But during this month that focuses on repentance, leading up to the high holidays of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, it is not just the glory of King David that is talked about, but also his sins. This is just one stop on the so-called Selichot Tours offered by Yalla Basta, a local family-owned interactive tour company. Named after the selichot, or repentance, prayers recited at night or just before dawn in the weeks leading up to the high holidays, the evening tours offer a glimpse into both history and everyday life in Jerusalem. One route explores Nachlaot and the Old City, while another focuses on Nahalat Shiva, Mishkenot Shaananim and Mount Zion.
Through these stories, people will learn the history, learn about the Jewish traditions and hopefully also about themselves,
says Maria Zavin, who oversees marketing for Yalla Basta. “It’s a way to see the city in a vivid way.” Two local families launched Yalla Basta in 2012, originally offering tours of the Mahane Yehuda market that allowed participants to taste food and hear stories from vendors. In recent years, the company has expanded, offering food tours in several neighborhoods as well as tours focused on the holidays.
We’ve always wanted to allow the traveler to experience the local life, not just the dry history,
Zavin says. That’s why when the selichot tour goes through Nachalot, the guide encourages participants to ask passersby on the street “Who was Rabbi Arie Levin?” as they pause outside the building that was once his home. After hearing locals tell what they know about Levin, who lived in Nachlaot in the early 20th century and was famous for visiting prisoners and taking care of the sick and impoverished, people, the guide tells the group how Levin prepared himself for the high holidays.
There are so many stories to tell,
Zavin says. Through these stories, the guides also hope that visitors–no matter their religion–will also look inside themselves as they learn about the spiritual journeys of both famous and ordinary; and ancient and contemporary locals. In the midst of exploring synagogues, small streets and ancient ruins on the selichot tours, participants also stop for pastries and hot drinks in Jerusalem establishments, experiencing a small taste of the nightly cafe scene. Contact Yalla Basta for tour times and cost.