Jerusalem

Immerse yourself in Jerusalem. Of course, you can see the primary sights in a couple of days—some visitors claim to have done it in less—but don't short-change yourself if you can help it. Take time to wander where the spirit takes you, to linger longer over a snack and people-watch, to follow the late Hebrew poet, Yehuda Amichai, "in the evening into the Old City / and . . . emerge from it pockets stuffed with images / and metaphors and well-constructed parables. . . ." The poet struggled for breath in an atmosphere "saturated with prayers and dreams"; but the city's baggage of history and religion doesn't have to weigh you down. Decompress in the markets and eateries of the Old City, and the jewelry and art stores, coffee shops, and pubs of the New.

The city is built on a series of hills, part of the country's north–south watershed. To the east, the Judean Desert tumbles down to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth, less than an hour's drive away. The main highway to the west winds down through the pine-covered Judean Hills toward the international airport and Tel Aviv. North and south of the city—Samaria and Judea, respectively—is what is known today as the West Bank. Since 1967, this contested area has been administered largely by Israel, though the major concentrations of Arab population are currently under autonomous Palestinian control.

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