my Jerusalem

there’s that special bread that I especially love here

When you love a woman, and you wish to tell a friend about her, it’s no simple thing. The first thing you might say… there’s this woman and I love her… but that’s just about yourself. So you try to describe her. She’s not the most beautiful woman in the world… but for you, the moment you see her, you smile… you’re happy. She’s intelligent… but you really don’t care just how much… She wears dresses down to her ankles… she has these little ear rings on her ears… She has black curly hair… but a lot of other women do too. You try to describe her and realize, that it could be any other woman. How do you explain how very special she is for you… how do you explain the way your heart dances when she’s close, looking through the window with you… and you’re not even touching…

reptile in the rose garden

Well, it’s something like that, when I talk about Jerusalem to those who don’t know her… She’s not the most beautiful city in the world, and she’s not the easiest town in which to live. She’s got problems, and she’s got hang ups… she’s got too much traffic, and it’s not that well mannered considerate traffic. And when foreign dignitaries come to visit, the police close down streets just so the VIPs can go around without waiting at intersections the way we have to.

turtle sculpture in the park

They say that Tel Aviv never sleeps… well Jerusalem never sleeps either, but no one talks about it. It’s not thought of as some special quality around here. When people think of Jerusalem… visitors, who come from out of town… they think of the wailing wall, or the biblical zoo… they think of the orthodox Jews dressed in black suits… or the colorful Arabs who are willing to negotiate a price in the market place… they think of churches or mosques… or synagogues… or the parliament of Israel, which is called the Knesset. And of course the museum, where you can get lost for days, learning all the time… though they don’t like people to photograph there. None of these things come to mind when I’m out of the city and longing to be home again.

local folks at the wailing wall

I don’t care much for the pomp and ceremony. And though I love the stores and the market places, and the different malls that can be found in the city, I don’t spend much time there. And many of the libraries that were my second home in years past, are no longer as popular as they once were… after all, the computer has changed our life style to a large degree. I’ve never been at the sports Stadium, named after our legendary mayor, Teddy Kollek, who was elected five times to the job, and served almost 40 years.

live music at a wine store

What I love about Jerusalem, are the people, with whom I share a common culture, and a common tongue, and the spirit that lingers and floats through the city, through the day and night. The many book stores, and the study halls, and the ‘hole in the wall’ prayer rooms, and the coffee shops, and the bars, and the night clubs and music halls, and the streets with laundry hanging out the windows, and poster boards where everyone can pour his heart out about what matters to him or what’s bothering him, and the parks, and the trees… and even the dead end streets that no one sees except the locals… and yes, the Jerusalem Forest which is sort of attached to the city right at the western edge of it. And the cats who are as much citizens as we are.

a pleasant neighborhood corner

I like riding in the buses, or on the tram, and listening as other people carry on intricate and emotional conversations with their friends and relatives in front of everyone else while others read the newspaper, a good book, or even pray… not at all self conscious about the fact that they’re exposed and everyone can see them in their private moments. I love the many ice cream stands, and the vendor who cooks hot corn on the sidewalk and sells it hot to passers by in season, and the musicians who play for small change on the promenades… and the tourists who are so impressed by things we take for granted, and take pictures of everything. And now that we have cell phones, everyone seems to take pictures of everything…

Jacobs ladder; park at the foot of Givat Mordechai

It’s Jerusalem day today. People from all over the country have come to the city, and there are all kinds of activities connected with the day. Some folks have even come from abroad… and so I thought I’d write something about Jerusalem. Though those of you who read me regularly, know I mention my beloved city quite a bit anyway. Trying to write about it as the subject of a post, though, was a bit harder than I expected.


99 responses to “my Jerusalem

  1. Wonderful dear Shimon, I loved them all, but especially this reptile sculpture in the rose garden, beautiful… How creative. Thank you, Greetings and Love to your Jerusalem, nia

    • Yes Nia, that reptile is a sculpture I especially love too. It was made out of a truck tire, and so in a way, it’s very simple. But it works so well that I smile every time I see it. Thank you.

