Observation:  The streets of Jerusalem

I wanted to try something a little different this week. I sat in a few different squares in downtown Jerusalem and watched people.  What I saw and heard was a symphony.


Panorama of Zion Square


I saw a Korean Catholic couple, a priest and a nun, walking on Jaffa Street completely engrossed in conversation.  I wondered if they hadn’t taken vows, would they be dating?  Perhaps they were so happy simply because they were here in the holy city of Jerusalem.

The Chorus

The gaggles of girls, who appear to be religious and often roam in groups of five, are a phenomenon.  They tend to have long, dark, curly hair, skirts that come down to their knees, and blouses that cover their shoulders.  The phrase “same, same, but different” comes to mind.

Two-Part Harmony

Guys travel in pairs.  They tend to complement one another.  A tall guy has a short friend.  A guy with long hair will have a friend with a buzz cut.


I saw many couples on the street.  Older ones came to town together to run errands.  Young couples – either just friends or hoping for more – came to sit together under a tree for an hour.  The young religious marrieds have their own formula.  They walk along with what appears to be their first child in a stroller and it’s always the dad pushing it.  The mom sometimes seems nervous about it, but she’s genuinely happy that he’s taking a role.



There are a lot of street sweepers in Jerusalem because the municipality is committed to keeping the streets clean.  They are dressed in blue coveralls and always wear yellow Day-Glo vests. They push around a green plastic garbage bin that is about 4 feet tall and work with a broom and long-handled dustpan.

This particular street sweeper caught my eye, I think, because of his rimless glasses.  He wore his collar stylishly up, was unshaven (I don’t know if it was scruff for style or just the 24-hour beard cycle), and the hair on his head matched the length of his beard.  He was intensely conscientious in his work, with quick and purposeful movements, but appeared to be deep in thought.  I wondered if after his morning shift cleaning streets he went home to write his manifesto, “On the Social Aspects of the Dirtiness of the Street,” or a play called “To Clean or Not to Clean,” or something cheerful like “The Unbearable Lightness of Cigarette Butts.”

Electric Guitar

Another often-seen pair are the security forces on a motorcycle.  It was explained to me once that the front guy is the driver and the guy on the back is the shooter, which allows them to act quickly in case of an emergency.  They ride on powerful BMW motorcycles with noise-reducing mufflers and wear black helmets, black motorcycle jackets, and black cargo pants (which seems crazy in the 90+ degree heat).

The pair that I saw were riding back and forth on Jaffa Street.  They were chatting through the headsets in their helmets, but keeping an eye on everything around them.  The guy in front was focused on driving and the guy in back had a rifle slung across his chest and visible in the back was a silver pistol tucked into his waistband.  Later, I saw them stop for lunch at a burger place, because of course that’s what they would eat.

And so many more

The albino girl, the street musician, the Russian tourist chatting up a bottle-blond who also happened to speak Russian, the wanna-be punk who looked like he probably played bass in a band that played small venues, the odd, smiley religious guy who was hot strolling down the street so he rolled up his pant legs above his knees to show off scrawny white legs, or the worker setting up the stalls for the evening market who measured the spaces down to the last inch.

Jerusalem is a symphony, we just have take a moment to listen.