'Jerusalem’s Becoming:' A City’s Emergence As An Innovative Tech Hub And Hotbed For Gastronomic Excellence

Mehane Yehuda Market
Mehane Yehuda Market

“Vibrant. Sexy. Innovative.” These words are not the language one would expect to use to characterize Jerusalem— the third holiest, one of the oldest, and most contested cities on earth; but this is how Ilanit Melchior, tourism director for the Jerusalem Development Authority, chooses to describe her locale.

Hidden beneath ancient history, unmatched complexity, and ethnic tension is a destination teeming with culture, creativity, and culinary sophistication. Avi Nesher, acclaimed Israeli filmmaker, and director says it best; “It’s a place full of passion and where great art is created.”

“Jerusalem is a place full of passion and where great art is created.” —Avi Nesher

This statement proves to be true by the tech startup wave taking over; not Tel Aviv, but the capital of Israel. Time Magazine recently named Jerusalem one of The Top 5 Emerging Tech Hubs’ in the world. Managing partner at Jerusalem Venture Partners, Gadi Tirosh, says, "Jerusalem is the perfect place for creating ‘the next big thing.’ It is a city brimming with contradictions; and where there are contradictions, there is turmoil; and where there is turmoil; there is creativity. And creativity is essential for high-tech success."

"Jerusalem is the perfect place for creating ‘the next big thing.’ It is a city brimming with contradictions; and where there are contradictions, there is turmoil; and where there is turmoil; there is creativity.” —Gadi Tirosh

Jerusalem knows turmoil and challenge, but its residents believe that this is why the old is facing an emergence of the new. Through the development of world class restaurants, talented artistry, and brilliant minds, Jerusalem is crafting and exploring an untrodden chapter amidst a place thick with history and riddled with stereotypes.

When you visit the city, your expectations of what you thought it would be are shattered. It’s a place more complicated than a tourist can understand in a few days visit; a place layered with personality. Part fascinating, part intimidating.

A visitor can never be bored in Jerusalem, but to visit, you must invest. You must be curious. You must look deeper than what you have heard in news coverage and witnessed from international opinion. You must open your mind and free your prejudices.

No one, not even Ilanit Melchior— who hopes to see 10 million visitors participate in Jerusalem's richness and vibrant culture this year— are ignoring the realities of Jerusalem’s past and present, but to the movers-and-shakers of this Middle East metropolis, ‘reality’ is its nucleus of strength and catalyst for progress.

The truth of living in the space of scarcity or challenge is opportunity— a driver for innovation. Facing 'challenge' is one of the many unique undercurrents fueling Jerusalem’s emergence. The people who live, work and exist in Jerusalem develop a unique nature due to the uniqueness of the city. But, when it is all said and done, people are people. They go to work. They hug their kids. They drink their beer. “At the end of the day, Jerusalem is a place where people live,” Nesher muses. “Jerusalem is a metaphor. A fantasy. A dream. A nightmare. It’s many, many things, but to the people who live here, it’s a place to buy groceries.”

“Jerusalem is a metaphor. A fantasy. A dream. A nightmare. It’s many, many things, but to the people who live here, it’s a place to buy groceries.”—Avi Nesher

For the culinary savant, buying groceries and eating in Jerusalem transforms an ordinary municipality into an enlightened retreat. The renowned Mehane Yehuda Market, or ‘The Shuk,’ gathers tourists and locals in an open-air urban setting; inviting one to taste what the city’s culinary scene has to offer. When night falls, the food stalls, vendors, and feel of the market transforms from its daytime produce and spice traders to craft beer establishments, late night bites, and a deluge of young and attractive Jerusalemites. The work of street artist Solomon Souza is on full display as one walks past sleeping businesses, while the music of western pop artists escapes from the corner of a tucked away bar. The scene is full of life, and unlike what you might initially expect out of Jerusalem; this is 'Jerusalem’s becoming.’ Jerusalem is a city experiencing a vibrant revival of gastronomy, art, and culture.

This is 'Jerusalem’s becoming.’ It's a city experiencing a vibrant revival of gastronomy, art, and culture.The Flight Attendant Life

The Shuk’ has played a vital role in shaping Jerusalem, as well as acting as a culinary crux for the likes of the celebrity chefs of Machneyuda restaurant. These talented culinary artists have created a world-class dining experience that rivals the gastronomic scene of cities like New York, London, and Rome. Machneyuda is not ‘just’ a place to enjoy delicious fresh fare, but a way to plunge into cuisines as an art form and dining as a dance. If you are lucky to visit during a “Dessert Show,” you will understand what is meant by a 'dance.’

Nothing in Jerusalem is 'just' what it seems. Jerusalem is too profound and rich for superficial observation. Karen Brunwasser, deputy director of Jerusalem Season of Culture, moved from Philadelphia to Jerusalem over fifteen years ago; after falling in love with the way of life, the city, and its people. “In Jerusalem, you can traverse the world through art and culture,” Karen raves. For the cultural aficionado, Jerusalem generously offers a multifaceted surprise of life beneath its sometimes tumultuous surface.

“In Jerusalem, you can traverse the world through art and culture.”— Karen Brunwasser
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