Beit HaKerem to Givat Ram and Hebrew University

Copyright 2006 by Morris Rosenthal - - contact info

The Serial Tourist's Guide to Living in Jerusalem

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I lived in Beit Hakerem for a winter and frequently visited the Hebrew University at Givat Ram. If you glance at a map, you'd think it's a simple walk and that any street heading to the east would get you there. Only problem is they dropped a major road between the two hills, Menachim Began Highway, and the only way across it is on bridges, whether for cars or pedestrians only. The shortcut here is the path to the best pedestrian bridge, the one that come out right under the Givat Ram parking lot, at the main entrance. The shortcut starts between the silver car and the white car, both facing towards us. The street is He Halutz (Heh-Chalutz), and the shortcut entrance is only about 50 yards from the intersection of He'Halutz with Hertzl and Beit Hakerem streets. If you can't find Hertzl avenue in Jerusalem or Beit Ha'Kerem street in Beit Hakerem, shortcut instructions aren't likely to help much:-)
The shortcut starts with a short stairway that turns into a gentle sloping path between the courtyard walls of private houses and apartments, and continues for a good hundred yards. Every 20 yards are so, there's another short stairway, allowing the slope on the walkway to be gradual. That's not to say that everything in Beit Hakerem is laid out so nicely. The apartment I was living in on Hertzl, which was on the market for $160,000 last year, had an irrigation hose (plastic) routed right across the stairway, apparently a permanent feature. There doesn't seem to be any trip-and-fall liability in Israel in the sense that thee is in the States. While it's nice that you don't have to worry about getting sued for a little slipper spot on your sidewalk, the whole city of Jerusalem is one big obstacle course for walkers, with holes, missing paving stones, vanishing sidewalks and even ramps that end in drops, no railing. By the way, the official name of the stairway/walk is Ma'alot Ha'Meha Nech (their spelling, should be mehanech as one word).
When you come down the final bit of stairs, you have to turn right on Karmon (not that there's a street sign) and continue for 20 or 30 yards, to you get to the continuation of the stairway. It starts as an asphalt path between a small yard above a school to the left and an apartment building to the right. The name of this stairway is Ma'alot Hanina Mizrahi (their spelling again). I shot the picture from across the street, because even with the sign, it's easy to miss this staircase. There are workarounds, but none of them are as direct, so it's best to just get the path down right. You can just see the main administration building of the Hebrew University at Givat Ram in the upper left quadrant of the picture, it's where the bookstore and the restaurant are located, i.e., the good stuff.
I'm rapidly learning that photographs of stairways from the top aren't very interesting, the stairs just vanish into the slope. Therefore, I'm showing Ma'alot Hanina Mizrachi from the bottom, as if you were walking from Givat Ram back up to Beit Hakerem. Shortcuts aren't much good if they don't work both ways, unless you're talking about the old Adventure game or getting into Heaven. In any case, the primary school is to the right in this picture, and the metal railing in the foreground is either to keep dirt bikes off the stairs, or to keep people from parking across the entry. As a side note, when people sell real estate in israel, one of the key figures of merit is "How many stairs." Asking what floor an apartment is on doesn't mean much in Jerusalem, because there may be a couple staircases down from the street and then a couple flights of stairs up to the first floor. Keep in mind, the city is built in the Judean Hills, or maybe it's Judean Mountains.
The stairway to the left is in the park right across the street from our shortcut, and you have to get to the top before you can cross the bridge to the university campus. I'm not sure whether the park is Gan Nechmia or Gan Nechamaya, it's something like that. There's some climbing apparatus for kids, not shown in the picture, and for some reason, I've seen buses disgorge school children here for a day off. It's not that big a park. If you're tired of stairs, you can get to the same point taking ramps as their are paths all over this little park. Also, if you're actually interested in getting to the Academy of Music and Dance on Givat Ram, you can walk north at this point (to the right) until you come to the second pedestrian bridge, which takes you right there. The Academy of Music and Dance is separated from the Givat Ram campus by road (really parking lot access) and I'm not sure if there's a gate to the University right there or not.
Finally we get to the pedestrian bridge. There are quiet a few of these things scattered around Jerusalem, and it's not just an acknowledgement that the drivers are so bad you're taking your life in your hands every time you cross a street. It's because the main roads are usually routed through valleys, and if you didn't have a pedestrian bridge to get from one hill to the next, you'd have a lot of extra stairs to climb. After you walk across scenic Menachim Began Highway, you have a choice of the path to the right which takes you to a staircase along the retaining wall and up to the campus, or continuing straight, up the dirt path and into the parking lot. Since the dirt path is probably a couple yards shorter, just about everybody uses it, which is why it remain a dirt path and not part of a green area. So now you know how to get from Givat Ram to Beit Hakerem and back again, and it works equally well as a shortcut to the Israel Museum, the Palace of the Book (the scroll of Isaiah exhibit from the Dead Sea Scrolls find) and the Bible Lands Museum and Science Museum as well. Odd juxtaposition, now that I think of it:-)

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