Late last year, as part of its efforts to continue to foster tourism in Jerusalem, the city government began offering a smartcard loaded with a plethora of deals for visitors to the Old City. Called the "HolyPass," and offered at participating tourist sites, hotels, travel agents and stores in the Jewish Quarter, it promises "25% savings on admission to Old City attractions," an attractive number in a nation known for its thriftiness.
The card, at 99 NIS ($30) for adults and 50 NIS ($15) for children, lasts for one week after activation (which takes place the first time the card is used) and grants free access to a total of five historical sites: two major sites and three, well, less major sites.
The major sites are: City of David National Park, Jerusalem Archaeological Park, Tower of David Museum, Burnt House, Temple Institute and Generations Center.
The other sites are: Sephardi Synagogues, Ariel Center for Jerusalem in the First Temple Period, Emek Tsurim Archaeological Experience, Roman Plaza, Ramparts Walk, Herodian Quarter - Wohl Museum of Archaeology, Old Yishuv Court Museum and Zedekiah's Cave.
It's also good for a discount on the Route 99 bus tour and a 10% discount on something called the Segway Peace Forest Experience, which sounds like it could use the help.
Despites its claim of enabling "wider access to Old City tourist sites, at reduced cost," the HolyPass may not necessarily save you money - it only becomes a bargain if you use it to its fullest extent. Imagine that during an Old City visit, you visit the City of David, the Burnt House, the Sephardi Synagogues, the Herodian Quarter and the Ramparts Walk, a rich tour by any standards. Regular admission to all five sites would run 86 NIS for adults and 44 NIS for children, a savings of 13% (13 NIS, $3.89) for adults and 12% (6 NIS, $1.80) for children compared to the HolyPass. If you are traveling with family - say, for example, a party of two adults and two children - paying for regular admission to those sites would save more than $11 (38 NIS) - that is, lunch for one. The larger the family, the worse the deal.
But you can make up the increased price of the HolyPass for tourist sites by using it for discounts at a few select gift shops and restaurants in the Old City. Several Cardo shops and jewelers offer a 10% storewide discount, including the Bar-On Judaica stores and Rozen Jewelers (see the full list here). Five conveniently located Jewish Quarter restaurants also offer hefty discounts: Menora (15%), Cardo Keyad HaMelekh (15%), Bonkers Bagels (10%), Moti's Cafe (10%) and Miznon HaRova (10%).
Of course, to make back the 38 NIS that not buying the HolyPass saves, that aforementioned imaginary family of four would have to run up nearly 400 NIS in restaurant bills, which seems unlikely, unless they choose to eat at one of the same five restaurants in the Old City over the course of a few days, which gives all those fantastic restaurants elsewhere in the city the short shrift. So essentially, the HolyPass pays only if you plan to do most of your gift-shopping in the Cardo - and given how expensive the Cardo shops are, the 10% savings will certainly come in handy.
That's Jerusalemite: helping you spend wisely.
You can read more about the HolyPass on its website.
Photo of shops in the Cardo courtesy of keithwills from flickr under a creative commons license.