It’s been a busy month of May in Jerusalem. Pope Benedict has come and gone – and with him some 10,000 Catholic pilgrims. (Many more of you to come, we hope!) We also celebrated Independence Day, Memorial Day, Jerusalem Day and the Jewish holidays of Lag BaOmer and Shavuot – the Feast of Weeks - begins tomorrow at nightfall.

In this issue, we’ll look at Shavuot celebrations, what’s new in Jerusalem and a different way to visit Israel.

The Jerusalem Insider’s Guide Newsletter: Contents for Issue #2

  • Shavuot celebrations
  • New Knesset archaeological garden
  • Jerusalem has a plan for tomorrow!
  • A different way to see Israel
  • What's New on the Jerusalem Insider's Guide website

Happy Shavuot!

The Jewish holiday of Shavuot - the Feast of Weeks - takes place this year at nightfall on May 28. The holiday celebrates the day the Children of Israel received the Torah at Mount Sinai. Customs include staying up all night studying and eating dairy foods. Yes - it's a cheesecake festival of sorts!

Want to celebrate the holiday with us? Find out more about its history? Or simply want to salivate over its many delicious traditional recipes? Check out the Shavuot departments of these two great sites: Aish and Chabad, both of which are replete with everything from history, kids games and, of course, cheesecake recipes.

On the eve of Shavuot, the Municipality is sponsoring events outside the Old City walls on Arlov Mamilla Avenue, including a parade, activities for children, and a variety of creative workshops in clay sculpture, on the seven species, copper work and even sugar dough molding. May 28, 2009, from 11:00 to 15:00.

New in Jerusalem

For the first time in years, Jerusalem has a Municipal Plan, unveiled this week. The vision for Jerusalem of tomorrow includes doubling the number of new local businesses, making visits to our capital city part of the curriculum for every Israeli student and attracting 10 million tourists annually. Be part of the future now – come visit Jerusalem, the city of tomorrow, today!

A new archaeological garden was dedicated this month on the grounds of the Knesset. It features an ancient olive press and stones from the Second Temple and artifacts from the Ottoman period, as well as flora that was typical of the Land of Israel in Biblical times. The garden is handicapped accessible, but visits to the garden by the public must be authorized in advanced by contacting the Knesset.

Summer Volunteer Opportunities

For a different way of seeing the country - and giving something back at the same time, here are four programs that offer a wide variety of volunteer opportunities for young and old alike:

  • Livnot U'Lehibanot, which in Hebrew means To Build and To Be Built, is, as its name implies, a volunteer program with a spiritual twist. In addition to community service volunteer opportunities, it also offers a variety of classes for its participants in Jerusalem or Tzfat.

  • The Jewish Agency offers volunteer opportunities that can place you with the Magen David Adom, the IDF, social welfare agencies, on a kibbutz or with the Civil Guard.

  • Volunteers for Israel spend two or three weeks working on an IDF army base, in Israeli hospitals or with the Teaching Corp. They also offer a special program for 17 to 25-year-olds. (15-year-olds and up accompanied by a parent can also participate.)

  • Dental Volunteers for Israel offers dentists the chance to do good. Volunteer dentists from around the world spend two weeks or more working in Jerusalem’s free dental clinic for the poor. Do good with a smile!

What’s New This Month at the Jerusalem Insider’s Guide website

It’s been an exciting month at the website, too. We explored a centuries-old Lag BaOmer tradition that is unique to Jerusalem.

True to our mission as a family-friendly site, we thought of all you folks who might be dreaming of a Jerusalem vacation but wonder, “What would we do with the children?” Guess what – Jerusalem is a fantastic place for kids, too. Our list of Best Kids Activities in Jerusalem proves it!

For you arm-chair travelers we added to our image collection with Pictures of Jerusalem – the Video, in honor of Jerusalem Day. A big thank you to Tofa’ah, Jerusalem’s best rock/jazz band, by the way, for permission to use their song, Aye Yerushalayim, from their CD Besimcha.

And since ancient history hovers ever present like a ghost in our town, even as modern history is always in the making here, check out our Jerusalem history time line. We’ve included a parallel time line of world events so you can track what was going here while the wheel was invented in Sumeria, the Great Wall of China went up, Carthage was sacked, and Martin Luther nailed his Thesis to the church doors.

Jerusalem and Israel on the Web

The 5 Most Sacred Cities for the Spiritual Traveler.
10 Customs To Know Before Traveling in Israel

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