Intern Journal: 36 Hours in Jerusalem
You’ve got a day and a half to squeeze in all the wonders of the cradle of monotheism, you say? Thirty-six hours to traverse a city that by some strange serendipity (or divine humor) became the nexus of three of the most influential historical, religious, and cultural forces the world has ever seen? Well, you better pack your running shoes, your camera, a big appetite, and, if possible, a TYO Intern Coordinator that knows the city like the back of her hand (thanks, Chelsey).
Alright, well, let’s take care of where you’ll lay your head to rest first and foremost. The Lutheran Guesthouse on St. Mark’s Road of the Old City blends comfort with a sense of antiquity, modern amenities and luxuries lodged in a building that breaths history, authenticity, in short, a building that breathes Jerusalem. The staff is warm, helpful, and engaging, the unlimited coffee equal parts enticing and dangerous (for those of us with less self-control), and the location ideal. Indeed, take a walk out onto their back patio around sunset and you’ll see the last rays of daylight reflecting off the golden roof of the Dome of the Rock. The hotel is situated right on the outskirts of the Christian Quarter, a reprieve from the hustle and intimate alleyways that define the Old City while still feeling connected to that energy and vibrancy. As you might guess, the Guesthouse is generally populated with bands of German travelers and pilgrims, always lovely company for taking in the sights or sharing a cup of tea.
I’m sure this comes as no surprise, but guess what? Jerusalem is a very religiously oriented city! As is such, you need to tailor your visits to the different holy sites to reflect the particular schedules that each faith follows. The Dome of the Rock is closed to non-practitioners on both Friday and Saturday. You can get down to the Western Wall Plaza any time, but if you want to snap photos, you better make sure you’re not there during the Shabbat (Friday evening-Saturday evening). As for the multitude of Christian sects that divide and share ownership of all the churches dotting Jerusalem’s landscape, understand that Saturday evening through Sunday afternoon will probably offer limited access due to services.
Beyond these major landmarks, just walking the intricate, narrow streets of the Old City is an experience in itself. Passing from Jewish Quarter to Muslim quarter to Christian Quarter to Armenian Quarter, you’ll be treated to a sea of open-stall markets, all pedaling any prayer beads you could ever want, t-shirts, souvenirs, mementos, and local crafts. The sloping streets, pulsing crowds, and cobblestone surface will demand you stay quick on your feet, as will the incessant attempts from local merchants to bargain with you. Navigating these waters should be a prerequisite for any prospective law student.
If you feel like spreading your wings a bit further, the grander West and East Jerusalem neighborhoods provide a fitting microcosm of the current political situation in Israel/Palestine as a whole. West Jerusalem is indeed quite western, chalked full of a modern public transport, wide avenues, restaurant chains, cafes and bars. If you’re in the mood for sushi, check out the affordable enough Sushi Rehavia on Emek in the German Colony. For the adventurous amongst you, get one of their sampler boats…and take it down all by yourself. Furthermore, if you’ve been gone from the Occident for some time and feel yourself craving a big, American style coffee, this is your ‘hood.
Spin into the expanse of East Jerusalem outside of the Old City and you’ll find a much different picture. Roads go unpaved and unlit, garbage uncollected, sidewalks vanish, music changes. Don’t let appearances fool you, however, the locals in this Arab part of town are incredibly friendly, and the dining and coffee options attractive in their own right. Get out to Askadinya for dinner if you get the chance. You won’t regret it.
Oh, and if you’re lucky enough to be rolling through town as an intern for Tomorrow’s Youth Organization, stop by the American Consulate for a lunch and chat with the funny and eclectic mix of foreign service officers and civil servants holding down the ship.
For some other missions to tie together your time in Jerusalem, you can walk the Via Delarosa, shop on both sides of the Green Line, cross the Old City from Gate to Gate (Jaffa, Damascus, the New Gate, Herod’s Gate, the Lion’s Gate), hop a bus to Bethlehem, chug through the Ramparts Walk, or see if you can develop a Messiah Complex! It is a city so very unique in so many different ways.
Colin is an intern at TYO Nablus.