Of the many things to do in Israel, the landmark establishments of the country are rife with Jewish history dating back thousands upon thousands of years through to modern times. From stunning museums that are architectural gems in their own right, like the famous Yad Vashem holocaust museum, to actual excavations and archaeological digs, these centers and institutions bear witness to Israel's prolific Jewish history – a history so extensive and significant, you’ll have to see it to believe it. Check out these attractions, and if your kids get restless, take a break for some family-friendly activities and authentic Jerusalem eats in between sightseeing.
Important landmarks in Jewish history
No visit to Jerusalem is complete without a visit to the Kotel. Considered to be the holiest place for the Jewish faith, a short walk through the Old City of Jerusalem will lead you to this sacred site. Be sure to write a wish or personal note on a scrap of paper and slit it in the cracks of wall as visitors have for years. The Kotel is the pulsing center of the historically amazing Old City of Jerusalem.
Permanent exhibitions tell the story of Jerusalem through specialized cultural events, activities, and tours. During the spring months, the exhibition “The Kaiser is Coming!" is on display, featuring archival images and history of Wilhelm II, Emperor of Germany in 1898.
Yad Vashem’s 45-acre campus comprises indoor museums and outdoor monuments, exhibitions, memorial sites, gardens, sculptures, and world-class research and education centers – all devoted to preserving the memory of the Holocaust. The hollowed-out cavern with a single candle reflected by a series of mirrors commemorates the 1.5 million children killed.
Arguably Israel’s most magnificent cultural asset, the Israel Museum is consistently ranked among the world’s leading art and archaeology museums. Housing encyclopedic collections with works dating from prehistory to the present day in archaeology, fine art, and Jewish art, this is the place to get schooled on Israel’s 5,000-year history.
Unique for a number of reasons, the Eretz Israel Museum is especially unusual because its grounds encompass the archeological site of Tel Qasile, dating back to the 12th century B.C.E. The museum houses impressive, permanent collections of coins, mosaics, and Jewish folkloric objects from various periods and regions.
Dive into Jerusalem's fascinating past through a high-tech virtual reconstruction. Located in the Jerusalem Archaeological Park, this center offers an in-depth, three-dimensional reconstruction of the Temple, based on excavations and ancient writings.
The tour of the Kotel Tunnels unveils hidden sections of the Western Wall. Walking through underground passages, ancient water trenches, and streets from the Second Temple period. Stones were recently excavated revealing fascinating hidden passages. As a city that has literally been built layer by layer, traveling through these passageways unravels thousands of years of history.
A visit to the New Temple Institute Visitors’ center can feel like a visit to the Holy Temple itself. After almost 2,000 years in the making, Holy Vessels and garments fit for use in the Temple are housed here along with paintings depicting biblical stories.
Planned by the brother-sister architect duo Ram and Ada Carmi, the architecture relies heavily on the Bible and the precepts of Jewish thought. The result is a striking edifice that is a blend of open and closed spaces offering a unique glimpse into the legal challenges facing Israeli society.
Bialik House is the home of Israel’s beloved Hebrew national poet, Haim Nachman Bialik. Even though the poetry is in Hebrew, the house is an architectural paradise highly influenced by Islamic style. Along with archives of Bialik’s original work, the house features ceramic art depicting biblical scenes.