gap year in israel

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Jerusalem is packed full of famous landmarks and sites, and you are sure to have a wonderful time visiting them all while on your gap year. However, one subject that is less thought about is Jerusalem ghost stories.

For instance, you are sure to visit the area of Mishkenot Sha’ananim where you will see a replica of the carriage that Sir Moses Montefiore used to ride when he visited. Following Montefiore’s death, the carriage changed hands a number of times until it was brought back to Israel by Boris Schatz, the founder of the Bezalel Academy of Art & Design. The carriage was renovated and placed in the Windmill Plaza in 1967. In the years that followed there was numerous reports of ghostly sightings of Montefiore standing next to his old carriage. However, the carriage was destroyed by fire in 1986, and while it was reconstructed using fragments of the original, there have been no more sightings since then.

There are also famous ‘cursed’ buildings in Jerusalem. The most famous is Eini House, at 111 Agrippas Street. It is widely believed that any business that opens there will fail, due to a curse placed around 50 years ago by Rabbi Shalom Sharabi, the head of a kabbalist house of study. According to the story, Sharabi was angry that the building was so tall that it blocked out the rising sun. When the contractor working on the building refused to cease construction, he and the building fell victim to a curse. When the building was completed lots of office space was left unrented, the apartments failed to sell, businesses that opened went bankrupt and so on. Of course, there are plenty of other explanations, such as bad business sense, but the rumours will never disappear.

Less supernatural, but equally enjoyable is the story of Jerusalem’s enchanted roads. There is a road that runs downhill through the Arab neighbourhood of Jabel Mukaber. Unfortunately, today it is dangerous to drive there, but during more peaceful times you could often see people drive to a particular spot, put their cards into neutral, release the breaks, and then watch in amazement as the car appeared to roll uphill against gravity. It is just one of a number of “gravity Hills” in Israel, places where the surrounding landscape creates an enjoyable optical illusion.

If you enjoy gruesome tales then the story of the Ministry of Health’s district office on Jaffa Road is one that you will enjoy. It was the city’s main healthcare centre from 1891 to 1917 but before that, it was empty for ten years and became known as “The Dead Groom’s House”. The house was built to be the future home of a couple about to be married. However, the groom died before the wedding took place. His bride was brought up to him in full wedding regalia and the groom’s mother performed a traditional pre-wedding dance in front of the couple. Once the dance was over she transitioned straight into mourning and the funeral took place. The mother of the groom died shortly after and it was many years before the house was finished.