Monday, August 4, 2008

Minna's First Day in Jerusalem

This is a place for us to share our impressions of the coming year with each other and with you. Hopefully Alan and I will have time/energy for more posts once we are both done writing student reports/evaluations. I arrived in Jerusalem last Wednesday, and wrote this on Thursday while still recovering from jet lag and a bad stomach thing:
Finally made it out of the house at 5:30 this afternoon. My stomach felt almost fully recovered and I was still sleepy but a bit antsy as well.
I walked out and immediately felt various intertwined emotions:
Relieved that my tummy felt better.
Displaced, loss, lost.
Simply afraid.
Curious and intrigued by the flora which was simultaneously unfamiliar and deeply nostalgic (both because it reminded me of other time in Israel and because it reminds me of the Southern California of my youth).
Lonely and somehow deeply abandoned/unwanted.

I tried to concentrate on my feet on the sidewalk, grounding myself in the reality of being here, breathing in the air, noticing the colors and textures around me, rooting myself in the immediate experiences of the senses. My hope is that curiosity, wonder, and hope itself will soon provide some needed ballast and/or buoyancy.

I did feel confident in finding my way to the cafe that Frankie had told me about. I didn't think I had heard of it before, Cafe Hillel on Emek Refayim, but when I Googled it, I was quickly reminded that I had definitely heard of the bombing there in September 2003 which killed seven, including a father and his soon-to-have-been-married daughter. I found it easily, after passing, among other sights, a bike shop just close to where Emek Refayim intersects with Pierre Koenig. I took pictures with my phone but now I don't know how to get them off of my phone and into a more usable format.

I ordered (in Hebrew) "iced coffee" and piece of mushroom quiche. It cost 62 NIS and I'm glad that I didn't do the math right away because I would have been shocked to spend this much on a snack. I thought "iced coffee" would be black coffee over ice; it turned out to be more like a frappuccino, a blended, iced drink complete with milk and....sugar (from which I've been abstaining for the 15 months). I decided to drink it anyway, figuring that a dose of sugar at this point might actually do me some good (sugar tends to take the edge off of my emotions and being slightly drugged just now didn't seem like such a bad thing). The quiche came with a massive mound of the freshest salad imaginable! So much for a simple little snack. The waitress who brought my coffee and the waiter who brought my massive salad and quiche each wished me "b'teyavon" and smiled sweetly which felt like a very warm welcome.

I sat and enjoyed my meal, hoping that my tummy could handle it and continually gazing around at the other customers thinking, "there are so many Jews here!"

On my way home I met the first of innumerable kittens-I-will-not-be-
adopting. He was a tiny grey tabby, probably only seven or eight weeks old and skinny as can be. It broke my heart not to be able to pet him and give him a home, but I am committed to remaining faithful to the Littles and also to remembering that I cannot adopt ALL the needy kittens in the city. There is something about being here that the kitten sums up for me somehow: an undying innocence combined with deep heartache; pervasive brokenness and an unbroken will to live.

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