  2. Shimon, thank you for sharing your Jerusalem. I truly enjoyed this post.

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed this Ann. It does seem a challenge to me, to try and describe such feelings to people who’ve never been here. Thank you.

  3. A great friend of ours, who is also an Anglican priest, goes to Jerusalem now for a month’s holiday every year. he loves it, and his wife describes it in very much the same way you have described it here….a wonderful, eclectic place to observe the rest of humanity. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    • Though I studied English, and have made friends with quite a few priests in my life, I’ve never had the pleasure of getting to know an Anglican priest. Well, perhaps there are still pleasures and surprises waiting for me. Thank you very much for your comment, Harry. Always good to hear from you.

  4. Thank you for being such a wonderful representative for Jerusalem to the world!

  5. I can imagine how hard it was to write this Shimon, yet the words flow easily and beautifully and all the while your love for your city and the simpler every day things and events shines through. Jerusalem sound lovely, it’s culture rich and diverse. I hope to visit one day….

    I love the pics, especially the stone turtle and the people at the wailing wall.

    How lovely to have a place were cats are almost citizens too, who would ever have thought such a thing could be possible. I raise my glass to that and to wish you a happy Jerusalem day. xxxx

    • We have raised our glasses together, Dina. And thank you for the encouragement. It was a very beautiful day, and I took an extra long walk as part of the celebration. If you ever do come to Jerusalem, it would be a pleasure for me to be your guide. xxx

  6. A fine article, Shimon. People idealize Jerusalem, and truly Jerusalem is an ideal. But then it’s a real city, with traffic and the rest (which I admit bothers me) so its holiness and beauty, like everything else, are tainted. Yet the beauty shines through, as you show us.

    • As you well know, Bumba, our attitude towards the holy, is to integrate the spiritual with the material, and so I try to deal with the obstacles with patience and restraint. Thank you very much for you kind words.

  7. You’ve painted a tender, loving picture of Jerusalem Shimon! The Jerusalem visitors, for the most part, do not see. Especially nice when it isn’t flooded w/important dignitaries who travel w/o seeing. Thank You

  8. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post Shimon. You spoke of the people of Jerusalem with whom you share a common culture and language. I imagine from what you say that Jerusalem is much less cosmopolitan than other cities around the world which I find interesting but then Jerusalem has a troubled history I suppose. I enjoyed your photographs very much. What usually springs to mind when I hear Jerusalem is a hymn based on a poem by William Blake that has become synoymous with England and Englishness –

    • Thank you very much, Chillbrook, for sharing this poem with me, and sending this illuminating link. I have read some of Blake’s work, but was unfamiliar with these lines. I can tell you though, that for the Jewish people, throughout the years of exile, Jerusalem was seen as a sort of heaven on earth, and it was remembered in our prayers every day. And there were also many beautiful poems written about her. I must say that today she is a living legend, and though she is not completely rebuilt, there is something utterly unique about her spirit.

  9. I hope one day I’ll have the chance to visit and enjoy those wonderful places you write about. I love that reptile in the rose garden! Thank you for sharing your favourite places with us.
    Would you say Jerusalem has a special scent as well? The one thing I remember about my place of birth (Alicante, Spain), is the smell of figs. My parents moved away when I was five years old and I didn’t go back until I was in my early 40s, but whenever I smelled a fresh fig tree, I remembered my birth town. Scents are powerful too.

    • Dear Fatima, you have brought back a memory that I had almost forgotten. Today, the scent I associate with Jerusalem is that of flowers in my neighborhood… But as a young man, when I had left the city to travel in the world, I had the greatest longing for something that doesn’t sound so good. I used to go and buy bread almost every morning from a local bakery, and smelled a mixture of fresh bread combined with the smell of diesel fuel, which came from the bus station very close by. The smell of the diesel fuel was not so good, but the combination meant home for me. Thank you so much for your comment.

