A lot has happened in the last few weeks. An anti-Israel UN Security Council vote, a terrorist car ramming in Jerusalem, and a new president for the U.S. and what that means for Israel. Through it all, however, life in Israel goes on. Sometimes it’s more refreshing to just focus on the positives, such as the wonders of Jerusalem and what it is like to live here.
In any city, there are numerous undiscovered “nooks and crannies” to visit and enjoy. They can be easily found, as long as we go looking for them. Jerusalem, a city with thousands of years of history, is no different. In the more than nine years that I have lived here, I sometimes feel that I’ve barely scratched the surface of what there is to see and do.
A few months ago, a friend of mine told me about a scavenger hunt that would be taking place in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Kiryat HaYovel. This is an area of Jerusalem I had spent little to no time in. Most people might recognize it for one of its most iconic centerpieces, the Mifletzet (which means “monster” in Hebrew). The Mifletzet refers to a large structure that looks like a very deformed cow with three tongues in the forms of slides. Hence the scavenger hunt was called HaMeirutz La-mifletzet (“Race to the Monster”).
The event was organized by a nonprofit organization called Ruach Chadasha (“New Spirit”) whose goal is to make Jerusalem more culturally appealing to young people who are deciding whether or not to live here. One of these initiatives is Salon-noded (roughly translated as “Travel-Lounge”) which runs events in the Kiryat HaYovel neighborhood. The annual scavenger hunt around the neighborhood is one of these events. Its purpose is to help people (such as me) get to know this amazing neighborhood by having an interactive learning and sightseeing experience.
Needing a team of five people, I asked some of my local friends to join me. The event was very well-organized. The price to participate was a mere 10 shekels (approximately $2.50) per person, so that anyone could take part in this activity. This price included team shirts, with each team receiving a shirt of a different color.
Each station along the scavenger hunt either led directly to the next one or participants received cards with QR codes that, when scanned, revealed a clue to locate the next station. Each card was a piece of a puzzle that together formed a picture of a uniformed soldier named Yochai Kleingol. Yochai had been killed a year earlier. Some of his friends ran the scavenger hunt, so it was decided to do this most recent scavenger hunt in his honor.
My friends and I were the only team consisting entirely of olim (immigrants to Israel). Despite the disadvantage of Hebrew (in which all of the clues were written) being our second language and not growing up with cultural facts about things like local sports teams, we still managed to decipher all of the clues. We ran around Kiryat HaYovel performing tasks and doing activities you wouldn’t expect to find in the middle of a city neighborhood: zip-lining, a ropes course through the trees, and positioning one of our teammates in mid-air via a harness and pulley system so that they could grab and assemble scattered puzzle pieces. These were just a few of the many activities we did that day.
Along the way, via the clues provided at various locations, we learned things about the neighborhood. One of my personal highlights was passing a building that stopped me in my tracks – “The Rhode Island Community Project Renewal Partnership” – it read. I later found out that this building was one of the neighborhood’s community centers and was named after the Hassenfeld family. Discovering a connection to my Rhode Island roots in my home of Jerusalem certainly fulfilled the personal educational experience that the organizers hoped to achieve.
At the end of the day, my friends and I didn’t finish the scavenger hunt in first place. Far from it, actually. We didn’t join this race to win, but rather to have fun in our city of Jerusalem. We achieved that goal and learned a lot about an area of Jerusalem, the city we now call home.
DANIEL STIEGLITZ (email@example.com), a Providence native, made aliyah in 2007. He holds a master’s degree in creative writing from Bar Ilan University; is a certified Life Coach; does freelance content writing; and lives in Jerusalem. He has had two short stories published in FictionMagazines.com publications.