Jerusalem: Places to Explore

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Jewish Quarter

This is at once the Old City's oldest quarter and its newest neighborhood. Abandoned for a generation, the quarter was restored and resettled after the Six-Day War of 1967. The subsequent archaeological excavations exposed artifacts and structures that date back 27 centuries and more. If you have a photographer's eye, get off the main streets and stroll at random. The limestone houses and alleys—often counterpointed with a shock of bougainvillea or palm fronds and ficus trees—offer pleasing compositions.

If you like to people-watch, find a shaded café table and sip a good latte while the world jitterbugs by. The population of the Jewish Quarter is almost entirely religious, roughly split between "modern" Orthodox (devout, but integrated into contemporary Israeli society at every level) and the more traditional ultra-Orthodox (men in black frock coats and black hats, in many ways a community apart). The locals, especially the women, tend to dress very conservatively. Several religious-study institutions attract a transient population of young students, many of them from abroad. Religious Jewish families tend to have lots of kids, and little ones here are given independence at an astonishingly early age. It's quite common to see three- and four-year-olds toddling home from preschool alone or shepherded by a one-year-more-mature brother or sister. And if you see a big group of Israeli soldiers, don't assume the worst. The army maintains a center for its educational tours here, and the recruits are more likely than not boisterously kidding around with each other as they follow their guide. Shopping is good here—especially jewelry and Judaica—and there are decent fast-food options when hunger strikes.

A renewed landmark of the quarter is the high, white-domed Hurva Synagogue. It was built and soon destroyed in the 18th century, rebuilt in the 19th, and blown up when the Jordanian Arab Legion captured the area in the 1948 war. The current building, rededicated in spring 2010, is a faithful reconstruction of its predecessor.

The biblical City of David, just 10 minutes away, is an adventure-filled adjunct to the Jewish Quarter. It’s in the City of David that archaeologists have discovered the real meat of biblical Jerusalem.

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