After a long and difficult period, Jerusalem is once again coming alive. The numerous terrorist attacks in the capital scared away some tourists, but the restaurants and cafes are again bustling with business. As Jerusalemites return to their routine lives, tourists are also coming back.One such place is Café Kadosh, run by Itzik Kadosh and his wife Keren, the pastry chef who prepares the scrumptious delicacies on site. The café was founded in 1967 by Meir Kadosh, Itzik’s father, whose dream was to provide Jerusalemites with tasty Hungarian pastries.The Six Day War broke out just after Meir Kadosh opened his café, and he was forced to close it temporarily.As soon as the war ended, Kadosh reopened the café, and it has never closed since. Itzik grew up in the café, and baking was second nature to him, so after returning from a three-year sojourn to South America, he took over management of the café from his father.Keren soon joined the team, and even their newborn baby has spent many hours at the café.Itzik and Keren slowly turned the café into a full-fledged restaurant where you can order breakfast and more all day long.Two of the most interesting neighborhoods outside of the Old City of Jerusalem walls are Mea She’arim and Geula. Just walking around on your own in these haredi neighborhoods is an eye-opening experience. If, however, you prefer going on a guided tour, I recommend joining restaurateur Iris Sherf, who will introduce you to this community by taking visitors on a culinary tour of its restaurants (don’t worry – there’ll be plenty of taste-testing).
If you’ve walked around these streets before, you’ll notice that over the years the tourism industry has not skipped over Mea She’arim and Geula. I still recommend dressing appropriately for the area, which will make you feel more comfortable moving around the shops and restaurants.Start your tour on Yehoshua Street, across from the old Edison Theater, which closed down in 1995. The Edison used to be one of the most popular spots in the city, but unfortunately, haredim set fire to it a number of times since it screened films on Shabbat. The building has since been converted into a domestic residence, although the façade has been left as it was from when it functioned as a cinema.Next, you’ll notice just up the street a bakery called Avihayil, another cool hangout for young Jerusalemites. It’s from the days of old, yet still a great bakery, specializing in pastries, hallot and garlic bread. Everything there is kneaded by hand.As you walk around the neighborhood, pay close attention to notices on the walls – they’ll tell you a lot about the people who live there. For example, one sign near a synagogue instructs people not to hang laundry in the vicinity so as not to interfere with worshipers on their way to prayers. Another sign, situated next to a bunch of bouquets of flowers, says “flower till,” marking a tzedaka box for money for yeshiva students who are busy learning Torah.If you’d like to see what a residential home looks like, pop into the Hornstein courtyard near Shabbat Square (near the Zichron Moshe neighborhood, which was established in 1908 with funds donated by Rabbi Hornstein). On the way there, on Alsheikh Street, you’ll come upon a mikve used to kasher dishes and utensils before they’re used for the first time.If the nosh you had at Avihayil didn’t fill you up, you can stop at Hadar Geula, a deli where you can buy ready-made take-out food. Some of the specialties there include chocolate babka, blintzes, gefilte fish and kugel – in other words, authentic Eastern European delicacies. Just down the street is Shabbat Square, the intersection where Yehezkel and Mea She’arim Streets meet, where many political protests have taken place over the years. If you look up, you’ll see a sign that instructs visitors to wear modest attire when entering the neighborhood.When you walk down Mea She’arim Street, you feel like you’re walking in a completely different world than the Jerusalem that is just a few minutes down the street. Here, the shops, art galleries, restaurants and businesses are all geared towards the haredi community, and you can learn so much about their world by peering inside. In one gallery you will find paintings by Gadi Dadon, and in another, photographs of the haredi world by Ezra Landau, many of which you would be surprised to find in Mea She’arim.
If you come on a Thursday or Friday, make sure to stop in at Landner Bakery at 10 Leib Dayan Street, where you will find the most divine rolls and hallot, baked in an old brick oven that is heated by an open fire for two hours and retains the heat for up to 24 hours.If you’re already in Jerusalem, you might also stop and check out what all the fuss is at Cinema City.Inside you’ll find Yambakerah, a 450-square-meter ice-skating rink that provides fun for the whole family.If you’ve never skated before, instructors on-site are ready to help you take your first steps on the ice.For little ones, there are plastic seals to sit on, making their first time out on the ice just a little easier.Yambakerah will be open during Passover, with special activities and workshops for children. Tour guide Iris Sharf: 054-485-0881, tours last four to five hours and cost NIS 2,000 for five people.Yambakerah: Sunday to Thursday 3 to 11 p.m.; Friday 10 to 3; Saturday night 30 minutes after end of Shabbat to midnight. Extended hours during holidays; cost NIS 40; (02) 547-9400. Open until the end of April.Translated by Hannah Hochner.