  10. This is just lovely, from the heart. You make a great advert for the city!

  11. Beautiful post and pictures! Your love for your city shines through in every word, Shimon. I appreciated your comparison of talking about a beloved person, so true, what we feel is very hard to describe in words that will explain the depth of those feelings. But I think you did very well here. While it is fun to visit “tourist attractions” it is far more interesting to walk about a city and get a feel for it’s people and it’s culture. Thank you for once again sharing this wonderful place you call home!

    • Thank you, Josie. You understand me. Yes, there is something very unique about our intimate relationships… and if it’s love for an elephant, the size of the elephant doesn’t detract… and in my case… it’s a love for my city. Thank you.

  12. I very much enjoyed this paeon of praise for your beloved city, and the way you’ve captured some of its many aspects – a kaleidoscope of a city.

    • So glad you were able to understand my feelings, Gillyk. You know, I have so many different pictures of this city, taken in the course of a lifetime, and even when I was trying to think of how and what to show… it was so hard to choose… and eventually I chose pictures that had personal meaning for me. Thank you.

  13. I love your country … I love how you write about your country, Shimon … and I understand … but then again I don’t … I guess I never will … my mumme is jewish, my dad is gypsy … I will always live in 2 worlds … you are lucky … enjoy your world …

    • My dear cat… I don’t know if you know it, but unlike many others… the Jewish people determine the national identity of a person in our community according to the mother. So from our point of view, if you want to feel that way, you’re Jewish. Of course, I know you’ve had a life full of your own experiences… but it could be that you hear the voices of your Jewish ancestors calling you home.

  14. … o, I want to say so much more, Shimon … blessed be, eh, blessed be …Love, cat.

  15. Thank you for sharing your love of Jerusalem with us through your senses, Shimon. I love your photo of Jacob’s ladder. It so seems to stretch to heaven! I hope you enjoy the celebrations today!

    • It was a beautiful day, Cathy… but I feel a lot like my mother… who, when we told her it was ‘mothers’ day’, said, if it’s just one day, I don’t want it… I feel so grateful for being able to live my life in Jerusalem, that I don’t need any special day. Thanks a lot for your comment. Oh, the wonders of the internet!

  16. What a beautiful love song, Shimon; it is clear there is much to love about Jerusalem, and you have provided such wonderful photos and descriptions to further help me imagine your love…it is so good to have a home one loves, often as much for its imperfections as for the obviously beautiful…Thank you for this lovely, brief, tour! 🙂 Joy to you today and always.

    • Thank you very much Kitty. It was just a short while ago that I read your post on making plans for retirement… and I thought of the relationship to my own home, where I’ve lived for forty years now… and I remembered a pilgrimage I made many years ago… maybe 50 years ago… to the home of John Muir, where I hiked the same trail that he had hiked as a young man, in love with the High Sierras. And it seemed to me that your feelings to your home with your loving partner in life were close to what I knew both in my own life, and learning about Muir. I do hope that you’ll find a blessed solution.

  17. I have yet to have the pleasure of visiting your beautiful and wondrous city, but you have painted a picture for me Shimon and to that I’m grateful. I’m very fond of cities they have their own vibrancy and buzz, as you say its all about the people

    • So true, Claire. Just as people are a composite of all kinds of moods and talents and learned capacities, and traumas and wounds and arms and legs and bruises and scars and stigmas… so a city. I am so glad that you were able to tune in and get a picture of my home town.

  18. Thank you for taking us with you, Shimon…for bringing us home, so to speak. Such a pleasure.

    • Very glad that I was able to share this with you, Scott. As I was saying to Kitty, there were periods in my life when I learned to appreciate the loves of others… some of which you have never heard of… but one such hero of mine was John Muir, and I actually visited his home, and it touched my soul. Such experiences have enriched me so.

      • It is a treasure to have that ability, I think, to appreciate the loves of others…and part of the treasure is the richness that it bring to your life…. Thank you again….

