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When I arrived at the Abraham Hostel in Jerusalem, it took me about ten minutes to know I’d be feeling completely at home here during my stay. ‘Would you like to participate in our Shabbat dinner tonight?’, I was asked during the quick and smooth check-in, to which I excitedly said ‘Of course, yes!’. I had been invited to my first ever family Shabbat dinner the Friday before, and eight days after my first introduction to this wonderful Jewish tradition of an extensive and festive family dinner, I still found myself daydreaming about all the good food I had gotten to try at my friend’s mom’s house, so taking part in the one at the hostel was a no-brainer for me. I put my stuff down in my room and headed straight to the communal lounge to do some writing before the Shabbat dinner. Happy Hour had just started and I ordered myself a glass of the excellent local Israeli wine and took in the atmosphere around me.People were sitting around lounge tables in small groups, laughing and talking, the bar was just starting to get busy, the hostel staff were mingling with the guests, and the volunteer staff were chopping away in the kitchen to get dinner ready in time. The music playing in the background was wonderfully relaxing, not the noisy dance music you get in some other hostels that have a bar. I knew that I’d be feeling right at home here for the next six nights.Another indication that this wasn’t your typical party hostel: the guests were of all ages, ranging from couples in their 50s, solo travelers in their 30s to girlfriends in their 20s. There was a TV room just off the lounge, so if you were not in the mood to mingle, you could retire to the TV room, but if you were looking to meet people, there were plenty of opportunities to do so. The rooftop terrace with its comfy lounge sofas was another great spot to meet other travelers, or just sitting at the bar was an easy way to get chatting fellow travelers.When I, prior to my arrival, had read that the hostel had 250 beds, I was a bit apprehensive, because I usually find those big hostel too impersonal, too loud, or too chaotic. My concerns were unfounded though – at Abraham’s, I never felt that there were that many people (and I later learned that there were even 260 beds), even though the hostel is near full capacity almost all the time.Instead I found a hostel where I could have my privacy in my spacious en-suite single room on the third floor whenever I wanted, but I could also go mingle in the lounge or, after 6pm, at the bar, preferably during the great-value happy hour of course, or take the social aspect one step further by joining one of the nightly activities where you can get to know other travelers – perfect for solo travelers like me. There is the weekly Pub Crawl, a Mexican Taco night, movie nights, a weekly open-mic night or the already mentioned Shabbat dinner on Fridays.The dinner the volunteers at the hostel put together was almost as good as the home-cooked food I had had the Friday before. The options for vegetarians were plentiful and everything I tried was delicious – and seeing how many people went for second helpings, I was not the only one who felt that way. The price tag for the Shabbat dinner, ILS30 (US$7.70), is also extremely affordable, especially considering the amount of food you get and compared to the pricey restaurants of Jerusalem. While the lounge was fairly busy during the dinner with around 50 people in attendance it still had an intimate feel to it, thanks to the guests being grouped around smaller tables, which also had the advantage that you could get to know one another.Even though I preferred the seclusion and quietness in my private room which came with a desk (perfect for the writing I needed to catch up on) and a small kitchenette with a full-size fridge, I was impressed with the four-bed female dorms when I peeked inside one of them one day. Not only was the room spacious and each bed had its own reading lamp and socket, but a make-up table had been added just so that the girls could get ready in front of a full size mirror and spread out their make-up and toiletries. There was even a hair dryer! The dorm also has a kitchenette, which is basically just a cupboard with a fridge; the shared main kitchen is where you really find anything you need to make yourself a meal is downstairs right by the communal lounge, but it is nice to be able to store something in the room. With two stoves and ovens in the main hostel kitchen I never saw anybody having to wait to cook, and found the kitchen to be very clean. Plus: there is free tea and coffee in the kitchen all day long.The mornings were the best part though – that’s when a fancy espresso machine magically appeared and allowed guests to wake up with a proper espresso or cappuccino instead of a simple Turkish coffee. I might have gone over-the-top with my morning espresso intake a couple of times during my stay at Abraham’s..
