Sarah Zaides is a Jewish Studies Graduate Fellow for 2012-2013. She spent the summer studying Hebrew in ulpan at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. This is the second in a series of travel blogs reflecting on her experiences abroad. 

Mixed grill from Nafoura, about to be devoured.

After living in Jerusalem and staying in Har HaTsofim (Mt. Scopus) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem this past summer, I thought I would put together a little top 10 list for my friends, family, and the JewDub universe.

1. Mahane Yehuda Market: Fresh figs in summer, a fabulous frozen yogurt place that mixes fruits and candies of your choice into an unbelievable concoction (try dates and figs and chocolate…oy vey), marzipan, fresh challah for Shabbat…need I say more?

2. Daven at Shira Hadasha: A self-proclaimed Orthodox, Feminist congregation, Shira Hadasha, located in the German Colony, is an example of just how much Israel can offer Jewishly. Women read from the Torah and lead Kabbalat Shabbat, and the mehitza seems more symbolic than anything else. Shira Hadasha definitely has an Anglo vibe to it, but it’s worth a visit or two.

3. Eat a kabob at Nafoura: Enter the Old City through Jaffa Gate and make an immediate left onto Latin Patriarch Street. Walk up, past the pizza and wine shop, and on the left is a wonderful Arab restaurant owned by Arab Christians. This restaurant is neither Kosher nor Hallal, but the kabobs are incredible. Be daring and try the mixed grill. Don’t miss the mezze courses (appetizers of various spicy vegetables, baba ganoush, labneh with zatar, and perfect falafels). Wash it all down with Taybeh beer from Ramallah. Plus it’s open on Shabbat.

Jerusalem offers plenty of opportunities to explore. Open your eyes, pay attention, and grab some nosh along the way.

4. Spend a (Shabbat?) afternoon at the Lerner Sports Complex in Har HaTsofim: read my forthcoming post about why you should visit a gym in the Middle East, but seriously, this place is gorgeous and will leave you feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the mazes of the Old City.

Balkan Beat Box performs at Independence Park

5. Attend a concert or have a picnic in Gan Ha’atzmaut (Independence Park). Pick up some provisions at the Aroma on Hillel Street and head up there to enjoy the company of friends or just people watch.

6. Go to to the Kotel on Shabbat: Ok, so I’m pretty sure I’m contractually obligated to include this one, but seriously, there is nothing like singing with the Tribe at the Wailing Wall. Of course it’s gender segregated, and be sure to dress appropriately (ladies: skirts below the knees and no bare shoulders; gentlemen: no shorts), otherwise the tznius

[modesty] police will catch you and force you to put on a modesty smock. If you’re not staying near the Old City, there are taxis to take you wherever you need to go. Make sure you negotiate your fare ahead of time, and never, ever, pay more than 50 shekel to get anywhere in Jerusalem proper.

7. Mahane Yehuda on a Tuesday Night: there are cool, indie concerts in the shuk on Tuesday nights. Sure, it smells like fish, but the crowd is young and hip and there’s plenty of Stella Artois flowing to ease the smell. Sets usually start around 9.

Botanical gardens at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mt. Scopus

8. Have a fancy dinner at the Ticho House: you’ll find many expats and Israelis celebrating birthdays here. It’s delicious, it’s kosher (dairy), and the shaded garden is perfect to escape the Jerusalem heat.

9. Visit the Israel Museum: this museum is incredible. If you’re a real history nerd like I am, you’ll want to allocate either a full day, or break your visit up into two days. Dead Sea Scrolls are only the beginning, with fascinating bimas and Judaica from the Diaspora, including Yemen and South America, offering insight into Jewish religious practice around the world.

10.  Open your eyes. Pay attention. This is a country full of diversity. History lives in the City of Gold. Visit East Jerusalem. One easy way is to go take a tour of Har HaTsofim and French Hill at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Tour the beautiful grounds and the surrounding Arab village. Have a conversation. Go spend Shabbat at Ramot Zion with a lovely American crowd that made aliyah after the 1967 War. Have some more conversations. Reflect. Want some not-so-light reading for the flight home? Try Avi Shlaim’s The Iron Wall. There really is no place like Jerusalem.

Click here to read the first installment of Sarah’s Israel series, Flipflops & Flashcards. Next up: interviews with some unusual ulpan classmates!

All photographs by Sarah Zaides.

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