Jewish Journeys in Jerusalem A Tourist's Guide by Jay Levinson, Key Publishing House Inc 2010. 200 pages.
The publisher's website.
There must be hundreds of guide books of Jerusalem. Most of them will focus on the multi-cultural aspect of the city, which is holy to the Christians, Moslems and the Jews. Jewish Journeys in Jerusalem is exclusively about the Jewish sites in the city. As Levinson writes in his introduction:
The main purpose of the book is to focus on the Jewish aspects of the city and provide background for a Jewish understanding.
The book opens with a historic timetable of Jerusalem events starting with 1000 BCE when David conquered the city and going right up to Israel independence and the Six Day War. It can be argued that when the light rail is finally working it will warrant a place on this Jerusalem timeline.
This section continues with general information, and answers some questions that many of us have such as the origin of the rule requiring all buildings to have the Jerusalem Stone facing, where some of the street names came from and whose idea it was to post the street names in Armenian tile.
There is a large section of useful information for all tourists like emergency numbers and where to find government tourist offices, And then there is information specifically for the Observant tourists such as where to find a mikva (mens and womens), the "scoop" on the eruv, and Jerusalem cemeteries and how to get there by bus.
And only in Jerusalem I am sure, since an Obsservant Jew would not be carrying money on the Shabbat, you can take the first #1 bus from the Old City after Shabbat and pay on Sunday. Just pay on any bus, on the honor system. Welcome to Jerusalem.
Something you won't see in most guide books is the section on halachot pertaining to the land of Israel. If you have lived here long enough you are probably aware of these mitzvot but tourists may not be sensitive to these and this book provides a nice explanation.
There is a very complete section on the area of the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter of the Old City including references to the Mishna. Levinson takes us to places that we might not know, like .Batei Galicia - a neighborhood in the Moslem quarter where Jews from Galicia lived. in the mid-nineteenth century. This has been restored and now houses a small yeshiva where the students wear tefillin all day. Levinson also takes us to commonly visited places in the Rova such as the Burnt House, where his religious sensibility is offended by the depiction of the corrupt cohanim during the time of the beit hamikdash - though this is well documented. While in the Old City we also get information on the prominent shuls in the Rova. There are many other neighborhood shuls that are also of interest but they are not mentioned. I hope we can look forward to more information on shuls in his next book.
Levinson also takes us on a tour of important sites in the the new city. Squeezed between the Begin Heritage Center and Bezalel Academy, is a section on the Belze Torah Center, the largest synagogue in the world, says Levinson, seating 5,500 people (and an additional 300 outside at the windows on Yom Tov). I have always thought that the Dohany in Budapest held that title but the Hungarian synagogue certainly cannot boast 5,000 occupied seats, especially after the war.
Levinson does point out some of the lesser known museums and collections in Jerusalem, best visited by prior arrangement. Among those are the Psalms museum, an art gallery housing paintings inspired by the Psalms, adjacent to the Rav Kook house on Rav Kook street. Not mentioned is the Little Jerusalem restaurant (with a teudat kashrut) next to this gallery, and a good place to stop when visiting this part of the city. Another place not commonly found in a Jerusalem guidebook is the Rebbe's Museum, a Judaica collection in the home of Mordecai Yisrael.
All told, Jewish Journeys in Jerusalem is a valuable addition to the collection of guide books on Jerusalem. This would be appropriate in any religious library and would make a good gift for the Observant tourist to Jerusalem. I would also recommend this book to any Jerusalem guide, who I am sure will find places that they can add to their itinerary.
15 pgs of color plates. Black and White photos.
Index but no bibliography. None of the information is referenced with footnotes, an oversight for a book that makes some broad statements.
About the Author
Jay Levinson, after retiring from the Israel Police, has published many books and articles about his numerous travels. He has written extensively about Jewish sites and history, and is well acquainted with Jerusalem where he has lived for over 25 years. Levinson holds a Ph.D in Near Eastern Studies from New York University and is currently an adjunct professor at John Jay College.
This book is available at:
Gur Arieh Bookstore,
Yoel Solomon St 8,
Books can be ordered from eLuna.co, for delivery in Israel only.