The Aliyah Experience continues…
I have now been living in Jerusalem for six months, and I love it. No matter how many times I’ve visited Jerusalem before, there is nothing like living here. When I think of my life here, I think of a lyric from Brett Dennen’s “Blessed” which says: “This is the most magnificent life has ever been. Here is heaven and earth and the brilliant sky in between. Blessed is this life and I’m gonna celebrate being alive.” Living in Jerusalem is a certainly a celebration of life.
If you don’t know the song, click here for a listen – I promise it will make you smile.
Daily life in Jerusalem has the charm of living in a small town, and the culture and culinary scene of a metropolitan city… all with the added bonus of never being more than 3 or so miles away from the ever-amazing Old City.
Here, my days always start the same. After getting my kids ready for the day, I walk my two oldest girls to school to the neighborhood next to mine, the German Colony. The German Colony is a beautiful neighborhood in southwest Jerusalem which was founded by the Templars (think, Da Vinci Code) in the mid-1800s. Although they were thrown out by the British in the 1930s for their support of Hitler, they left behind a great neighborhood, full of tree-lined streets, charming homes, parks and a whole lot of character. We walk down what I think of as “Small Town USA Main Street” a.k.a. Emek Refaim, which is full of coffee shops, restaurants, shops, and even a supermarket. Even at 7:45 am the neighborhood is bustling with people going to work, going to have a morning coffee at Aroma, or getting to school.
Within 15 minutes I’ve dropped off both girls at their respective schools. The warmth of the teachers and students in the schools in Israel is unparalleled. Neither of my girls can take more than one step into their class without being hugged by someone. They always go happily. Its an amazing feeling to walk out of their schools in the mornings and know that my wife and I are giving them such an amazing experience by being here for a year. They are learning about the blessing of having a Jewish State. They are learning to be proud Jews. They are learning to be Zionists.
After I drop off my girls I put in my time trying to counteract the copious amounts of food we eat here – I work out. My experience working out is my time to interact with the city and its people. Over the summer months, I would hop on my road bike and ride out of the city and into the luscious and steep Judean Mountains. Now that winter has taken over, however, I either go to Crossfit underneath the soccer stadium, or put on my running shoes and take a city tour. Every day is a different route. Every day is a different experience. Either I run to (and through) Gan Sacher, Jerusalem’s mini version of Central Park,
…or I run through the cobblestone streets of Yemin Moshe, a neighborhood right outside the Old City, established in the 1800s, and best known for the Montefiore Windmill, and down to the Old City,
…or I run down the newly paved Derech HaRakevet – the new linear park re-purposed from the original train tracks into Jerusalem.
Then, I work. I work from my home office as an attorney in the United States. Although its much more exciting (see, less boring) to work in an office setting with colleagues and friends, since I am here for only a year, it makes most sense to work from home. My clients and law partners are only a Skype call away.
Late at night, after my kids are asleep, my wife and I have been thoroughly enjoying the culinary scene of Jerusalem. Whether its an elegant dairy meal at Derech Hagefen, an incredible steak tartar topped with a poached egg at Jacko’s Street in Mahane Yehuda, or even just a good bowl of hummus with mushrooms in the hole-in-the-wall, Humus Ben Sira, the food scene in Jerusalem is amazing. Its hard to eat a bad meal here. (I definitely owe you all a post with the best restaurants in Jerusalem.)
Finally, Friday nights at the Kotel, or getting lost in the Old City never get old. The Old City helps keep me connected to the amazing history of this powerful city.
The Jerusalem life is perfect for me… except there are things I miss. At heart, I am a just a kid who was raised in Miami Beach. I miss the beach lifestyle, the ocean (or sea), and even the bars of Miami. Luckily Tel Aviv is less than an hour drive away. Once every 10 days or so, we need our fix, our balance. Spending the weekend on the beach in Herzeliya or even a Thursday night in Tel Aviv does the trick.
Tel Aviv has a magical energy. Take a walk through the Shuk Namal – new port market – on a Friday morning, get a drink on the beach at 2am, go see a concert at Hangar 11, take a walk through Nahalat Binyamin or down Rothschild Blvd and you will know exactly what I mean.
While some Jerusalamites have their issues with the place because it is predominantly secular (and some would argue, even anti-religious), Tel Aviv is modern Jewish history. With the largest Jewish population per metropolitan area in the world, 3.2 million Jews in the greater Tel Aviv area (See, Wikipedia), it is simply amazing to see, and be amongst, Jews of all stripes and colors living together and building such an amazing, modern, metropolitan city.
If I was 23 or single, I would be living in Tel Aviv – hands down. But, as a family man, after two days in Tel Aviv, I’m ready to go back to my relaxed, fulfilling, small-town life in the holy city of Jerusalem. After six months here, you start to understand the “x-factor” of why Jerusalem has been yearned for and fought over for thousands of years. What a blessing it is to be able to spend this year here, in this amazing city, and in this amazing country, with my wife and children.
Also, this Saturday is my ten-year anniversary with my beautiful wife. So, as Brett Dennen sings, and I absolutely feel today: “This is the most magnificent life has ever been.”
Am Israel Chai.