1. It’s a living antiquity (in the best way possible).
It is one of the oldest cities in the world. And one of the most modern. If you stand next to City Hall and look toward Jaffa Gate as the sleek light rail glides by, you are — no joke — gazing upon 3,000 years of human undertaking. It takes your breath away.
2. The weather is amazing.
It’s perfect. Summers are dry and breezy. In winter, it’s green. Jerusalemites wander about on summer nights just to inhale the sweet, clean air. In November, we experience a balmy 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. The Mediterranean Sea is less than an hour away.
4. It is a city of human dimensions and pretensions.
Jerusalem is to Tel Aviv as Boston is to New York, as Geneva is to Zurich. It is old. It is settled. It is educated. It is beautiful. It is cosmopolitan without being in your face about it and you can get almost anywhere on foot.
5. The architecture stuns.
While you’re walking around, stroll through the German Colony, a mini-town built by Templars who loved oriental arches but couldn’t give up on steep red tile rooftops. Wander to the Israel Museum, a glistening pearl-white Greek village on a hill, and next door, to the exhilarating Supreme Court, “Israel’s finest public building,” according to the Grey Lady.
6. Visiting the Israel Museum’s “Space that Sees.”
A masterpiece enclosing a stunner. Jerusalem’s clear blue sky, speckled by quickly-moving, low-lying clouds, is the result of the Judean Desert’s arid breezes encountering humidity from the Judean Hills. Now imagine gazing at this sky from within a private viewing chamber. You can lie down in James Turrell’s “Space that Sees” in the Israel Museum’s sculpture garden and do just that.
7. The Old City is like nowhere else on Earth.
Magnificent, opulent, and endless. You can spend weeks here, and still not know it at all. You can walk barefoot on Roman paving stones, see Yemenite silversmiths at work; smell coffee roasting, then frankincense, then sage; wonder at the sheer number of different churches; let your hands touch Damascene cloth hand woven out of silk and gold thread; eat the best hummus you’ll ever eat; discover Armenian bastirma. Start again tomorrow.
8. It’s the Holy City!
Observe with awe the fervor on the faces of pilgrims to the Esplanade of the Mosques, the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, all within meters of each other.
9. The sunsets are incredible.
Not for nothing is the city called Golden Jerusalem.
10. So many people claim the city is theirs.
The Israeli-Palestinian tussle is nothing new. From King David onwards, everyone has desired Jerusalem. It has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times. In no particular order, the city has been part of the neo-Macedonian, Egyptian, Byzantine, Judean, Roman, Hasmonean, Persian, Ottoman, British and Mamluk sultanates, kingdoms or empires. There’s got to be something to it, right?
11. The geek scene rivals Silicon Valley.
Without even trying, you find yourself in conversations with high-tech geeks, like the guys who invented video synopsis technology by mistake.
12. It has the most hopping food scene in the Middle East.
Have you heard of the record-breaking cookbook, Jerusalem? Look it up.
13. Eat your way through Machane Yehudah market.
You can argue with a merchant over intensities of paprika, eat a fresh brioche, and see a lamb slaughtered. And that’s at 7am.
14. Enjoy the area’s fine wine
You are half an hour from the Judean Hills — one of the best and oldest wine-growing regions on Earth. Drink from the fruit of the local vine.
15. Journalists (and their energy) are everywhere.
On an average day, 800 foreign journalists are stationed in Jerusalem, scrounging for a way to grab tomorrow’s headline. You’ve gotta love the amusing, unending cycle of reporters, diplomats and NGO workers who populate plush Jerusalem watering holes and ritually trash this provincial, exasperating city. It’s doubly amusing when, munching on fried calamari at a bar on a Friday night, they whine about the impossibly Orthodox tenor of the town.
16. The midnight Monday drag shows at Mikveh.
17. Get lost in the nearby Judean Desert.
The undulating, copper dunes of the Judean Desert are at your doorstep. Enjoy the signs warning of “dangerous curves!” The Dead Sea, too, which Lot’s wife could not bear to leave, and which will clear your mind and keep you buoyant no matter how heavy your thoughts, is less than an hour away. Enjoy the signs to Sodom.
18. Eating a fresh lachmajun at Damascus Gate’s El Amin bakery at 2am.
El Amin is open 24/7 without regard to religion, race or creed. On Yom Kippur, it’s open. Throughout Ramadan, it’s open. For $1.40, you can grab a steaming hot lachmajun fresh from the stone oven. It’s a crisp personal sized spiced-meat pizza without the cheese, and it is impossible to eat only one. For 25 cents, you can indulge in a semolina cookie stuffed with dates, scented with orange blossom water. (For the more restrained, there is whole-wheat and white pita and huge, circular breads that resemble floaty sesame pretzels.)
19. Everyone passes through Jerusalem.
Wait long enough, and you’ll bump into anyone you’ve ever wanted to meet.
By Noga Tarnopolsky, GlobalPost
This article is syndicated from GlobalPost.