Elul in the Holy City

There’s no more authentic place to experience the awe-filled days preceding the Jewish High Holidays than Jerusalem.

Tower of David Tours 311 (photo credit: Naftali Hilger/Tower of David Tours)
Tower of David Tours 311
(photo credit: Naftali Hilger/Tower of David Tours)
The traditionally introspective and special time of Elul is upon us and Jerusalem offers a multitude of unique, creative and exciting ways to get in the spirit.
The Tower of David is offering night-time tours featuring Selichot (special prayers recited in preparation for the Jewish High Holidays) preceded by the powerful Night Spectacular and a panoramic view from the Museum towers. The two-hour tour is given in Hebrew and takes one through the Old City to experience the ancient Jewish custom of asking forgiveness before the Days of Awe and to learn about the customs and stories of this extraordinary time.
Selichot tours offered by the City of David include “A Place for Forgiveness”, a two-hour guided tour in Hebrew with accompanying music following the footsteps of the ancient residents of the city. The tour ends at the Western Wall Plaza for the traditional Selichot service at midnight and includes a 3D movie and entry of the dry underground water systems. The second tour "Forgiveness and Atonement" takes place in the newly uncovered Herodian Water Aqueduct, giving visitors the opportunity to contemplate the foundations of Jerusalem and to arrive for Selichot at the Western Wall from the recently revealed 700m enchanting underground tunnel.
A fascinating new exhibition “Sound the Shofar - a Witness to History” at the Bible Lands Museum traces the shofar through history from the ancient world to modern times and from animal horn to icon. On display are different shofars from around the world, each marking a pivotal event, a personal story or the quest for religious freedom.
On display for the first time is the famous shofar blown after the Six-day War that has become a symbol for the unification of Jerusalem. Another interesting shofar on view is one which was blown at the Western Wall during the British Mandate period despite prohibitions. The exhibition includes activities for families with a dedicated children’s wing.
A Piyyut Festival will take place at Beit Avi Chai with diverse concerts followed by free performances in the center’s courtyard. A piyyut is a Jewish liturgical poem usually designated to be sung, chanted, or recited during religious services.There are also eclectic Piyyutim happening in the streets of Gilo, Kiryat Hayovel as well as Nachla’ot, where Beit Avi Chai will offer guided tours in neighborhood synagogues.
Beit Avi Chai hosts a discussion “A Year Gone By: A Retrospective of 5771” reviewing some of the year’s outstanding events and processes as well as a culinary workshop, “May We Be a Head and Not a Tail”,  based on the symbolic foods of Rosh Hashanah. Lovers of art and dance should not miss premieres of original dance works that deal with the interface between prayer and movement and a multidisciplinary exhibition of works inspired by the world of piyyut.
Alternatively, visit one of the city’s many breathtaking ancient sites, attend a class or simply wander the streets and take in the energy of this time.
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