I said “farewell” to Ketura (but not “so long”, I’ll be back) and am winding up my summer in Israel. Saying goodbye was both challenging and natural- i woke early my last day and went for one last long hike and walk about the Kibbutz, stopping to say goodbye to those I can’t really keep in touch with- the horses, the camels, the cats and the cows. My morning was punctuated by a visit with my favorite family on the kibbutz, my adopted family. Never failing to make me feel welcome, Erez helped me purchase my bus ticket up north (“If I help you, I can make sure you’ll actually leave!” he joked) and I had my goodbyes with the little ones. When I arrived at their house, Maya was mid-temper-tantrum, but after crying it out, she declared it time to dry her tears and carry on with her day. (Though I’m not looking forward to the terrible-twos of my niece, it is comforting to see that hysterics tend to be intense but brief, and smiles and sunshine return just as quickly as the storm clouds arrived in the first place). Maya was sad to hear that I was going on a trip (though seemed excited that I was taking an airplane), and gave me the worlds biggest, messiest, toddler hug- complete with sticky hands and a giant slobbery cottage cheese filled kiss on the cheek. Yonaton, already an old hat at those that come and go, nonchalantly wished me safe travels, but seemed far more preoccupied with his breakfast and plans of becoming an olympic athlete/ robot builder. At almost five months, Eli simply looked at me and drooled, but I think we had a moment- after all, I am sure he’s already planning his future courtship with Annie, as he has heard so much about this American baby who is 8 pounds lighter and one day older than he.
After one final show down with the sun at the pool– trust me, the sun won; my tan lines are, perhaps, permanent, I headed on my way north. Well, easier said than done I suppose.
Instead of a straight shot to Jerusalem, I ended up taking a bus to Tel Aviv and then a sharut (a shared taxi) from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In the end, my bus ride was fairly uneventful- in Israel the bus stops and picks up as many people as they deem appropriate, which usually translates to people standing in the aisles for long trips across the country. Since I am more of a fan of sitting down on a bus (and, let’s face it, in general) I opted for not flagging down the bus to Jerusalem, and thus ended up with a ticket purchased towards Tel Aviv. Usually people just sit where ever they please- after all, we’re all going to the same place!- but midway through the trip someone came to my seat and informed me that it was theirs. I collected my belongs (which at that point included, for some unfathomable reason, a very large ice cream i purchased at the first rest stop, forgetting that ice cream is not such a storable treat on a bus traveling through the desert) and headed up the aisle to kick someone else out of their seat. My seat was occupied by two boys who had bonded over an apparent mistrust of personal hygiene and a lack of understanding of the concept of personal space. I spent much of the next hour flanked by the BO twins, with one sitting next to me and one standing next to me, breathing calmly through my mouth and hoping a well placed elbow or two might convince them to scatter.
When I arrived in Tel Aviv, I somehow managed to lug my bags through the very large and completely unorganized bus station (–a bus station so over the top that even Erez admitted that he finds it to be an overwhelming place). This would not have been possible without the help of a nice man who at one point grabbed my bags, tossed them over the fence (don’t worry, i was working on getting that direction) and said in an accent so thick it was practically dripping with hummus, “don’t worry! be happy!”. The ride to Jerusalem brought me within a 15 minute walk of my friend Ari’s house, and with the help of two more Israeli’s, I managed to get my stuff to his apartment. (These Israelis explained that they wanted to help me carry my bags as the Torah says you should help people, and also, carrying my bags proved that they were not women, but in fact MEN. They went on to explain that they were brothers who lived together and also shared a bed, but, i shouldn’t worry, they “did not have the sex” as they were both guys. I was thankful for their help, but after their repeated instances that they were, in fact, not sissies, gay or [other more insulting slurs] I decided to not invite them to meet my friends, and sent them on their merry way).
I am now settled back in Jerusalem and I couldn’t be happier. Perhaps it was the semester I spent here as my first introduction to this backwards, upside down, topsy turvy country, but nothing feels more like ISRAEL, or like home, than Jerusalem. Even with its hustle and bustle, it’s crazy Orthodox population that stares daggers when I dare dance in the street or talk on the phone during Shabbat, the vague smells of urine and the large masses of drunken Americans, I love this city. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I just looked up from my computer and noticed a large group of monks walking past the cafe where I’m sitting. When you’re feeling lost about your own purpose, a large influx of holiness sometimes has a calming effect.
Jerusalem is also home to my favorite rabbinical students. I’ll be here for the next two days visiting with my friend Ari, an old friend from Hillel days and his group of friends. I’ve adopted a few of them as my own friends, and will miss them greatly when I return to the states. Last night we headed to the city center to enjoy some french fries and jazz music at a club where one of their cohorts often performs (jams?). A perfect return to city life, it will be quite hard to pack my things and head onwards again in less than 48 hours. Luckily, in less than a week I’ll be seeing Britney Spears in concert with my former (but forever domesticated partner of my heart) roommate Ellen. And really, for all of it’s grandeur, I’m not sure if even the holy land can compete with the princess of pop.