Wander Jerusalem’s lane of artists

January 28rd, 2020Category: Romantic
Through a large arched window one can watch artist David Harel in his studio painting a colorful scene of Jerusalem’s Old City.
Harel is one of Israel’s top artists, producing everything from stunning scenes of the city to the logos for the Eurovision song contest and the Taglit Birthright program that brings thousands of young Jews to Israel each year. And for more than 22 years this studio in Jerusalem’s Hutzot HaYotzer, or Artists’ Quarter, has been where Harel has come to work.
It’s a beautiful place, and it’s quiet,
said Harel, who lives in nearby Yemin Moshe.
For 50 years, this stone lane running between the Jaffa Gate area and Jerusalem’s Teddy Park has been filled with working art studios that are open to the public throughout the week. Most focus on Judaica, but many are also contemporary and some a more universal appeal. There are photographers, painters, mixed-media artists, sculptors, jewelry-makers and others. A special place all year long, Hutzot HaYotzer is a good place to visit this time of year if you are looking for a Hannukah menorah or other holiday gifts.
Down the lane, artist Dina Kopelman works on a large oil painting. Her studio is filled with dozens of large canvases covered in slightly abstract and whimsical portrayals, often of landscapes and animals.
My work is pretty universal,
Kopelman said,
But I am a Jerusalemite, and the city is very important to me. That’s why I work here.
She began working in her studio here about 4 years ago, and said the space in unique because it allows her to work as well as to exhibit and sell her art.
People also come here, and that’s really special, so is the interaction and energy of all the artists here,
she said. In addition to her paintings, Kopelman also sells smaller items, like sketchbooks with her drawings on the cover that appeal to a wider range of shoppers and budgets.
I really want to offer something for everyone, not just art collectors,
she said.
Nearby, colorful Biblically-inspired textile art, like embroidered pillowcases and handmade prayer shawls and challah covers filled the windows of Efod Adina Gatt. Across the way, Yaael Herman’s studio was filled with his digital photography of Jerusalem and other places around Israel. Further down, Alsberg Studio displayed a rich variety of items of gold and silver jewelry, most inspired by geometric designs, and artist Dan Alsberg was ready to make more pieces, according to customer request.
Another not-to-miss place in Hutzot HaYotzer is the small museum dedicated to Teddy Kollek, the long-serving mayor of Jerusalem who established the artists quarter and initiated many of the city’s other prominent building projects, including the Israel Museum, the Jerusalem Theater and numerous parks.
Most studios in Hutzot HaYotzer are open daily, except for Saturday and holidays, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., closing earlier on Fridays. Entrance is free.

A Stroll among the roses

November 21rd, 2019Category: Romantic
Inside Jerusalem’s government quarter, between the Knesset and the Supreme Court lies one of the city’s most romantic hidden gems: The Wohl Rose Park. More than 15,000 rose bushes grow in this lush island of green, which also has a pond, a waterfall, sculptures and plenty of trees. There are winding trails to wander and open green lawns perfect for picnicking. The air is always filled with the sweet aroma of roses.
All year long there is something to see, but the most magnificent time is in May, when all the roses bloom
says Dalit Kaslasi, the park’s rose curator, who has overseen the garden’s plants for more than 30 years. Dozens of pots of small rose bushes sit just outside her office in the park, ready for planting.
We are always adding new roses
Kaslasi says. While the park is an ideal place for couples to wander about, sit on secluded benches, or to take photos against the backdrop of thousands of roses, it is also an intriguing place for those interested in flowers. In fact, it was a group of local amateaur rose growers who helped found the park in 1981 on a patch of empty government-owned land. Funded by the Jerusalem Foundation, and maintained by the municipality, the park now contains more than 450 varieties of roses from around the world.
Signs throughout the garden mark the different kinds of roses. The park’s small public library, next to Kaslasi’s office, contains four closets full of books and magazines about roses in various languages, for those who want to read about the history of the plants, or learn how to better care for their own rose gardens.
Meanwhile, most people who visit the park simply come for its beauty and quiet, Kaslasi said. For those planning to tour the Knesset or Supreme Court, the nearby park is a good additional stop. A visit here can also easily be combined with a stop at the nearby Jerusalem Bird Observatory if one is looking for more outdoor things to do.

Entrance to the park is free. Optional guided tours focusing on the park’s roses and history are 220 shekels per hour and can be made by calling 02-563-7233, or by emailing During the month of May there are free daily guided tours.

A new wine experience in an ancient cellar

August 29rd, 2019Category: Romantic
When Eli Weisberger began renovating a small shop on Jeruslaem’s Emek Refaim Street to make it into a wine bar, he made a surprising discovery: This building once served as a wine storage cellar for the Templers, a group of Christians from German who settled in the holy land in the late 1800s. It was the Templers who built many of the stone, red-roofed buildings in the German Colony along Emek Refaim.
I had no idea this was here, it was a huge surprise
said Weisberger, who opened the Wine Temple here in 2017.
The renovation work eventually exposed the original stone walls and vaulted ceilings of the cellar. Now this sprawling underground three-room complex is filled with tables, a bar and shelves of hundreds of different kinds of wine. Visitors can stop by for a glass of wine, accompanied by a cheese plate. Or, people can simply stop in to have a look at the architecture and the wine collection, which includes more than 5,000 bottles from more than 60 wineries around Israel, all for sale.
Weisberger also hosts events, like lectures and tastings in the space.
Weisberger also hosts events, like lectures and tastings in the space.
I really want to help people learn more about wine
said Weisberger, who spent more than a decade working for various Israeli wineries before opening the Wine Temple
In Israel people drink less wine than in Europe, and I think we should drink more here.