  19. What a fitting and beautiful post for Today. Jerusalem is very easy to fall in love with. I’ve done it many times.

  20. You can always tell when a man is in love.

  21. you’ve written a wonderful tribute to your Jerusalem, Shimon! “…The many book stores, and the study halls, and the ‘hole in the wall’ prayer rooms, and the coffee shops, and the bars, and the night clubs and music halls, and the streets with laundry hanging out the windows, and poster boards where everyone can pour his heart out about what matters to him or what’s bothering him, and the parks, and the trees…”
    greetings by
    I’ll set a link to you there …

  22. Pingback: Jerusalem by David Mor | Flickr Comments

  23. Wonderful………… to visit…you have a wonderful blog and you post it incredibly….M glad to get you thanks

    • And I am very glad to get to know you Rajat. How wonderful that we can meet each other coming from opposite ends of the world. That is the wonder of the internet. Thank you for your comment.

  24. A piece of prose that so eloquently expresses your love for Jerusalem. I had to read it twice to make sure I hadn’t missed anything.

    • Thank you very much, Andy, for coming by and visiting my blog. I too have enjoyed visiting yours, and gazing at your beautiful photography, especially those sceneries from Switzerland, where I in my youth did a bit of mountain climbing myself. Though I must admit that at the time I traveled with a camera that had only one lens, and my photography was very basic then. It is a great pleasure to meet you.

      • Thank you so much for your reply, Shimon, and your generous comments. Switzerland is almost a second home to us – we go there twice a year. I climbed my first 4000M peak at the age of 15, and 51 years on I hope to climb another this summer. If I do you can be sure I will post an account of it.

  25. like the reptile 🙂

  26. I felt transported by your words and your love is tender, palpable, intimate. The love that infuses the soul and settles there with both comfort and delight. And I fell in love with you, albeit with the longing of a love as yet unrequited. Thank you.

    • You’ve reminded me of the days of my childhood, when I suffered terrible and painful loneliness… and how I found friends and companionship by exploring the world of literature. What difference did it make to me that the love I felt was for a person half way around the world… or buried in his grave a few hundred years… I was able to share a bit of my life with him or her by way of the written word, and these experiences saved me from bitter despair. Today the internet has added still another dimension to that experience. Thank you so much Mimi, for your very sweet comment.

  27. Your descriptions of your beloved city help me to see it in a new way. I can understand why you love it so.

  28. Thank you for sharing this post about your city, Shimon. Its a secret wish of mine to visit your city sometime in my life. I hope my wish comes true. Till then I’ve enjoyed seeing her through your eyes and she’s beautiful!!

    • I do hope that you will have that opportunity, hemadamani. And it is a great pleasure to share with you my impressions, though after a lifetime in this town, with so many memories, and stories and pictures… it was hard to know what to tell or show. I am glad you were able to get a taste.

  29. It was many years ago… we spent two nights in Tel Aviv, usually with the airline we had only one night-stop. I decided to finally see Jerusalem… next day we went to Jeriko and the Dead Sea. I do keep a strange feeling, specially when I went up the Mount of Olives and looked down under upon the city… something tells me there is an ancestral reason… since I do belive in reincarnation. And thinking of it, for a good friend of mine with whom I collaborate, I wrote these sentences:
    As in the Genesis is said: can you tell me where my country lies?
    Wish you a lovely week-end :-)claudine

    • I’m glad you had a chance to see Jerusalem, though it seems to me that a day is not really enough to get to know the city… but I understand your feeling. I checked out the link, but wasn’t able to understand what was written there… because of the language. However, I did see the very beautiful picture of the wailing wall, with the golden roof of the mosque in the background. Thank you. Claudine.

      • I like “multicolturality” Shimon… which could be the solution for world’s problems 🙂 Occasionalli, with a friend from Sicily, I write a “blend” of several languages (english, italian, french, spanish, german) it sound special to me… And the wailing wall… this remained in my heart…

        • You are a Swiss, Claudine, so you have much more experience and knowledge of multi-cultural life. I hope it is the solution to the world’s problems, and thank you for your patience with me.

