Jerusalem East/West Biking Tour - Day Trip

Tour Highlights

• Briefing with maps
• East & West Jerusalem
• Historical sites
• The Separation Wall
• Palestinian Neighborhoods
• Settlements
• Panoramic views
• Checkpoints
Tour Details

Tuesday and Friday
Length of Tour: 7 Hours (11 1/2 hours from Tel Aviv)
Level Experienced city bikers only
Distance 18 kilometres • 11 miles 
Tel Aviv Departure*:  6.30 am - Hyarkon48 Hostel (map)
Jerusalem Departure  8.30pm - Liberty Bell Park -(map)
Return 3.30pm to Jerusalem - 6pm to Tel Aviv
Cost: From Jerusalem 295 NIS/Shekels
From Tel Aviv 395 NIS/Shekels
* Transport from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem departure point.
Bikes provided. Bring water and sensible biking clothes. Shorts are not recommended since you'll be biking in conservative Muslim and Jewish areas. If you have a helmet then bring it, otherwise we will provide one.  
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In Brief

Photo: Martin Tonner
Led by native Jerusalem cyclist/guides, this tour will give you a comprehensive overview of the city and beyond. You need to be at a good fitness level and expect some challenging hills.

Beginning in West Jerusalem you’ll have a briefing with maps, pass around the Old City walls, view some classic religious sites, and visit several panoramic viewpoints along the Mount of Olives and Mount Scopus.

The tour also passes through several Palestinian and Israeli neighborhoods, covers the social and political dynamics of the residents, and visits parts of the separation wall and checkpoints that segregates these communities.

There will be a stop for lunch and a nice downhill ride to end the day.

Detailed Description

Photo: Martin Tonner
This tour is for experienced city cyclists only. Although the distance covered is not a great deal, there are some paved roads full of traffic, unkempt roads, and some dirt and gravel trails. The route also includes a few steep uphills, fast downhills, You need to be quite fit to do to this tour - but you won’t regret it. You'll meet the guide at the vehicle entrance to Liberty Bell Gardens (Gan HaPa'amon) to where the bikes will be delivered.

Your experienced guide knows all the nooks and crannies of the city. Although the tour starts in West Jerusalem, you will quickly be immersed in the Arab side of the city. The group will visit some historical, religious and archeological sites, and see first hand the social and political realities of the aftermath of Israel’s 1967 conquest and subsequent Occupation and annexation of the eastern part of the city.

Photo: Martin Tonner
The tour starts with a short ride along paved roads,  past Saint Andrews Church and the Cinematheque then on to an unpaved path for a quick downhill through the ‘Zurich Garden’ through the edge of Abu Tor, across the pre-1967 ‘No Mans Land’ and the Green Line, into the village of Silwan. This Palestinian community has been annexed into Jerusalem and is under siege by the settler’s group ‘El Ad’, which has a government contract to excavate the ‘City of David’, and develop the site for tourism. El Ad has also been facilitating the entry of young radical Jewish settlers into the area.

 The group will pause at the Pool of Siloam, then sit at a cafe for a beverage and briefing by the guide, complete with maps and refresher of the past 100 years of Zionist and Palestinian history, with a focus on the area at hand.

Photo: Martin Tonner
The tour continues through the Kidron Valley, basically an extension of the village of Silwan. At the edge of the village are tombs from the second Temple period, later used by travellers, hermits, and monastic communities. You’ll pause there to clamber about the tombs. At this point the trail is a bit rough, and angles upward around the Old City Walls with the Mount of Olives looming to the east.

There will be a short stop at Gethsemane to view the magnificent church there and the tiled fresco on the facade. If there is time and the group is interested then there may be a short tour inside the church. Then comes a steep climb up a narrow paved road that basically goes straight up the Mount of Olives. This gets the heart pumping. . . About half way up the hill a trail leads off along the slope of the hill through the gardens of the Brigham Young University and the Zurim Valley National Park.

Photo: Martin Tonner
Lots of uphill climbs until the ridge road that leads from the Mount of Olives, past the venerable Augusta Victora Hospital and guest house. You’ll cross an invisible line that marks the area that was an Israeli enclave inside Jordanian east Jerusalem between 1948 and 1967. The ridge road leads to Mount Scopus and a lofty lookout point that provides a vista across the Judean Desert and beyond, all of it West Bank Occupied Territory. The Jordan Valley, Dead Sea, and the mountains of Jordan can be seen on a clear day. From this location the guide will use the visible geographic and Israeli-made features of the landscape to illustrate the growth and consolidation of the Occupation.

 From there the group will continue along the ridge, briefly entering the campus of Hebrew University before pausing at the blockaded entrance to Issawiya, a Palestinian village annexed to Jerusalem and the poorest neighbourhood of the city. Issawiya is also the site of much Palestinian activism which has resulted in an Israeli blockage which prohibits vehicles from entering Jerusalem through the adjacent Jewish settlement of French Hill. Instead the residents are forced to drive a circuitous route. By now you’ll be hungry so the group will have lunch at a Palestinian-owned hummos cafe in the middle of French Hill.

Photo: Martin Tonner
After lunch there’s a short downhill ride under the Route 60 by-pass road to see the 8-meter (24 ft concrete Separation Wall and the checkpoint leading to another annexed village, Anata. Although Anata is part of Jerusalem, and technically accessible to all citizens and tourists, when the guide tries to take the group through the checkpoint, the Israeli police and soldiers invariable refuse entrance. However it’s an educational experience.

 From the checkpoint you’ll take the road around Anata to the pristine Jewish suburban settlement of Pizgat Ze’ev. The contrast between the Jewish settlement and the Palestinian areas is striking, with clean streets, orderly infrastructure, shopping malls and the new tram service which runs through the middle of the settlement for commuting into Jerusalem. Depending on the amount of time available at this point, and the interests of the group, there’s an archeological site that can be viewed, and a lookout point with a vista back over to the Separation Wall with the Shuafat Refugee camp on the other side.

Photo: Martin Tonner
The next stop is the aborted Jordanian Royal Palace on Tel el-Ful (Hill of Beans) at the edge of Beit Hanina. Construction was started in the mid-1960s during the Jordanian administration of East Jerusalem, but abandoned during the 1967 war. Interestingly enough the site was never formally taken over by the Israeli authorities and remains a real estate anomaly still owned by the Jordanian Royal Family. This is one of the highest points in Jerusalem and it is still possible to clamber up to the roof of the structure and view the grand panorama all the way to Ramallah.

 Beit Hanina is another Palestinian village that became part of Jerusalem as the city grew, and was also annexed by Israel. It is probably the most stable of middle class of the Palestinian neighborhoods and you’ll have a chance to see how people live as you follow the tram tracks back towards the centre of Jerusalem. After crossing the major junction at French Hill the road follows the route of the Green Line so you will literally be straddling the border or seam between east and west Jerusalem.

You’ll veer off the Seam Line road on to Shivtei Israel Street for a short ride through Mea Sharim, an Ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhood. From there to Zion Square, a popular meeting place for the young people of West Jerusalem, and then up the walking street of Ben Yehuda to King George Street and a nice coast downhill through the heart of West Jerusalem to Moti's bike shop in the Katamon neighborhood.

After dropping off the bikes you can take a bus back to the center of town (10 minutes), or a nice 30-minute stroll through the interesting 'German Colony' neighborhood with its eclectic mix of cafes restaurants and pubs. A great place to browse the shops and have dinner.

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