Saturday, March 27, 2010


I love order.  I do my day according to an approximately 41 item "to do" list - a practice I learned from a deceased boss.  Sometimes things that are not on my "list" creep into my life.  Like on Sunday when I got an email telling me that friends from my Rolling Stone fan circle, who live in NYC, "just landed an hour ago and would love to get together."  A surprise visit, and a last minute decision from them.  I crossed out on my list what I had planned to do that late afternoon/evening after work and typed them in instead.

They were in for a relative's wedding and were staying at the David Citadel Hotel.  I walked over after work to meet them.  I see the security men not check tourists as they went through the revolving door, but as soon as I tried it, I was stopped by a tall, very serious man in his security uniform.

"Your bag."

I smiled.  I no longer look like a tourist. 


I let his hand dive into my purse, as he stopped and wondered what the velvet sac holding my cache of makeup was.

After about 20 seconds, I was let in.

My friends and I hugged and hugged.  I hadn't seen them since 2002.  It didn't seem like 8 years had gone by.  Jerusalem had changed since then.  The streets were all ripped up, paving the way for our light rail, which they had thought was a fast train to Tel Aviv at first.  And the Waldorf Astoria is the midst of construction.

They had already seen the sparkling Mamilla Mall which my friend likened to Jeruslam's Rodeo Drive.

"You even have Versace here", she exclaimed with much surprise. 

Yeah, I know who Versace is, but had no idea what H&M was until all the hoopla surrounding the new store, imported from Europe, opened up here in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

We walked down the Ben Sira pedestrian street, full of nice restaurants and pubs waiting for their evening customers.  It was 5:00 - too early for the crowds.

My friend's husband craved local food like shwarma and invited me out to dinner with them.  I asked if they were interested in Arabic food.  Of course they were.  We walked towards Damascus Gate and headed towards the Jerusalem Hotel, a beautiful boutique hotel in East Jerusalem with good inexpensive food.  We looked at the carved furniture imported from Syria in the small lobby.  The guests were all European and the restaurant was filling up quickly with locals and guests. 

They ordered lamb shishlik and a chicken dish and I ordered an Arabic dish whose name escapes me at the moment - chicken on top of pita with a ton of caramlized onions covered with sumac, a middle east spice.

My friend's husband had come to Jerusalem a couple of years back, taking alternative tours to Hebron and Jerusalem.  He wanted to know both sides.

I wanted to know whether US Jews are becoming less pro-Israel, or less supportive of Israel, as I am constantly reading in the papers. 

He claimed loudly in the restaurant filled with Arabs and Europeans that he was still pro-Israel.

I told him I am both pro- Israel and pro-Palestinian, however nuts that sounds, but didn't say it as loudly as he.

He said he believes he is too, in fact.

We walked out of the restaurant along the old city walls.  To them, the walls were magical.  They wondered if I still felt that way after 15 years of living here.  I do.  They still make my heart skip a beat.  I don't take the view for granted.

Before they left the US - the media was filled with "fighting in East Jerusalem". 

"Look at this!" my friend's husband exclaimed in wonderment.  "Does this look like there's fighting going on here?"  The streets were bustling, full of mostly Arab shoppers, but there was no fighting where we were.  "You'd think we would be in the middle of a war zone.   My sister called to ask where we are now and I told her East Jerusalem.  She's like 'Isn't there all this fighting there now?'.  I said, as I'm speaking to you, I'm walking through the marketplaces and there's nothing going on...."

I nod. 

And I'm happy.  I love surprises.

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