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How Jerusalem Became the First Accessible UNESCO World Heritage City

TRAVEL NEWS (press release) September 15, 2022: The 5.000-year-old city of Jerusalem is visited by some 10 million people every year, making it the most visited destination of Israel. A place of pilgrimage for three major religions, the city is home to some of the holiest sites in the world: the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for the Christians, the Al-Aqsa Mosque for the Muslims and the Western Wall for the Jews.

Given the city's age and popularity, Jerusalem has undergone major structural changes in the last decade to ensure that the city is adapted to modern times. While some of the updates to the Old City's infrastructure have been beneficial to all (including adding signs marking historical or archaeological finds and installing garbage collection points in key tourist areas), a few local organizations have made a persistent effort to making the city more accessible to everyone who is in the Holy City – people with mobility problems, people with visual impairments and even families with prams. 

Also read: Israel | The 5 Best Sights in Jerusalem

In all four quarters of the Old City, almost five kilometers of alleys have been made accessible and more than a kilometer of railings have been built. Public toilets have been renovated to be accessible and street lamps have been installed to maximize lighting performance. In addition, 60 Bluetooth devices have been introduced in the city that, when synced with the “Step Hearprovide app, location, service and navigation instructions to people who are visually impaired or blind. The audio instructions are currently available in Hebrew, English and Arabic, with plans to add more languages ​​and install 200 additional Bluetooth devices.

Jerusalem by Laura Siegal

Another app called Accessible JLM, allows travelers with disabilities to plan ahead by finding the most accessible routes from one attraction to the next. The app is available in eight languages ​​and features GPS tracking, so visitors can also use the app in real time. Free printed maps are available from the Information Office of the Ministry of Tourism at Jaffa Gate in the Old City.

Accessible tourism is the future, Jerusalem believes and the city will therefore continue to strive for physical accessibility so that more (international) visitors can enjoy the Old City. Jerusalem hopes that historic cities worldwide will be inspired to also take steps towards accessible tourism.

Also read: Vegan Travelers beware! † The best country for vegans is Israel

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