…and they’re not all what you’d expect!
No other city in Israel is as complex, unique, diverse and beautiful as Jerusalem. From the welcoming people, to the social environment, no two days in Jerusalem are the same. Jerusalem takes one by surprise each day, holding a special place in the hearts of those who live here and those who want to stay … and we’ll show you why:
1. It’s a place to reflect
Jerusalem is a place where one can sit at Teddy Park and meditate or take a deep breath by Mary’s Well in Ein Kerem, but more than anything Jerusalem allows one to self-reflect and reflect on the place they’re living in. Everyone in this city is unique, and in turn, the energies of the people here are reflected back into the cityscape, causing Jerusalem to have a special magic in the atmosphere.
2. It’s the place to fall in love
Because of the unique character that the city attracts, Jerusalemite love stories are so very special. The ideas for dates and romantic scapes here are plentiful, with places like the windmill in Mishkanot Shaanenim and the rooftop of the Austrian Hospice that two people can’t experience together anywhere else in Israel.
3. The drinks are shaken, not stirred
Why settle for an ice coffee on a hot summer day when one can have a smoothie from Re-Bar or Mitz Petel? Jerusalem has a variety of juice places each creating delicious flavors such as mango, passionfruit, yogurt, pineapple and even silan (date honey)! Jerusalem bars mostly create their own fruity cocktails that have their own popping taste, such as HaSchena in the shuk which makes it own Limoncello!
4. Sharing stories is a central part of the culture
With ease, one can find several bookstores, libraries, and even a pop-up community library along the tracks of the First Station where people leave a book and grab a new one. Stories and story-swapping create community, and every individual can become a part of the Jerusalem narrative. Some of our favorites for the avid bookworm? Tmol Shilshom Cafe and the Municipal Library in Beit Ha’am on 11 Bezalel Street, next to the Gerard Behar Center (which doesn’t have a website… we recommend just popping by for yourself).
5. Jerusalemites are welcoming
Jerusalemites will welcome you with a smile, whether you’re at the market, dining at a restaurant, or sitting on the bus. Hospitality is key and inviting people for meals and get-togethers is totally commonplace. People are constantly opening their homes to host acoustic shows and slam-poetry nights in their living rooms, or to throw rooftop parties and organize second-hand sales. Group lunches in the city’s many parks can be seen on pretty much any weekend in the warmer seasons.
6. It’s a go-to for those seeking meaning and purpose
Jerusalem is full of grassroots initiatives, charitable organizations and good-deed doers who are working on solutions for local and global problems. The many complexities of Jerusalem are a magnet for thinkers, activists and proponents of tikkun olam. Jerusalem’s multifaceted character draws a panoply of entrepreneurs and ignites so many conversations.
From inclusive informal-education programs for children and young people with special needs (such as Shutaf Inclusion Programs) all the way to global renewable energy (made possible by Energiya Global) and activism (with groups like Hitorerut, or “awakening”), the ways to get involved and make a positive impact are endless.
7. It’s constantly growing
The city is growing as new buildings are rising or being renovated and young people are continuing to migrate to the center of the city. Students, hipsters, and young professionals are currently living in the famous neighborhoods of Nahala’ot, Rehavia and near Machane Yehuda. And have we mentioned Mayor Barkat’s plan to keep things growing?
8. It’s creative
People of any age express themselves as they stand on the streets to paint, create, sing, and dance, showcasing the free spirits and the energies that arise when painters meet engineers, when musicians meet activists and when everyone wants to infuse the city with their talents. Check out organizations and projects like the Jerusalem Season of Culture, the Beita new home for urban art, the social entrepreneurs at ROI Community, student initiated social radio JLM.FM, and New Spirit’s (Ruach Hadasha) toolbox to learn about all the incredible creative ventures happening here.
9. Mystery is everywhere
There is definitely a sense of mysteriousness and adventure here. One day wandering down an alley may lead to a cool piece of street art or to a gorgeous view of the city or even to a historic building or site. Even with a map, some true gems can be found by simple meandering. Walking through the alleys of Nachlaot at night led to the discovery of two tucked-away studios (one for ceramics and one for interior design). Turn into one of the little alleys off of Yoel Moshe Salomon Street (home to the famous umbrellas), and you’ll find Zuni, a chic restaurant open 24/7. And on Rabbi Aryeh Street, close to Lev Ha’ir community center (itself somewhat hidden), you’ll find one of the best thrift shops in all of Jerusalem. Oh, and by “shops”, we mean two rooms full of clothing at the entrance to the “shop”-owner’s home. The mystique is endless: Jerusalem is a maze in the best sense of the word.
10. It’s more than just Jerusalem stone, it’s GREEN!
The city is not just the cobblestone roads and limestone buildings… there are parks everywhere! Lots of kids play soccer and skate, there are (sometimes free) yoga and Zumba classes, and lots of folks sitting under the trees reading. Parks are also the best places to catch a quick nap in during lunch breaks or meet a friend for quick catch-up on the bench. The newest park to open in the city? The Gazelle Valley, totally worth visiting.