The Wine Temple is located at Emek Refaim 8, and is certified kosher.

Paint your own piece of Jerusalem

August 29rd, 2019Category: Romantic
In a small art studio near the bustling Mahane Yehuda market, a table is covered with freshly-painted ceramic coffee mugs, mezuzot, and tiles. Paint brushes dipped in pale green, pink and purple paint are also scattered on the table.
That’s the messy table, things still in progress,
said Shifra Pendrak, founder of JClay Pottery Studio, where anyone can paint their own ceramics. Soon, these items on the table will be glazed and fired in a kiln. The glaze and intense heat of the kiln will transform the pale colors into bright and shiny hues
People always are so eager to see their pieces after they are fired, to see what happens with the colors
Pendrak said.
I also love seeing what people make, what they come up with.
Visitors to JClay can select from dozens of different ceramics----ranging from mugs and plates to Judaica items like hand-washing cups, Passover Seder plates and Hannukah menorahs. They then sit at the tables in the studio, where large windows look out on residential streets, and paint the pieces in whatever color and style they choose.
And you really don’t have to be artistic at all. People come in and say they have no art experience, but they create beautiful things,
Pendrak said. After the pieces are painted, Pendrak and her staff glaze and fire them in a kiln, a process that can take up to a week. When that is done, the pieces are ready to go home.
A former high school teacher from London, Pendrak opened JClay not only as a space for people to do art, but also as a place to let visitors make something of their own in Jerusalem to take home with them to remember their time in the city.
I really wanted to give people a chance to make something to take home,
she said. Many of the pieces are connected to places and traditions in Jerusalem and Israel, including pomegranates, picture frames resembling the Western Wall and even a miniature model of Rachel’s Tomb.
Participants range from small children to families to couples on dates, she said.
We also really want to have a welcoming atmosphere, where people can enjoy quality time together and relax and talk while they work
Pendrak said
That’s one of the most rewarding things to see.
The cost for painting ceramics ranges from 30 shekels to 180 shekels, depending on the size of the piece. In addition, there is a 20-shekel painting fee for each piece. Reservations are recommended, and tourists are advised to allow at least a week for their pieces to be finished in the kiln. JClay can deliver finished pieces to the hotel for an additional fee.

A book cafe for lovers

July 14rd, 2019Category: Romantic
So many married and long-term couples have visited the cozy Tmol Shilshom cafe while they were dating that the cafe published a book about some of those who met their life-partners here. That book, Stories of Love, features ten couples, and is just a glimpse of the important role this place has played in the lives of so many people in Jerusalem.

“I feel grateful about being a meaningful part of the lives of people of the network of this city,”
said David Ehrlich, the founder and owner of Tmol Shilshom, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this summer. Inspired by the bookstore-cafes he visited while traveling in Europe and the United States, Ehrlich, a former journalist and author of four fictional books, wanted to bring the concept to Jerusalem. In 1994, he opened Tmol Shilshom in a small space overlooking Jerusalem’s Nahalat Shiva neighborhood, an area of winding streets and stone buildings in the city center. Over the years it has expanded, and now consists of two large rooms with stone floors and high arched windows. There is also a courtyard filled with tables. In addition to books, the cafe is filled with old typewriters, clocks and other unique items, which all contribute to the cozy and comfortable atmosphere. Tables tucked next to the stone walls and windows offer ample quiet and privacy for conversations among couples or friends.
The same coziness of the place that makes it an ideal date spot, has also attracted writers.
The poet Yehuda Amichai spoke and read some of his poetry at the opening. Esteemed Israeli writers Amos Oz and David Grossman have also read their work here. And American writer Nathan Englander wrote his first book here.
“A lot of writers have made this their home,”
said Ehrlich, who recently published a set of interconnected short stories partly inspired by people he met at the cafe. To encourage love of books and culture, the cafe regularly hosts speakers and events, and many of its plates contain quotes from Hebrew literature.
“I really feel like this is my mission, to encourage love of culture,”
said Ehrlich, who recently set up a children’s corner in the cafe, filled with comfortable pillows as well as stacks of books and magazines. Such a corner also makes this a great place for those couple with children to perhaps enjoy a few quiet moments together while their children are busy checking out the books, magazines and games.

The market after dark

July 14rd, 2019Category: Romantic
Just because most of the the produce vendors close their stalls in the evening, that does not mean that Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market shuts down after dark. Rather, a whole new life begins, as a growing number of bars, cafes and restaurants here have made it one of the city’s hottest nightlife spots in recent years.
Three years ago, two young Jerusalemites realized that the shuk was missing something: a sophisticated cocktail bar.

