There was much to love about the Holy Land while I was there for a trip in December, during which I was graciously hosted by Vibe Israel. Being a witness to the dynamic start-up culture in Israel and meeting countless smart, creative and fascinating people was just the start. Learning about the country’s progress on clean technology and water innovation was also a fantastic learning experience. And exploring Tel Aviv’s dining scene and basking in its café culture (when I could find a seat) made it difficult to leave after two weeks. And who could forget Sally Levy, Israel’s water woman whose warmth and chutzpah made me wonder just what on earth I’ve been doing with my life.

But on a personal note, meandering through the Armenian Quarter in old Jerusalem was the undisputed highlight. Located in the southwest part of the walled city, bound by Habad Street and David Street, a visit to this tiny section of Israel’s largest city is a must for anyone of Armenian descent – or for that matter, any traveler wanting to learn about why this city is so important to the world’s three major monotheistic religions. Exploring what is only about 31 acres (one-eighth of a square kilometer) offers a vivid lesson on how culturally rich, and complicated, the Middle East has been for centuries.

The Armenian population has long been in decline as the high cost of living has nudged many residents to move elsewhere. Armenians are generally considered “Palestinian” due to the fact that that they were Jordanian citizens until the 1967 war, making travel and the securing of documents difficult. As many publications including the The Economist have long pointed out, Armenians have been squeezed between the Israelis and Palestinians as both have ideas on how Jerusalem should be governed.

These tensions, however, are not obvious to visitors like me during their time in Jerusalem. Life seems to go on, as seminary students tend to their tasks at the grounds surrounding St. James Cathedral and businesses such as the Sandrouni family’s Armenian Ceramic Center do a brisk business. As one of the owners told me during my visit, "Just as you only hear about us when there's an act of violence," he said, "we only hear about you when some kid shoots up a high school. No one reads in the news that I had a quiet and normal day."

As far as where to stay in what is the quietest of Jerusalem’s old quarters, the consensus is the Armenian Hospice (Guesthouse). The hostel I stayed at was disappointing, so I can’t recommend it, though lodging anywhere in the Old City is a great option so you can soak in the the atmosphere. If you’re on a budget, any place serving warm hummus with toppings such as chicken or mushrooms will not disappoint. Wandering the quiet streets, where Armenians may have been roaming as far back as the seventh century, is a must when you travel to Isreal.

Image credits: Leon Kaye

Jerusalem, Armenian Quarter, Armenians, Armenian, Middle East, travel

This street name sums up the Armenian Quarter

Jerusalem, Armenian Quarter, Armenians, Armenian, Middle East, travel

Ceramics from Sandrouni

Jerusalem, Armenian Quarter, Armenians, Armenian, Middle East, travel

On the outer edge of the quarter

Jerusalem, Armenian Quarter, Armenians, Armenian, Middle East, travel, Leon Kaye

One of many great places to stop and reflect

Jerusalem, Armenian Quarter, Armenians, Armenian, Middle East, travel

Inside St. James' Cathedral

Jerusalem, Armenian Quarter, Armenians, Armenian, Middle East, travel

Wrought iron work adds texture to this beautiful neighborhood

Jerusalem, Armenian Quarter, Armenians, Armenian, Middle East, travel, Leon Kaye

Owners of the Sandrouni Gallery

Jerusalem, Armenian Quarter, Armenians, Armenian, Middle East, travel

St. James' Convent

Jerusalem, Armenian Quarter, Armenians, Armenian, Middle East, travel, Leon Kaye

Pomegranate imagery, of course

About The Author

Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye is the founder and editor of GreenGoPost.com. Based in California, he specializes in social media consulting and strategic communications. A journalist and writer since 2009, his work has appeared on Triple Pundit , The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and has appeared on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Areas of interest include the <a Middle East, sustainable development in The Balkans, Brazil and Korea. He was a new media journalism fellow at the International Reporting Project, for which he covered child survival in India during February 2013. Contact him at leon@greengopost.com. You can also reach out via Twitter (Leon Kaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). Since 2013, he has spent much of his time in Abu Dhabi, UAE, working with Masdar, the emirate's renewable energy company. He lives in Fresno, California.