Jerusalem is unlike anywhere I have ever lived. I remember my first day of work at Israel Experience, when I decided to walk home instead of taking the bus so I could go to the promenade down the street that overlooks the Old City. I could clearly see the sun glistening off the Temple Mount as I thought to myself, “Wow, everyone back home must be so jealous.”
But that’s exactly what it’s like to live in Jerusalem—passing by ancient, holy places on a daily basis—places that most people in this world can only dream of.
I’ve spent many afternoons walking the streets of the Jewish Quarter, grabbing dinner with friends and haggling for trinkets and tapestries. If, on a Tuesday afternoon, I feel like slipping a note into the Western Wall, I can. It’s just a short bus ride away. I can tour the ancient City of David and visit biblical places like the ruins of the palace from which King David first spotted Bathsheba. I can trudge through the cool water of Hezekiah’s tunnels, flashing around a light to see where I’m going in the ancient shaft built by my ancestors as a way to get water into the city. I can visit the Western Wall on Shabbat and join hands with friends and strangers alike as we sing songs and dance.
At night, my friends and I sit at charming outdoor bars on Ben Yehuda Street, sipping wine and taking puffs of hookah.
When we want to cook at our apartment, we go to Jerusalem’s shuk, Machane Yehuda, a huge open-air market that happens to be one of my favorite places to spend time at. I was in awe the first time I went. There are endless heaps of fresh vegetables, warm challah, and dried fruits—but it’s more than just a place to do grocery shopping. Some of the best restaurants and bars in Israel are at the shuk. My personal favorite is Pasta Basta, where I pick my pasta, sauce, and toppings and watch as a chef prepares it right in front of me. I can honestly say it’s the best pasta I’ve ever had, and believe me I’ve had a lot.
I could have spent my summer in Tel Aviv sunbathing at the beach, or in Beersheba down in the Negev, surrounded by amazing desert hiking trails, but I chose Jerusalem because to me, it’s the center of the world. It’s the birthplace of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The world looks to Jerusalem to pray, to visit, to set an example, and yet so few actually get to experience it. For me, there was no other place I would have rather spent my summer.
Even after two months of being here, when I pass by the promenade near my work, I stare at the Old City for several minutes, struggling to grasp the magnificence of what I’m looking at. I’m so incredibly lucky to be here.