Saturday, August 23, 2008

Tourist from Brooklyn

Taking buses in Jerusalem nowadays demands a lot of patience with the construction that is tearing up Jerusalem's downtown streets. So with great zen-like patience, thinking to myself, "this minute I am ok, this minute I am ok" I board the buses after a 20 minute - 1/2 hour wait and breathe deeply. Very deeply.

While breathing and after speaking to my husband who was worried I wouldn't get home in time to make dinner before he crashes, a woman sitting next to me started a conversation.

"You mentioned 'Maaleh Adumim'. Is that a nice place to live?"

"Yes, it's really beautiful. A beautiful suburb!"

I didn't want to ruin her day by telling her that the buses now take twice as long to get to and back to Jerusalem and it will be this way for two more years (at least).

"Are you new here?" I asked.

"I'm a tourist. I live in Brooklyn, and I really want to live here, but my husband doesn't," she said to me sadly and continued looking at the people coming onto the bus.

"Everyone here is so gorgeous. So beautiful. Like models. Everyone can be models here. Look at this one," she pointed to a beautiful Ethiopian soldier standing in front of us, "it's like God chiseled her features. So perfect!"

She just was in total awe of the human beauty surrounding us. Sure enough, I noticed too that everyone on the bus was attractive - beautiful.

"Back home, the people are so different. It's not the same. They're so materialistic there. It's all about how much you make, the money. Here, everything seems so relaxed, so much more spiritual. Jerusalem is also the intellectual capital of the world. I would never say anything bad about this country. Like the spies did (during the time of Moses). If it's terribly hot, I just go with it. I tell myself, it's ok. I won't ever say anything bad." She got more and more animated into the conversation, gushing over the people, the spirituality of the place, the beauty...

"It's like the whole world seems compacted into this country. You've got a little bit of everything here."

I looked at her incredulously. She was a mirror image of myself 14 years ago.

I told her, "In 1989,when I came for a visit, I said everything you just said to me now. I cried and begged every beggar I gave money to in Jerusalem to please pray for me so that one day I might have the privilege of living here. And you know something, it worked. My husband, who didn't want to go at first, finally relented."

I advised her to consistently badger her husband about it, until he gives in. Talk about nothing else. Tell him how this food reminds you of Israel, how that person reminds you of an Israeli, how the diesel fumes reminds you of the buses in Israel, how the Catskill mountains reminds you of the hills outside Jerusalem..."

She blessed me as she got off the bus. I looked at her, knowing the pain she will suffer going back to her home in Brooklyn. Probably, like me, she will cry all the way back on the flight back to the Diaspora, her soul wanting to be here so badly.

And the slow and tedious bus ride became more bearable as her words to me rang so true...


Anonymous said...

this is actually a very beautiful post! I will forward it to my famous blogger friends, and you'll probably see a spike in traffic

jerusalemgypsy said...

thank you! You mean I'll have more than like 10 people reading me?

Emah S said...

GREAT story! We all need a reminder now and again about how we felt when we wanted to be here but couldn't at first!

(ps. I always read even if I don't reply or if it doesn't come out on a counter cuz of the GoogleReader)

jerusalemgypsy said...

Hi Emah,

Thank you.

I think every tourist with stars in their eyes should get on buses and talk to veteran Israelis. It will make them rethink their priorities.

thatdudeyouknow said...

Great story and so true. Exactly the way I felt when I was about to move here too. I was only 13, but I still recognize myself there.

However, one must remember that at one visit, you only see the good things. If you're expecting to reach the Perfect Place, you've come to the wrong place. Israel is Israel, it's not heaven. The difference between visiting and living here is much like a one-night-stand as opposed to a marriage. When you marry you get everything. Bad things as well as good. Sickness as in health.

There are many bad things about Israel - but Israel is still Israel. It's founded upon a dream. And it is us who must fulfill that dream. When we see the bad things we're not supposed to run away, we're supposed to stay and to everything in our might to make it better.

I believe I blogged about this once... quoting Herman Wouk. Hang on I'll find it...
*a few minutes later*
There we go. I posted it on our 60th Independence Day.

Anonymous said...

Jerusalem Gypsy: Believe me, you have more than 10 people reading you! I wrote a personal email to you maybe 2 years ago thanking you for the morning laughs, and in turn you wrote back how kind that was.....

I love Israel, too. Israel is really the golden land - sunshine, beaches - things I wished I had in Fort Wayne, Indiana where I grew up. I fell in love in Israel, too, for the first time (bartender at the Hotel Ramat Aviv - not a bad choice as you might think (!)

I would have moved to Israel years ago in a second, but things didn't work out that way. But I have been there 5 times over the years....

Of course, I won't rehash the famous Israeli rudeness, but now that I've lived in France for the past 25 years, I love seeing
smiles in Indiana when I walk into
a Walgreens. Just something about being in an environment that's smooth and suburban appeals to me.

I just can't imagine at my age (mid-50's) elbowing to get on a bus - want to reduce the battles of daily life!

But that doesn't take away the poetry of this brief encounter you're describing -
because that is the heart speaking.
Things are nearly always more than
one-dimentional, and there is always magic in Israel......

jerusalemgypsy said...

Hey Dude - you said it real well. But when you are a tourist, you're in that starry-eyed honeymoon stage.

jerusalemgypsy said...

Anonymous - thanks again - love the added perspectives. France for 25 years? Ouch. So you must be used to the rudeness. It must be nice in the South of France though. Never been to the country and it's on my wish list.