Ben Yehuda, Jerusalem, Israel
Eliezer Ben-Yehuda. Ben Yehuda Street, most commonly referred to simply as the midrachov (pedestrian mall), is the heart of Jerusalem’s downtown business district and the axis around which much of its tourist life revolves.
At its best, Ben Yehuda conjures up everything weird and wonderful about Jerusalem; at its worst, you may find yourself wishing for a few less screaming teen girls. Net types should be pleased to discover that the entire street offers free wireless Internet access courtesy of the municipality.
Dozens of mostly indistinguishable gift shops, offering the ubiquitous Hebrew Coca-Cola shirts, Judaica and commemorative knickknacks, line the smoothly paved street, many still sporting the yellowing “Big Discount for Brave Tourist” signs which date back to the dark and empty days of the Al-Aqsa Intifada.
Restaurants tend toward the falafel and ice cream end of things, with only minimal holdouts from the era when Jerusalem residents crowded intimate downtown cafes. And at all times, an eclectic crowd of Jerusalemites and foreigners mill about: street musicians, self-styled prophets, Chabad emissaries behind tefillin (phylactery) tables, frosted-tipped, tight-shirted teenage Israeli peacocks, excitable Anglo girls and boys studying in a post-high school yeshiva, guitar-slinging young Korean Christian choirs singing their missionizing hearts out in a language nobody understands, grim-faced Border Police, beggars, buskers and everyone else.
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