(photo credit: Courtesy)
It’s been a while since we’ve seen our friends from Tel Aviv, a young family with three kids, so I invite them to spend some time in Jerusalem. They hop on the first fast train in the morning, and 28 minutes later we meet them at the first stop in capital.
I tell my kids that we will be the tour guides today, and will share all of our favorite Jerusalem experiences with them – the culture, art, history, nature, sports, hi-tech and most of all, fun.
As we pass through the entrance to the city together, two of our children start to talk about their dreams of future careers in media. With all the new studios in Jerusalem, there are so many options open to them – so we encourage their dreaming.
Our first stop is an area known as “Museum Row.” It’s one of the city’s hot spots, with a promenade, art galleries, shops and tree-lined paths. The adults rent Segways and the kids rent bikes, and we ride through the parks and paths connecting the Israel Museum, Bloomfield Science Museum and Bible Lands Museum to the new National Library, Knesset, Jerusalem Bird Observatory, Supreme Court and Bank of Israel building.
Using our one-pass “family” card, we can enter whichever museum we choose.
After an enjoyable visit in the area, we use our iPads with free Jerusalem Wi-Fi to choose our next destination; we opt to head toward the Old City, with a few stops along the way. We walk past the Museum of Cinema in Cinema City, deciding to put that on our list for the next trip. Passing through Mahaneh Yehuda, we see lively shopkeepers captivating groups of tourists on tasting tours, local musicians entertaining the crowds and locals shopping for their weekly fresh produce.
After a quick snack of flavored halva for the kids, we jump on the light rail and take it to Jaffa Road in the center of town. This has become a city cultural hub, with coffee shops, theaters, art galleries and street fairs – another place to add to our list for our next visit.
We head down to the thriving Mamilla Mall and with the Old City walls in sight, walk toward Jaffa Gate. We hop on the Old City “tourist train” (a real favorite with the younger generation) and learn about the history of the area and the modern neighborhood. After an exciting interactive tour of the Jewish Quarter, an Armenian art weaving workshop and a tour of the Hurva Synagogue, we head to the cable car station to take a ride to the First Station complex.
The ride is an attraction in itself and a very efficient form of transportation, taking us from the Old City to the new.
We glide over the Valley of Hinnom, where we can see people rappelling down the cliffs below us.
Arriving at the First Station, we grab a bite to eat and head to the “kids station,” where we ride an old-fashioned carousel and climb up to the top of a rock wall to see an incredible view of much of Jerusalem.
It’s hard to believe, but the day is almost over and the kids are getting tired. We drop them off at home with a babysitter and the adults head to the latest opera at the Sultan’s Pool; the unique location, combining history and modern technology, has been used for Jerusalem’s annual opera season for over five years now. We can hear a variety of languages being spoken in the crowd, and it’s nice to see that the capital has become an international tourist destination.
We have had such a fabulous day together with our friends, but there are still so many more new Jerusalem experiences we want to share with them. Our friends agree to come back during the next school vacation so we can enjoy the Park Jerusalem bike path circling the city, the new Sea Israel Aquarium at the zoo, Gazelle Park, Hansen House cultural events, the YES Planet movie and art complex overlooking the Old City, Teddy Park’s unique fountain and the new Ferris wheel overlooking the city.
Jerusalem is more than just a great family tourist destination. You never know, our friends and their kids may come back to live here in the near future, to be part of the thriving biotech, hi-tech, media, academia or tourism industries.
This is a city where things are happening, and I’m glad to be a part of it! The story you have just read is a glimpse into the future of Jerusalem with Mayor Nir Barkat’s vision. With the help of world-renowned marketing professors Michael Porter (Harvard University) and Richard Florida (University of Toronto), and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, this vision has become a strategic five-year plan known as Jerusalem 2020.
This article is based on an interview conducted with Ilanit Melchior, tourism director of the Jerusalem Development Authority, in which she articulated her vision for Jerusalem as the “tourism anchor” of the State of Israel, and a great family travel destination.
The writer is founder of Fun In Jerusalem (www.funinjerusalem.com); she lives in the capital with her husband and three kids, and loves to inspire family fun. firstname.lastname@example.org