1.When you’re walking through the Old City in Jerusalem and following instructions to drink lots of water, where can you find a public restroom, preferably one that doesn’t have a long line of tourists with the same thing on their minds?
Here are a few suggestions of places near the major tourist sites: On Mt Zion, near the Room of the Last Supper and David’s Tomb, there are spacious men’s and women’s stalls clearly marked under a big arch. With 10 stalls for each gender and a bank of sinks, you’ll be in and out with speed.
Visiting the Jewish Quarter? Yes, there are the over-used and small public facilities just off the main square near the Broad Wall on the way to the Cardo, but a better alternative is to spend a few shekels to visit the fascinating and historic Four Sephardic Synagogues complex and head out of the Eiyahu Hanavi synagogue up the stairs near the women’s gallery where there are clean, empty bathrooms. You could also stop in to take a look around the Sephardic Educational Center courtyard and take advantage of the facilities there.
No doubt you’ll be paying a visit to the Western Wall and there on the northern side of the plaza are plentiful restrooms for both sexes that are cleaned many times during the day. There are changing tables for infants too. On the way out, glance at the wall where you’ll see the blessing to be made after exiting the toilet–it thanks God for creating our bodies with ways to eliminate waste.
Any restaurant or cafe in the Old City or western Jerusalem will have clean restrooms, but the best places are the hotels. One caveat–in most Jerusalem hotels the restrooms are not on the same floor as the entrance–in the Davids Citadel, King David and Inbal hotels you’ll be heading downstairs to use the facilities. At the Prima Kings, head upstairs.
If you’re anywhere near King George Street, you can stop at the Mashbir department store, and a few blocks south near the Cup O’Joe Cafe,you’ll be able to avail yourself of one of those self-cleaning toilets that are dotted around European cities but have never really taken hold here.
2. How to ask for the bathroom. “Ayfo ha-sherutim?” or just say “sherutim?”
3. What’s unique about Israeli toilets? Well, for one thing, most Israeli toilets have a double flushing mechanism. There’s a small lever for flushing an all-liquid deposit and a larger lever for anything solid. In some gas stations and places with older loos you’ll notice a basket next to the toilet, generally already filled with used toilet paper. Some older toilets don’t do well with digesting the cheap paper, so there’s a sign (generally not in English) telling users not to flush the paper.
I’ve yet to see a bidet in any public facility. Every public restroom has a sink, most often with cold water only, and hot-air hand dryers are more common than paper towels these days.
And just in case you were wondering, toilets have been around for a few thousand years in Jerusalem. Here’s one that was found at an archaeological dig in the City of David–it’s dated from around the 8th century BCE!