“Abraham – the first backpacker.”
As I walked through the doors of Abraham Hostel Jerusalem I was greeted with a sign that read, “Abraham – the first backpacker.” I hadn’t thought much about the hostel’s name before I arrived, but once I read that, I chuckled at the cleverness of it all – they meant Abraham the biblical character! The same Abraham who was called to ‘go to a land that God would show him’. If anyone would be willing to pick up and pack their belongings without really knowing what direction they were heading in, it would have to be a backpacker.
A communal feel
I stayed at Abraham Hostel Jerusalem for 4 nights, but I could tell right away that this place was not like the rest.
If there is one thing that this hostel excels at, it’s fostering a warm community feel. For starters, they welcome travellers of all ages. At first I was a bit worried about bringing my parents to a hostel (by the way, my mom and dad are currently travelling with me!), however, once I checked in, I noticed that age wasn’t a factor. There were mature travellers, twenty-something backpackers, families with young children, and other young adults travelling with their parents (not just me!)
The community feel also carried over into breakfast time where everyone was encouraged to wash their own dishes after eating. Now normally this would cause many a paying guest to raise an eyebrow, however, it felt completely appropriate in this setting and I thought it helped travellers show respect and appreciation for one another. After all, would you want somebody to leave a dirty dish for you? Nope, so don’t do the same.
Shabbat Dinner at Abraham Hostel
One of the highlights of staying at Abraham Hostel Jerusalem was the opportunity to experience my first Shabbat dinner. For those who are not familiar with Shabbat or the Sabbath, this refers to the start of the seventh day of rest and it begins on Friday afternoon around sunset. This is a time when the family gathers together for a big meal and a prayer.
Now technically the meal should be prepared before the start of Shabbat, but since most travellers are out exploring the city during the day, the meal was pushed back a little until everyone had returned from sightseeing.
I made my way down to the common area around 6 p.m. and by this time different food stations were being set up to start preparing the evening’s meal. People helped chop tomatoes and cucumbers, peel carrots and potatoes, and pour cups of red wine at each of the tables.The preparation process took about 2 hours, but no one seemed to mind as music was playing, new friends were catching up, and beers were being poured at the bar.
Once the food was ready, we all sat down at the tables. Candles were lit, a blessing was recited, and together travellers from all over the world enjoyed a hearty and laughter-filled meal.
The food was amazing – hummus and baba ghanoush, lamb and chicken, eggplant salad and tabbouleh, roast potatoes and rice with lentils, and of course lots of wine – but what I appreciated the most was the fact that the hostel family was willing to share their tradition with a group of strangers that didn’t necessarily come from a Jewish background. It was a truly heart warming experience to be welcomed this way.
Events every night of the week
Another thing I noticed at Abraham Hostel Jerusalem is that they don’t give you a chance to feel lonely or bored – they had an activity planned for almost every night of the week!
Monday: Pub quiz night where you can meet other travellers and put your trivia knowledge to the test.
Tuesday: Language exchange where you have a chance to pick up some Hebrew and maybe teach someone else a few words in your native tongue.
Wednesday: Pub crawl around Jerusalem.
Thursday: Backpacker stories! Who has the worst food poisoning anecdote or a left-stranded-in-the-middle-of-nowhere tale?
Friday: Shabbat dinner which was amazing!
Sunday: Live music in the common room, where you can also sing your heart out on stage.
Daily: Travel lectures happen throughout the week, covering different topics. Some days may focus on travel in Israel, others may be an intro to Hebrew or Arabic.
All you have to do is check the schedule next to the reception desk to see what’s going on.
The Rooms at Abraham Hostel
Abraham Hostel Jerusalem has rooms for every type of traveller – dorm rooms, single rooms, family rooms, and private rooms. I stayed in one of the private rooms for two people and it had all the basic necessities you’d need. The mattresses were firm to ensure a good night’s rest after a long day of hiking, there was a little desk for checking your emails and planning the following day’s itinerary, and they also had a small fridge and a little sink where you could prepare a light snack (though there were no plates or cutlery). Also, remember to bring your own toiletries.
Tours around Israel and beyond
Abraham Hostel Jerusalem also runs Abraham Tours which offers trips all over Israel, as well as to the West Bank, Jordan and Egypt! I did many of their tours including Dead Sea Chill Out, The Best of the West Bank, Sea of Galilee and Golan Heights, and a few others that I will be writing about at a later date.
Location of Abraham Hostel Jerusalem
Abraham Hostel Jerusalem is located at 67 Hanevi’im Street by Davidka Square. It’s a pretty great location because you are a stone’s throw away from Mahane Yehuda Market, which is the main market in Jerusalem. It’s also really easy to reach the Old City; all you have to do is walk downhill along Jaffa Street, which leads to Jaffa Gate. (This takes about 15 minutes.) Or if your legs are feeling weary, you can take the light rail which travels down to the Old City.
I loved this place! It’s not often I say that about a hostel, but Abraham Hostel Jerusalem is doing a lot of things right. I think at the end of a trip, the places you remember best are those who gave you more than just a bed to sleep in, and this hostel really went above and beyond. They won me over with their friendly staff, inclusive atmosphere, and the array of activities aimed at bringing travellers together.