Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Jerusalem Food Festival

Just after the international Jerusalem marathon successfully wrapped up here in the ancient city of Jerusalem,  the city again welcomed (or I should say, welcomes in the present tense) an exciting, international event. This time, the celebration is a delicious and unprecedented culinary tourism event called the "Old City Flavors Festival". For the first time ever, the gates of the four quarters of the Old City will be opened in the evenings and at night to reveal a wealth of authentic restaurants, music events, ethnic food markets, and arts and crafts fairs and workshops. Supposedly, the Old City is going to "come to life" as it once looked thousands of years ago. 
Interested in attending? The food festival opened its doors in the Old City on Sunday, March 27 and runs through Thursday, March 31, every evening between 6:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. So, if you haven't gone yet, there's still time to get out there!

The Jerusalem Development Authority has suggested that the festival is just one of many recent initiatives on the "Jerusalem agenda" that has attempted to enrich the experience of both tourists and locals in hopes of connecting them to the wonders of Jerusalem. Items on this agenda include not only the Food Festival, Jerusalem Marathon, and upcoming Arts Festival, but also, broad general initiatives include the revitalization of the nightlife scene and increasing the hours of activity in the city. I have commented in recent blogs how I have felt the "modernization" of Jerusalem before me eyes, and I think a large part of it has to do with this active process being carried out by the Jerusalem Development Authority. Of course, the other part just has to do with the natural changes and advances that happen over time.

So, make your way down to the Old City and experience the unique ways of life in the Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Armenian quarters in the nighttime hours. Throughout every evening, seven activity centers – Jaffa Gate, Damascus Gate, Muristan Square, the Hurva Square, the Davidson Center, the Cardo, and the Armenian Quarter Courtyard – will host food and arts and crafts markets and various workshops. At the same time, special meals will be hosted in the restaurants of the Old City. 
Interested in taking some of the classes or tours during the food festival? Cooking classes, given by the staff of the Teamim School of culinary arts, will be held in the Cardo, while wine workshops will be held in the nearby Jerusalem wine shop. In order to round out the experience of festival-goers, jazz concerts will be given on the walls of the Old City, and tours winding between the various quarters, markets and restaurants will be held every evening, including some in English. Check out the festival website for more information: click here.
This festival is a celebration of the city's diversity and cultural richness and is just one of many recent events that have been attempting to further Jerusalem's status as a national and international tourist attraction in recent years. Next up: the "Jerusalem Arts Festival", just around the corner.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Jerusalem Marathon: LIVE

The Jerusalem Marathon passed through our city streets this last weekend on Friday March 25, 2011 (a brisk and cool morning, perfect running weather) and attracted upwards of 10,000 runners from near and far. It was definitely an interesting running track, with the course passing through the ancient sites of Jerusalem, from the government buildings to the Old City and all the way up to Mount Scopus where the Hebrew University of Jerusalem sits. The marathon also took place just days after a fatal bombing befell the city at a site very close to the starting line. The mayor, Nir Barkat, expressed his interest that the marathon continue as planned in an attempt to move forward from the attack. So, all throughout the marathon's 44 km, there were observation units, special patrols, extra security and police deployed helicopters in order to ensure the runners' safety.  Not exactly your typical marathon, to say the least, but unique and original for certain!

Here are the runners ready to go at the starting line...
(see Mayor Nir Barkat below, #2000)

A little bit of a bird's eye view from the starting point just oustide of Gan Sacher Park in central Jerusalem:

And now they're off.....! The Kenyans in the picture below (right) were at the head of the pack throughout the entire run and one of them, Raymond Kipkoechh, 34, would go on to win the race at 2:26:44, very impressive if I might say so myself!


And here is Mayor Barkat and some others runners in the middle of the race, running throughout some of Jerusalem's holy sites (passing by the Old City, below):



Hours later, here they are at the finish line (for the half marathon)! Mayor Barkat and his accompanying runners completed the half marathon well under two hours. Only about 1,100 runners did the entire 44 km (26.2 marathon).

Curious to see the rest of the marathon runners who were attempting the full battle, we perched ourselves outside an open coffee shop to catch a glimpse of the stellar athletes. Of course, the Kenyans were still at the head of the pack, coming through far before anyone else:





I've always looked up to marathon runners for the amazing feat they are able to complete. I prefer, however, to watch from the sidelines or to stick with something simple, i.e. a 10K! The countdown is on now for Jerusalem's next annual marathon: March 16, 2012, so mark it on your calendars, and if you're interested in running the race, it's a good excuse to get out here and to be our guest!

Runners mid-stride in the Jerusalem marathon
Jerusalem from the Mount Scopus leg of the marathon
Beautiful views of Jerusalem throughout the running track

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Spring Awakening

Spring is in the air! And flowers are blooming right and left as the sun peeks out after a long, rainy and cold winter. You have to remember that Jerusalem is in the mountains so it remains the coolest climate in all of Israel.





 (Images via Dan B. D., Israel)

At this time of year, people flock to the charming village of Ein Karem, which is within Jerusalem's borders, to see the almond trees in full bloom.




These finds of are just from a google search, but I had to include them here since they are so beautiful. I even made one of them the new backdrop on my computer! The 2nd one looks picture perfect for a wedding to take place under. That's sort of what I had in mind for my own wedding but that many flowers would've taken up the entire wedding budget! :)