Things That I Have Learned In Jerusalem


Things I Have Learned In Jerusalem

“I am more excited stepping on these stones than I was stepping on the moon.” Neil Armstrong in Jerusalem

Jerusalem has been conquered many times. Some of the conquerors were Persians, Romans,  Ottoman Turks and the British Empire. No Arab power in history has ever claimed Jerusalem as its capital. Other than the Crusaders, the rulers made their capitals in Caesarea, Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo and Constantinople.

The Old City has over two thousand important archaeological sites. Jerusalem was founded as the City of David in 1010 BCE, but there’s evidence of settlements there going back all the way to 4500 BCE.

The Old City is divided into four quarters, Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Armenian.

The length of the walls of the Old City is 4,018 meters (two and half miles).  Their average height is 12 meters (39.37 feet) and the average thickness is 2.5 meters (eight feet). The walls contain thirty-four watchtowers and seven main gates open for traffic, with two minor gates reopened by archaeologists.

The Jaffa Gate is the westernmost gate of the Old City. It was so named as the starting point of the road to Jaffa port.  Herod’s Gate is the entrance to the Muslim quarter. The Damascus Gate in the North  is the largest and most  beautiful of the gates. The large center entrance was for important people. The two side gates were for the commoners.

The New Gate was added in 1889 and is the entrance to the Christian quarter. The Zion Gate closest to the Jewish quarter was used by the IDF to capture Jerusalem in the 67 war. The Dung Gate is closest to the Temple Mount got that name because it was used to cart out the refuse. The Lion’s Gate is located in the Eastern Wall. The entrance leads to the Via Dolorosa. Near the gate’s crest are four figures of lions.  Legend has it that Sultan Suleiman placed the figures there because he believed that if he did not build a wall around Jerusalem he would be killed by lions. Israeli paratroopers famously stormed through this gate during the Six-Day War to conquer the Temple Mount, after which they unfurled the Israeli flag above the Old City.

The Mount of Olives is the preferred burial site for a majority of Jews. The mountain boasts 150,000 graves that date as far back as 15th century.

Some of the olive trees in Jerusalem are more than 800 years old.

There are more than fifty Christian churches, thirty-three Muslim mosques and three hundred Jewish synagogues in the city.

Municipal law requires all structures to be covered in Jerusalem stone, preserving the historical look of the city.

Guests at the King David Hotel have included Elizabeth Taylor, Winston Churchill, Prince Charles, Hillary Clinton, Madonna and Us.

Most of the”local’ souvenirs in the souq in the Arab Quarter of the Old City are now made in China.

The food is amazing.

Jerusalem is Israel’s largest city.

Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud were members of Hebrew University’s first Board of Governors.

The Knesset, Israel’s legislative body, is in Jerusalem and is named for the Knesset Hagedolah (Great Assembly) which convened there in 5th century BCE.

The fabulous and frenetic Mahane Yehuda Market packs in locals and tourists with its array of food, color, and noise.

The most impressive ruins in the Jewish quarter are those of the Cardo. The Cardo was the main avenue of Aeolia Capitolina, the Roman city built on top of the rubble of Jerusalem in 70 CE. After the 67 war, Israeli archaeologists uncovered dozens of Corinthian columns, many in good shape, that had once lined the broad street, and raised them up again according to their original layout.

The Cardo was the main commerce street in ancient Rome and today is lined, much as it was in ancient times, with shops.

There are emergency response teams on bikes as well as cars which are particularly helpful in the Old City’s narrow streets.

Jerusalem is important to the Jewish people because it is the Holy City, the site of Solomon’s Temple, the City of David and the capital of the Israelites. Solomon’s Temple was believed to have the Arc of the Covenant which housed the Ten Commandments.

Jerusalem is important to the Christians because it is where Jesus first impresses the sages, where he spent his last days and where the Last Supper, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection took place.

Jerusalem is important to the Muslims because it is where the prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.

Jerusalem has been ravaged by thirty centuries of warfare and strife. The struggle continues.


