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The original 'City on a Hill.'
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It is one of the oldest cities in the world. And one of the most modern. If you stand next to City Hall and look toward Jaffa Gate as the sleek light rail glides by, you are — no joke — gazing upon 3,000 years of human undertaking. It takes your breath away.
It's perfect. Summers are dry and breezy. In winter, it's green. Jerusalemites wander about on summer nights just to inhale the sweet, clean air. In November, we experience a balmy 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
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Jonas Hansel/Flickr Commons
Jerusalem is to Tel Aviv as Boston is to New York; as Geneva is to Zurich. It is old. It is settled. It is educated. It is beautiful. It is cosmopolitan without being in your face about it and you can get almost anywhere on foot.
While you're walking around, stroll through the German Colony, a mini-town built by Templars who loved oriental arches but couldn't give up on steep red tile rooftops. Wander to the Israel Museum, a glistening pearl-white Greek village on a hill, and next door, to the exhilarating Supreme Court, "Israel's finest public building," according to the Grey Lady.
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A masterpiece enclosing a stunner. Jerusalem's clear blue sky, speckled by quickly-moving, low-lying clouds, is the result of the Judean Desert's arid breezes encountering humidity from the Judean Hills. Now imagine gazing at this sky from within a private viewing chamber. You can lie down in James Turrell's "Space that Sees" in the Israel Museum's sculpture garden and do just that.
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Magnificent, opulent and endless. You can spend weeks here, and still not know it at all. You can walk barefoot on Roman paving stones, see Yemenite silversmiths at work; smell coffee roasting, then frankincense, then sage; wonder at the sheer number of different churches; let your hands touch Damascene cloth hand woven out of silk and gold thread; eat the best hummus you'll ever eat; discover Armenian bastirma. Start again tomorrow.
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Observe with awe the fervor on the faces of pilgrims to the Esplanade of the Mosques; the Western Wall; the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, all within meters of each other.
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Not for nothing is the city called Golden Jerusalem.
Menahem Kahana/AFP Getty Images
The Israeli-Palestinian tussle is nothing new. From King David onwards, everyone has desired Jerusalem. It has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times. In no particular order, the city has been part of the neo-Macedonian, Egyptian, Byzantine, Judean, Roman, Hasmonean, Persian, Ottoman, British and Mamluk sultanates, kingdoms or empires. There's got to be something to it, right?
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Without even trying, you find yourself in conversations with high-tech geeks, like the guys who invented video synopsis technology by mistake.
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Have you heard of the record-breaking cookbook, Jerusalem? Look it up.
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You can argue with a merchant over intensities of paprika, eat a fresh brioche and see a lamb slaughtered. And that's at 7 a.m.
You are half an hour from the Judean Hills — one of the best and oldest wine-growing regions on Earth. Drink from the fruit of the local vine.
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On an average day, 800 foreign journalists are stationed in Jerusalem, scrounging for a way to grab tomorrow's headline. You've gotta love the amusing, unending cycle of reporters, diplomats and NGO workers who populate plush Jerusalem watering holes and ritually trash this provincial, exasperating city. It's doubly amusing when, munching on fried calamari at a bar on a Friday night, they whine about the impossibly Orthodox tenor of the town.
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The undulating, copper dunes of the Judean Desert are at your doorstep. Enjoy the signs warning of "dangerous curves!" The Dead Sea, too, which Lot's wife could not bear to leave, and which will clear your mind and keep you buoyant no matter how heavy your thoughts, is less than an hour away. Enjoy the signs to Sodom.
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El Amin is open 24/7 without regard to religion, race or creed. On Yom Kippur, it's open. Throughout Ramadan, it's open. For $1.40, you can grab a steaming hot lachmajun fresh from the stone oven. It's a crisp personal sized spiced-meat pizza without the cheese, and it is impossible to eat only one. For 25 cents, you can indulge in a semolina cookie stuffed with dates, scented with orange blossom water. (For the more restrained, there is whole-wheat and white pita and huge, circular breads that resemble floaty sesame pretzels.)
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Wait long enough, and you'll bump into anyone you've ever wanted to meet.
Noga Tarnopolsky is GlobalPost's senior correspondent for Israel and Palestine based in Jerusalem. Follow her on Twitter: @NTarnopolsky