Visiting Western Jerusalem on Friday can be a unique experience. During the day, the city is bustling with people hurrying about, getting ready for Shabbat which is the Jewish day of rest. Around the afternoon, it begins to slow down as if getting ready to sleep. As the sun begins to set the packed shops, cafes, and streets become emptier by the hour. A cloud of mystery descends upon the city. The perfect time for visiting a haunted hospital – especially on the eve of Friday the 13th!
Here is my ultimate guide to a haunted, rock n’ roll Friday afternoon in Jerusalem.
Starting at a haunted hospital, traversing an old medieval graveyard and a macabre cave, and visiting some of the coolest alternative, goth, and metal bars in town.
The Haunted Russian Hospital
The dark history of this particular building, began during the Victorian era, in the second half of the nineteenth century. It began with Russians acquiring lands in the Holy Land, and Jerusalem. Particularly to ensure their presence in the area and to accommodate Russian pilgrims. You can read about the Russian venture in the Holy Land here in a previous post of mine. One of their major enterprises was the area in downtown Jerusalem, known as the Russian Compound. Within its borders, there is one particular building bearing a dreaded tale shrouded in clouds of mystery. This monument of stone is the haunted Russian hospital.
History of the Haunted Hospital
Established in 1863, it was the first hospital erected outside the Old City walls. It was built to serve and accommodate the Russian pilgrims visiting the holy sites in the city. Following the British conquering of the land, it became a municipal hospital. It was used to care for the sick and wounded, civilians and soldiers alike. With the Israeli Declaration of independence in 1948, the hospital came under Israeli rule. The IDF converted it into a hospital, changing its name to “Beit Avihail” (Avihail Building).
Today, the area of Safra Square serves as the Municipality Complex of Jerusalem. The caring nature of the Avihail Building was incorporated into the complex transforming it into something evil. Doomed to be the new hub of dread dealing, with fines and bureaucracy.
However, let us dwell on the haunted lower floor of this mysterious hospital.
The Haunted corridor of death
The lower basement floor of the building was reserved for the unlucky ones, those who couldn’t be saved. There, in the cold, dark corridor, was the morgue of the hospital, where many dead bodies were placed before they met their final dwelling place in one of the city’s many cemeteries. It’s not a surprise though, that some of them decided to stay…
Stories told by employees that worked in the hospital all tell a similar tale:
Some recall an eerie chill wash over them and a feeling of dread as they walked the dark hallway. Others avoided patrolling the place during the night, telling stories about unexplained sounds and lights. It is said to be haunted by the ghosts of those who died inside, cursed to spread diseases long far gone.
As the building began to serve as part of the municipal complex, stories of frightened workers started to accumulate. In an attempt to appease the spirits, a Rabbi was called to purify the place. It didn’t help, though, nor did painting its’ doors and windows in an anti-evil shade of blue.
I haven’t been inside, yet, but while visiting the place on a Friday afternoon, I kept hearing creaking sounds coming from inside. It seemed as if someone was watching me from the upper office windows. If all that wasn’t enough, is it a coincidence that the number of the building is the cursed number 13?
I’ll let you find that out…
What to do on a Friday afternoon in Jerusalem
After experiencing the chills at the haunted hospital at Safra 13, you would probably want to calm down, eat a nice meal, and enjoy some refreshing drinks to the sound of good music. However, while visiting downtown Jerusalem on a Friday is great if you want to enjoy a quiet afternoon, keep in mind that many businesses are closed. So, it’s something you need to consider.
Here are some of the places I recommend visiting if you happen to be in town on a Friday. Just a few minutes walk from the haunted hospital, you will find the Mazkeka in a small alley. Mazkeka is a bar, live music venue, and an art center in Jerusalem where you can catch some alternative and metal shows, and other cool events.
If you happen to be in the town on the last Friday of the month, check out the Sira bar, located at 4 Ben Sira st. Sira bar is open from noon till dawn even on the weekends. Once a month, from 3 PM – 8 PM, you can enjoy some Post Punk music by The Post Punk Show. You can find out all about the next event at this link.
The tomb of Emir Kubaki in Mamila Cemetary
If you thought your spooky dark day ended at the haunted hospital, then you would be mistaken. Just across Ben Sira st. you will find the Mamilla cemetery and Independence Park, places filled with macabre stories and beautiful graves. Head down the street from the Sira bar, cross the road, and you’ll be facing a medieval cemetery, serving the Muslim population of the city from the Mamluk period (13th – 16th century CE) till the 20th century. There you will find a beautiful Mausoleum Turba, aka Al-Kebekiyeh, erected for Emir Aidughi Kubaki, the governor of Safed, and Aleppo, who later on was exiled to Jerusalem where he found his death in 1289.
The path on the right of the tomb will take you on a tranquil stroll through the cemetery. At the end of the trail, you can continue your afternoon and evening walk into Independence Park, and visit the dreaded Lions’ Cave, or you can head straight to the Glen Whiskey Bar located at 24 Agron st., one of my favorite bars in Jerusalem and a place you’ll definitely want to check on Friday the 13th.
Glen Whiskey Bar – Jerusalem
The Glen Whiskey Bar is the perfect place for you to enjoy quality whiskey and unique craft beers with a tasty snack on the side to the sound of good rock, metal, and industrial music. With maybe the largest collection of whiskey in Jerusalem, the bar offers an assorted variety of approximately 500 types of whiskey from around the globe, collected by Leon, the owner, an alcohol enthusiast who enjoys traveling the world searching for new tastes and alcohol adventures. Here you can also find unique beers, some crafted by Leon himself.
You definitely can’t go wrong with that.
The Glen has been one of my favorite bars in the city for over 15 years now, and it’s always been a welcoming home for the gothic and alternative community in town. The Glen is also where you’ll find me taking over the bar with dark Goth events and music, aka the Post-Pandemic-Nights line of events every 2nd Friday of the month. Hence, if you are in town, and it’s Friday the 13th after the haunted hospital gave you the creeps, run through the Mamilla cemetery to the Glen, and there we’ll make sure you come to your senses, or not, Mu-Ha-Ha.
You can stay up to date with the Gothic and alternative events in Jerusalem here.