Saturday, November 29, 2008

Old Friends

A big highlight of this past week was seeing a friend whom I hadn't seen in about 28 years. She and I had gone to a very ultra-orthodox Jewish elementary school in the Bronx - she being the class wiz and I being the "daydreamer who could do better." I did actually fall asleep one day in ancient and boring Mrs. O'Neill's class (the school had occasionally hired gentile teachers) and my classmates never let me forget it. During high school this friend and I remained close friends, going to Rye Beach on warm summer Sundays and spending Saturdays at each other's house, playing Monopoly and Risk, singing Motown and Beatles with her other 4 sisters in her livingroom. After high school we both began to drift away from religion, hiding from our families the fact that we were starting to listen to the radio on Saturdays while our parents were praying in synagogue, and gently easing into non-kosher food. She had non-Jewish male admirers while in college, who called her on the phone (pre-cellphone days) and if her father answered, he angrily told them never to call again because Hitler had already killed 6 million Jews. Her dad also blamed her not being religious for the 1977 New York City blackout. Our dads were so similar. While I decided to chuck college for the work force directly out of high school, she continued on from college to NYU Law School, and had me room with her during the summer of 1977 while her roommate was away. Imagine being 21 and living in Greenwich Village. We had a fantastic time. I don't remember too much other than trying to fry up bacon for the first time in her dorm flat, putting way too much oil in the pan, and wondering why the oil nearly overflowed!!She had graduated tops in her class and had every law firm asking her to join them. She moved out to LA in 1979 with her Italian boyfriend - whom she married 9 years later - secretly. But for the past 8 years he was no longer a secret to her family.

One thing we had most in common was music. I had worked for Sire Records in NYC and had access to many shows, but we both had gone to the Concert for Bangladesh for our first concert ever and were hooked on bands. We had been heavily into Beatles - she, since 1964 and me since 1968 - her sister having gone to Shea Stadium in 1966. She had never stopped going to concerts and has seen everyone in concert throughout the years, paying at times top price for the unusual once-in-a-lifetime venues. I, on the other hand, had become ultra-orthodox and had stopped concert-going in 1983. Then by making aliyah to Israel I didn't have the access to the bands as she had. Big names and more interesting nostalgic ones (Marianne Faithfull, Iggy Pop) started coming to Israel but I didn't always have the bucks to see them.

I took two days off work to tour around Jerusalem with her and her husband. I was nervous with all the rail construction going on, making Jerusalem look like a war zone. I wanted to show her Jerusalem the Golden, the beautiful, and not Jerusalem the Dump.

I wondered what would happen after 28 years of hardly being in touch. Would it be like old times?? It was really exciting to meet up with her again and was glad I found her through googling one of her sisters about 5 years ago who, in turn, gave me her email address.

We toured the kotel, the churches at Gethsemene at the foot of the Mt. of Olives, they went to the Temple Mount while I stayed behind with her laptop (they weren't going to allow anyone in with laptops so I volunteered to stay behind), trudging through the Cardo of the Jewish Quarter and on to the Christian Quarter to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, me pointing out to them the Holy Stone where Jesus' body lay after his crucifixion. The beggars by the Kotel were restrained, they sat in their chairs and asked for money; the taxi drivers were more aggressive,offering to drive us to the Mt. of Olives and Bethlehem for $80 - $100.

From the Church we walked down Via Dolorosa and out Damascus Gate, stopping at Jafar bakery for a quick knafe fix for me. Next stop was Meah Shearim, where I quickly put on a skirt over my pants to not irritate the locals with my "immodest" dress. She thought the Aharoni Chassidim with their striped overcoats quaint enough to photograph, and thankfully no one protested.

We had dinner at Bachatzer, a hip new eatery in the old train station depot where many bars and restaurants recently appeared, meeting another elementary school classmate of ours. I brought my 1969 yearbook and they laughed as I told them what my husband said - "I'd never get an erection looking at the girls in that book." We were a pretty ugly lot back then - my friend, with her short hair and Elvis Costello glasses and me with my short unruly hair, no makeup and goofy face.

Next day we took a cab from their hotel to the Kotel. I had wanted them to see the City of David, since it was a new attraction, and because I wanted to even out all the churches with something Jewish. Our cab driver was an Arab from the Mt. of Olives, who began talking with me in Hebrew. I told him about my interfaith group that meets in my house. He really didn't believe that such a thing like this would exist, especially in my community of Maaleh Adumim, until we passed Jaffa Gate and I shouted out a friendly "Hi" to my friend Ismail who was in front of his office. He then said "I'm taking you to the Mt. of Olives on me. It will be the same price as your trip to the kotel." He was so excited about my interfaith group,especially when I told him I have more respect for Islam as a result of our meetings...and he called up an Israeli Jewish friend of his to let her know and that they will join us beginning next month. My friend looked at me as if to say "shall we trust this guy?" and I smiled and said this is how welcoming Arabs are if they feel that they are being respected and heard. True to his word, his taxi climbed up the Mt. of Olives, he got out to buy some orange juice for all of us, and took us to the observation point in front of the Seven Arches Hotel.

My friends weren't impressed with the City of David - just stones - they said. We laughed at the irony of not many things Jewish to show them other than the Jewish Quarter/Kotel and Meah Shearim, while there were many more beautiful churches we seemed to pass by and take a peek at. The day continued with me showing them the new outdoor Mamilla Mall, which they liked as compared to the kitschy fancy mall in Herzliya, the quaint shops on Yoel Ben Solomon Street, back to the old city for some shopping and then to show them the Jerusalem Hotel, part of the wall of biblical Jerusalem by the East Jerusalem gas station, and the American Colony Hotel - stuff most people wouldn't usually see in that part of town.

By the end of the day, my legs were sore from two full days of walking. Unfortunately, my apartment has no bath, just a shower so I couldn't soak my sore feet. It didn't really matter though. I was just so happy to see a good long-lost friend again, to catch up on 28 years of life with her and pleased that it had ended with a nice dinner where Hubby had reneged on his vow not to go anywhere but his grave - he actually did show up for dinner and got on well with her husband.

I had taken them away from downtown Jerusalem, trying to avoid the ugly downtown areas. They loved the Old City and said this was the "real Jerusalem". Thank God they loved it and want to return one day. I feel I've done my job well when showing people around Jerusalem and they end up loving it and want to come back.


malta said...

Dil öğrenimi için başlıca merkezlerden biri olan Malta;
İngilizce öğrenme sürecini Akdeniz' in kültürü ve harika doğal güzelliği ile birleştirmek isteyenler için ideal bir seçim.
İngilizce adanın resmi dili ve heryerde konuşuluyor

lars shalomoaoa said...

im back!!

jerusalemgypsy said...

where were you?

lars shalom said...

my head was in the basket

;lars said...

i mean still in the mental hospital, rehab now, but thats where i do the drugs