Visiting Holy Sites
A day tour in Jerusalem’s Old City can include visits to multiple holy sites, sometimes of two or more religions. Each group and each site has their own rules for what is appropriate dress in their community, you will definitely be best served by planning ahead to ‘do as the Romans do.’ I addressed the commonly accepted rules at these holy sites in another article, but here is the most relevant piece:
When visiting any of the Churches in the country the usual dress code is no shorts or tank-tops. Or to put it another way, knees, shoulders, and collarbones should be covered by your clothes. This applies equally to men and women, and some places you may visit will have people at the door who will give you a hard time about this if you don’t comply. That’s a headache you don’t need.
As to Jewish holy sites, for the most part there is no formal requirement, but at the Western Wall prayer area, which is considered an Orthodox synagogue, the same rules apply with one addition. In addition to pants for men and shoulder covering shirts for all, women should either wear a skirt that is more than knee length, or bring a wrap or cloth of some sort that they can throw on over their pants when entering the plaza. One can also bring a wrap to throw over their shoulders if their shirt is too revealing. Though married Orthodox women cover their hair, this is not required of visitors, and there are kippot (yarmulkas) at the entrance to the men’s side of the plaza, so no need to bring one just for this purpose.
Take a Hike
But a day tour in the Old City is also a considerable hike, literally. The day includes a lot of walking up and down stone streets on the sides of hills, so you need to wear good shoes for walking. I recommend a good pair of running or walking shoes. Whatever keeps you most comfortable walking and standing. You’ll also need the same equipment you need for any outdoor adventure in the land of Israel, including water, a hat, sunscreen, and a bag to carry everything.
To summarize so far, be sure to wear or bring the following:
- A comfortable day pack to carry your stuff
- Hat with a brim (baseball caps will do, but a broad brimmed hat is even better)
- Pants or skirts below knees and shirts which cover shoulders and collar bones
- A wrap to put on over pants at the Western Wall for women who are wearing pants
Hezekiah’s Tunnel (City of David)
But after all this there’s a problem. I have you all covered up, wearing your best orthopedic shoes, and now I’m going to get you all wet! The last stop on most of my day tours of the Old City is Hezekiah’s tunnel. This ancient water tunnel was dug over 2700 years ago under the rule of King Hezekiah as part of his preparations for an Assyrian siege. Today we walk through the tunnel from one end to the other, mostly about ankle high in water which still flows there, but occasionally through spots which reach to my upper thigh (and I’m pretty tall). And what’s more the cave is dark! So here’s what you’ll need to bring in your day pack to be fully prepared for the tunnel.
- A small flashlight (or you can buy one at the entrance)
- Shoes or sandals you don’t mind wearing in the water
- Either a change of pants, or wear pants with a zip off bottom, or plan to air-dry
- SUGGESTED: I bring a ziplock bag which I put my keys, phone, wallet, etc. in, inside my backpack for this part of the tour. It’s always stayed dry but I’m paranoid about dropping my bag in the water. It also makes it easier to keep those things together and organized.
I offer private tours of Jerusalem’s Old City on your schedule, customized for your group or family. If you’d like to learn more about that please check out my page on that tour, or get in touch with me directly.