Fly safe,





Jerusalem, Old City


Jerusalem Old City

“If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel’” Benjamin Netanyahu

My first trip to Jerusalem was in the seventies. My parents always paid for an Israel extension to my self financed Europe trips. I think they were hoping for an Israeli son-in-law. Our days started at the Jaffa Gate near our hostel. We would meander through the Old City in the heat of summer and end up at the Damascus Gate or the New Gate. You could wander back and forth through a stairway in the Western Wall. We walked in and out of the mosques, often just to cool off and enjoy the peaceful feeling inside.

When we got to the meat part which was deep in the market, I was always ready to turn back. It was the first time that I saw raw, dead animals hanging outside like that.There were a lot of flies. It was hot and smelled bad. We were allowed everywhere. One day, a young  Arab boy decided  to be our tour guide for free. He took us walking on the walls above the city. I remember that he said that they were the only red-headed Arab family in the market.

The Arab souq was our favorite huge shopping labyrinth to get lost in. They sold beautiful handmade backgammon sets, religious artifacts and boxes made from olive wood, interesting jewelry, worry beads, scarves, clothes and evil eyes. The bargaining was half the fun (even though we just got it down to the real price in the stores) “We dont hate the Jews,”said the people in the market. “It’s the Zionists we don’t like.”

On my first trip, I did not blame them. The Israeli boys we met were aggressive and the girls were mean to us. Cheap college day tours took us all over Israel from Jerusalem. We met a lot of Americans doing the same thing. The second summer I met nice Israelis. We truly believed that there would be a lasting peace.

I resisted coming back to Jerusalem for many years because I did not want to see what was happening. The Arabs and Israelis did not learn how to coexist. Now Israel the hero of my childhood, is seen by many as the oppressor. For some reason, they have more UN human rights violations than the most corrupt, brutal, sadistic, child army, third world nations. Israel wasn’t the attacker in the 48, 67 and 73 wars. They defended themselves and won. Isn’t that what happens in a war? Governments get land and young people die or get injured. The Palestinians like the American Indians had unfortunately lost the claim to their land from the British before Israel became a state. Israel built their country from nothing just like America did. It seems to be a hopeless situation now.

They call it apartheid by choice. There are Arab speaking schools and Hebrew speaking schools. The Arab schools are divided into Muslim and Christian schools.

The Hebrew Schools are divided into Orthodox and Secular Schools. There are divisions between the divisions. There are a few mixed schools.

I think those who call it South African apartheid have forgotten or never knew what South African apartheid really was. Yes there is prejudice on both sides  and many problems but it is not that.

The holiest city on earth is even more divided on my return many years later. It is still living as one but with a lot of new rules, security and boundaries.

This time, I am staying at the beautiful King David Hotel. As we enter the city from the nearby New Gate, Dvir, our tour guide, tells me that there is still only one red-headed Arab family in the market.

Fly safe,





Israeli Museum In Jerusalem


Israeli Museum in Jerusalem.

“Art is only relevant, if it asks the most critical questions and expresses emotions with an innocent eye.” Ai Wei Wei

The Israeli Museum in Jerusalem is the largest museum in the Middle East.

It is located near the Knesset (government), the Israeli Supreme Court and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

One of the highlights in the museum collection is the Shrine of the Book which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls. The white roof of the building emulates the lid of a Qumran jar where they were found. Upon entering this incredible cave-like display you feel like you are actually in one of the Qumran jars.

The scrolls are the oldest biblical manuscripts in the world, and were found near the Qumran area in eleven different caves over a ten-year period (1946-1956). The age and scope of these amazing scrolls basically proved the authenticity of our modern Bible’s Old Testament.

Upon arrival there was an added bonus, an exhibit by one of my favorite artists, Ai Wei Wei. It was an odd choice of country for the pro Palestinian Chinese artist. In the age of fake news and the manipulation of truth, the timely exhibit is called Maybe/Maybe Not. The money from the exhibit goes to an Israeli Palestinian relief fund. It features large-scale works such as part of his “Sunflower Seeds” installation featuring millions of seeds made from porcelain, weighing some 23 tons. (sorry, no flash)

Wallpaper across part of  the exhibition depicts the plight of refugees while mixing in classical images, giving it the look of a frieze from ancient Greece.

