The Spiritual and the Visceral

Jerusalem is more than a city; it is raw emotion and history frozen in stone.
There is a visceral familiarity in her appearance – her hills have been depicted in scores of biblical paintings. Her architecture is diverse – from oriental Ottoman mansions, to the grand houses circa British mandate, the compounds of every Christian denomination, and to the modern buildings, all united by a single constant – Jerusalem stone. The buildings are scattered over the rolling hills becoming fused into the topography. She is an intense and fanatical city. Passions run high here and tensions make the air thick. Feelings feel deeper here and emotions stronger. Yet when her hot breath overpowers you, you can find refuge in a small sculpture garden, under a succulent bougainvillea spreading over a stone wall, or in a lush green courtyard of an old mansion.
Here, in this city three groups live side by side never interacting: the Orthodox, the secular, and the Arabs. They inhabit three different worlds, as different as if they were set worlds apart, living in close physical proximity to each other but light-years apart culturally.
We visited all three, but it’s the secular where we belong.
Mona is one of the secular heavens in the city. Housed in the former Bezalel Academy building, it epitomizes the quintessential Jerusalem. Entering through an ornate gate and into a tranquil garden, we left behind the nervous energy of the city. The interior of the building is somewhat austere, reminiscent of a crusader castle, but the restaurant within is lively and bursting with jovial energy. The wonderful mixture of ages: from infants in baby carriages to the distinguished-looking septuagenarians who easily mix inside. The food is exquisite and artistically presented, the service friendly and attentive, the atmosphere classy but casual.
I liked this place better than its sister-restaurant, the famed Machneyuda, which is trendy, funky, and quite noisy. Sweet detail: in both restaurants, the waiters present guests with complementary shots and the whole group plus the waiter are expected to down them.


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