Welcome tourists to Jerusalem, the world's holiest city. It is a place of great beauty, full of history, but also crazy and sometimes dangerous. This entry is really a survival guide, a guide for walking around Jerusalem without getting killed.
The guide is divided into 3 parts, a survival guide for Jews, Arabs and Others (yes, that includes you John Paul!!)
If you have an obviously Jewish appearance (i.e. wear a Kippah, talk Hebrew, carry an Israel flag), you should avoid the less touristic parts of the Arab part of the city. This is especially true for the Moslem Quarter of the Old City, in which several Jews have been already stubbed. The more famous sites... such as the Dome of the Holy Rock, the Christian Quarter and The Old City Market, are supervised by police and can be considered safe, but still, in times of extreme tension, are better left alone. Walking alone in the dark is not recommended in any part of the Eastern (Arab) section of the city.
After a conflagration has occurred in the Arab-Israeli conflict (i.e. a terrorist attack) people of Arab descent are advised to avoid certain parts of the city on the fear of being mobbed. At such times the places they should avoid are the Mahne Yehude Market, and the neighborhoods of ultra-orthodox Jews. (Note: even though they do not serve in the army, those people are the most nationalist and militant part of the Jewish populace of the city).
In regular days walking the Jewish part is safe, but in city center it can be a hassle. A young (15 to 30) man deemed to be Arab could be questioned and examined by border police. Sometimes, if the policeman is a hothead, this can be quite unpleasant. If this happens to you try to be as cooperative as possible. Remember that he may not like a wise-ass and he holds the gun! On the other hand, a nineteen-year-old female soldier can do the questioning, so for the Masochistically inclined this can be an experience... :)
On top of the usual hazards of Israel (mean drivers, cheating taxis, Falafel fried in machine oil) there are problems caused by the unusual nature of the city.
The ultra-orthodox streets of the city (which are situated mostly in the northern part of the city) are closed to traffic from sun set on Friday night to Saturday night. This is indicated by blue or black steel railings closing the street. An attempt to enter those streets by car will end most likely in a shouting demonstration and, on worse (and rarer) cases, your car can be stoned. A woman entering the most extreme neighborhoods (like Mea Sharim) in clothes deemed to immodest... short pants, no sleeves will get shouted at, and in some cases will have ink thrown at her clothes. This is true for any day of the week.
Many dignitaries and heads of state frequent Jerusalem on almost day to day basis. If you see any of them don't try to push your way to them. If you do, you risk being beaten and worse. Since the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin was murdered in 1995, the security personal tends to be almost paranoid.
Women travellers on their own, can be hassled when being on the streets of the Arab parts. Avoid being on your own on deserted streets in the night.
Read the Diary of the 'Situation' article for an update of events