His “Soft Ground” installation has particular resonance for Israel.  It is a hand-woven carpet that replicates the floor of the Haus Der Kunst in Munich, commissioned by the Third Reich for the display of Nazi-approved art.

Everything at closer inspection was not what it seemed. There were self portraits made of legos,

chandeliers made of surveillance cameras

and a selfie taken through mirror when he was being arrested in China.

Iron trees are “planted” at the museum.

They are made from casts of parts of trees from Southern China and part of series that started in 2009.

Were the porcelain cups real or fake?

Even the artist himself raises questions. Ai Wei Wei is one of the richest artists in the world.  He is a Chinese dissident who had his passport taken away  by his government but he can travel freely throughout the world. Is what we are told true? Is what we see real? Maybe or Maybe Not. (middle finger all over the world)

Fly safe,


Yad Vashem, Holocaust Memorial, Jerusalem


Yad Vashem, Holocaust Memorial, Jerusalem

“A country is not just what it does – it is also what it tolerates.’
Kurt Tucholsky (quote on the wall as you enter)

Yad Vashem is Israel’s Holocaust Memorial. I had been here many years ago. I knew what to expect. I went again now because I am going to visit Auschwitz in the spring. It was a winter weekday afternoon and the museum was not as crowded as usual. No photos are allowed. I knew what to expect and yet I was once again newly affected by the inhumanity of systematic cruelty.

The Holocaust History Museum was designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie, and occupies over 4,200 square meters. This museum takes you on a journey through in-depth displays telling the story of the Holocaust. There is a ten and half hour guided audio tour. You choose what you want to listen to. In many cases, the photos are enough.

Yad Vashem, means “a place and a name” in Hebrew and comes from the Book of Isaiah. It refers to the millions who were not given the dignity of a Jewish burial with a specified burial plot.

The chilling Hall of Names is a memorial to each and every Jew who perished in the Holocaust, housing an extensive collection of over two million “Pages of Testimony” – short biographies of each Holocaust victim, with room for six million in all.

Yad Vashem also recognizes and honors a number of non-Jewish people who helped save Jews during this bleak period. These heroes are called The Righteous Among The Nations.

The Children’s Memorial is located in an underground cave, enveloping you in darkness.

As your eyes adjust, you can make out flames of light representing the 1.5 million children who died during the Holocaust.

Recorded voices call out the names and ages of these innocent souls. A few days later there is another school killing spree in the United States.

I return to the hotel. On Israeli news that day, they report that Poland has passed a law making it a criminal offence to suggest that “the Polish nation” was in any way responsible for the murder of six million Jews. I spent a long time in the Polish section of the museum as I will be going to those places. There were photos of Polish people “colluding” and stories of Jews being reported by their neighbors. Three million Jews died in Poland – more than any other country.

It is impossible to visit the Holocaust Museum at Yad Vashem and not be moved, horrified and ashamed. How does this story relate to the present? It began with words, indifference and silence. Indifference and inaction never help the victims. It is our responsibility to speak for the children, the elderly, the abused women, the poor and the refugees. “Whoever saves a single life, it is as if he or she has saved an entire universe.”

Fly safe,


The Street Is Your Gallery – Urban Art In Tel Aviv


The Street Is Your Gallery – Urban Art In Tel Aviv

“The words  of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls” Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel


The gentrified  Florentin neighborhood is the area to go to find amazing street art and graffiti in Tel Aviv. 

The crumbling walls of Florentin will soon turn into high rises so go before that happens.

The person to go with is Guy Sharett who does an urban street tour.  You can sign up on his website Streetwise Hebrew  It’s very popular.  I’ve tried to get on this tour twice before so book in advance. The tour is in English and my  group of twelve was international. He weaves some Hebrew, history, humor and insight into the one and half hour tour.

There is a major difference between Guy’s tour and other street art tours. He focuses on the street words to teach Hebrew and Israeli Culture.

We begin with a piece by Muriel Street Art.

We see a few of her pieces throughout the tour. Muriel Street Art wants us to think.

