In and Around Jerusalem for Everyone really is for everyone, whether you’re reading it on the trail or on your couch.
This comprehensive and attractive guidebook was compiled by semi-retired pediatric endocrinologist Arnold Slyper, originally from the UK, who’s been hiking the Land avidly since his aliyah about seven years ago from Allentown, Pennsylvania.
The book contains complete information on 20 places to explore on foot in Jerusalem and 23 more within a 75-minute drive of the capital city.
Most of the routes chosen are conveniently circular. Each is accompanied by a panel of details such as duration, distance, difficulty, admission hours and fees (if any), public transportation and driving/parking directions, even Waze and Moovit destination names to type in.
Easy-to-follow numbered maps and beautiful photos taken by the author are included, along with descriptions of nearby attractions, such as museums, workshops and amusement parks, often with QR codes.
A section on outdoor swimming pools – natural and manmade – in the Jerusalem area is helpful for planning an after-hike cool-down in summer. There is also a list of nine walks accessible for wheelchairs and/or strollers, such as the zoo, botanical gardens and Temple Mount.
What makes this book fascinating reading – even for non-walkers – are essays on the historic, biblical and geographic significance of each area mentioned. A timeline helps put in perspective the long history of this terrain. For example, Slyper introduces a walking tour of the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Zichron Moshe and Mea She’arim with a two-page overview titled “What distinguishes haredim from other religious Jews?” Each stop along the way contains interesting comments on everything from its architecture to the flavor of ultra-Orthodoxy typical to its residents.
The Sataf hike is prefaced by one essay on olives and olive oil, and another on the remnants of ancient agricultural practices still evident in this forest outside Jerusalem.
And if you read Slyper’s two-and-a-half-page encapsulation of the 1948 War of Independence before you visit Castel National Park, you’ll get more out of that tour.
By way of walking and hiking Jerusalem’s neighborhoods and historic/religious sites – Jewish, Christian and Muslim – you’ll learn about personalities such as King David, Herod the Great, Omar ibn al-Khattab, Rabbi A.Y. Kook, Sir Moses Montefiore, Eliezer Ben Yehuda, Dr. Abraham and Anna Ticho and Teddy Kollek.
You’ll learn more than you ever knew before about places that are familiar, such as Givat Ram (I found out that Ram is an acronym for rikuz mefakdim, gathering of commanders); and you will be introduced to some places you likely never heard of, such the cave formations in Nahal Halilim (so named because the wind blowing through these caves near Mevaseret Zion sounds like a flute, and the cave openings resemble the holes of a flute).
A book so chock full of facts and step-by-step directions and instructions could well have been ponderous rather than engaging. Fortunately, Slyper turned to his Ma’aleh Adumim neighbor, book designer Ben Herskowitz, to package his all-encompassing guide in a colorful, organized and fun-to-read format.
In and Around Jerusalem for Everyone has been received enthusiastically by tour guides (one described it as “comprehensive, artistic, functional, like no other single book I have seen”) and is available on Amazon and in Jerusalem bookstores including Pomeranz Booksellers, Moriah Books & Judaica, Dani Books, Holzer Books, Katamon Books and Rehavia Bookstore.
The occasional typo and misplaced or missing apostrophe is quite forgivable as this is a guidebook rather than literature, and those errors could easily be remedied in an updated edition – which I assume will be necessary at regular intervals because information such as bus routes and admission hours is subject to change.
If indeed a second edition is contemplated, I would make two suggestions to enhance the usability of In and Around Jerusalem for Everyone on the go: first, to reduce its heft as much as possible; and second, to bind it with wire or a similar binding that would enable the book to open flat and be held in one hand by the hiker.
It is evident that Slyper invested countless hours into gathering the many details that make this book such an extraordinary resource. He relates that he has been exploring greater Jerusalem since the day he and his wife stepped off the plane as new Israeli citizens on December 24, 2013.
It wasn’t long before he created a website, inandaroundjerusalem.com, and a related Facebook group. He also formed a free monthly hiking club that’s proved quite popular and has continued, when and where possible, during the pandemic.
In and Around Jerusalem makes for fascinating reading even in lockdown, but here’s hoping the spring will bring many opportunities to start using it on location.
In and Around Jerusalem for Everyone
By Arnold Slyper
310 pages; $29.95