Nachalot to Gan Sacher Shortcut

Copyright 2006 by Morris Rosenthal - - contact info

The Serial Tourist's Guide to Living in Jerusalem

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I thought I'd start off with a very obvious shortcut from Nachalot to Gan Sacher that wasn't obvious at all for the year or two before I stumbled upon it. I guess that's one disadvantage of walking around alone rather than with friends who already know the terrain. It's hard to be precise about the boundaries of the Nachalot neighborhood, it blends into Sharei Chesed and Rechavia to the South and East, along with Mercaz HaIr (the City Center), and to the North is Mahne Yehuda (pronounced like you have a frog in your throat - Maach-Nay). The entrance to the shortcut is between the building at 20 Lod Street at the foot of Nachalot, and a tiny park with a few bits of equipment for kids. The entrance isn't marked in any way, it just looks like another parking lot. There's a weight room in the community building to the right as you walk into the parking lot, never inquired about a membership so I can't tell you what it costs or if it's free.
Once you walk down into the little parking area, past the red and white barrier arm for cars, which is left up or down depending on the day, time, and mood of the operator, you'll see the top of a shallow stairway. After a few weeks in Jerusalem, you'll come to see a gentle decline like this as a reason to celebrate. While you may be tempted to walk down the ramp rather than taking the broad stairs, I wouldn't, because it's not always in great repair. It looks fine in the picture to the right that I took from the bottom, but I've been here at time when the odd stone is missing and a gaping hole has been eroded by rain water, and nobody rushes to fix these things. Stairs are often missing a stone or two as well, so be cautious at night. The chain link fences to the left in the picture protect the pedestrians from falling into the sunken concrete playgrounds of the neighborhood school. There's usually a soccer game going on there, or just some kids fooling around and drilling the ball at the poor guy in the goal from a few yards out.
When you reach the bottom of the stairs, you'll be staring out at Ben Tzvi avenue, officially Sederot President Ben Tzvi, and it's closer to a divided highway in nature than a street. Don't give in to the temptation to stand on the curb waiting for the cars to slow down and trampling the vegetation. Turn immediately to your left and you'll find a ramp and stairway to an underpass. I'm not sure how many of these pedestrian underpasses there are in Jerusalem, I'm aware of maybe a half dozen, but I usually cross streets with the lights rather than taking an underground detour. This particular pedestrian tunnel is an exception, because it goes under Ben Tzvi in the middle of a stretch between intersections, and comes right out in the park.
One you get down the stairs, you'll be ready to walk through the tunnel and study the graffiti. I wouldn't study it too closely, it's occasionally pretty vulgar. The whole area of the park and connecting tunnels is kept up much better now than it was in the 1990's, perhaps for security reasons. The lights in the tunnel generally work at night, and it's been a long time since I saw any homeless people camping under the stairway landing. Much further up in Gan Sacher, across from the olive orchard of the Monastery of the Cross, there's a thick area of overgrown bushes where luggage thieves used to camp out. It was pretty obvious from all of the stolen suitcases and knapsacks that were strewn around the area, along with a piles of clothing that would make a flea market proud. It wouldn't surprise me if the thieves were put out of business by the new bus station. The temporary bus station Jerusalem was stuck with for many years allowed open access to the platforms. Tourists who were innocent enough to place their cameras and purses in their large bags for storage under the bus sometimes lost everything they owned.
When you're in Gan Sacher, you find the other end of the tunnel by sticking to the path closest to Ben Tzvi and and taking another set of stairs, or a down ramp, depending on whether you approach from North or South. Ben Tzvi, not shown here, runs between the park with it's low stone wall and the collection of large apartment buildings, Sharei Chesed and Kiryat Wolfson.The tunnel opening is behind the clump to the right in the photograph, and the long stairway runs up between school playgrounds and the first building of Sharei Chesed. Once you're in Gan Sacher, you can walk South almost all the way to the big mall at Malka (Canyon Yerushalyim) without leaving a path with greenery on both sides, except to cross streets. Used to be able to get all the way, but the interchange for Menachim Began Highway eats up a lot of space. I'll have to do that as one of my long walks as this guide progresses.

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