Jerusalem deserves more respect than the contemptuous words of a self-hating Jew named Matt Gross, the travel reporter for the New York Times. His narrow focus ignored the magnificence of the City on the Hill, situated 800 meters above sea level and dominated by biblical hills and towering modern skyscrapers. Likewise, he missed the significance of the human laboratory that is Jerusalem. The essence of Jerusalem, unbeknownst to Gross, is more than that of a city; it is a symbol of hope for humanity.
In the ancient Old City, surrounded by the Herodian and Ottoman walls, Orthodox Jews bustle about in black long coats co-mingling with priests in black robes and brown-clad monks, as well as with Arab Muslims wearing kaffiyahs on their heads. Added to the mix, this reporter spotted a nearby mix of mini-skirted Scandinavian girls, Russian, Brazilian, Japanese, Indian, African, British, German, and American tourists, as well as secular and skull-capped Israelis seeking out souvenirs in the narrow alleys of the Arab souk (Arab market).
Just a few yards outside the Jaffa Gate is the newly built Mamila open mall with its chic stores offering clothing, fine jewelry and gift items, as well as art galleries and restaurants. At the Aroma, (Israeli chain of café-restaurants with branches in New York) one can witness a heartwarming sight of head covered Arab-Muslim women sitting next to a table with Orthodox Jewish women whose hair is also covered. At another table, western attired Arabs are arguing loudly in good spirit, while at the next table skull-capped Israeli teenagers are busy talking. In another corner of the Café, three young Arab-Muslim girls are giggling and exchanging experiences in Arabic. Secular Israeli Jews can also be seen in this kaleidoscope that makes up Israeli society. It is a picture of peace, in contrast to the often portrayed scenes of conflict and violence western reporters are so fond of presenting their readers in New York, London, Paris, Berlin, and Toronto.
Jerusalem is not merely a holy city for Christian pilgrims who come to follow the path of Jesus’ last torturous walk along the Via Delarosa’s Stations of the Cross, the Church of the Holy Sepulchere (Jesus’ burial place) or the Garden Tomb. Nor is Jerusalem’s Kotel, or Western wall (a remnant of the Temple destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE) the only meaningful Jerusalem experience for Jews. In addition to archaeology and biblical history, Jerusalem is a vibrant mix of culture, entertainment, and natural beauty, aspects of which Mr. Gross did not bother to examine.
The Hebrew University at Givat Ram in central Jerusalem is an outstanding academic institution that offers enriching lectures on a wide range of issues, and its Mount Scopes facility offers a beautiful view of the city. The city is replete with museums, a biblical zoo, and historical sites, as well as a magnificent Supreme Court building and the Knesset hill.
Malha Mall, built just outside of the city, has become a hub for locals and city folk – a place where Arab and Jewish Jerusalemites come together. And, in central Jerusalem on the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall one sees tourists, out-of-town Israelis and locals in the restaurants, falafel stands, ice cream parlors, gift stores and the ever present nut shops with mouthwatering pistachios, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, almonds, and more. The cozy Nahalat Shiv’a, another pedestrian promenade is located nearby and offers tourists the best of Israeli artists in chic galleries, and a variety of foods in its many restaurants.
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