Through these stories, people will learn the history, learn about the Jewish traditions and hopefully also about themselves,says Maria Zavin, who oversees marketing for Yalla Basta. “It’s a way to see the city in a vivid way.”
We’ve always wanted to allow the traveler to experience the local life, not just the dry history,Zavin says.
There are so many stories to tell,Zavin says. Through these stories, the guides also hope that visitors--no matter their religion--will also look inside themselves as they learn about the spiritual journeys of both famous and ordinary; and ancient and contemporary locals.
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 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.
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.”
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.”
We are really a community, and support each other,says Lind, who lives in the Greek Colony, where she has an in-home studio.
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.
There are always surprises, especially in the spring,says Kacal, an Israeli immigrant from Trinidad who has been bird watching since she was 8 years old, and is now the director of the bird observatory, operated by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and located in the middle of Jerusalem, between the Knesset and Gan Sacher park. Every spring about 500 million birds fly over Israel, making their annual migration from the southern hemisphere back to the northern hemisphere. They stop to rest at various places around the country, including in this little 1.5-acre patch of nature, making Israel one of the best places in the world for bird watching. For most birds, this is their first stop in a lush and green area after many nights of flying over the Sahara and Negev deserts, where there is almost nothing for them to eat.
The birds get here absolutely famished and exhausted,Kacal says. After landing, the birds spend about a week among the trees, flowers and lily-pad filled pond here, eating various plants and animals. Small birds will usually double their body weight before they fly off for the rest of their journey, Kacal explains. On this March morning, about 100 birds were trapped in the observatory’s hard-to-see nets, which catch birds without hurting them. Kacal and other staff members gently pluck the fluttering birds out of the nets, and put them into small cloth bags. They then spent the rest of the morning attaching small metal rings imprinted with contact information for the Jerusalem Bird Observatory to the birds’ legs. These rings help scientists around the world track bird migration patterns. Some of the birds trapped here arrived with rings from landing here during previous migration seasons. “We see a lot of returning birds,” Kacal said. And many birds arrive each day with rings from other bird ringing stations in Europe and Africa. A group of school children watched intently as a staff member put a tiny ring around the leg of a chiffchaff, a small brown bird weighing about 6 grams.
This is usually a bird you never see because it spends most of its time in the bushes, where it looks just like a leaf,Kacal explains, saying the bird spends it summers in northern Europe and its winters in Africa. After the ring was attached, the bird was released, flying up into the trees. Through the end of May, visitors can come each week day between 6 a.m. and 11 a.m. and watch up close as staff put rings on the birds. Sometimes visitors can hold the birds after they receive their rings and release them into the sky, Kacal says. “For us, interacting with the people and teaching them about birds is very important,” Kacal says. She then makes her way over to a small hut with benches where visitors can look out over the pond and watch birds. A kingfisher is hunting for fresh-water crabs, pausing every few minutes to sing out in search of a mate. Visitors can borrow binoculars, and sit here for free, as long as they want. Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, visitors can also see butterflies and turtles; and at night there are porcupines, hedgehogs and bats. “Or, of course you can just sit here and pretend you are not in the middle of the city,” Kacal says.
It’s a great place for everyone, and another way to get to know the city and the country.In addition to the always open bird watching area, and daily bird ringing, the observatory offers special activities during Passover, including hikes during the day and at night, and viewing of films and an art-exhibit in its visitors center. For more information, see http://natureisrael.org/JBO.
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.”
King David is not only a king, he’s a musician, a poet and also very very human,Sivan said.
His eyes were wide open, just looking the whole time,she said.
You can say it’s just about a color, but it really takes you so many places,says one of the exhibit’s curators, Oree Meiri, as she walked through the exhibit on a recent morning. “I learned so much in the process of organizing this exhibit that I can’t even begin to tell you.”
It was really a complex process to extract this dye, and it was a big deal that the color stayed, and didn’t fade or wash out,Meiri says, as she looks at a case full of ancient sea snail, or murex, shells found at archaeological sites. This so-called “tekhelet” was also the color that the ancient Israelites were instructed to use to dye the fringes that hung from their four-cornered garments.
Today blue is something we take for granted,Meiri says. “But the story of how it came to be this way is really amazing. It really is a deep color.”
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.
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.”