Dreaming of Jerusalem


Jerusalem’s Old Town (Photo: Where Is My Suitcase)

During these special days of Easter and Passover the thoughts, yearnings, and devotions of millions of faithful around the world converge on one of the oldest and holiest of cities: Jerusalem. Special for the world’s three major religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Jerusalem’s walled Old City – or Al-Quds, or the Holy City in Arabic, stretches over less than one square mile and yet is a universe in itself.

No, I haven’t been to Jerusalem. Yet. It definitely is on my to-do list. But this weekend I ventured to connect with Jerusalem somehow, even if just remotely. A good place to start? If you want to transport yourself to a place you’re dreaming about, use the help of a fellow blogger who has already been there. In my case that blogger is a friend at Where Is My Suitcase. I love the photos and this description of roaming around in the Old City:

you hear

whispered stories of the Virgin’s life accompanied by a Bach organ cantata
cries of “Salaam” and “Shalom” and even “Dzien Dobry” as you jostle through the marketplace
and the muezzin’s cries from a minaret mingle with bell ringing and sung Sabbath prayers
discussions about ceramics in Hebrew, babies’ cries, mothers’ murmuring, bees buzzing, birds’ serenades at dawn at your retreat on a Jerusalem hillside

you smell falafel sweat history honey incense apple cake Yemeni fried bread
you taste the dust on your tongue the bowl of fresh falafel the sweat the sweet mint lemonade

you feel

at home

In further search for inspiration, I discovered that the IMAX theater at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is showing Jerusalem 3D. What perfect timing! The movie is really amazingly shot and truly breathtaking on the big screen. If you’re in Washington, don’t miss it. Here is the preview:

Words, sights, music… But there is still one important thing missing to complete the remote travel experience: food! Thanks to a great cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, recommended by Where Is My Suitcase and appropriately titled Jerusalem, I embarked on the culinary journey – in my kitchen. This is how the authors beautifully introduce the genesis of their joint work and the origin of their recipes:

“This book and this journey into the food of Jerusalem form part of a private odyssey. We both grew up in the city, Sami in the Muslim east and Yotam in the Jewish west, but never knew each other. We lived there as children in the 1970s and 1980s and then left in the 1990s, first to Tel Aviv and then to London. Only there did we meet and discover our parallel histories; we became close friends and then business partners. (…)

It is more than twenty years since we both left the city. This is a serious chunk of time, longer than the years we spent living there. Yet we still think of Jerusalem as our home. Not home in the sense of the place you conduct your daily life or constantly return to. In fact, Jerusalem is our home almost against our wills. It is our home because it defines us, whether we like it or not.

The flavors and smells of this city are our mother tongue. We imagine them and dream in them, even though we’ve adopted some new, perhaps more sophisticated languages. They define comfort for us, excitement, joy, serene bliss.”

What a story – and photos of both the food and the city are amazing, too! This is what I picked this time:

  • kohlrabi salad with watercress and mint
  • burnt eggplant with garlic, lemon & pomegranate seeds
  • fish & caper kebabs with burnt eggplant & lemon pickle

Yum! The journey is complete… for now. I’m hoping to actually make it to Jerusalem one day soon. To quote the traditional Jewish conclusion to Passover Seder: “Next Year in Jerusalem!”

Read on:


2 responses »

  1. Thanks for the link! I’m glad you were able to make the trip remotely – I’ve traveled to so many places thanks to you 🙂 I was thinking about Jerusalem these past couple of days – it must be incredible to spend Easter there! I saw the movie in IMAX – it is not super complex but it does bring you very nicely into the multicultural atmosphere of the city.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s