“There were plenty of places to get a beer, but we wanted to make something unique,”
said Gil Barnea, one of the founders of Tap & Tail, which he opened in 2016 with business partner Matan Parides. Situated in a former market stall in a small alleyway, Tap & Tail makes unique hand-crafted cocktails from local fresh ingredients.
The most popular drinks feature Israeli spirits like anise-based Arak and Tubi 60, a citrus-based alcohol made in Haifa. The Lion’s Milk cocktail is made from Arak, Amaretto and almond puree, and topped with star anise bought from a market spice vendor. The “To be or not to be” drink is made from Tubi 60, bright green Midori liqueur and mint.
“We like to say it’s a folk cocktail bar, inspired by the local people and flavors,”
Barnea said. They also offer classic cocktails.
“But we really specialize in our own creations,”
he said.
Once the nearby produce vendors close, patrons at Tap & Tail sit at tables arranged in the alleyway of the market, in addition to stools at the sleek and modern bar. Both locals and tourists frequent the bar, Barnea said.
Tap & Tail is just one of many bars now open in the shuk. Open every night except Friday, these night-time hangouts offer something for everyone. Beer Bazaar, located near one of the market entrances from Jaffa Street, serves more than 100 different kinds of Israeli craft beer. The tapas-style Yudale, on Beit Yaakov Street, offers an extensive wine list. Hatch, on HaEgoz street, features a rotating variety of beers, cocktails and homemade sausages. Casino De Paris, one of the older market bars, serves drinks in a cozy courtyard that was once part of a casino and officers’ club when the British Mandate administered Jerusalem a century ago.
The market is also a great place to simply wander around in the evening, to people watch, and to admire the graffiti art of Solomon Souza, who has painted portraits of famous Israelis and foreigners on the doors that cover the closed produce stalls each night.

The Anna Ticho house

July 14rd, 2019Category: Romantic
A Place for Art and Culture; old and new

Before the state of Israel was established, botanist Baruch Chizik and artist Aharon HaLevy traveled around rural Palestine, cataloguing all of the plants they encountered. Chizik studied and identified the various flowers and cacti while HaLevy painted them.
It was part of a larger cooperative scene of scientists, artists and linguists who worked together to find, document, and even create modern Hebrew names for the plants growing in the Holy Land.

Now, some of the botanical art from this period, in addition to later periods,is part of the Seeds of the Land exhibition in the Anna Ticho House, a stone home in the center of Jerusalem that was home to one of the city’s most influential couples..
“The exhibit looks not just at the art, but at the way modern artists use plants to express feelings and political ideas,”
said Timna Seligman, curator of the Ticho House, which is part of the Israel Museum. The exhibit, on the ground floor of the building, runs through November, 2019.
The contemporary pieces include delicate glass sculptures by contemporary artist Dafna Kaffeman, and pages of Haaretz newspapers from the Six Day War period faded with paint and imprinted with silhouettes of local wildflowers in a project by Larry Abramson. Both Kaffeman and Abramson include work from earlier Israeli botanical artists.
The exhibit is especially fitting for the space because this was once home to Anna Ticho, an artist who often painted local landscapes. Her husband, the eye doctor Avraham Albert Ticho, is credited with treating the then-common eye disease of trachoma, and saving thousands of people from blindness.
“We always try to make sure that the temporary exhibits we have here have some connection to Anna,”
Seligman said.
In addition to this exhibit, the Ticho House is a place worth exploring. With its arched doorways and stone work, the house is also a well-preserved example of typical Jerusalem architecture. Recent renovations have exposed ornate ceiling drawings on the top floor of the house, now home to the Anna Cafe, a Mediterranean restaurant.
Entrance is free, and its location, near the main downtown thoroughfare of Jaffa Road makes it an ideal stopping place during a day of exploring the city.
“Visitors can stop in, have a look around and even enjoy a drink or meal,” Seligman said. “It’s really a lovely place, especially in the summer when the gardens are in bloom.”

Jerusalem’s secret garden

March 26rd, 2019Category: Romantic
From Jerusalem’s bustling King David Street, the tiny Elimelech Admoni Street leads down hill to reveal a sprawling green park, shaded with palm, pine and olive trees. Rather than city traffic and honking car horns, here it is quiet, with birds chirping in the background. This magical hidden park in the center of Jerusalem is called Bloomfield Garden, and is tucked between King David Street and the Old City. In addition to a quiet atmosphere, filled with stone paths and benches, there are also sweeping views of the Old City Walls.

Other hidden treasures include a walkway covered with arches of grape and rose and vines, streams and water fountains. There are also sculptures scattered throughout the park, including several bronze lions, donated to Jerusalem by Germany in the 1980s. Like almost every other place in Jerusalem, the park also contains a window into history and stories of the past. Here you will find an ancient cave on the face of a grassy hill. Only the entrance is visible to the public, but this cave leads down to a five-chamber underground burial complex. According to some archaeologists, this place is possibly where King Herod, famous for building up Jerusalem during the Second Temple period, had his sons and other family members buried. Other scholars dispute the connection to Herod, but all agree it was a significant monument, dating back at least 2,000 years. Researchers are still working on solving the mystery. Although the burial cave is not open to the public, the presence of its adds to the secret and undiscovered atmosphere of this park.

Scents of Jerusalem

March 26rd, 2019Category: Romantic
Hundreds of bottles filled with lavender, saffron, vanilla, frankincense and other essential oil fill the shelves inside Perfuniq, a tiny shop on Ben Sira street in the center of Jerusalem. Owner Shahar Schwartz, a trained chemist, estimates his shop offers about 1,200 different scented oils. And it is from this huge collection that customers can create their own unique perfumes.