  30. Great post…..glad you could share your favourite “woman” in such a way. I’d love to meet her in person one day.

    • It’s a very strange experience to read about things that are happening here, and places that I know as well as I know my own hands, and see them differently. So many times I’ve read about my city or my country in foreign newspapers, or seen items that were broadcast in the international media… and it seemed that they really didn’t understand what was happening here… so once in a great while, I try to tell it myself. Thank you, Linda

  31. WordsFallFromMyEyes

    I didn’t know Jerusalem ‘never sleeps’ like New York – I thought New York was the only (didn’t know about Tel Aviv either!).

    Love all these pictures, & your affection does shine through. I was hoping to understand what the wailing wall is, when I read, but you didn’t say. Why is it called a wailing wall? You don’t have to answer!! But just saying, I was curious.

    How wonderful to see beyond my borders. Thank you, Shimon.

    • At least in our country, Tel Aviv is famous for that. I don’t think anyone in Jerusalem would think of bragging about such a thing. We take it for granted Of course, in our case, a lot of the population that is up through the night is students… That has always been here. We have many learning institutions. But in the last thirty years or so, the entertainment and certain shops have been active day and night too. The wailing wall is the last remnant of the holy temple. So Jews have come there to pray. But often the thought of what has happened to the temple cause them to cry out loud. And this was so common, that the wall got the name, ‘wailing wall’. Though the modern state of Israel prefers to call it the ‘Western Wall’.

  32. settleandchase

    It’s uplifiting to hear of your love, and to travel there with you..

  33. Hi Shimon
    Do you have a post already, or could you write one explaining the Wailing Wall to me? I know I can read about it online etc but would love to know from you more about it…

    • I have written about it, but seemingly not on this platform. I think I will do a post on it, with some interesting pictures. But meantime, as I explained to Noeleen, The wailing wall is the last remnant of the holy temple. So Jews have come there to pray for the last two thousand years.. But when thinking about what has happened to the temple, many can’t help but cry out loud. This has been so common, that the wall got the name, ‘wailing wall’. Nowadays, the modern state of Israel prefers to call it the ‘Western Wall’. Thank you for the question, Annie.

  34. Hi Shimon, It’s been a long time since I read your wisdom. I like this article a lot, I visited Jerusalem on Google Street maps and compared to many other cities I’ve had a nosey around, it is fascinating. There seemed to be so much going on and along one of the arterial dual carriageways there was a palpable difference in people’s dress depending on which side of the road they were walking on. They weren’t firing rockets at each other. The Wailing Wall is unique, fascinating to an atheist history and culture vulture like myself, I’d advise anyone who wants to see the insides of Jesusalem, to visit via Google Streetmaps.

    • Hi there Mick. I haven’t seen the Google Street Maps yet. I guess it’s much easier for me to read than to watch video clips of any kind… but it does sound interesting. There are a few different populations here in our city, and for the most part we manage to co-exist without violence of any sort. Though we have been visited by terrorists in the past, usually not natives of Jerusalem. Though this is basically a religious city, you would find many atheists to pal around with here. Freedom is a very important concept to us, and we try our best to live and let live. Thanks for coming by. Always good to see you.

  35. what a wonderful way to describe Jerusalem!

  36. My loss for not visiting your blog lately – your sense of Jerusalem comes across clearly – like a song, in the paragraph that begins “What I love about Jerusalem…”

    • Very glad you came by, Lynn, and that you enjoyed the post. Always glad to have a visit when you have time, and I’ve enjoyed browsing in your blog too.

  37. Your Jerusalem is a wonderful, beautiful, vibrant city.

    Thank you so much for sharing it with us!!!

    • It was a great pleasure to walk around town with you and your dear wife. As was meeting the two of you, and getting to know you personally. Fortunately, we share a passion for getting to know places by walking, and I still remember those days as a very pleasant experience, Bill.