11. Abundant resources make it easy to discover the city
With a record-breaking number of tourists visiting in recent years, the already wealthy suite of tourism materials is becoming even richer. iTravel Jerusalem is among the best guides to getting to know the museums, restaurants and famous streets the locals and the visitors love to visit. Thanks to iTravel Jerusalem, the many happenings and events have become accessible to English-speakers and the circle of community is constantly expanding. The Abraham Hostel offers fascinating tours and a slew of arts and culture events on their gorgeous rooftop. Sandeman’s New Europe tours are no longer just in Europe: free tours of the Old City are offered almost daily, and they are fabulous! Fun in Jerusalem and Things to do in Jerusalem, are great resource for events and to meet new people. And no matter how much you tour and see, there’s more.
12. It’s the new START UP Ecosystem
From Glide and Siftech to OurCrowd and Made in JLM, Jerusalem has evolved into its own start-up ecosystem, with over 400 start ups developed here. Talpiot in particular has become a budding pocket of start up culture. This development continues to contribute tremendously to the local economy by creating jobs for young innovators, and there are now so many opportunities for creative, driven people to build, develop, and launch their own ideas. Check out AtoBe Start Up Accelerator, visit PICO, a place to meet and exchange ideas, check out companies like Curiyo, 40Nuggets , and Jumpspeed Investments. As Made in JLM says: Jerusalem is a place of “3000 years of innovation”.
13. It’s the home of Israel’s top academic institutions
The Hebrew University is the leading university in Israel, and maintains and equally impressive reputation abroad. The institution offers degrees in all major fields of study and touts some unique programs as well. Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design is the leading art school in Israel, offering degrees in Fine Arts, Architecture, Design, Photography and Visual Communication. Hadassah Academic College, Shalem College, JCT Technology and the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance also draw lots of talented young adults to the city. And not only are the schools great, but the concomitant student culture adds a special vibe to the city. And did we mention that Olim get incredible benefits to fund their education?
14. It’s colorful, new and tasty while still being traditional
Being the capital of Israel, Jerusalem is on the one hand one of the epicenters of history and tradition, while on the other constantly delving into the new. The balance between old and new is reflected in so many elements of life. Even in terms of food: it’s the best place to eat a traditional Israeli breakfast (our favorites are at Cafe Naadi and Kalu) and to buy pomegranates all year round. But modern trends such as waffles, organic fresh-pressed juice, gluten free options and gourmet bakeries are easy to come by.
15. It offers so many ways to stay fit!
Jerusalemites are constantly working out in every corner of the city as they run or bike along the old train station path at First Station or join the Jerusalem Marathon, join Crossfit Jerusalem, dance at the studios such as Kolben Dance, run on the Sacher Park trails or even do Yoga Balagan every Tuesday at the park or in the many studios that have popped up in so many neighborhoods (check out Inspire Yoga, to name just one).
16. There is lots of live music
Live music can be heard quite often throughout the streets, not to mention at myriad venues such as Birman Bistro, Blue Hole lounge, the Yellow Submarine, the Jerusalem Port, the Zappa, Ha-Mazkeka and so many more. Jazz is amongst the popular genres being played by local bands at Birman. Blue Hole is a lounge and bar with different bands playing every night and on top of the restaurant people gather for dinner and listen to a woman sing traditional Israeli music. The Zappa brings some of Israel’s finest, the Yellow Sub attracts acts both big and small, and the newly established Jerusalem Port is a hotbed of Jerusalemite and Israeli indie.
17. The Israel Museum is located here
The Israel Museum is not only open on Shabbat but it has a range of exhibits from ancient Israeli artifacts, traditional wardrobes, the interior of the 1736 synagogue of Suriname, an interactive children’s section, the world’s smallest Bible and Dead Sea scrolls, an incredible outdoor sculpture garden and so much more. A must see in Jerusalem!
18. Because socializing includes hummus
Hummus Shel Thina, located in Nahalaot, is a place where one will never leave feeling hungry, as they offer unlimited hummus (we recommend half and half bowl of the green and red masabha). Arbas right across from the open shuk is so colorful and super fresh. Hummus Ben Sira in town is open late and it is one of the best places in the city center to eat some falafel and sabich after night out! And don’t even get us started on the Old City. But hummus isn’t just a traditional food, it’s a food meant to be shared, thus a great way to socialize, and if you want personal recommendations contact Benji Lovitt, the Hummus expert.