“Each person in the only one in the world with such a perfume,” said Schwartz, who opened the shop in 2015 after spending decades running a factory that created industrial scents, for customers like cosmetic companies and even hotels who wanted their lobbies to have a certain smell. He also owns branches of Perfuniq in northern Israel and in New York. “I said if I can make custom scents for buildings, I can make custom scents for people,” Schwartz said. Each perfume he creates contains about 75 different kinds of oil, he said. Even if someone requests one scent--lavender, for example--small amounts of others oils are added as well in order to draw out the dominant flavor, he said. “But most people who come in here have no idea what they want,” Schwartz said. To help them decide, he asks each customer a series of questions, ranging from which colors they prefer to what sorts of natural environments make them feel the most calm. Each answer corresponds to a scent, and helps develop the perfect combination, he said. The correlation between different scents and answers to these questions were developed over years of research, he said. “Each perfume really represent a picture of a person,” he said, adding that it takes about an hour to create a perfume for each customer. The perfume is then put into a customized glass bottle. The oils in his shop come from all over the world; there is jasmine from England, sandalwood from India, along with orange and etrog oil from Israel. “To get the best oils, I believe in going to the source,” he says. “It’s such a fun business.” A 100-milliliter bottle of custom perfume is 550 shekels, and a 50-milliliter bottle costs 395 shekels. All perfumes are certified kosher for Passover. Perfuniq is located at 24 Ben Sira Street.

Sweet Ein Kerem chocolate-making

March 26rd, 2019Category: Romantic
Along the street up to Ein Kerem’s famous St John the Baptist Monastery is a small shop with a glass case full of handmade chocolates and gourmet ice cream. Called Sweet Ein Kerem, this little space is what owner Ofer Amsalem calls the “window” to his business’s larger location, which includes a chocolate factory and cafe, another 100 meters up the street.

The small shop is a good place to grab a coffee to go, sample a piece of chocolate or indulge in an ice cream cone while exploring Ein Kerem, a village-like neighborhood in the hills on the western edge of Jerusalem. But if one has more time, the larger Sweet Ein Kerem location offers a cafe, serving breakfast, pizza and other vegetarian fare, along with another larger case of handmade chocolates and ice cream. If one has even more time, there are chocolate-making workshops here almost every day. “If you have a minute you can grab a chocolate to go, if you have an hour you can make it yourself,” said Amsalem, who founded Sweet Ein Kerem more than 10 years ago with his former wife, who remained his business partner even after they divorced. The large location consists of three 500-year-old stone houses that have now been renovated and connected together. Downstairs, chocolatiers oversee pots of melted dark and milk chocolate, pouring the sweet liquid into molds to make chocolates shaped like hearts, stars and shells. Added flavors include sea salt, spicy chili and cinnamon. This is where the daily workshops take place. “Just call us at any time, even at the last minute and we can probably make you a workshop because we are always making chocolate here,” Amsalem says. Workshops can be arranged for anyone, for couples, families and groups of business colleagues, he says. “It’s a beautiful thing to do together,” he says. “And you get to leave with a hundred shekels worth of chocolates.” If the weather is nice, there is a large patio, covered with grape vines and other flowers, which is the perfect setting to enjoy the chocolates, a cup of coffee or a light meal. Workshops are 400 per couple, or 88 shekels per person in groups of 5 or more. Reservations are required, and can be made by calling 02-77-200-6660. Chocolates and the restaurant are certified kosher.

Jerusalem by the light of the moon: segway tours

March 26rd, 2019Category: Romantic
As the sun sets in Jerusalem, a small group of people glide along the city’s sidewalks on Segways, exploring the city by the light of the moon. Leaving from the First Station complex, these nighttime segway tours explore the picturesque Yemin Moshe neighborhood with its sweeping views of the illuminated Old City Walls, as well as the vibrant Mamilla outdoor shopping corridor, and several alleyways inside the Old City itself.

Offered most evenings, Smart Tour Israel’s evening Segway tours are especially popular with couples, families and other small groups. “It’s very romantic to see the city this way at night,” said Assaf Polivodor, a founding partner of Smart Tour Israel, which offers nighttime Segway tours along with daytime Segway tours, bike rentals and culinary tours. “The tours at night are more intimate and with smaller groups than during the day.” The nighttime Segway tours, which cover about 5 miles, are led by guides who not only deliver explanations and stories about the sites along the way, but also make sure the participants are enjoying themselves. About half way through the two-hour tour, groups stop for a break at Kikar HaTzahal, near Jaffa Gate, and one of the points where the new city of Jerusalem meets the old city of Jerusalem. Guides offer the group cups of steaming hot tea to drink while watching the passers by and taking in views of the Old City walls. In the winter, guides also offer scarves, gloves and extra coats to keep participants warm. “We provide everything we can to make sure it’s a special experience,” Polivodor said. Meanwhile, the city does the rest, offering scenery and views that can only be found in Jerusalem. Reservations are required for nighttime Segway tours, and can be made by calling 02-561-8056. In the winter, nighttime Segway tours leave First Station at 6:30 p.m., and in the summer at 8 p.m. Tours are offered in Hebrew and English.

