As the ultimate destination for Jewish culture and history, Israel offers an abundance of important sites. You could spend months in Israel and still feel like you need more time! This list of the 10 essential Jewish sites to visit will help whittle it down for those who have only a week or two to spend in Israel.
- The Western Wall: Perhaps the most sacred place in Judaism, Jerusalem’s Western Wall, also known as the Kotel, attracts thousands of visitors each year. Travelers follow King Solomon’s example and pray at the wall in an effort to strengthen their connection with God.
- The Western Wall Tunnels: Excavation beneath the Western Wall revealed structures from the Herodian, Umayyah, Ayyubid, Mamluk, and Hasmonean periods. Today’s visitors to Jerusalem may explore the tunnels to see the various remaining underground structures, including the Western Stone, which is the largest Western Wall stone.
- The Tower of David: Located near the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City walls is a citadel known as the Tower of David, representing 2,000 years of history revealed through multiple archaeological excavations. At night, the site takes on a modern twist, enticing visitors with an incredible sound and light show projected onto the citadel walls.
- The Jewish Quarter: Located in the southeast section of Jerusalem’s Old City, the Jewish Quarter is where visitors can find sites like the Western Wall and Temple Mount. It’s also home to several noteworthy synagogues, including the Hurva Synagogue and the Four Sephardic Synagogues.
- The City of David: Known as the birthplace of Jerusalem, the City of David is where King David established his kingdom. Today, it serves as an archaeological park that gives visitors the opportunity to learn about Jerusalem’s history and visit the underground tunnel known as Hezekiah’s Tunnel.
- Yad Vashem: Perhaps the most emotionally powerful museum in Israel, this Holocaust memorial commemorates the victims of the Holocaust and educates visitors about the Nazis’ rise to power and the devastating destruction left in their wake. Displays of the ghettos, concentration camps, and the renowned Hall of Names are just a few of the exhibits at Yad Vashem that memorialize those who suffered through this dark time in history.
- Israel Museum: The Israel Museum is famous for its Holy land model and the Shrine of the Book. Beyond these well-known sections of the museum is a remarkable collection of fine art, an assortment of Biblical and archaeological artifacts, about 30 new exhibits each year, as well as beautiful sprawling gardens.
- Masada: A UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as one of Israel’s most famous sites, Masada was built in 30 BCE by Herod the Great. The mountain fortress is best known for the bravery and sacrifice shown by the Jewish zealots who defended the fortress against the Romans in 73 BCE. In spite of their valiant defense efforts, the zealots were overtaken; rather than surrender, they chose to commit suicide and become martyrs instead.
- Safed: Located in Israel’s Northern District, the city of Safed has served as the center of Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, for many years. Safed has also played a major role in Israel’s art scene, and its Artist’s Quarter is home to many of Israel’s most well-known artists.
- Independence Hall: Tel Aviv’s Independence Hall is the location of the signing of Israel’s Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948. Originally known as the Dizengoff House, the building serves as a museum dedicated to the signing of the Declaration of Independence as well as to Tel Aviv-Jaffa’s history.
Whether you’re visiting Israel for the first time or have toured the country many times before, make sure to check out these top attractions for an unforgettable Holy Land experience.
Noam Matas is the General Manager of America Israel Travel, which offers customized and all-inclusive tour packages to Israel. Noam enjoys writing about Israel based on his personal experience and his knowledge of the tourism industry.