By Andrea Dicenzo
In the ancient city of Jerusalem, a new breed of creative minds are transforming this religious mecca into a cultural springboard deserving of its own pilgrims. The city holds the title of the most touristed city in Israel, with most of the visitors arriving to pay tribute to one of the city's three major religions that proclaim the city as holy—Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
It is practically compulsory to visit the religious hallmarks of the Old City including the Ethiopian Temple, the iconic Dome of the Rock, the Western Wall, and Jesus' tomb. At the very least, the journey is worth it to witness the 21st century crisscross, converge, and compound with the first century. Whether you've come for religious reasons yourself, or just to see the sites, the Old City can ruffle even the most seasoned traveler's feathers—think relentless religious fanatics meet tenacious street market vendors. That's okay! The modern city will revitalize you with its ingenious restaurateurs and music collectors, art galleries and hidden bars. Here are our picks for the best spots to mingle with Jerusalem's elite crowds of journalists, diplomats, artists and entrepreneurs and let the city supply you with its dapper good charm that will transplant you right back to 2013.
One of the top destinations in Jerusalem is 27-year-old Moshiko Gamlieli's restaurant Mona. The passionate young chef is in charge of this Israeli bistro with classical French influence. Gamlieli's vibrant passion for food reverberates through the humbly romantic restaurant. He is one of three chefs that comprise of the already well established Machneyuda, Mona's younger, more robust sister restaurant located in the trendy neighborhood home to Mahane Yehunda Market, which is the source of much of the restaurant's inspiration and local produce.The insistence of fresh, locally sourced products is particularly important to the menu, which includes fixed bistro style steadfast items like a burger with chips and polenta along side an ever changing seasonally specific plates. "We only work with fresh products," says Gamlieli. "You don't see this a lot in Jerusalem because that's not the scene here and it's super expensive...but ingredients are so important to us. So we prefer to make a bit less money and sell very good products". This philosophy inside the kitchen seems to be invigorating the culinary scene in Jerusalem.
A selection of five or six soups serves as the highlight of this Jerusalem institution's menu. The inconspicuous front facade opens into a comfortable room equipped with long, communal tables, sofas and a piano—all working to put you in the cozy, familial mindset for a good soup. While visitors might come to try the legendary soups, the buzzing atmosphere and cheap drinks will encourage you to stay and possibly partake in some frank political discussion. Other menu items include hummus, levant (a goats cheese spread) and the occasional local favorite, shakshuka.
Great Wide Open at the Israel Museum
The sea and the desert are the foundational elements that link the mostly Israeli artists in this group exhibition curated Amitai Mendelsohn. The artists use these motifs to explore concepts of voyage, exile, temptation, myths and history in the sometimes problematic and abstract textures of water and sand. The exhibition is on display through 2 April 2013 at the brilliant Israel Museum—one of the top destinations for art lovers in the Holy City.
The owners pride themselves on having the best and most eclectic music selection Jerusalem has to offer in this coffeeshop, which turns into a bar at night. During the day, patrons will make the trip out to the shop to peruse the owners' finds on vinyl and CD alike. At night the space turns into a music venue where Jerusalemites go to see Israel's favorite bands or promising newcomers. "The selection is all stuff we like, mostly independent Israeli music. Most of them are local labels but we also do import stuff like vinyl" says one of four friends that own Uganda. Uganda also has a small curated collection of comic books both imports from the States as well as established and DIY comics from Israel.
The Museum of the Seam
There are many factors that make The Museum of the Seam one of the most interesting museums in the world today. Devoted to addressing issues that derive from conflicts, the contemporary museum straddles the line of East Jerusalem and Jerusalem (a conflict zone itself), but uses the space as a vehicle to present a dialogue within the arts community for issues surrounding conflicts around the world—new and old. The last two exhibitions have been large group shows of 25 or more, and were put together with highly academic writings and intentions on the part of the curatorial team. The next exhibition, "Westend", looks at the struggle of the Arab states and at multitude of meanings and complications surrounding Muslim identity.
Images by Andrea Dicenzo