Behind the walls of the Hansen hospital

May 23rd, 2017Category: Romantic
When Ruth Wexler started working as a nurse at Jerusalem’s Hansen Hospital in 1983, it was still a place that many people feared. Just a short walk from the Inbal Hotel, this complex behind stone walls was where people were treated for leprosy.

By the time Wexler started working here, leprosy was treated with antibiotics and was called by its modern name, Hansen’s Disease, after a Norwegian scientist named Gerhard Armauer Hansen discovered the bacteria that causes the disease, mainly affecting the skin, nose and eyes. “But everybody still called it the leper home,” Wexler recalls. “And some people were afraid to come inside.” The hospital, which opened in 1887, only closed its doors in 2009. But now it has taken on a second life. A few years ago, this sprawling complex re-opened as the Hansen House Center for Design Media and Technology. The stone buildings that were once a hospital have been turned into art galleries, working spaces and a cafe.

The gardens, which patients with leprosy once relied on for fruit and vegetables, are alive again and bursting with colorful flowers and shady green spaces. It has become one of the city’s trendiest public places, hosting many cultural events, including the upcoming seventh annual Jerusalem Design Week in June. This is largely due to Wexler’s passion for the place. When the hospital closed, Wexler organized a historical exhibit about it, which the city’s mayor, Nir Barkat, attended. This exhibit led to the municipality deciding to preserve the property--originally designed by German architect and archaeologist Conrad Schick who was Jerusalem’s first city planner-- and open it as a public cultural space, explains Shira Schonfeld, who works for Ran Wolf Urban Planning and Project Management, which manages the Hansen House.
Else it probably would have been turned into luxury apartments or a boutique hotel,
Schonfeld says. “It was really because of Ruth’s exhibit that this is what it is today.” While Wexler says “it’s a great thing,” that the two acres of land and its buildings have been turned into such a vibrant space, it is still important to her to educate people about its historical role in treating Hansen’s Disease, and in fighting the stigma that is still associated with leprosy. She now gives private tours of the property, including the few hospital rooms that have been preserved as a museum. One of the first things she emphasizes is that
this was never a closed institute. Patients could come and go, and people could come in and visit.
Contrary to the cultural fears people have about it, going back to Biblical times, leprosy is only “mildly contagious,” Wexler explains. Only about 5% of the human population can actually catch it, as most immune systems fight it off, she says. And since the 1940s it has been treatable with antibiotics. “There are good cures and most patients can lead a normal life,” she says. But even though going back to the 1940s, some of the Hansen Hospital patients were medically-fit to go home, many stayed living here, as their families sometimes rejected them due to social stigma and fears of catching the disease, Wexler says. The black and white photos hanging in the museum reflect the community that developed in this pastoral place. Photos can be seen of the residential patients working in the gardens and learning how to sew.
Christians, Muslims and Jews, everybody lived together,
Wexler says. This is the part of the hospital’s history that she really does not want to be forgotten, and this is why she gives tours. For people from outside Jerusalem who come here for the cultural events, “many don’t even realize what this place used to be,” she says. “And I feel that it is a very special human and cultural story, how for everybody who came in, this was a home for them.”

Searching for hidden clues in Jerusalem

May 23rd, 2017Category: Romantic
Ten years ago, a Jerusalem tour guide asked educator Tali Kaplinski Tarlow to organize a scavenger hunt for a group of tourists who had already seen practically everything in the city.  So she put together a route through Nachlaot that took visitors down the lesser-known alleyways and introduced them to the hidden stories of the neighborhood surrounding the Mahane Yehuda market.

Ein Kerem

May 23rd, 2017Category: Romantic
An ancient wine press sits in a deep indentation in one corner of Shoshana Karbasi’s kitchen in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ein Kerem.  The wine press is more than 2,000 years old, but was discovered only about 250 years ago when the stone home was built, Karbassi explains.  The home’s first owners, Turks who lived here when the Ottoman empire controlled the city, used the wine press as a water cistern, she explains
This house is full of stories,
she says.  They are stories that she is eager to share with visitors.  That’s why several years ago, she and about 15 other women founded Nifleot Ein Kerem, which organizes visits for both individuals and groups of tourists and business travelers to homes in Ein Kerem for meals, cooking lessons, musical performances and other cultural activities.

“Our project is about cooperating between women, but also about sharing our history and our city,” says Karbassi, who shares stories and poetry written in the now dying Ladino dialect of Moroccan Jews with visitors to her home, and sells homemade jam.

The project now part of a larger city-wide home hospitality program called Women and Stories in Jerusalem, includes about 30 women from Ein Kerem, a Jerusalem neighborhood that was once its own pastoral village.  As the wine press in Karbasi’s kitchen--as well as other archaeological discoveries, including those of ritual baths-- show, Ein Kerem was once home to an ancient Jewish community.  Over the years, it was populated by many other groups, as evidenced by the numerous churches and monasteries that dot the green and rocky landscape, attracting many Christian pilgrims today.  With the establishment of the state of Israel, Jews once again began living in Ein Kerem, including large groups of immigrants from Yemen.  This is just part of the history that visitors can discover through entering homes here.

