Or maybe the beginning.
23.05.2011 - 30.07.2011
I am riding in a sherut, a shared taxi, right now (okay, it took me a few days to post this first part) on my way back to Jerusalem from Nazareth. Three friends and I went there for the night. Nazareth was a good place to do some thinking.
I leave Jerusalem at 2am Tuesday morning. Od hamisha yamim. Cinco dias mas. Five more days. I can't believe this experience is over. I can't really believe I did it, what it became and how simultaneously strong and humble I feel.
I haven't written since I arrived back in Jerusalem at the hostel over 2 months ago. It has been such an interesting time. Challenging, so challenging. Strengthening. Growth-inducing. So much to say about this place. The people, their ways, the streets, the land, the days, the moments. Stories will follow. But as I think about leaving, or rather about returning after all of the travel, I wonder how I am different.
The other night I was at a friends' house in Mevesseret just outside Jerusalem, and I couldn't sleep. It was 4am, and I grabbed a piece of cake from his fridge and went to sit on a small wall overlooking the outskirts of Jerusalem. I thought about this question of how I am different. I have had moments of pure freedom. Of wanderment and wonderment. Plenty. They have given me such joy and life but they have not changed me necessarily. I said before I left, I will be satisfied with my trip if I return and say, I didn't see everything there is to see but ah, it was glorious because I lived. I have lived. And I have found that I am not filled only with light. I have found circumstances that challenge me and make if difficult to have a kind word for everyone. I have found it difficult, at times, to love. But I have found on the heels of this a resilience, a determination, a commitment to love. I am different because I feel more strongly than ever my own longing to love the people around me and am also more aware of how hard that can be at times. I have found in myself things I hadn't known so intimately before. Not exhaustively but among them, Strength, Beauty, Imperfection, Tenderness.
I have connected most here to two things, I think.
First, Shabbat. I love Jerusalem in large part because of Shabbat.
Every Friday in the afternoon everyone is making preparations. Shops are closing up, the market is craziness.
Everyone is preparing to rest.
By 18:00, 6pm, the streets are empty and at around 19:30, when the sun goes down, the horn blows in the city to mark the entrance of Shabbat. For about 27 hours the city is quiet. If you walk down Jaffa Street, Ben Yehuda Street, Agrippas Street on Saturday you see almost no one. Usually filled with people, it is then filled with Shabbat. There are a couple of coffeeshops, at night a few bars, a convenience store here and there for the nonreligious but all in all, the city is at rest. They are choosing rest over profit, over consumption, over productivity. For some it is religiously driven, for others tradition, for others culture. And each Friday evening I have had dinner in community. The first week I was here I was invited to someone's home for dinner and it was lovely. The next week that I was in Jerusalem I began a Shabbat dinner for the guests of the hostel and every week since, until a couple weeks ago, have been here helping visitors to the city experience a bit of this aspect of its culture. We all cook and eat together. We do the Kiddush ceremony and explain the traditions. The last few weeks I was with friends again in their homes and yesterday, my last Shabbat in Jerusalem, I returned to the home of the friend who first invited me when I arrived. I am feeling a deep desire to continue this observance of rest when I return to the States. It gives me such life for the rest of my week. I will miss Jerusalem for this.
I have connected also to the Complexity of this place. I am consistently and intimiately in touch with my own complexity as a human being, in my mind, heart and spirit, and I see the complexity of humanity reflected in everything here. Very few things are simple. Diversity is piled into small spaces; differences stare each other in the eye at close range; thoughts have considerations on every side within and without; contraditions live as if there is no alternative. There is an energy in this. Energy created by the negotiation of the Other, friction when actually moving past and brushing against the Other, energy in injury and healing when collisions with the Other occur, energy in conflict and in frustrated lack of resolution. The buzz of the energy is wearing, which is alleviated in part by Shabbat, but in so many ways it is honest and truthful and commendable.
I have found favorite falafel places (on Jaffa across from Cafe Hillel), favorite bars (Sira), favorite parks (Independence Garden with its stream running through to walk in). I have made close friends. I have scuba dived in the Red Sea. I have played Love the Way You Lie at Sunday Live Music Night so many times. I have learned so much Hebrew. I have eaten a lot of tomato, cucumber and cottage cheese sandwiches for free. I have looked Love in the eye. I have made mi amiga cry. I have danced in the Market and so many other places and laughed til I cried about huge, hyperactive Argentinian babies. I have learned that connectedness, closeness, love do not depend on sight, sound, words, touch. And still, I will miss my friends.
Europe treated me and Israel has taught me. Europe was a game of thrill and newness and the luxury of recreation and rest. Israel has been life with so much to contend with, discover and learn. I can't wait to share it all with you, in words and stories and in the ways it has seaped into my spirit and comes out in my life.
Shalom ve Ohev ve Or. Paz y Amor y Luz. Peace and Love and Light.
See you soon.