Teddy Kollek Park outside the Old City of Jerusalem. (Leah Bowman) (Leah Bowman)
Jerusalem recreation
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Jerusalem is likely to have more holy, historic and meaningful sites per square meter than any other place in the world. In fact, even the places that seem on the surface to be simply recreational have deeper meaning as well.

On a hot summer day, what could be more refreshing than a run through a splash pad? Teddy Kollek Park, located just outside Jaffa Gate, is a great (and free) addition to any tour of the Old City of Jerusalem for all ages. Visitors enjoy the cool, chlorinated water, the view of the ancient walls, and the stories posted throughout the park about Teddy Kollek, who was the mayor of Jerusalem from 1965 to 1993.

What is amazing is that the location of this fountain is near where water was channeled in and out of Jerusalem in ancient times. This summer, the fountain is on at 10, 12, 2, and 4 p.m. for half an hour, and at 8, 9 and 10 p.m. with lights and music, in addition to the water.

There is so much renewal going on in Israel today. Roads are being improved, sites updated, and historic buildings renovated for new purposes. One of these places is HaTachana HaRishona (The First Station), referring to the first station on the train line that ran from Jerusalem to Jaffa starting in 1892. This train station and the line were extremely important for connecting Jerusalem to its port city and even pre-date the founding of Tel Aviv (1909). Before the establishment of the train line, it took at least 15 hours to travel from Jaffa to Jerusalem. The train cut travel time by a third and enabled easier transport of goods between the cities. Today, visitors may enjoy the variety of restaurants and shops at the renewed site. The train track has been turned into a bike and walking path, and they have bicycles of all different shapes and styles to rent.

While a movie theater/mall may not seem like the most meaningful place to visit in Jerusalem, even Cinema City has more of a story than would be expected. For many years, there was a plan to have the Knesset (Israeli Parliament), Supreme Court, and executive offices all in one line in the Government Quarter in Jerusalem. It took 18 years since the establishment of the State of Israel, and with the help of the philanthropic Rothschild family, to build the Knesset, which opened in 1966. It took another 26 years to build the Supreme Court in 1992. The land that was reserved for the Prime Minister’s Office and other bureaus were used instead for the Cinema City Mall! What a modest country, where the Prime Minister’s Office is in a tired old building (as well as his official residence).

At Cinema City, visitors enjoy larger-than-life movie characters and super-high-tech decorations of the mall/theater.

Keep in mind that Israel is a “start-up country” that has gone through ongoing wars and terror. It’s truly a miracle.

By: Leah Bowman
(The author, a licensed tour guide, leads inspiring tours throughout Israel, including child-friendly and bible tours. Check out her website and blog page.)

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