Mazal Motell’s parents settled in Ein Kerem after arriving to the newly-established state of Israel from Yemen.  Motell, dressed in the traditional clothing her grandmothers wore back in Yemen, uses a stone to grind garlic, cumin, hot pepper, coriander and salt.  Soon she will add tomatoes to the mixture to make schug, a classic Yemenite dip for bread, she explains to a group of visitors.  Motell, a 67-year-old mother of five was a kindergarten teacher until recently retiring, when she began to participate in this project.  She feels it strengthens her connection to her past; to her Yemenite roots, but also to her childhood, when her family made a living selling milk and cheese from their herd of goats that wandered the grassy hills of Ein Kerem.
It brings out everything I had inside of me,
she says.  “I really enjoy talking about the old days.”
Because real life, revolving around family and work, continues in these homes, the visits give visitors authentic experiences that are often hard to find.

“My place is not made for tourism, I live my own life,” says Ruth Havilio, an artist who makes hand-painted tiles in a studio attached to her refurbished stone house in Ein Kerem, and hosts groups to tell them both about her art and her parents’ key roles in Israel’s War for Independence in the 1940s. 
But once in a while I open my door.
Prices for in-home tours vary from 30 shekels per person to more than 200 shekels per person, depending on the activity and number of people.  For more information and to make a reservation, email or call 02-6298154 or 054-2550505.  Or contact the individual hostesses here


May 23rd, 2017Category: Romantic
Along the shop-lined cobblestone pedestrian Yoel Solomon Street in the city’s Nahalat Shiva neighborhood, one store stands out among the others because it has two names.  The door reads Cadim, but the sign on the building says Altogether 8.  While it can be confusing, the shop does indeed have have two names because two different ceramic art cooperatives--among the oldest businesses on the popular street-- recently joined forces.
It now ensures that we have more variety and a high quality of work,
says Cecilia Lind, an artist who joined Altogether 8 three years ago and is now one of 15 artists in the new joint cooperative.  “We are getting used to working together and rebranding ourselves.”
For nearly 30 years, Cadim and 8 Altogether were two different shops on two different sides of Yoel Solomon Street, run by two different groups of local artists. In January, they merged, with the artists of Altogether 8 moving into Ruach Cadim and bringing their wares and--their sign--with them.  

Ranging in ages from 28 to 84 and hailing from all over the country the group is still getting to know each other, but the artists say the larger cooperative will help them do better work and still keep prices affordable for customers.  The cooperative nature allows the artists to split the overhead for renting and running the shop, as well as for other expenses like marketing and accounting.  Each artist works in the shop a couple of days a month, with their other days free to spend in their studios.  They meet once a month for a potluck meal to get to know each other better and deal with the logistics of running the shop.
We are really a community, and support each other,
says Lind, who lives in the Greek Colony, where she has an in-home studio.  
The ceramics in the united shop range from Boris Katz’s whimsical lion-shaped Hanukkah menorah to Amnon Israeli’s peacock-adorned bowls to Ruthie Simon’s blue and white kiddush cups.  Lind’s work includes a ceramic tea set with stripes and other textures embedded in the clay, and painted in greens and blues.

“The work here, it’s modern but it pays respect to the city,” Lind says as she was working in a the shop on a recent Friday. “It’s an old art form, but maybe used in a new way. So it’s like when they build a new building in Jerusalem, but they still use the same kind of stones and the same architecture, like the arched doorways.”

Simon says the colors in her work are inspired by the white stone of the city’s buildings and the often clear blue sky.  She also incorporates pomegranates, grapes and other local fruits into her designs.
Jerusalem definitely influences my work,
says Simon, who was born in the coastal city of Ashkelon, but has lived and worked in an old stone house in Jerusalem’s Nachlaot neighborhood for more than three decades.
But it’s not just the city that influences her work, but also its people, and the people who visit, whom she often meets when it’s her turn to work in the shop.

“It’s really an intimate meeting between the artists and the people who come into the shop,” Simon says.  “I get inspiration and ideas from them.”

Bringing King David to life

May 23rd, 2017Category: Romantic
A red-headed boy leads his sheep across a grassy field, interspersed with trees.  The music of a flute plays and the rolling, rocky hills of Judea rise in the background.  These are the opening scenes of the new evening sound and light show King David, which transforms the 1,000-year old stone walls of the Tower of David Museum in Jerusalem’s Old City into a surround-sound movie theater five nights a week.  Once the sun sets, David and his story come to life in this Crusader-era citadel via 18 laser projectors and 20 speakers.

In addition to telling the story of the life of David--the shepherd boy who became a Biblical King--the show also illuminates the citadel walls with hundreds of works of art made throughout history that have immortalized David.  So viewers see Michelangelo’s famous carved marble David statue and Chagall’s bright painting of David with a harp, among dozens of others, as David is one of the most portrayed people in the art world.
My idea was to take people on a walk through a gallery of art,
said Renee Sivan, the museum’s archaeologist who curated the show.  “Seeing these works of art lets people have a different appreciation and see the appreciation different people had for David.”
Sivan, who previously created the museum’s other sound and light show, The Night Spectacular, which tells the story of the history of Jerusalem, wanted to present a fuller picture of David.
King David is not only a king, he’s a musician, a poet and also very very human,
Sivan said.
But producing the life-like images of David and the other historical figures that illuminate the walls was not simple.  Sivan wanted them to be historically accurate, in every detail, from what they wore to how they moved.
“And that’s difficult because we have very few indications and pieces of archaeological evidence from the era of King David,” she said.  She spent months researching what fabric dyes were available in the region at the time in order to portray David and others in authentic clothing.  And she scoured museum collections around the world for visual evidence of historical events associated with David.  For example, she relies on stone carvings found in Egypt to know what the Philistines, who fight David in a battle, looked like.

