Welcome to Jerusalem
The centre of the world to many. Yearned after. Fought over. Destroyed and rebuilt for thousands of years. Jerusalem's energy toggles between intense and passionate.
The Old City
Jerusalem's Old City is a spiritual lightning rod, sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians. Wide-eyed with awe, pilgrims flood into the walled city to worship at locations linked to the very foundation of their faith. Church bells, Islamic calls to prayer and the shofar (Jewish ram's horn) electrify the air with a beguiling, if not harmonious, melody, and fragrances of incense, coffee and candle smoke drift through the thrumming souqs (markets). Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Armenian quarters each add their own spice, but this diversity grew from millennia of bloody sieges and transfers of power, leaving still visible deep wounds.
Modernity is very much alive in the west – only in typical Jerusalem ways, all sheathed in Jerusalem stone, the same colour palette as the Old City. Metastasising ultra-Orthodox neighbourhoods are short walks from million-dollar condominiums, the property of wealthy expatriates. Experimental performing arts centres are housed in 19th-century stone buildings. Hip bars and restaurants crowd the city's downtown, swarmed by yeshiva and university students. Old-school fruit and vegetable sellers sit next to craft beer bars in Mahane Yehuda Market. The Israel Museum and Yad Vashem memorial, document the past and chart the course for the future.
Diversity & Divisions
If there is an upside to thousands of years of political, territorial, ethnic and religious conflict that continues to this day, it's that nearly every group that called Jerusalem home continues to leave their mark, including a demographic smorgasbord of immigrants from around the world. Few nationalities aren't represented, their influence visible in culinary and religious traditions, accents, clothing, perspectives and cultural expressions. Maybe the starkest, most telling dynamic is the ebb and flow of secular and religious influence. And the clearest separation of course is that between relatively neglected Palestinian East Jerusalem, whose status and that of the city's as a whole remains a matter of contention.
Jerusalem is expanding, not only into suburbs and settlements but also underground. Layers of history continue being uncovered and, not surprisingly, it's all being fought over. Archaeologically, much of Jerusalem, of course, especially in and around the Old City, seems to be an active dig site, with many areas including the City of David open to tourists. Hardly a month goes by when an important discovery that seems to cast an empire, king or religion in a new light isn't made. Then the real work gets started. What does it mean, both historically and politically? For anyone with more than a passing interest in the past, its a heady experience.
Top experiences in Jerusalem
Food and drink
First Station in German ColonyFood Hall
Machneyuda in DowntownInternational
Modern in JerusalemIsraeli
Pinati in DowntownMiddle Eastern
Azura in DowntownMiddle Eastern
Anna in DowntownItalian
Lev Smadar in German ColonyItalian
Abu Shukri in Old CityMiddle Eastern
Abu Kamel in Old CityMiddle Eastern
Sarwa Street Kitchen in East JerusalemMiddle Eastern