10 Reasons I Still Love Jerusalem

by Brian on December 6, 2005

in Only in Israel

Israelis love to get down on Jerusalem. Every time new statistics are published, pundits bemoan the steady decline of the city and how much better other cities in the country are – particularly those in the Greater Tel Aviv area.
The latest depressing numbers come from the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies (JIIS) in its 2004 Statistical Yearbook.
While the city’s population as of year end was still a healthy 706,400,
the report focuses on Jerusalem’s negative immigration rate: During
2004, 18,100 people moved out of Jerusalem compared with only 11,400
who joined the city.
This negative immigration is nothing new, says Maya Choshen, the JIIS
Yearbook’s author: some 240,000 people have left Jerusalem over the
past 15 years. While such a calculation is clearly intended for its
inflammatory impact, the total negative balance of 93,700 is
nevertheless significant.
And yet, despite the bleak numbers, the Blum family is not going
anywhere. Jerusalem remains the greatest city in the world – and I
don’t mean just historically and theologically. This is an eminently livable city. In fact, as I see it, Jerusalem is actually improving.
How can I say that in the face of hard data? Well, here are 10 reasons (not in any particular order) why we still love it here:
1. Jerusalem has the best selection of quality kosher food in the
. You can find everything from Middle Eastern meat-on-a-skewer to
Indian-Asian fusion. The choice of gourmet burgers on Emek Refaim
Street alone is staggering. And whether you care about kashrut or not,
quality kosher dining is one of the most inclusive activities Israel
has to offer. Everyone can enjoy and appreciate; no one is left out.
Eating out in Jerusalem has perhaps the best potential to bridge the
secular-religious divide. Now, if only we had some decent kosher sushi at an affordable price…

2. Jerusalem is on the cutting edge of traditional Judaism. There is
more choice in liberal Orthodox places to pray here than anywhere in
the world. From my synagogue, Kehillat Yedidya, to Shira Hadasha and
the Leader Minyan, you could go to a different shul every week and never get bored.
3. Jerusalem has the Old City. My brother Dave, who recently visited us
for Merav’s bat mitzvah, says our Old City is the best old city he’s
been to, beating out others he’s been to around the world including
Geneva, Stockholm, and Delhi. While it’s true when you live here you
don’t visit that often, when seven year old Aviv had his mesibat chumash party in first grade, they received their copies of the Torah in front of the kotel – the Western Wall. It doesn’t get more meaningful than that.
4. Jerusalem has better educational opportunities for modern religious
and traditional students than anywhere else in the country
. Don’t let
the reports of our worsening educational system fool you. Junior and
senior high school boys can choose from Hartman, Himelfarb, Dror,
Keshet and Reut. Girls have Evelina, Amalia, Pelech and the religious
arts school Omaniyot, not to mention whatever Beverly Gribetz manages
to pull off next year. Other locations in Israel just can’t compare.
5. Jerusalem is an English-speakers paradise. Some might not see that
as a blessing, but I say there’s nothing wrong in immigrants wanting to
stick together. We have English-language publications, email lists,
story reading hours, the most active chapter of the AACI (Association
of Americans and Canadians in Israel), English-language study
institutions (like Pardes, Yakar and Elul), and no shortage of
synagogues where Anglos make up the majority. No matter who you are,
you can find your English-speaking niche in Jerusalem.
6. The city is built out of Jerusalem Stone. Mandated by law nearly 100 years
ago, all buildings must be faced in this unique bumpy limestone.
Detractors say it gives the city too uniform a look. But when the sun
is setting, the Jerusalem Stone reflects back the light in shades of
orange, pink, purple and peach. It’s absolutely stunning.
7. The greater Tel Aviv area may have the beach, but Jerusalem has the
Haas Promenade. Known in Hebrew as the “tayelet,” the promenade
overlooks the Old City and the City of David from the south and is one
of the most picturesque views anywhere. And when the sun sets, well,
see the previous point…
8. Jerusalem is to Tel Aviv as San Francisco is to Los Angeles. As a
born and bred Bay Area resident, that’s important. Ours is still a laid
back casual city, where you can go out for a bag of milk (or even off
to work) in sweats and a t-shirt and no one will think the worst of
you. When I used to work in Tel Aviv, I was dismayed by how much its
residents dress up. There’s simply less keeping up with the Cohens and
Schwartzes in Jerusalem.
9. There is nothing like a warm Jerusalem summer night. No matter how
hot the day has been, when the sun goes down, the air feels positively
silky. With virtually no humidity, the nights are the perfect
temperature for a short sleeve stroll around the block or to one of the
many outdoor art festivals, midnight movie screenings or rock concerts
in Sultan’s Pool that the city sponsors in a spate of concentrated
mid-summer culture craziness.
10. Jerusalem has an endlessly fascinating diversity of people. Where
else could you find middle-aged Orthodox hippies, shaved head hip hop
college kids, wanton wig wearing women, high school freichot,
Amharic-speaking Ethiopian immigrants, bearded and bespectacled mathematics
professors, Christian Bible Belt tourists and Palestinian doctors all
under the same roof at the mall, sipping some chai masala with soy milk or chowing down on one of those gourmet burgers.
Yes, it’s a great place and if you haven’t been to visit lately, ignore the stats and head on up the hill.
All we need now is some decent kosher sushi.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anonymous December 6, 2005 at 10:06 pm

You wrote: “All we need now is some decent kosher sushi.”
What about the Sushi take-out-place on Luntz (next to Big Deal, off of Ben Yehuda).
Or I just found out today that, I think Monday nights, the David Citadel Hotel has an (expensive) all-you-can-eat sushi special.

2 Anonymous December 12, 2005 at 6:01 am

As a former Jerusalem resident, I also love the city. By the way, Jerusalem stone is limestone, not granite.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: