FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Tours Reveal Jerusalem’s Paradox as an Old City Shaped by New Ideas

by Elyse Glickman

Jun 28, 2024

© Sean Pavone | Dreamstime.com

June 2024

Despite the current situation in Israel, Jerusalem’s biggest draws remain the buildings, landmarks and archaeological sites going back hundreds to thousands of years. Israeli tech companies and cultural institutions between 2020 and 2022 implemented high-tech features to breathe new life into Old City walking tours and make the hallowed sites even more accessible, sustainable and enriching … even for the repeat visitor and for when the modern-day tourist returns. Other tours reflect the role small businesses play in making Jerusalem’s lifestyle innovative and modern.

The East Jerusalem Development Co. enlivens Jerusalem’s historic timeline built into the Ramparts Walk/Walls Promenade through a smartphone app, QR codes and 3-D-printed “bronze” statues. Various points along the elevated trail become a time travel experience when you point your phone at a QR code on signage that brings to life historical figures who provide “first-person” accounts of key events from biblical and Roman times to the Ottoman Empire and to British Occupation following World War I. Furthermore, newly constructed ramps allow people with physical disabilities to partake in the experience of traversing the walls. Other apps enable visually impaired travelers to enjoy an equally interactive experience.

archaeologu

© Elyse Glickman

Companies such as Israel-2Go offer tours around Jerusalem that not only cover internationally familiar sites but also small but important restoration projects in the Jewish Quarter, including the works covering Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue, The Herodian Mansion and Davidson Centre; the tours also make these hidden gems safer and easier to explore. In the shadow of the Western Wall, Western Wall Heritage Foundation offers Bridge Route and Great Stone Route Western Wall Tunnel Tours that take visitors down through ancient civilizations.

“I always tell my students that you need a developed imagination, (as what we’re seeing) is more than just a pile of rocks,” said Nachum Applebaum, Western Wall Tunnel Tours guide, historian and academic who notes each level down represents an earlier historical era, leading down to those of King Herod’s and the Romans’ times.

Beyond Old City, food tours offered by Yallah Basta and Delicious Israel showcase Machane Yehuda Market, which not only proffers timeless local favorites like hummus and falafel but also lesser-known regional foods such as Yemenite laffa wraps, Georgian breakfast fare and internationally famous rugelach pastries from Marzipan Bakery.

Jerusalem

© Elyse Glickman

A four-minute walk from Machane Yehuda, Thinkers Distillery introduces its spirits portfolio to cocktail connoisseurs by blending respect for time-tested distillation traditions with the use of new and sustainable technologies. Bennett Kaplan, marketing maven and Master Distiller for Thinkers Distillery (cofounded in 2021 with wife Yael Kaplan and partner Avi Ingber), holds court as guests visit the gleaming facility and enjoy a tasting flight of Thinkers’ spirits and a cocktail.

Fashion tours offered by companies like Fashionating by Liri introduce participants to up-and-coming designers in Jerusalem and can be “tailor-made” for participants’ tastes. While Israel currently faces ongoing conflict in the region, and tourism to Jerusalem — and Israel as a whole — struggles, all tours mentioned in this article are currently operating. The U.S. Department of State has issued a warning to reconsider travel to Israel. Travelers are encouraged to use personal discretion in deciding to travel to Israel at this time.

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