SENED creates Figures known as “kufsonim” (mini boxes) They are ready-made stencils that are spread all over the city. The characters were developed from an abstract of a cube.

missK is an eastern european artist who lives in Israel. Apparently some of the local artists do not like the growing number of graffiti tourists. 

We see a lot of her work in Florentin.

Ometz (Hebrew for bravery) writes street poetry. He is a religious scholar by day and street artist by night.

Dede is one of Israel’s most prominent street artists and the only one I knew of so I was glad to see pieces of his.

Solomon Souza is a British Israeli artist who is best known for painting faces on the shutters in the Mahane Yehudi market in Jerusalem.

It is only visible on Saturdays when the market is closed.

Frenemy creates colorful characters in chaotic environments.

Tiny Tiny Gallery on Florentin 18 shows slut machine until August 6.

 The “27 club” is a group of influential rock musicians that died at the young age of 27 of drug and alcohol abuse. Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison and Amy Winehouse  are part of this group. Some say the blank face is the artist Kis-Lev.

.In Hebrew you can decipher each letter from the bottom.

In Arabic you can do it from the top. This word is a combination of toda and shukraan. It means thank you in both languages. The message is clear.

Tel Aviv is the most liberal city in the Middle East and attracts both local and worldwide street artists. There weren’t as many large-scale polished murals in Florentin as in other areas but smaller and rougher with different styles and materials.

  You will see amazing street art through out the city. Yes President Trump, Israel is the Middle East.

Fly safe,



Eating In Jerusalem With Dvir


Eating In Jerusalem With Dvir

“Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer “Unknown

I am a foodie. Foodie is a cutesy word to describe the passion I feel when eating something wonderful. I particularly love the street food in the Arab quarter of Jerusalem.

The flavors are strong and the ingredients are the freshest.Eating on the streets of Jerusalem involves all your senses. You see, hear and smell the food being made.

Fate and the Internet connected me with Dvir Hollander as our guide in Jerusalem. It turned out that Dvir was also passionate about street food and knew exactly where to go and when. (

We met at lunchtime and we were hungry. When Dvir recognized that we were kindred spirits about food, he described himself as a “ friendly dictator” when it came to where we should eat. We walked through the New Gate and entered the Old City in the Christian Quarter. Immediately we were on the Via Dolorosa listening to the Muslim call to prayer. Our lunch was vegetarian at Lina restaurant. In Israel, the chick pea is clearly the most important legume and the main ingredient of hummus. Everyone has their favorite hummus place in Israel but to me, eating it in the old city is always the best. There is freshly baked pita. It smelled like it came right out of an oven nearby.

Everything we ate at Lina was amazing and we followed Dvir like sheep when it came to food from that point on.

We stop for some halvah near the seventh station of the cross. Halvah means sweet in Arabic. It is a tahini based candy made from sesame butter. I have to admit that I had grown up on packaged halvah and hated it. One trip to Turkey changed my mind about halvah and I loved this fresh one from Al-Amad with its dense, flaky texture and nutty sweetness.

We needed caffeine and Dvir took us to Abu Mussa in the textile market for some thick grainy sweet Turkish style coffee with cardamom. I forgot how much I love that coffee. The taste brings back the memories of being here for the first time with my college friends Susie and Kiki.

At Dvir’s recommendation we have dinner at Chakra. Chakra is a trendy seafood inspired restaurant with fresh-baked focaccia off King George street.

It is delicious. I was hoping to go to Machneyuda the celebrity chef restaurant in the Machane Yehuda Market but even the best concierge and tour guide can not get you in that week so make reservations before you go.

Our second eating day started at Jaffar Sweets for freshly made Knafeh. It is neon orange shreds of phyllo dough drenched in syrupy sugar rose-water and filled with gooey, salty. warm goat cheese.

Knafeh is a favorite at Ramadan and now also a favorite of mine. It’s a must eat in the old city.

I had a blood sugar drop so we stopped for quick, incredibly delicious lamb kabobs from A Shaab.

Kabob is taken seriously in the Arab Quarter and each restaurant has their family recipe for preparing it.

I was not leaving the old city for Yad Vashem and the Israeli Museum without falafel. Israelis feel as strongly about their falafel as they do about their politics. We get falafel and hummus from Abu Achmed. The falafel which is made of chick peas is right out of the fryer – hot and crispy on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside. Of all the falafel I have eaten in Israel, these are the most special.

