Journey to the Old City and Back

No matter what the political situation, there’s only so long we can go without humous (hummus) from Lina’s and knafeh from al-Jafar. Lured by a benevolent sky, today my husband and I decided on an excursion to the Old City. It’s a drive of about ten minutes on a Saturday when most Israelis are out of town, trampling each other in their search for wildflowers. We even found a decent parking space.

As we drove up to the parking lot, we already saw signs of revival after this miserable winter. Bus after bus came our way, after dropping off pilgrims and tourists eager to see the holy sites. At Zion Gate we stopped to chat with some Assyrian Christian shopkeepers we know. They sounded a tad more hopeful than on our previous visit, about a month ago.

And indeed, the atmosphere everywhere seemed more relaxed, but perhaps what we noticed was simply resignation to the roller-coaster existence in the Middle East. We did see tourists, and at the eighth station of the cross we saw a woman carrying a heavy wooden cross that was taller than herself, with a group of Polish pilgrims.

At our favorite humous restaurant, Lina’s, where in normal times there is a line of Israelis out the door at lunchtime on Saturday, we were among just a few diners. A pity, because the food is excellent and inexpensive. The humous is smooth and creamy, and the falafel, thanks to the rich addition of chopped parsley, is flavorful and grease-free. Once when we were there for lunch I asked who Lina is. There is no Lina, I was told. Previously, the restaurant was call Linda and was owned by two partners. When the partners split up, one of them reopened the restaurant but had to change the name. He simply dropped the “d.” (And no, they didn’t tell me who the original Linda was.)

The last time we were in the Old City I was a little nervous about going near Damascus Gate, where some attacks had taken place, so we skipped dessert at al-Jafar (“the eagle”). This time, however, we couldn’t resist the call of the knafeh, a pastry with a cheese base and a shredded semolina topping, all of it steeped in syrup. We were already full, so we split a portion–a plateful so big you have to be hungry to eat a whole one.I overheard the Muslim woman sitting next to me say “Mish ader” (I just can’t) to her husband as she pushed the uneaten portion of her knafeh toward him.

On the way back through the covered bazaar we bought a jar of al-Jemal tehina (tahini), the best you can get here, and freshly ground coffee at Sandouka, where the proprietor recognized my husband and greeted him with a big smile.

At least for one sunny day in February, it felt good to be in Jerusalem.

Text copyright 2016 by Esther Hecht. No part of the text may be used without written permission of the author.



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15 Responses to “Journey to the Old City and Back”

  1. David Bennett Says:

    Ah, a lovely article.

    Ah, homesick.

  2. marilyn k. silverman Says:


    I always read your blogs with delight and enjoyment. Given the news (The Times of Israel); it is a fresh reprieve.

    Don’t know if you saw the announcement of the death of our dear friend Dove Yermiah (He and wife, Menucha used to live in Nahariya). I found it on Mondoweiss. It probably appeared elsewhere in Israel. It is worth reading.

    Glad to know all is well with you and Shraga.

    Cheers and Shabbat Shalom,



  3. Gerry Zoller Says:

    I loved this, it brought back memories of one of the best trips of my entire life.
    I was introduced to falafel, hummus and tahini which have become staples in my diet.

  4. Judy Labensohn Says:

    So good to read this, Esther. Take me to these places one day, ok??

  5. Dafna Stern Says:

    I can taste the hummus!!

  6. Alice Cooper Says:

    Thank you for sharing these hours of normalcy (is there such a word?), so clearly appreciated by you and by all those you encountered.

    Miss you. Best to Shraga.


  7. kutthi Says:

    Such a sweet outing, it seems like, Esther. I’d love to accompany you folks there sometime, since you know where these places are. Hillel

    Hillel Kuttler w: (410) 205-7631 c: (443) 703-6141

  8. Ofra Says:

    I can almost taist the humus reading your description i love lina’s humus and remember the long lines it is pitty to see what hare done to people i miss the knaffee and cannot wait to eat your jamal thina the best thina ever ofra

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