebuilt the Temple. It was demolished in 70 CE on Tisha B’Av during the revolt against Roman Rule.
- 636-7CE – The Caliph Umar the Great conquered Jerusalem but allowed Jews to live freely and practice their faith.
- 1099 CE – The Crusaders stormed the city and slaughtered Jews and Muslims.
- 1516 CE – Jerusalem became a part of the Ottoman Empire.
- 1917 CE – The British defeated the Turks and General Allenby entered Jerusalem on foot, beginning the British Mandate.
- 1948 CE – Jerusalem became the capital of the State of Israel.
The Advantages of a Jerusalem Private Tour
Jerusalem is a lot more than just another tourist destination. If you’re Jewish, there’s a good chance that your distant – or perhaps more recent – ancestors actually lived within its walls or visited for High Holidays. When you visit the Wailing Wall, the Tower of David, the Kidron Valley, or dozens of other places in Jerusalem, you may be walking over ground that people who shared your DNA also once walked over.
To gain a real understanding of these sites, you need a professional tour guide who has an expert level of knowledge of every historical site. You also need the time and flexibility to really explore and experience the places that strike a particular chord. The best private tours in Jerusalem will be happy to create an itinerary that suits your preferences and lets you focus on the places that you traveled all the way to Israel to visit.
A big advantage of booking a Jerusalem private tour as part of your Israel heritage tour is the convenience factor. Although the public transport network in Jerusalem is pretty good, it can be stressful and tiring if you don’t know your way around. Private tours in Jerusalem will arrange the right transport options for your group – single person, family or small party – and drive you around in comfort and in complete security.
Typically, you’ll be collected from your hotel in the morning and driven to the first destination on your itinerary. Your guide will go with you and can point out places of interest as you drive. You’ll completely avoid the headaches of using public transport and your driver will be on call throughout the day. Drivers are selected for their knowledge of local roads (great for saving time) and for their skill behind the wheel.
Private Tours in Jerusalem VS Group Tours
There are many reasons why experienced tourists prefer private tours over group tours. The key to the most obvious reason is the word ‘private’. One of the disadvantages of group tours is that you will be traveling and touring with other people, some of whom may be strangers. Travel doesn’t always bring out the best in people and personality clashes or annoying companions can take a lot of the pleasure out of a vacation.
A private tour basically puts you in charge. You can choose who you spend time with and won’t be subordinate to an inflexible group itinerary. Group tours usually aim to please the majority – and don’t always get that right. A private tour in Jerusalem or any place for that matter, allows for much more spontaneity and for a chance to explore the city as you learn more about it. A good tour guide will have no problem including a detour to show you something that’s sparked your interest or changing the day’s plans because you’ve fallen in love with a particular spot.
Visiting Religious Sites in Jerusalem
If you’re keen to visit religious sites in Jerusalem, either to worship or out of cultural and historical interest, a Jewish private tour in Jerusalem takes some beating. Again, it’s the combination of expert knowledge and local contacts that will make your tour special. A touring itinerary can be arranged so that you can see the maximum number of sites with the minimum of travel time and fuss.
Jerusalem is a major 21st century spiritual center and there is a lot more to see than just the historical religious sites. The city’s Mea Shearim neighborhood offers a fascinating glimpse of the ultra orthodox way of life. It’s often also possible to arrange some personal introductions to religious figures in Jerusalem as well as private tours of synagogues, seminaries and other religious locations.
A Jewish private tour in Jerusalem will provide a guide who understands local sensibilities, as well as your own religious needs. If you’re keen to visit the Temple Mount, the holiest place in Judaism, your guide will be able to advise on local conditions and current regulations for visitors. A visit to the Temple Mount is a truly fascinating excursion, but it’s better to go with a professional guide.
What’s Special About a Jerusalem Private Tour?
Everybody has their own personal criteria when it comes to creating the trip of a lifetime. Some people love the luxury of a private tour and the sheer pleasure of being driven around a foreign city and taken to all the top tourist locations. Others really appreciate having an English speaking guide who has a deep knowledge and passion for Jerusalem history and Jewish culture. Good guides enjoy their work and love answering questions.
We think that the single thing that makes the Jerusalem private tour special is local knowledge. It’s the magic moments between visits to places like the Wailing Wall or King David’s tomb that make the private tour truly memorable. There are some really amazing places in Jerusalem that most tourists simply never discover. When you have a guide who lives in the city, you’ll get personal recommendations for places like the neighborhood Yemenite restaurant that cooks superb home food, the up and coming art gallery, or the jeweler who can complete a special commission before you return home.
Private tours can also arrange introductions to some really interesting local people. Jerusalem is the spiritual center of Judaism, but there is also a Muslim Quarter and an Armenian Quarter. If you’re looking for high quality souvenirs, Armenian ceramics or Muslim antiques may well astound you. The food is also an adventure, and if you require kosher food, your tour guide will make sure you eat well.
If you’re planning a trip to Israel, a private tour of Jerusalem will give you a deeper insight into this beautiful 3,000 year old city that endures as the heart of Judaism.