The hummus (because you need chick pea sauce to put on the chickpeas) is outstanding. It comes with a lemon tahini sauce that would be great with anything. The taste of the freshly baked pita bread makes everything even better.

We drink fresh pomegranate juice and more cardamom Turkish coffee from Haj Faraj. We relax for a few minutes and enjoy the coffee and his hospitality and more sight-seeing.

It’s clear that in a few days I have become addicted to roasted Arabic coffee with cardamom.The scent of coffee from the Sandouka  brothers shop is overwhelming. I buy some to take home.

The fragrant smell of spices wafts through the air as Dvir takes us to Sea of Herbs. Sea of Herbs is run by two Palestinian brothers Isaac and Jacob. They sell spices, herbal teas, health and wellness products and natural remedies. As we watch Jacob expertly mix the spices, we are brought into his world of remedies and flavors and buy many things to try at home.

Today’s lunch is at Arafat. Everyday this tiny restaurant serves up a surprise meal. It is a no choice, simple, delicious menu. When the lunch is ready, queues appear out nowhere. When they run out of food, lunch is over.Today’s meal was lamb meatballs in a tomato broth (kefta in Greek) vegetables, rice and hummus. It was filled with local people and in the know tourists.

Summers in Greece when I was young have made me a bit of baklava snob but I am alway hopeful. it is the world’s most famous middle Eastern/Mediterranean dessert. Many countries take credit for baklava. It is filo dough drenched in sugar syrup or honey. We stop at Alaseel Sweets for a bite of the delicious pastry on our way out of the old city.

There is much conflict between the Arabs and the Israelis. The links between food and peace are easy to see with people living in conflict areas. Traveling, eating fresh, local food in the Arab market and looking in the eyes of people who prepare the food makes you believe that human beings do have the capacity for peace. Thank you Dvir for including all this delicious food in our visit to Jerusalem.

Fly safe,

The White City Of Tel Aviv, Israel

The White City Of Tel Aviv, Israel

“Less is more.” Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe

Over 4,000 Bauhaus-style buildings were constructed in Tel Aviv between 1920 and 1940, by German-Jewish architects who immigrated to the region after the rise of the Nazis.


The Bauhaus  Movement was started by Walter Gropius in Germany in 1919 as an architectural style that would represent the machine age. It is characterized by simple and sensible lines. “Form follows function.”“Bauhaus” is an inversion of the German term “hausbau,” which means “building house”. It is also called the Modern or International style.


The majority of Tel Aviv’s examples can be found in the central White City – a UNESCO World Heritage Site protected as “an outstanding example of new town planning and architecture in the early 20th century”. it is the world’s largest Bauhaus settlement.


The Bauhaus Center Tel Aviv was founded in the area in 2000 to increase awareness of the heritage and encourage preservation works. It hosts a library, a shop and a gallery for exhibitions. They offer architectural tours for visitors and enthusiasts on Friday mornings at 10AM. They  also offer a self-guided audio tour and private tours in Hebrew, English, Russian, German, French and Italian.


The tour was crowded. First we were given an overview and background of the Bauhaus movement in Israel at the Center, We walked around the streets and  boulevards and our tour guide pointed out facades and details of the many white modern buildings. My friends thought it was interesting to take a tour of their neighborhood as they live in a protected building and hadn’t seen it this way before.


A little known fact was that in the early years before World War Two, the immigrants to Israel were allowed to take their money out if they bought German products with it. Some of the buildings are made with German materials.


Germany is now  committed to help Israel keep an architectural legacy that recalls Jewish design pioneers who fled the Nazi regime in the 1930s. They will invest $3.2 million over the coming nine years to help save these Bauhaus-style buildings  .


The tour is an interesting introduction to the city of Tel Aviv and a sharp contrast to the Ottoman inspired and ancient buildings of Jaffa nearby. I highly recommend this tour for anyone who is interesting in architecture or history. I’m a Bauhaus fan and learned  a lot here and saw more Bauhaus architecture than in Berlin.


Fly safe,