Jaffa Road. One of the oldest and longest major streets in Jerusalem. Originally formed by camel caravans and later traveled by horse and carriage, it is now a primarily pedestrian street replete with shops, restaurants and tourist spots. It is one of the main arteries of West Jerusalem today with the city’s relatively new light-rail system spanning its entirety. Visitors to Jerusalem will find the Old City with ease by following Jaffa Road from the bus station or the Tel Aviv highway from the west. Almost as old as Jerusalem itself, Jaffa Road has many stories to share.
Walking down Jaffa Road, one will witness a diverse group of people. Secular Jews, European tourists, Muslims, Ethiopian Jews, Christians, Arab Israelis, Armenians, Latin American tourists, American Birthright students, Ultra-Orthodox Jews and others stroll around. People sit at outdoor cafés and chat with friends. Others hang out at the tram stop and share videos on their phones. It seems that despite the struggles this road has witnessed in its past, everyone is at peace with one another. Some live here and others have come to learn about Jerusalem’s rich history. In spite of their differences, everyone here has one thing in common: an appreciation for this beautiful city and its history.
Throughout my brief stay in Jerusalem, I stroll up and down Jaffa Road, listening to and sometimes understanding bits and pieces of conversations in Hebrew, Arabic, English, Spanish, German and other languages. I occasionally stop to look inside shops selling shoes and clothing and consider buying a cute pair of sporty brown ankle boots, but eventually decide against it due to lack of space in my luggage.
I stay off to the right when I hear the gentle hum of the tram’s motor as it approaches the next station. A few women wearing colorful hijabs hop off and head for a stroll. Men dressed in black wearing twisted payot, or curls that extend down the side of their faces, enter the tram with briefcases, heading home after a long day.
As I head back to my hostel, I hear a group of American Birthright students chatting about their visit to the Masada Desert Fortress. I catch a tidbit of an Argentinian family talking about their walk along the Vía Dolorosa, the path that Jesus Christ is said to have walked on his way to crucifixion.
Jaffa Road is the storyteller, sharing with us many of the stories of Jerusalem-both new and old.