Jerusalem Walls
Photo: Ron Peled

The new Jerusalem

Op-ed: Israel’s capital has changed its face in past decade, now attracts young people and artists

Nine years ago I arrived in Jerusalem, toward the end of the period of the terror attacks. When for the first time some student asked me to go out in the evening, I asked him with all seriousness if this meant we needed to travel to Tel Aviv, because I found it difficult to believe that there are bars in this dark and heavy city, which was clouded over by the smell of terror attacks, fear and desolation.


But very quickly I discovered another side, and essentially I decided to join an impressive group of young people who decided there was enough weeping over the city and one needs to do something on his own.


For almost nine years I did not dare say what I am prepared to say today, and even with more than a little confidence. But Jerusalem changed its face.


After years of steep decline in the number of children entering first grade in the city’s state schools – for the first time there is a gradual rise in the numbers. The number of tourists that entered the city last year was almost double the number in the year I arrived in Jerusalem. And even though it is commonly said say there is no work in Jerusalem – the number of new businesses opening in the city every year just continues to grow.


But enough. Real revolutions don’t happen in numbers, but in personal stories and small changes. Like those which ultimately make the whole difference.


Two years ago I talked with Karen, my girl friend from the Finance Ministry, who left the city and swore she would never return, because there is nowhere to have a good time here and how will she find a husband like that. Six months ago she received a serious promotion to a challenging government post and she decided overnight to return to live in Jerusalem.


Different values

Five years ago I spoke with Ben and Ayal, two genuine idealists who established a secular, mission-oriented community in Kiryat Yovel, and they explained to me that they are not certain they can continue to live in Jerusalem when the time comes for children and mortgages – because it is expensive here and the city is becoming ultra-orthodox. Four months ago the two of them purchased apartments on Zionim St. in Jerusalem, together with three other couples from their community, and the six children that already accumulated there.


A month ago an acquaintance phoned me, a well known Tel Aviv artist, and said that he wants to move to Jerusalem because he feels that the next big thing is happening there. I invited him to a half-day in Jerusalem, and at night I received an email from him that said he was completely taken by the city’s magic and asked where to sign.


Some two years ago I went out with a Tel Aviv fellow, over whom I had to employ a great deal of my personal charm to convince him to meet me in Jerusalem. Two weeks ago he told me that he is looking for an apartment in the city’s Rehavia neighborhood, because he is fed up with Tel Aviv and feels that here there is a different universe of values in Jerusalem.


The trend in Jerusalem like everything in Jerusalem does not appear like any other trend in the world. It is special, it is avant-garde, and it attracts people who choose to live against the general flow. This trend today sweeps up the best of the activists, people who are looking for inspiration and those for whom the joy of creating motivates their lives.


Jerusalem today also learned to serve very well bourgeois couples with two children and a dog, who dream of urban community life (yes, there is such a thing, and only Jerusalem can invent it,) and look for a nice place where some measure of values remains.


This is indeed the time to move to Jerusalem, before such move won’t be so special…


Elisheva Mazya is director Jerusalem’s New Spirit movement



פרסום ראשון: 05.20.12, 20:21
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