Look for the Lions
Any visit to Jerusalem is enhanced by a lion hunt. You can find them adorning and atop buildings along Jaffa street and gleaming at the former Ethiopian embassy on 38 Hanevi'im street.
You can get your feet wet at the Lion Fountain at Blumfield garden near the King David hotel, and enter the Old City through the magnificent Lion's Gate. And if you are counting your lion spottings, you can greatly improve your score by glancing at the city emblems on garbage cans and manhole covers.
The lion is the symbol of the city of Jerusalem. The city's emblem shows a lion flanked by two olive branches with a backdrop of the walls of Jerusalem. The word Yerushalayim (Jerusalem in Hebrew) at the top, is printed in a font reminiscent of letters in the bible. The branches are a symbol of peace. The walls stand for both the walls around the old city and the Western Wall. Note how the stones are large on the bottom and smaller on top, just like the real stones at the Western Wall. The lion is rampant, that is standing on two feet, as if he is watching over the walls of the city.
Lions are the symbol of many kingdoms and royal families, including House Lannister from Game of Thrones. In addition to the usual connotations of power, grandeur and the king of the beasts, the lion is the symbol of the tribe of Judah and the kingdom of Judah. We find this in Genesis 49, 8-10, in the patriarch Jacob's blessing to his son Judah:
“Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you.
You are a lion’s cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.”
In 2002, 80 lion sculptures were decorated by artists and placed throughout Jerusalem. My youngest adores lions. We would pack the kids into the car and set out on lion hunts around the city. I think we spotted almost all 80 of them. But more importantly, on each hunt we said hello to the most resplendent of all the lions. He has taken up permanent residence outside the Eldan hotel on 24 King David street, which is next to the YMCA and across the street which is next to the YMCA and across the street from the Kind David hotel.
Keep your eyes open and you will find many other lions from this project all over the city: at the municipality, in parks, next to shopping centers, and two of them, just waiting for a great photo-op, at the top of the stairs leading to the Western Wall.