Touring around on Jerusalem Day

The whole country becomes Jerusalemites to celebrate half a century of reunification

AN AERIAL view of the Old City of Jerusalem. (photo credit: REUTERS)
AN AERIAL view of the Old City of Jerusalem.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Now that we’ve recuperated from our Yom Ha’atzma’ut (Independence Day) celebrations, it’s time to gear up for Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day), which falls on May 23 this year. Israel’s capital, which has a special day dedicated solely to its reunification, is preparing lots of events, tours, shows and exhibitions for this significant day. This year, Jerusalem is celebrating 50 years since it was liberated, and in honor of this momentous occasion, the celebrations will be spread over an entire week, with the apex arriving at the weekend.
Naturally, most of the events will take place within the walls of the Old City in the Jewish Quarter. There will be an audio-visual performance with the participation of singers such as Avraham Tal, David D’Or and Sarit Hadad. If you’re interested in joining a guided tour, Yad Ben-Zvi will be leading excursions throughout the weekend, which will include culinary stops and tales of important events that took place in Jerusalem throughout history. Guided tours of Safra Square will also be available, which include a KKL-JNF photography exhibition titled “We have returned to the water cisterns.”
The tour will take place on Wednesday morning, May 24, at 10, 11, and noon.
A free KKL-JNF tour on Wednesday that will be held in conjunction with the Jerusalem Development Authority will focus on KKL-JNF involvement in the Old City throughout the years. It will commence at the National Institutions building, will continue on to Safra Square, then to the Jewish Quarter, and will wrap up at the Kotel. One tour will begin at 4 p.m. and a second at 7 p.m. Pre-registration is required at 02- 659-3468.
The Tower of David Museum will also be holding a special free Yom Yerushalayim program on May 24, which will include instructive stations, arts and crafts workshops, actors who will dramatize the history of Jerusalem, and a special performance by the Israeli Andalusian Orchestra. Visitors will get to meet unforgettable historical Jewish characters from different periods, such as King David, who will play the harp while he tells tales about his exciting life; King Solomon, who will regale spectators with the love story of his meeting the Queen of Sheba; and King Herod, who rebuilt many parts of the city.
Visitors who arrive between 3:30 and 6 p.m. will be greeted by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, and the evening will end with a performance by the Israeli Andalusian Orchestra.
Museum entry will be free for the day.
The Jewish Quarter, which is alive with all the festivities, will be hosting a new exhibition in honor of the city’s reunification titled “Touching the Moment – Symbols Shape Memory.” The exhibit includes photographs, sound clips, maps and documents of the moment the Western Wall was liberated in 1967. The exhibition, appropriate for all ages, is a compilation of stories of people from all over the country, including then IDF chief rabbi Shlomo Goren, who blew the shofar next to the Kotel. There’s a copy of the lyrics to the song “Jerusalem of Gold” in songwriter Naomi Shemer’s handwriting, maps of the Old City from the time of the Six Day War, and other items that have never been revealed to the public. Exhibition entry is included in the entrance fee to the Davidson Center.
There have also been a number of new projects that were completed in honor of Yom Yerushalayim, such as the new underground passage that connects the Cardo and the Hurva Synagogue.
It was built under an arch from the Byzantine period that was discovered during excavations carried out by Prof. Hillel Geva and Dr. Oren Gutfeld. The passageway was opened to the public only a few weeks ago at Passover.
Another incredible project in the Jewish Quarter is the “Jerusalem of Mosaics” exhibition, based on the paintings of Dudu Harel.
Located in the enclosed section of the Cardo, the exhibition illustrates the vibrant market life there during the Byzantine period. Just a week ago, the fourth of nine planned mosaics was laid out in the Cardo. Entrance during the festivities is free to the public.
Yom Yerushalayim is also the perfect time to visit the new tourist information center in the Jewish Quarter operated by the Jewish Quarter Preservation and Development Company. Ruins at the site show that it was used during the Second Temple period as a ritual bath and then later during the Byzantine period as a cistern.
Another great site to visit in the Jewish Quarter is the memorial for all the fighters who gave their lives during the War of Independence in 1948. Alongside the memorial is the Alone on the Walls Museum, previously located in the Cardo, which tells the story of the fall of the Old City to the Jordanian Arab Legion in 1948. There you’ll see a photography exhibit of the last battle taken by American photojournalist John Phillips.
The site is open to the public free of charge.
Of course, there are also plenty of activities taking place outside the Old City, such as the musical and culinary festival in the Mahaneh Yehudah market, starting on Wednesday at midnight and lasting through the wee hours of the night. Idan Raichel will perform in a sunrise concert on Thursday morning at 4:30.
Where to eat? It would be a shame to come to Jerusalem without sampling one of the city’s veteran eating spots. One of these is the Dolphin Yam Restaurant, which is also celebrating 50 years since its inception. Dolphin Yam on Salah a-Din Street was the first Israeli restaurant to open in east Jerusalem after the war.
When the first intifada broke out in 1987, the restaurant relocated to Tel Aviv and then returned to downtown Jerusalem in the early 2000s. Dolphin Yam serves seafood, meat, calamari, grilled salmon with pineapple and orange sauce, and many more (unkosher) delicacies at 9 Shimon Ben-Shetah Street.
Open all week at (02) 623-2272.
If seafood is not on your menu, a new restaurant called Nachman just opened up in Jerusalem’s Kikar Hamusica (Music Square), a modern complex located in the Nahalat Shiva neighborhood. Nachman offers dairy, vegan and gluten-free dishes, and serves a wonderful brunch through the afternoon hours. Chef Rachel Dabach, owner of the PIPS restaurant, also runs the show at Nachman at 12 Beit David Lane. Open Sunday through Thursday at (02) 992-0540.