No real time for blogging today, so here's a bit of information about Jerusalem which is actually almost two months old, but still nice: Jaffa Road isn't anymore. I mean, it's still there, but it's not a road, if by that you mean an artery through a city used to move traffic, with pedestrians crammed like sardines on the edge. As of early 2011, the traffic is gone, and the entire length of the street is given over to sleek modern streetcars which don't carry passengers yet (this summer, they promise us), and pedestrians. The first time I walked the length of the street (and took the pictures below) I was astonished: it was possible to hear people talking. The streetcars sort of swish, but they aren't anything like the din of incessant buses, trucks, cabs, blaring traffic horns and overall din. Moreover, the 15-year process of tearing up the street and generally causing chaos, now that it's almost over, has changed the proportions of the space between the buildings on either side. It used to be that one had to weave among people in order to get anywhere; now there are broad sidewalks on each side of the narrow part given over to the streetcar tracks.
If indeed the streetcars start serving the public sometime soon, I expect capitalism to kick in again. Over the past 20 years or so the opening of large malls on the edge of town, and the perpetual tearing up of the center of town have meant the only businesses still viable sell cheap trinkets or bolts of cloth. Not what the largest city in the country is supposed to look like. Already, however, some of them are shutting down, and new To Rent signs are appearing on their windowpanes; here and there a smart-looking establishment is hesitantly appearing. If the gamble works, by 2013 the center of Jerusalem could be a delightful area of open-air cafes and fashionable stores. It could happen, you know.