I just returned from spending almost a week in Jerusalem (my first ever visit to Israel). The main reason for my visit was to talk with Alex Lubotzky (and Shai Evra) about mathematics, but there was plenty of time for other mathematical activities — I gave a four hour talk on cohomology to computer scientists, chatted with Kazhdan (and also Akshay), caught up with Alex Gamburd, Ehud de Shalit, and went to the presentation of the Ostrowski medal to Akshay Venkatesh (with a virtual laudation by Peter Sarnak).
But this post is less about the mathematics (hopefully more on that when the theorems are proved), but rather my other (mostly culinary) adventures.
My first night out, I was curious how Ethiopian food in Israel would compare to Chicago. However, my taxi driver had other ideas, and instead took me to a Kurdish restaurant (Ima) where I ended up with a pretty nice lamb dish. While walking home from dinner, I stumbled across the Chords Bridge (the “Bridge of Strings”). My particular approach presented me with a visual paradox: the bridge appeared to be straight with a central column with cables to either side. These cables appeared as lines sweeping out a ruled surface. Since the bridge was straight, these two surfaces should essentially have formed one surface, but they appear to meet at right angles at the column, which made no sense. Since my description also probably doesn’t make so much sense, I took a video:
(Admittedly my geometrical intuition is not so great, but I couldn’t work out what was going on until I saw it again from a different angle.)
Tuesday morning was my “time off” as a tourist. I think the old city would have been much better with a local guide, but I mostly just wandered around between ancient sites and an infinite number of tchotchke shops. Next stop was Machane Yehuda market, and lunch at the hippest restaurant in town. The shikshukit was delicious:
Next stop was the fanciest coffee in Jerusalem (not that good)
Akshay and I went back to the market for dinner and had the shamburak at Ishtabach along with some pretty good local beer.
On Wednesday, I was contemplating going straight back to the hotel and going to sleep after an undergraduate lecture by Akshay (full jetlag mode at this point, the talk itself was great). But then I ran into Alex Gamburd, who suggested going out to dinner and said he knew of a place which sold food from “biblical times.” At that point, my spirits were instantly lifted, and there was no choice about what I was going to do. So we jumped into a taxi and off we went to Eucalyptus, to have (amongst other things) chicken stuffed in figs (yes, I thought that was just a poor english translation for figs stuffed in chicken, but no, chicken stuffed in figs). The owner came out to chat with us, and claimed that this dish had won a special prize in Melbourne and had also appeared in Vogue (I couldn’t verify these claims, but they were tasty).
A few more things en passant:
A “reception” at Hebrew University apparently does not include Champagne, much for the worse for anyone who had to suffer though my subsequent basic notions seminar. (Hat tip to Michael Schein for telling me this in advance.)
Near the old city:
The campus appears to be overrun by cats. Well, overrun is an exaggeration, but then saying the campus is “run by cats” conveys a somewhat different image (which may or may not be accurate).