So I decided to write a blog and share some of
the things I think worth sharing or exposing about the city of Jerusalem,
specifically the old city and places of interest for tourist and locals alike.
But first a few words about me, my name is
Shimon Mizrahi, I’m an Israeli, descendent to Syrian Jewish grandparents that fled
riots/pogroms in Aleppo mid 1930’s, and settled in Jerusalem. I was born in
1974 and raised in Jerusalem, served the Israeli army – IDF – as a combat
engineer (most of my service), studied at the Hebrew university in Jerusalem,
and I’m a tour guide since 2011.
I specialize in Jerusalem, Dead Sea/Masada
area, Sea of Galilee/Galilee and it’s sites (Tiberius, Capernaum, Nazareth,
etc…), the coastal cities (Caesarea, Haifa, Acre…) and the Golan Heights…
Today I’d like to tell you about Jerusalem in a
different angle, some info about sites, food, and other… let’s start:
Jerusalem is a wonderful city, and even though
you won’t be able to see this on Google maps, the city is divided into three
separated zones (I’m talking about the city of Jerusalem as a whole, not the
Old City with its 4 quarters).
East Jerusalem – where mostly X Jordanian,
Israeli green card status holders (Jerusalem residents), Palestinian live, I
know it sounds complicated (and I gauss it is) but at the end of the day they
are the same people, not different groups.
West Jerusalem – where mostly secular Jews
lives (including me), and Ultra-Orthodox/Hassidic Jews that lives in the
Northern parts of the city. There are of course exceptions, like Pisgat Ze’ev,
a secular neighborhood in the Northern part of Jerusalem with a population of
over 50,000 (out of roughly 900,000 in the Jerusalem) and until 1967 the area
was under Jordan (the neighborhood didn’t exist), so officially it’s in East
Jerusalem. Or in the west affluent neighborhoods of Jerusalem like Rehavia,
Nachlaot and the German Colony there’s plenty of Ultra-Orthodox Jews there. But
this split is pretty accurate. Now, most of us have little in common, we don’t
even talk the same language! We speak Hebrew (west side), Arabic (eastside) and
Yiddish (around 70 percent of Yiddish is German words, and 25 percent is
eastern European languages mix, with less than 5 percent Hebrew, I cannot
understand a word from what they say!), we don’t marry each other, we don’t
walk around in the other parts of the city, we dress different, our kids are
going to different schools, have zero social events together, and even have
different gods :-), Mohamad and Allah for the Muslims, the Jewish Hassidic god,
and the Jewish capitalist one a.k.a Benjamin Franklin (I vote for him ;-), you
may think it’s a joke but I can assure you we are (the capitalist ones) are
true believers, we have our own uniforms (all brand names), we walk around with
our smart phones (real devoted believer will go with an IPhone), we don’t know
we’re in a sect and we’re positive we’re right and the rest are wrong (that’s
the first and second characteristic of any sect).
Walking around the city will let you see it all
– the people, the sects, different dressing codes, head covers, air pods,
security uniform, IDF soldiers, the condition of women in the different areas
(that’s very important and can be seeing clearly in the Old City), some things
will pop up to your eyes immediately like how many people in west Jerusalem
Jewish neighborhoods wear glasses (with prescription) vs. in the east side? How
many people wear working jeans? Or putting gel in the hair (among the
youngsters especially)? Other things are less visible like undercover security
escorting the Jewish families home in the Muslim areas.
Other than that I’d like to share my
recommendation for food on every blog and even though this is the first time I
publishing, this shouldn’t be an exception.
Visiting the Old City in Jerusalem with a guide, a travel book, or group tour you should keep extra time (preferably do it as a part of the tour) and go to Hidmi’s Falafel, this is THE best Falafel you’ll ever taste in your life! The Hidmi’s are Palestinians, well known family in Jerusalem, their shop is on a prime location (located on Al Wad St. corner Beit HaBad St.) a minute walk from Damascus gate, and everyone that works there are nice and helpful.
I pretty sure that you had Falafel in your life
and it’s possible that you even had good ones, but this is nothing like you
ever had! This place is the mastered the Falafel, the number one Falafels in
the world! (yes he’s that good). To get that flavor you have to order half a
pita (not full size pita) with extra Tahini and it should be just a little
spicy (‘hafif shata’ in Arabic), you can order the full pita and I did it
plenty of times in my life, but for some reason it doesn’t taste the same like
half pita, I’m not sure why, but 2 half are better than one full pita.
Most of the time the place is packed and the
mentality here is a bit pushy, but be patient and wait for your turn, it’s
worth it. It’s the ultimate street food, vegetarian, full of flavors and taste
Half pita cost 5 Shekel, no tip necessary.
I’d like to add a recipe for a great Falafel, the
texture is airy, exactly how we like it here!
- 1⅓ cups dried chickpeas
- ¼ cup water
- 1 quart of parsley leaves
- ¼ yellow
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 whites egg
- 2 ½ quarts canola oil
- Put the chickpeas in a large bowl, and submerge
in water overnight.
- In your food processor, pulse the parsley a few
times, until it’s chopped. Drain and rinse the chickpeas, then add them along
with the onion, lemon zest, ¼ cup water, flour, salt, baking powder, and
spices. Process until the mixture is all the same color and starting to pull
- Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks with a whisk
or mixer. Fold the whites into the chickpea mixture, and chill for 1 hour.
- Shape the dough into golf-ball-size pieces; it
should be pretty loose but still hold together. Use a slotted spoon to lower
them carefully into the oil, one at a time, and fry each batch for about 4
minutes. After about 1 or 2 minutes, if they’re sticking to the bottom of the
pan, nudge them loose with your spoon. These will look done before they’re
completely cooked through, so be patient and let the crust become a very deep
Enjoy your meal!
See you in the Old City.
You can contact me with questions and notes via
Enjoy your visit,
Shimon Mizrahi – Best Jerusalem Guide
Private tour guide in Israel