Family-Friendly Holiday Activities in Jerusalem

Events, Things to Do, Travel Tips — By Judy Lash Balint on December 8, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Hanukkah is over, but the Holy Land is, after all THE place where the Christmas story began, so if you’re traveling to Jerusalem over the Christmas-New Year’s holiday, here’s a rundown of family activities to enjoy.

Take a tour to nearby Bethlehem–about 10 minutes from Jerusalem by bus or car.  At 5:30 p.m on Christmas Eve, choirs from all over the world gather in Manger Square to sing carols.  Walk through the nearby market to get a flavor of this hilly little town and stay for  mass at the Syrian Catholic Church in the square that starts at 7 p.m.

Bethlehem, Photo: Judy Lash Balint

The kids will enjoy the traditional Christmas morning parade in Bethlehem that starts at 11 a.m and features marching bands and Santas, making their way into and around Manger Square.

Make your way back into Jerusalem and head for Midnight Mass at the Notre Dame Church, right across the street from New Gate into the Old City, where you’ll find Israelis and visitors from all over the world taking in the experience.

If you have young kids who need their sleep, try the earlier Christmas Eve Family Carol service at the Jerusalem YMCA on King David Street that starts at 7 p.m

Israeli school kids will have already had their Hanukkah vacation, so during the Christmas-New Year’s period tourists will have places like the Biblical Zoo and the Youth Wing of the Israel Museum to themselves.  On Christmas eve, the Zoo has a Behind the Scenes at the Zoo event that promises to be entertaining and educational for the whole family.

And if you just feel like getting out of town and the weather cooperates, take a healthy family hike at the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve near the Dead Sea–less than 45 minutes from Jerusalem and you’ll be in a different world of desert landscape.

Near the Dead Sea. Photo: Judy Lash Balint

You can take a detour on the way down, via Genesis Land, where you’ll experience life as it was during Biblical days. What better way to get some perspective on the holiday season?

Tags: "Judean hills, "Old City", Bethlehem Christmas, Biblical zoo, Dead Sea, family activities Jerusalem, Israel Museum, Jerusalem