“This is how I knew exactly how they moved and what they wore,” she said.
Her goal was also to create a show that would appeal to a wide variety of audiences.  And this one has something for everyone, she said, from beauty, to history, to art to action. She said she knew all her work was worth it when she recently took her 7-year-old grandson to see it.
His eyes were wide open, just looking the whole time,
she said.

Tickets to King David are 55 shekels for adults, 50 shekels for senior citizens and 45 shekels for children ages 3 to 18.  Combined tickets for both the museum and the show are 70 shekels for adults and 55 shekels for senior citizens and children.

Jerusalem of art

May 23rd, 2017Category: Romantic
Turning onto a small street from Jerusalem’s bustling Jaffa Road, Jenna Romano leads a group of visitors to a small courtyard surrounded by stone houses.  The group climbs a narrow staircase and enters the Marie Gallery, one of a growing number of contemporary art spaces in the city.  The gallery’s white walls are covered with collages made from a combination of photography and paintings. The exhibit by local textile artist Chana Cromer deals with how people process memory, explains Romano, who runs the blog Contemporary Art in Jerusalem and gives both public and private tours of the art scene here.

Like most of the city’s art exhibition spaces, this was not built as an art gallery, but as housing on the edge of Jerusalem’s Nachlaot neighborhood, Romano explains “The galleries here are not the typical white cubes you see in New York,” Romano says.
Most are in very old and ancient places.
Like many newcomers to the city, Romano-- who has a university degree in art history and has worked in galleries in New York and Paris before moving to Jerusalem in 2015-- was surprised to find so many contemporary art galleries and artists working here.  Jerusalem is home to Israel’s premier art school, Bezalel Academy; but until recently, most graduates headed for Tel Aviv, long the capital of Israel’s contemporary art scene, and still its commercial art center.  Now, that is starting to change, and in recent years, more artists have set up shop in Jerusalem, working mainly in studios and galleries that are cooperative, non-profit, or funded by the municipality.
The galleries here are not focused on selling things, so it’s a very authentic and community-oriented vibe,
Romano says.  And it’s another way to learn about the city, even for those without any prior interest or knowledge of art, she says.  This is why she started her blog and to give tours.  
“It’s a new and refreshing way to see the city,” she says.

The history and current diversity of the city influence many of the artists working here, Romano tells her tour group as they wander around Beita, whose exhibition space has tall windows looking out onto Jaffa Road and the city’s light rail train tracks.  There, Beita’s curator talked about its current group exhibition, entitled The Lion and the Pussycat. Among the installations were sculptures of cats portraying certain members of the Israeli parliament, and a sand pit filled with giant feline bones that visitors could play with.

“It seems like an exhibition about cats, but it’s not,” curator Avital Naor Wexler tells the group. 
It’s about Jerusalem.  The city’s symbol is the lion, which is powerful, grand and royal and Biblical.  But the cats, who live all over the streets in Jerusalem, represent the everyday life here.  The citizens are kind of like cats.
After visiting Beita, while walking along Jaffa Road, Romano pointed out grafiti by the street artist Solomon Souza, whose colorful paintings cover much of the city’s Mahane Yehuda outdoor market.  The tour also passed by an outdoor exhibition space called Black Box, which features rotating works displayed in large billboards near the Davidka light rail station.
The last stop on Romano’s tour was the Jerusalem Artists House. Modern art galleries may not be what one would expect to find inside this 19th-century stone mansion with well-manicured gardens. But that is exactly what is here.
Romano explains that this used to be the museum of Bezalel Academy, which once focused largely on traditional Jewish art as well as crafts.  But when the Bezalel collection was moved to the Israel Museum, this became the headquarters of the Association for Jerusalem Artists, and includes three galleries which focus on emerging artists as well as retrospective exhibits by older artists.  
There are a lot of hidden places like this around the city,
Romano says.  “And even though the focus is on contemporary art, you also can’t escape the history.”
To learn more about Jerusalem art tours, see

Mahane Yehuda market

May 23rd, 2017Category: Romantic
Behind a door in one of the alleyways of Mahane Yehuda, a staircase leads up to a modern kitchen with big windows looking down onto the produce vendors and shoppers in the bustling outdoor market.  An eggplant is roasting on an open flame, purple cabbages are soaking in water and small bows contain a variety of freshly-chopped herbs.

This the Jerusalem Atelier, a cooking and dining space in Mahane Yehuda, where a group of visitors will soon arrive to participate in a culinary workshop, learning not just the traditions and recipes from the city’s diverse cuisine, but how to prepare dishes with the best ingredients from the surrounding market.  In addition to culinary workshops, the Atelier also offers tours of the market, food and wine tastings, as well as 11-course chef’s meals, where diners watch as their food is prepared.
I want to show people that the market is a fascinating place, a place you can experience gourmet food, but that it is still an authentic market, the place where people buy their daily fruits and vegetables and bread,
explains Tali Friedman, the chef who opened the Atelier in back in 2009, before Israel’s food scene began to attract so much international attention.  Friedman, who studied cooking Paris and Israel, grew up near the market, and says it has always influenced her cooking.  Although over the years she worked in some of the city’s top restaurants, she was always trying to incorporate her grandmother’s style of cooking, based on fresh vegetables, meat and fish purchased in Mahane Yehuda.

