Take a page from the Good Book and visit the Mount of Olives like thousands of Jews and Christians every year, see animals mentioned in the Torah, view Jerusalem from the Tower of David and traverse the Masada ruins.
Tower of David
The Tower of David, also called Jerusalem Citadel, is located near Jaffa Gate. The Tower contains artifacts including a quarry from the First Temple Period. After changing many hands, the Tower was taken back by the Jews during the Six Day War. In 1989 The Tower of David Museum of History of Jerusalem was opened depicting 4,000 years of Jerusalem’s history.
The Tower was built in advance of expected invasion by Assyria. In the Byzantine Period, the Tower served as a monastery and acquired its current name. In 1239 the Tower was destroyed by Kurds fighting Crusaders. Five years later, the Crusaders were banished from Jerusalem and the city was razed. The Ottoman Empire rebuilt the Tower in 1310 to its present space and added a mosque and minaret in 1635 which stands today. The Tower was renovated and opened to the public during the British Mandate.
Masada is an ancient stone site atop a desert plateau with a view of the Dead Sea which can be reached by snake path or cableway. This National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site is a well-preserved piece of the ancient kingdom of Israel with many of its buildings and artifacts restored. Masada is one of the most popular Israeli tourist attractions featuring light shows on summer nights. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) holds swearing in ceremonies at the top of the mountain and many young Jews take birthright excursions to the top at sunrise.
Built as a palace by King Herod in the first century BCE, Masada became a fortress against the Romans, the siege of which led to the mass suicide of Jewish rebels.
Masada’s last occupation was by Byzantine monks who built the Monastery of Marda. Its remoteness left Masada untouched for two millennia until the site was extensively excavated in the 1960s.
Mount of Olives
The Mount of Olives, named for the olive groves that once covered its slopes, is a mountain ridge that has served as a Jewish cemetery for over 3,000 years. Believed to be the site for the resurrection of the dead when the Messiah returns, today the Mount is a pilgrimage site for Catholics, Jews, Protestants and Eastern Orthodox. Some landmarks on the Mount include Garden of Gethsemane, Tomb of the Virgin Mary, Beit Orot, Tombs of Absalom, Chapel of the Ascension, Brigham Young University, and Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene.
Jesus is said to have spent time on the Mount including his ascension into Heaven. During the days of the Second Temple, the start of each new month was celebrated on the Mount. After the Temple’s destruction, Jews celebrated Sukkot on the Mount to view the Temple site. After 1948, Jews and Israelis were barred from the Mount and thousands of graves were desecrated; following the Six Day War, the cemetery was restored.
The Tisch Family Zoological Gardens
Commonly known as The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, the Zoo is famous for its collection of animals mentioned in the Torah. Today, the Zoo has over 2,000 animals and has successfully bred eleven endangered species that disappeared from Israel including fallow deer, addax and Syrian brown bears. Food is provided free to the Zoo’s animals and is in accordance with Jewish law. The Zoo emphasizes environmentalism through exhibits, recycled water and composting. In 2013, the Zoo released a mobile app that includes GPS navigation inside the Zoo, daily feeding schedules and more. On Tu Bishvat, the Zoo hosts a tree planting ceremony and on Purim the Hapoel Jerusalem Basketball Team plays tug of war with the Zoo’s elephant, who always wins.