Walkers in the City

Ha-Meshulash Ha-Yerushalmi: Biographia Urbanit (The Jerusalem Triangle: An Urban Biography)
by David Kroyanker
Keter Books, 456 pp., 178 NIS

Yerushalayim-Mamilla: Ge'ut, Shefel, Ve-Hithadshut (Jerusalem-Mamilla: Prosperity, Decay, and Renewal)
by David Kroyanker
Keter Books, 419 pp., 160 NIS

On my first trip to Jerusalem, during a summer vacation from college, I stayed with relatives in Shikkun Nayot, a planned community for "Anglo-Saxon" immigrants not far from Hebrew University's Givat Ram campus. It was one year after the Six-Day War, and I was enchanted by the Western Wall. To reach the Old City, I would walk up Gaza Road on the southern edge of the Rehavia neighborhood, stronghold of the Ashkenazi intelligentsia. At the top of the road, at the corner of Keren Hayesod Street, was the monumental, neo-Renaissance Terra Sancta College built in 1926, crowned by a statue of the Madonna. After Israeli independence, it was rented to the Hebrew University and, for a time, housed its library. For the walker in Jerusalem, it became a landmark: "To get to downtown, turn left at Terra Sancta and go up King George, till you hit Richie's Pizza."

SchoffmanYaffaHerman Melville came to Jerusalem in 1857, when there was no downtown—the Old City was all there was. He was in a dark winter of the soul, following a string of literary failures, and was not enthralled: "In the emptiness of the lifeless antiquity of Jerusalem," he scrawled in his journal, "the emigrant Jews are like flies that have taken up their abode in a skull." I like to imagine that his contemporary Thoreau would have liked it better, had he ever stood on a green hilltop of Terra Sancta, in the course of a country ramble, savoring the view of Suleiman's magnificent walls. As he wrote in the 1850s in his essay, "Walking":

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About the Author

Stuart Schoffman is a fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute and editor of Havruta: A Journal of Jewish Conversation. His translations from Hebrew include books by A.B. Yehoshua, David Grossman, and Meir Shalev.


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