  38. Any city is beautiful that has our friends within. It’s the people in our lives that makes it meaningful…not the house that we live in, the car that we drive, or the possessions that we accumulate. The people we care about make our life worthwhile, no matter where we live.

    • I agree with you completely, Bev. But in the case of Jerusalem, at least for me… it’s more than that. I have a feeling of a familial connection… maybe tribal… with my fellow citizens, even if I don’t know them personally. I often engage in conversation with people on the streets or in the shops. It’s something I haven’t personally experienced in other places, though it very well may exist elsewhere. But the cultural ties here are very strong. There is a real sense of community.

  39. What a wonderful description 😀 It’s funny how the things people seem to love about a city/area the most is not what it’s famous for? 🙂

    • A city is usually so big, that there are worlds upon worlds to be found there. I think very often what makes a city famous, is what visitors and tourists notice about it… not necessarily what the locals appreciate. Thanks for your comment SighYuki.

  40. Oh my goodness. I go away for a week, miss your post and Look how large the response is! I am impressed as you have to be. I especially like the images to go along with your feelings. I did have to look up Givat. I’m intrigued by Jacobs Ladder tho from what I see, it certainly isn’t meant to be climbed. Kind of reminded me of the steps up the Mayan pyramid at Chichen Itza. The steps were climbed but at some peril. I’m a bit amazed at the population around the wailing wall, and wonder if they have to, and for how long, stand in line to get to the wall. Then I wonder about “hole in the wall” prayer rooms. Have never heard of this. Your writing is supported by many who obviously love you. That just has to be Wonderful in itself.
    Sincere regards,

    • Yes, it is a great pleasure to indulge in this sort of conversation with people from different parts of the world. You are right, Bob. This ladder wasn’t meant to be climbed. In fact, I think the sculptor went out of his way to make it impossible… otherwise think of all the young boys who would go to the top just to prove a point. On the other hand, the original story speaks of angels going up and down, and I believe that angels could make the climb. I doubt that I could, even if the stairs were standard. Thanks for your comment.

  41. Lovely and meditative. And somehow, the Jacob’s Ladder sculpture image seems the perfect way to encapsulate the sense of the story today . . .

    • Well, you know, Kathryn. As many as there are artists… and men and women of faith, too, there are different visions of that ladder. But I like this one, and each time I visit it, I see something new. Thanks.

  42. Some people, I’ve learned, don’t know their city/’burbs as well as they could, unlike you and I. After living in a place for a while, one develops a sense of liking something about a place and can then talk about it with much gusto and love! I bet you’d make a great tour guide. Here’s an old post of photos showing just a few scenes of what I love about Melbourne: Hope you’re keeping well. 🙂

    • I know what you’re talking about, Janina. And it always saddens me when I become aware of someone who doesn’t see much farther than his nose. That is the joy of living. Yes, I’m doing quite well, now that spring is here to entertain us. Saw your pictures after following the link, and I really enjoyed a glimpse of your city.

  43. Thank you for this wonderful post. I hope I can visit Jerusalem one day.

  44. Dear Shimon,
    This post just shines, as does your love for your home city. You express it so eloquently. I feel as though I know the city much better now that I have seen it through your loving eyes. Thank you for sharing her with us.

  45. A wonderful post….which makes me want to visit your city:)x

    • Thank you very much Janet. Though it is a wonderful city, one of the problems from my point of view, though, is that it isn’t really an international city, as is Tel Aviv for instance. Our language and customs make large parts of what’s going on here somewhat obscure to the visitor. xxx

  46. I am not a world traveler but I feel as though I have visited.. Thank you for stopping by… (:

    • Glad you enjoyed the post, Roberta. I did quite some traveling when I was young… saw a bit of the world. But now, for quite a few years, I’ve had no desire for it. I find there are worlds upon worlds right next to me. And all I’ve got to do is open my eyes, and listen to what’s happening. Thanks for your comment.

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