In addition to the perfect coffee, breakfast consisting of bread, Nutella, cheese, hard boiled eggs and cereal – and of course the for Israeli breakfasts essential cucumber and tomatoes, both of which were served in a big bowls. (Side note: salad for breakfast might just be the best Israeli invention.) All of this is offered self-service style and is included in the room rates.A great addition to the hostel itself is the tour company, Abraham Tours, in the reception area. Hostel guests get a discount on the tours offered, and if you can get several people to join a tour, there is an additional group discount. The list of tours is so long that I had difficulties deciding which ones I wanted to join. Abraham Tours basically offers tours to all of Israel’s main sights such as the Dead Sea, Haifa, Nazareth, and Masada, but you can even venture as far as Jordan, on a 3-day trip to Jerash, Petra and Wadi Rum, or Egypt on a 2-day tour from Eilat.
What impressed me the most though were the various tours to the West Bank that were thrown in the mix of classic Israel highlights. In my opinion, people who visit Israel should also visit the West Bank to get a better understanding of the ongoing Israel – Palestine conflict, but not everyone is comfortable to explore the Palestinian territories by themselves, so these tours are a great way to experience the West Bank with a qualified guide, also guaranteeing that you learn about the West Bank firsthand rather than just going there. I ended up going on three West Bank tours with Abraham (which I will write about separately) and these three days were among the most eye-opening in educating myself on the entire situation and to learn more about life in Palestine.I also took a cooking class with Abraham which I loved and can’t stop raving about. I didn’t have a single bad meal during my month in Israel, and the dinner we prepared during this class was among the most memorable ones.Overall, I felt right at home at Abraham and am already looking forward to returning to Jerusalem were I know I have a home away from home.
Standout feature: Friendly staff
The staff can make or break a hostel, and Abraham is doing it just right when selecting their staff: every single person who was working at the hostel during my stay was always approachable, friendly and making sure that the guests were having everything they needed. There are even staff insider tips for Jerusalem on the Abraham website, but you can walk up to anyone at any time and get an answer to any question you might have.
Standout feature: The social activities and the tour desk
As I’ve already said: the tour desk offers a fantastic range of activities all over Israel, and what could be better than sightseeing with new friends from the hostel while having a knowledgeable guide with you? On every single one of the tours I took I felt well looked after and that the guides knew what they were talking about. Plus: If you stay at the hostel, you get a discount on any tour!
The social activities like the pub crawl or the Shabbat dinner were nights when I felt like I could really get to know my fellow travelers at the hostel without having to try hard. I recommend taking part in at least one social activity, but if you hang out at the hostel bar, you also won’t have any problems meeting new people.
Room for improvement
I have to admit that I found it really hard to find a flaw in this seemingly perfect hostel. I was trying hard to find something that was missing, but with the cozy lounge, the power outlets and reading lamps at every bed, free lockers, the bar with its great Happy Hour, the generous breakfast spread, the tours, a computer room with PCs to use for those who don’t travel with a laptop, a laundry room, the wonderful rooftop terrace, and the clean, spacious rooms, I didn’t miss anything during my stay.
The only thing I could pick on was that if you joined breakfast later in the morning, the tables were usually sticky and a bit dirty. While the staff was always on top of refilling the buffet, I thought that they could be more on top of cleaning the messy spots on the tables.
Location: 67 Hanevi’im Street, Davidka Square, Jerusalem, 94702
Price: Dorms start at ILS85 (US$22), private singles start at ILS270 (US$69), private doubles start at ILS360 (US$92), triples start at ILS420 (US$107)
LGBT Friendly: Yes
Digital Nomad Friendly: Yes (high speed internet, desks in the rooms)
Amenities: Complimentary breakfast, free WiFi, free lockers, communal lounge, communal kitchen, laundry room, TV room, roof terrace, tour desk,