You might expect Jerusalem’s modern section to feel quite different from the Old City, what with the roughly 5,000-year age gap between the two. But modern Jerusalem is actually quite traditional in many places, or at least kind of removed from the present day – like a distillation of Jewish culture, independent of any one period in time. We stayed with friends of my grandparents in Zichron Yosef, whose houses could have easily been much older than their 90 or 100, what with their courtyards and stone exteriors. We greeted sleeping cats in street-side gardens and peeked into an Orthodox service and attended a family…

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I know it might sound strange, at first, to describe Jerusalem’s Old City as peaceful. We’re used to hearing it described as a religious battleground, which it also is. But the fact that Jews, Christians, and Muslims, united or divided into clashing factions of their own, continue to fight over it and over what belongs to whom – the Dome of the Rock, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – does not make this a violent place, only a place dogged by violence. To the contrary, the neighborhood has an aura of warmth, of hope. Isn’t hope a synonym for faith, after…

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Jerusalem’s Old City is known for miracles that happened thousands of years ago, but a different, more modern type of magic also settles over this neighborhood each year. Not to be confused with Hanukkah, called the Festival of Lights, the nocturnal Festival of Light is an enchanting event that makes you feel like a wonderstruck child again, because it makes the world feel new and surprising and alive again. Madcap musicians dressed like a glow-in-the-dark Tweedlee and Tweedledum play trumpet and snare drum, mesmerizing viewers; lights shoot over pathways, shimmer on the city walls, turn from cyan to violet to…

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