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What is it Like to Live in Jerusalem?: Background information when reading The Photographer's Wife

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The Photographer's Wife

by Suzanne Joinson

The Photographer's Wife by Suzanne Joinson X
The Photographer's Wife by Suzanne Joinson
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2016, 320 pages
    Feb 2017, 352 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Davida Chazan
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About this Book

What is it Like to Live in Jerusalem?

This article relates to The Photographer's Wife

Print Review

Dome of the RockMost of the action of Joinson's novel, The Photographer's Wife, takes place in Jerusalem. Just the name suggests so much. Known as the seat of three major religions, it has gone by the names the City of David, the City of Peace, and even the Holy City. It is also the city that I've called my home for over 30 years. Joinson's book notes how just the mention of the city evokes immediate reactions in people who have never been here. I can certainly attest to that, since I cannot recall the number of times people have asked me "What is it like to live there?" People never think that living here is essentially the same as living in any other famous city. We have a home, jobs and things to do, just like if we lived anywhere else. Many people think that there's some kind of extraordinary magic in living here; everything must be perfect. This is not true, of course, Jerusalem has the usual urban unpleasantness, but it also has a very special beauty, partially because of the thousands of years of history all around it.

Old City Flea MarketIf you step through one of the ancient Jerusalem gates, you feel like you're stepping back in time. Narrow passageways and tiny alleys make up a labyrinth, where one turn will bring you to a church, another to a mosque and yet another to some Jewish place of worship or study. All along the way are the famous shops and vendors of the "souk" hawking trinkets, artifacts and junk together with delicacies made from recipes as old as the stones themselves. This is one reason why once you've been to Jerusalem, you'll never forget it.

Inbal Jerusalem HotelHowever, I live in the other part of Jerusalem - the western part. There, towering modern buildings are interspersed with restored older structures that still display the remnants of the many cultures and people who left their stamp here. However, the eclectic architecture styles all have one thing in common - the famous "Jerusalem Stone" that are included in their facades as a matter of law. This is what keeps much of the modern areas looking cohesive with the iconic walls of the old city, preventing stark contemporary steel and glass from encroaching on the overall atmosphere. As you distance yourself from the center and reach the various neighborhoods, you'll see that - for the most part - the stone coverings continue to be a unifying factor, even on apartment complexes. So yes, there is a unique feel to Jerusalem, both within the old city and after you step outside those walls.

The question remains if living in Jerusalem is different from living anywhere else. Some people have a spiritual or religious connection to Jerusalem; others couldn't imagine living elsewhere because of the many generations of their families who have lived here, and still others come here due to jobs or studies. Then there are people like me: I came here as a young woman and immediately felt at home. That's usually my answer to people asking me what it's like to live in Jerusalem; I simply tell them, it's my home.

Dome of the Rock, courtesy of Peter Mulligan
Old City Flea Market, courtesy of Ester Inbar
Jerusalem Stone on Inbal Jerusalem Hotel, courtesy of Pinybal

Article by Davida Chazan

This article relates to The Photographer's Wife. It first ran in the March 2, 2016 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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