Last summer I noticed that a blogger I enjoy reading, Chasing Cheerios, was organizing a kid cultural exchange. I always thought these sounded like fun and my daughter was rather into writing at the time, so I asked to join and also passed it on to some other locals who might be interested in doing something like that. I thought I would share what we sent. The correspondence was between kids ranging in ages between 1.5 and 5 representing Australia, France, US and Israel. So these posts are really for kids rather than their parents and for kids who don’t really know alot about Israel.
This is the first part of the letter we sent:
Dear S, R, S, I and E,
This is not going to be a comprehensive letter about where we live. We are going to try and tell you about the types of things that kids might like to know about where we live and some of the things locals might know that you wouldn’t get in a guide- We will start though with a few dry facts. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Israel is a rather small country. Australia, France and even North Carolina are all much bigger! The national religion is Judaism which means that Jewish holidays are national holidays rather than Christmas or Easter. Hebrew and Arabic are the official languages and will appear on street signs (along with English) and official documentation. However, you will hear many languages on the street. We hear English, French, Russian, Amharic (spoken in Ethiopia,) German on an almost daily basis spoken by residents and tourists and sometimes other languages as well.
Israel has a Mediterranean climate. We basically have two types of weather- hot and cold although on rare occasions (like this year,) Jerusalem will get snow. When it does pretty much everything gets canceled. Jerusalem is the political center and spiritual center of the country. The Knesset (parliment), Supreme Court, Prime Minister and Presidents residents and Chief Rabbinate are all located here. It also is a holy city for Jews, Christians and Moslems. Jerusalem is important to many religions and religion does play an important part of the city. You can see religious leaders of many faiths walking around the city, you can hear prayers of various faiths in the city on a day to day basis.
Jerusalem is a very old city. Today the “old city” and newer parts are distinguished by the walls built by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1538 that surround the old part.
Given its age, we live in a historic city. Renovations often uncover archeological finds. We pass an ancient watch tower on our way home from school and there is an ancient tomb several blocks away. You can visit the Dead Sea Scrolls and other finds at the Israel museum. Our building was built during the British Mandate in the Bauhaus style. Within walking distance (although not around the corner) is the Knesset, Supreme Court, Shuk (ourdoor market) Israel Museum, Bible Lands Museum, National Library, Museum of Islamic Art, a bird ringing center, several galleries, two monestaries, a baptist church, about 20 synagogues and several Yeshivot (houses of learning). Also many shops and restaurants and it is also walking distance to the old city, wailing wall and Al Aqsa Mosque.
Next time: Things you may or may not know about Israel and Jerusalem