19. It’s accessible
The light rail, buses (including night buses), bike rentals, cab drivers, walkability and rapidly improving handicap accessibility are all making independent exploration ever more feasible. The light rail, for example, is not only a convenient way to bypass traffic and travel through the city, it’s a… unique experience, and you’ll never know what characters you’ll see. With stops near the Old City, Machane Yehuda, City Hall, and Hebrew U’s Mount Scopus campus, one moment you find yourself in historic Jerusalem and the next in the bustling city center. On most days it runs until midnight so you can travel late too. Walking and biking are just fun, and are really the best way to get to know the geography. The evening hours, before and during the sunset, are the best times to do so. Download Moovit or Google Maps to your smartphone as a guide if need be (Google street view is available in Jerusalem too!).
20. It’s diverse
Different languages are heard all around, and it’s not the slightest bit rare to discover that the clerk at your favorite boutique or bartender at one of your favorite pubs aren’t native Israelis. You’ll find folks who decided to come here because they feel more free to be who they are or because they want to explore and grow, or because they want something different. We’ve met Australians, Americans, Argentinians, Brits, Canadians, Russians, Spaniards and from all corners. Though Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, there is religious, ethnic, and cultural diversity… a true mosaic. Photo credit: RomKri, Jerusalemshots.com
21. One place can be two worlds: the case of the shuk by day and by night
Throughout the day the Shuk is a place where one will buy rugalach, fresh vegetables, drink juice at Etrog Man, munch on some dried fruits, and do all of one’s grocery shopping. At night most stands are closed, the blinds are put down displaying graffiti art. All kinds of music can be heard through different parts of the Shuk, while the bars pour the beer and fill up quickly on most nights. What was filled throughout the day with mothers with strollers and senior citizens with grocery carts becomes an awesome nighttime hangout spot. 5 b’May, Shuka, HaSchena, Tahrir and Casino de Paris are amongst some of the most popular bars, but new places (like Freddy Lemon) are popping up left and right!
22. Its sense of community
Collaborations across religions and religious streams, cultures, languages and more work together to make this place better (check out the Jerusalem Foundation’s efforts in this arena). One friend who is Orthodox and one friend who is secular drink coffee together, a group of men gather at the same bar to play poker and backgammon (sheshbesh) at the Shuk, students sitting in a pub drinking beer playing cards… these are the quintessential Jerusalem sights. And although obvious, one can’t forget to mention that Shabbat is at the heart of community in Jerusalem.
23. Its love and spirit
This is the hardest one to explain yet the easiest to just feel. When asked, “What’s your favorite part about Jerusalem?” many will answer that it’s “the warmth of the people”, or that “there’s something special in the air.” The love and spirit is felt by the way someone greets you on the street: even if you’ve only met them once it’s like they’ve known you their entire life. There is a great energy found around every corner, in every neighborhood. Even simply asking a stranger at a cafe to pass the sugar can lead to hours of exchanged stories. There is love found for the streets of this city, for no matter how old they are, they lead one to creating a new story.
24. To become a part of Jerusalem Village, of course!
Jerusalem Village is an organization that aims to create a sense of belonging to Jerusalem among young adults from around the world who choose to come here. We run programs such as Mixology workshops that bring natives and newcomers together over shared interests like photography, gardening (… and wine), and like Shalom Al Lechem and OneTable Shabbat dinners that enable anyone on any part of the religious spectrum who desires to host Shabbat to do so, while meeting everyone’s dietary and religious needs. Programs like Collage bring Israelis and non-native Israelis together to discuss living in Jerusalem as a young adult and to help each group spark one another’s intellectual curiosity and to become one community. We know just how bountiful and alive the scene is here in every dimension: art, culture, sports, music, food, nightlife, grassroots, activism, academic, intellectual, professional; and we want to help the new creative class of young adults in Jerusalem to pursue their passions here. Everything we do is one hundred percent Jerusalem, from our content and our participants to even our purchasing choices. Come to an event to find people who want to welcome you and make you a part of the Jerusalem community.
25. Nir Barkat is our awesome mayor
Mayor Nir Barkat brings his business savvy and vision of an innovative and progressive city. You’ll hear story after story of Nir Barkat protecting his citizens from harm and crime as well as creating cultural programs that benefit everyone. Thanks to him Jerusalem has become a place people want to be, with music and arts events, museums being built, a new choice destination for our Start up Nation. Mayor Barkat’s dedication to Jerusalem continues to create a strong community. Thank you, Mr. Barkat for making our city so special.
Post by Sharon Szmuc, Onward Intern Summer 2015, a student at Florida State University studying Communications, Media Studies and Creative Writing. Sharon has been the summer intern for Jerusalem Village as a blogger. She enjoys listening to and sharing others’ stories and hopes people will fall in love with Jerusalem as much as she has.
Photos, except for logos or where otherwise stated, taken by Garrett Mills, Onward Intern Summer 2015. Garrett is a student at George Washington University studying International Affairs, and has been an intern at Jerusalem Village and Flash 90. Garrett enjoys capturing the lifestyle of Jerusalem and the interesting people that live here.
Cross-posted on the Jerusalem Village Blog.