Ben Yehuda Area
Ben Yehuda is the promenade street of Jerusalem. Located in what is known as the center of town, Ben Yehuda is the perfect tourist spot to see tourists who have no idea what to do with their evening. The main drag of Ben Yehuda has been closed off to cars. Nonetheless, little motorbikes known as Toostoosim do not have to follow the traffic laws. As such, random Toostoosim might pop up every few feet. Ben Yehuda Street continues after Ben Yehuda Street, on the other side of King George- where Ben Yehuda turns into Betzalel Street, to make it more complicated to give directions.
Also known as The Midrachov (sidewalk street), as most people also do not look where they are walking, this area is constantly filled with foot traffic. Many tourists frequent this location, as many of the shops accommodate their needs for higher prices. You can also enjoy great sales, as many of the shops have been going out of business for well over 10 years. For you, the tourist, they keep their sign out and still hold strong to their going out of business sale. A mainstay of Jerusalem life, the street is as old as the lady with the metallic orange hair and the hat store, located in the middle of Ben Yehuda.
Shops in the area include, jewelry shops, kippah stores, army surplus for non-soldiers, restaurants, cafes, falafel, ice cream, pizza shops for people to throw boxes out on the street. Burger King- Yes, it is Kosher. Now it is the site of Burger Ranch. Now Burger Ranch is somewhere else. If I forget thee oh Burger King, may my head forget thy great paper crown. Burger King may have left, but you remain in my heart. May my left hand not forget your french fries.
Falafel stands do sell falafel, but save money and do not purchase the falafel. Pull out the pitas we picked up for lunch. See all the salads on the side, they are free. Start loading up your pitas.
The municipality has done whatever it can to pull people away from Ben Yehuda. As such, you will notice other pedestrian malls in the city and very few usable roads to get to them.
That is not how you spell sale, unless you are in an ocean.
Israelis with their big group- They are doing what is known as a Tiyul/tourish thing Israelis do. You can see they are on a Tiyul, as they are wearing the traditional Israeli Tiyul clothing; shorts, sandals and a big hat. They are on a tour of Ben Yehuda, to see what cafes in Jerusalem look like. Now that they have noticed that Cafe Ne’eman also exists in Jerusalem, they are trying to take in the only spot in Holy City where they might not have to see too many religious people.
Every once in a while, the native Israeli likes to get together with friends in a city they never heard of, such as Jerusalem. When they get to the destination, they like to walk away from the bus, to then meet the bus at another spot. At this point, when they are off the bus, they bring along what is known as a tour guide, whose job it is to talk at points where they are not listening. If the tour guide can be heard by the big group of 60 year olds, or school children who are forced to go on this ‘tiyul’ ordeal and wear a hat that has a totally encompassing visor, then s/he is disrupting a conversation. The hat with the totally encompassing visor, as you will notice on everybody in the group, is an Israeli tradition since the first chalutzim/pioneers, who also walked up and down Ben Yehuda, after digging it.
Crack Square, located one block East of Ben Yehuda, is a great area to go to in the hours of the late evening, to experience the Jerusalem lifestyle of not watching over your children.
You will notice traffic, as that person thought it was a good idea to drive on the sidewalk.
A vast array of people may be found: the old people, the five year olds selling cigarettes, a random person screaming at a store, a shopkeeper running out of his store with a knife, beggars, tourists, every kind of local Jerusalemite, newlyweds pretending not to be married. You will notice Shmulik over there.
Random people are staring at you. You are a tourist attraction too. It is normal to stare at people in Jerusalem and to not greet.
You can see many different kinds of street entertainers, playing Shlomo Carlebach songs on their guitars. They are not very talented. It is traditional to throw money at them, and to ask them to take lessons. As of now, that street entertainer has purchased a guitar. As Ben Yehuda does not require much to be out there playing, just no real job, you too can learn the three Carlebach chords and busk.
Chozrei BTshuva, people who have become religious. That guy used to be cool when he had a full head of long hair. Now that is side-locks. He is cool in my circles of Jerusalem. Though you may not find it cool to sing Shabbat songs and to not touch ladies, like I do, it is interesting to note that once you become religious, your professional aspirations move down on the ladder of importance, under comfort. That man wearing a dress, understands that his PHD is of little importance, when wearing a robe.
Lady in a tight shirt- You will notice that many of the people have very tight clothing. She has not been to the USA recently. Clothing is very expensive in Israel, and thus many grandmothers wear their granddaughters’ shirts and color their hair with a metallic orange car paint.
Many of these people would be considered out of place, but not on Ben Yehuda. Tight shirt on the 90 year old woman is acceptable here.
That is what is known as a Pikak. You will notice that traffic is not moving, because that person decided to make a maybe, half left turn. You will can still see them sitting there and pondering, in the middle of the road. It is a virtue to not make bad decisions or listen to directions. Hence, he is not moving. As you can see, they were just given directions, but they shook their head ‘No.’ Defiance and anger is also a way to receive directions, upon your request.
Notice little children without parents. In Israel, we support self reliance. For this reason, that baby in the carriage is…This is all wrong. Even in Jerusalem. That should be reported. Now there is a mother out there who is going to have a very hard time getting her welfare.
That store has been going out of business for only two and a half years.
You will notice more Jerusalem Stone.
Jerusalem’s First ever Comedy Club, you can see The Off The Wall Comedy Basement, located at the top of Ben Yehuda. The Off The Wall Comedy Basement was built in 2007 for reasons such as lack of business understanding and strategy. As the comedic delegates of The Holy City, they bring you the necessary religious experience of laughter, which the rabbis have forbidden. You can also find late night Karaoke there. The best place to be in Jerusalem, you can see all the characters of Jerusalem who cannot afford one drink minimums.
HaMashbir- Known as The Mashbir, as the ‘Ha’ in Hebrew means ‘the.’ Famous for being a place in Jerusalem that everybody knows. HaMashbir has recently moved from the top of Ben Yehudah to the bottom of Ben Yehuda. People have never stepped inside. Made so that people will not want to walk in, security guards stand at every entrance.
The Mashbir is important as it is used to let you know where you are in Jerusalem. A landmark, as it is known, HaMashbir is used as a place to give directions. For example: ‘I am near the Mashbir…the new or old Mashbir…one of them…take your cellphone…’ Street names are not used in directions. Directions as given in Jerusalem: ‘I am near the Mashbir…Around 3 blocks away…around a kilometer away from the Kotel…around 80 kilometers from The Mashbir in Tel Aviv.’
There are around 33 of this chain of department stores found in Israel. The Mashbir LTzarchan (for the needy) was founded in 1947, by the Histadrut. In this historical location, you can still find items from 1947, which have not been sold yet. Items such as a manual lawnmower can still be found with the lady who was given the job of selling it. The average age of the worker at the historical HaMashbir in 2006, was 80 years old. Wheeled in from homes of ‘our parents’ they were still able to keep their jobs while not moving, thank you to The Histadrut (the organization who also allowed them the option of going on strike when they were not sick).
Even through lack of sales the chain survived, as it was run by the Histadrut (General Federation of Laborers in the Land of Israel). The most powerful union in Israel. Successful at helping people keep their jobs, even while not working. The Histradrut proved yet again, there is no reason for having a point-full institution if people are receiving money.