I've lived in three major cities now: Los Angeles, Singapore, and Jerusalem. Every city has it's own amazing qualities!
This past semester in Jerusalem has been nothing short of incredible. Here's what I'll truly miss:
1. The Old-City Shopkeepers That Treat You Like Family
Of course, there are the shopkeepers that try to charge you more than you should (or sweet talk you into buying things you don't really need), but of the handful, there were a select few that I came to love and trust. Every time I stopped in their shops in the Old City, they would offer me my favorite "chai with mint" and share with me stories of their past adventures. Their shops always felt inviting and cozy - you are always welcomed to stay as long as you want!
2. Flexible Teachers
The Middle Eastern professors I had all were top-notch academics; however, they seemed to all care more about their students' practical application and active engagement in the subject rather than the rote memorization of it. I loved the balance between the academic rigor and the flexibility/spontaneity of their teaching and grading style. I'm not sure if this is applicable to the Middle Eastern education system in general, but this is just what I encountered in my experience. I felt like I learned more and really retained all of what I was taught in class because I actually enjoyed learning.
3. History is Everywhere
When I say everywhere, I mean everywhere. We had an active archaeological dig in our university's backyard. I lived approximately 2 minutes away from the Old City Wall which has parts of it dating back as early as 3,000 years ago. There are ancient tunnels in the city that go back to 4,000 years ago. The City is almost like living in a museum except you don't just get to see history from behind glass casing - you get to tangibly interact with all parts of it.
4. Good food, good juice, good coffee (10 shekels - $3.80 - and under)
If you know where to go, you can get some of the best and freshest street food for great prices. My favorite meal was falafel (pictured below) that cost only 8 shekels from Damascus Gate paired with my favorite drink of freshly squeezed pomegranate that cost only 10 shekels from the Christian Quarter of the City.
5. The Bustling City Rests from Friday Sundown to Saturday Sundown
The Jewish people observe Shabbat, meaning they rest from all work for one day out of the week. While this means most shops are closed, the fact that the whole city stops to take a break each week is really countercultural and very refreshing to take part in. You learn that rest is important and should be made a priority.
Whether it's Hebrew, English, or Arabic you are hearing on the street, or seeing tourists from all over the world congregate in the Old City, diversity is unavoidable. You suddenly become aware of a wide variety of cultural customs and lifestyles that are unique, having been passed down dozens of generations.
7. It's Not All Desert and Sand Folks!
Contrary to what many assume - Jerusalem is not a historic city in the middle of the desert where everything is sandy and ancient. On the contrary, Jerusalem, for the most part, is a modern city with an incredible railway and bus system, lively night markets, and cosmopolitan shopping malls. There are a ton of chic cafes, coffee shops, museums, and galleries to peruse too! The city is beautiful, clean, and well-maintained (with plenty of green foliage!)
To learn more about the semester abroad program in Jerusalem I took part in, visit here: https://www.juc.edu