When she started to teach cooking more than a decade ago, she often found herself bringing students to the market, teaching them about selecting the best fresh ingredients.
I always kept coming back to the shuk,
she says.  That led to her begin offering food tours for tourists, and then to eventually open the Atelier.
As the market has become a more popular place, now filled with dozens of bars and restaurants in addition to bakers, butchers, produce vendors and spice shops, the Atelier has also become more popular, hosting cooking workshops nearly everyday.

Most couples and small groups opt for a tour of the market followed by a culinary workshop in which they prepare a six-course meal.  They enjoy that meal along with local wine at the large table in the space’s kitchen, or on its rooftop.
Visitors can enjoy really fine food,”Friedman says.  “But they also learn about the people of the market.
The custom tours and workshops can be arranged for couples or small groups by contacting The Jerusalem Atelier.

More than four cups of Wine

May 23rd, 2017Category: Romantic
When Mark Jam opened the Red & White Wine bar downtown last year, he wanted to create an elegant place for people to relax and ponder their experiences in Jerusalem.  "Wine is just the medium for this," he says.
"It can be a rough city, with a lot of hustle and bustle, and people need space to stop and reflect.”

Located on Shlomo HaMelech Street, just up the hill from the Mamilla Mall and along the border that used to divide the city between Israel and Jordan from 1949 through 1967, Red and White welcomes visitors with wine, cheese, jazz music and conversation.  The high ceilings, tall windows and candles on each table add to the sense of welcoming space.  

Although all are welcome, Jam especially likes to serve couples.
I love taking care of couples, setting them up with some nice wine and food, then letting them have the space for a conversation together," Jam says.
It makes me really happy, creating a space for them to have a nice experience together."

Jam is also the only person working behind the bar and waiting on tables in this little place.  He selects all the wines himself, mainly from wineries around Israel.  They can be purchased by the bottle or in various amounts from his Italian-made wine dispensing machine. He serves artisan cheeses from a farm in the Golan Heights, and prepares all the food himself.  The menu includes lasagna made from sheep’s cheese, fresh tomatoes and mushroom sauce; cheese sampler plates; and fresh kalamata olives.
If you order coffee, it will be from beans roasted by Jam.
I’m old-school like that,
he says.  Red & White opens each evening at 6 p.m., and stays open until the last person leaves, he says.  “One day it may be at 11, or it could be until 2 a.m.,” Jam says, adding that it’s a good idea for patrons to make a reservation.
On a recent March evening, he spoke of plans to set up more tables on the sidewalk as the evenings get warmer, and how he plans to stay open during Passover.
But I will just have wine during Passover,
he says, explaining that he will close his kosher kitchen during the holiday, when Jews refrain from eating any leavened grains. “I like to keep it simple.”
Besides, with so many Jerusalem restaurants open during the holiday, the copious amounts of food served at the long Seder meal, and the elaborate feasts served to guests in the city’s hotels, a quiet night of simply sipping wine will be a perfect outing, he says.
No matter how many people come, it's important for me to be open,
Jam says.”  If I just provide a space for one couple, or one person, that's enough."
Red & White is located at 8 Shlomo HaMelech Street.  The phone number is 02-645-1212, or it can be found on Facebook:

Wine-tasting and tours add to famous romantic

May 23rd, 2017Category: Romantic
Wine-tasting and tours add to famous romantic landmark
For more than a century the blades of the towering windmill in Mishkanot Sha’ananim did not rotate.  But that didn’t stop this historic neighborhood from becoming one of the most romantic places in the city, a site where hundreds of couples got engaged or posed for wedding photos each year.

But now, after a 2012 restoration project, the windmill once again rotates.  And several new activities based in and around the windmill make this location--with its sweeping views of the Old City and surrounding hills--one of the best places to visit, especially for couples looking for a fun day out or a romantic evening walk.

Sommeliers from Jerusalem Wineries have now found a home inside the base of the windmill.  Stop by here any weekday between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., or any Friday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. to sample wines and chat with professionals from the winery.  You can even purchase a bottle to take home.

After sampling wine, you can join a guided tour to learn how the windmill works, and to get to the bottom of the local debate about whether or not it ever actually ground flour.  Built in the late 1800s by French philanthropist Moses Montefiore to provide income for the poor residents of the first neighborhood outside the city walls, the windmill did indeed grind the wheat of surrounding farmers into flour.  But after 18 years of operation it stopped working.  Then local stories began to spring up about how it never worked, about how it was not even built to work.  Even Israel’s most famous 20th century poet Yehuda Amichai once wrote about how
the windmill never ground flour. It ground holy air.
After an extensive renovation project funded by the Jerusalem Foundation, which involved flying in windmill experts from Europe, the windmill is again operational.  

Visitors to the windmill can now also participate in an escape-room style game that takes place in and around the windmill. The game is suitable for couples as well as larger groups.

But even with the windmill blades once again turning and new activities here, one of the best things to do is simply stroll around the colorful gardens here and take in the panoramic views in this urban oasis, whether its on an ordinary evening or for a marriage proposal.