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Jerusalem new city


Jerusalem (yeru + shalem) is the City of  Shalem (Shalem was an early Canaaite deity) and it is the City of Peace (shalom = peace). This city of peace has been fought over sixteen times, destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times,* but who's counting... The Old City was built by David of David and Goliath fame in ca. 1000 BCE.  In the late 19th Century, when the population outgrew its walls, it expanded into the new city.  People have come from many different nations to settle there, often to be missionaries for their particular branch of faith, eg. the Germans, the Americans, the Russians.  They carved out a section of the city for themselves, and so there is the German Colony, the American and Ethiopian Quarters, the Russian Compound, each with a slightly different feel and architecture. But every building in Jerusalem has one thing in common through a bylaw imposed by the first British governor in 1918 : they have to be built from, or have a covering face of, Jerusalem stone.

                                                                          Street singer, Mamilla Mall
                                                                                               near Jaffa gate








After four nights on Via Dolorosa in the Old City, we moved to an airbnb in Rehavia, a modern well-off area within easy walking distance of the city.










                                                                                               Puppy at airbnb



                      Rehavia, Street architecture                                                                  Rehavia, Street architecture   

Where we stayed was only a 15-20 minute stroll to the Israel Museum, the country's National Museum with a huge

collection. On the way we passed the 





                                                                                   On way to the Israel Museum                   Israel Museum on hilltop, Monastery
                                                                                                                                                 of the Cross in the foreground            
The The Israel Museum houses Egyptian mummies, fine art through the centuries, Brueghel, Rembrandt, Impressionist paintings, Henry Moore sculptures.










        Henry Moore                         Martino di Bartolomeo                               Egon Shiele                                        Henry Moore

There are also four reconstructed interiors of synagogues from different parts of the world, old and rare illuminated manuscripts, a room full of amazing Jewish candelabras (Menorahs) and memorabilia of Jewish life through the ages.





















                                                                      Some treasures of the

                                                                                            Israel Museum




One of the highlights for me was a scale model of Jerusalem from the time of the 2nd Temple (after 516 BCE), but more about that in a later blog. 

The Shrine of the Book                  Greek.  Beautiful lettering, it was breathtaking to be in the presence of writing so old.  For anyone interested, explore the following website, which has a lot of information on the history, text and shows examples of the scrolls. 

On the Friday night we attended the Great synagogue of Jerusalem, just a couple of blocks away from our accommodation. The men, dressed in various garbs according to their sects, were downstairs, the women upstairs on the balcony, separated from them. The Chief Rabbi spoke at length (which of course we couldn't understand), but the Cantor's voice once again soared beautifully. It was a more formal service than the one we saw in the magnificent Dohány Street Synagogue in Budapest, which was a special Hungarian, less orthodox, neolog (neologue) service.






                  Great synagogue, Jerusalem                    Dohany St synagogue,                     U-tube clip of Cantor Chaim Adler

                                                                                                  Budapest                                     singing El Male Rachamim


The Yad Vashem (Holocaust) Museum, the world's largest visual Holocaust archive. It  was just a short train ride from the Jaffa gate. If you wish to cry, to bawl your eyes out, this is the place to do it.  So many dead, so many beautiful children, adults murdered in such cold blood. There was little in the main museum about Hungary, perhaps because the exhibition was in chronological order and the deportations came late to Hungary.  

There is not only the Museum itself on the grounds of Yad Vashem, but and Art Gallery, yeshiva (school for study), and the collection of video testimonials (now digitised) from Holocaust survivors.  I gave my mother's name and date of birth, and within a couple of minutes there she was on a television screen.  Kati, who knew Erzsi when we were children, and I stared at the screen mesmerised.  It was like having Mum back, in the room with us, for me she was much younger than when I last saw her, for Kati much older, but there she was, in person, in Jerusalem, telling her story. There are more than 50,000 testimonials from all over the world, thanks to Steven Spielberg, who set up the Shoa Foundation. 


                                     Yad Vashem, Jerusalem  


























































fortress-like Monastery of the Cross which was founded in the early 4th century CE to commemorate the tradition that Jesus’ cross was constructed from a tree that grew there. The monastery was destroyed by the Persians in 614, rebuilt in the Crusader era and sold to the Greek Orthodox Church in 1685.  
Next to the Museum is the Shrine of the Book, where the Dead Sea Scrolls from Qumran are exhibited on a rotational basis – they're only shown for a few months, then, to save them from the light, different ones are put in the cases. They vary in size from tiny fragments of papyrus to aboutt 10m long. The Aleppo Codex from the 10th Century CE is the oldest existing Hebrew Bible, while some of the scrolls go back to the 2nd Century BCE. The scripts are in Hebrew, Aramaic and Ancient

The name Mea Sherim, an Ultra Orthodox part of Jerusalem, comes from the Bible  (Genesis 26:12). It means  a hundredfold  ("Isaac sowed In That Land, And In That Year He Reaped A Hundredfold). When the community was originally established in 1874, it had 100 gates. It was a collective of a hundred shareholder, who built themselves a town quarter, the first outside of the city walls of Old Jerusalem.  It was an exclusive neighbourhood, surrounded by a wall and locked gates.  Within a couple of decades it trebled in size.  Many of today's inhabitants of Mea Sherim are the descendants of the Lithuanian Perushim who emigrated to Israel in the early 19th century. 


The walls are gone now, but the community remains isolated by their own rules and their strict adherence to tradition. They dress just as they might have more than a hundred years ago, men in white shirts, black trousers and frock coats with large black hats, (or the furry 'millstone' hats), women with longish dresses, thick opaque stockings, scarf-covered heads. We were there on a Friday afternoon, and that seems to be pizza night - most men were carrying one, two or a whole stack of especially ordered pizzas for the evening meal.  














The men often do not hold down paid jobs, rather they spend their time studying the Torah or praying.  We frequently saw them walking quite speedily with their noses in the Jewish Bible (or, just the once, looking at a mobile phone).  They seem to believe in large families.  Often there were four or five children under 8 walking along with their parents, with the next one already in the tummy, and perhaps the older ones waiting at home. A large number of them are impoverished, because they depend on social welfare, even though many of them do not accept the secular state of Israel. If they take on full-time study at a yeshiva (school for religious studies), they are exempt from military service, which is compulsory for every other Israeli citizen of a certain age (with a few exceptions, eg.  for health reasons). They are well represented in the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, and have a strong say on the religious policies of the country. 

                       Dad and sons                                                                                                     Dad, daughters and mobile phone


                                                                             Mea sherim, shop and streetscape

Mea Sherim appears to be very run down, a way I always imagined a ghetto to be, or perhaps the shtetls of Poland and Russia. In those countries, Jewish people were forced to live in an enclosed, segregated, impoverished community. Here, in Israel, they seem to choose to do so.   We were allowed to be there, even to photograph, but we were definitely not welcome.  I tried several times, but could not strike up a conversation with anyone, not even to get directions. It would've been so interesting to find some connection. 
 "Do We Divide the Holiest Holy City?". Moment Magazine. Archived from the original on 3 June 2008. Retrieved 5 March 2008. According to Eric H. Cline's tally in Jerusalem Besieged.



To be continued: Dead Sea and Masada

Mea Sherim

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