An Architectural Tale (Extract)

Extract from a story in Issue 17, December 8, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here. An Austrian post office, English, Ethiopian and Greek churches, a French hospice, an Italian hospital, a Russian pilgrims' center and a Mameluke arcade - all of these and many other national buildings can be seen in today's Jerusalem, reminders that almost every nation has at one time or another wanted a foothold in the Holy City. Two recent events highlighted the rich fabric of Jerusalem architecture through the ages: a two-day walking tour called "Houses From Within;" and a multimedia presentation, "The Night Spectacular - Jerusalem Lights the Night," at David's Citadel in the Old City until February, 2009. Experiencing architecture up close is not only an aesthetic, but also a physical thing, whether by the sweat of your brow and the cramps in your legs as you traipse through the city streets, or the strain in your neck as you sit within the Citadel's courtyard to experience a jaw-dropping, eye-popping view of ancient and medieval Jerusalem with the aid of the most up-to-date multimedia technology. "Houses from Within," which also runs tours in Tel Aviv ("Architecture for All," TJR, June 23, 2008), is now in its third year. It is a twice-yearly event in both cities, organized by Alon Bin-Nun, a Tel Aviv architect and faculty member at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem. Bin-Nun doesn't mention it in his amply illustrated and informative brochure that was strategically placed throughout the city at supermarkets, cinemas, cafés and the like a week before the event, but there is one item that may not be as crucial as a water bottle and a straw hat on a summer day, but is a great help if you want to get the most out of your tour: a Jerusalem Sabra at your side to lead you through the jumble of Jerusalem streets and alleyways - since it is not a guided tour, but a drop-in - and make certain you see the sites from the native's point of view. There are Sabras, and then there are Sabras. I am referring not to those whose parents came a mere generation ago, but to those whose pedigree includes a long line of ancestors who were born, toiled and died here, the Israeli equivalent of Americans who trace their forebears back to the 1620 passenger list on the "Mayflower." I found my Sabra at the outset of the walking tour by first eavesdropping on a conversation between Shlomo, a 57-year-old fourth-generation Jerusalemite engineer, and third-generation attorney Ilana, also 57, who were cheerfully one-upping each other about where they were born and grew up and which high schools they attended. Names of neighborhoods like Beit Hakerem and Rehavia; high schools like the Gymnasia and L'yada and maternity hospitals like Hadassah and Misgav Ladach filled the air. I introduced myself, announced my American heritage and ignoramus status, and without further ado Ilana took me under her wing. Extract from a story in Issue 17, December 8, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here.