Lately I have allowed little Penn_E, unless she is unreasonable, to decide where we go on our walks. Marcia and I have no television or DVD player now, so this has been fun. In the morning, Penn_E usually turns right and heads toward the green area west of us surrounding the Knesset. At night she typically turns left and heads toward Jason’s tomb. She’s not a good judge of traffic but has otherwise proven she is able to abide on a loose leash. Something obvious and ironic we’ve observed while ranging through the neighborhood; if it weren’t for the religious friction here this would easily be the safest place we’ve ever lived. Step outside any time and you will find women jogging, couples strolling, old men chatting, all confident in their safety.
We understand that there’s more to our being here than being safe, but the character of our experience has been hard to measure, even more difficult to express. We find ourselves surprised every day. A sampling in three little vignettes…
- We had heard a lot about despair in Israel. Certainly there is a constant awareness among the citizenry that the country is surrounded by people who would like to see it destroyed. But a recent comment by my favorite Ulpan instructor, Tamara, seemed to balance that perception of abundant heaviness with a bit of hopefulness. Tamara introduced us to the word, batooakh (בָּטוּחַ) which means “certain” or “sure.” If you are sure, you are batooakh. (Unless you are a female,then you are behtookhah.) An alternate meaning, she told us, is safe, secure. And here we are in Israel, Tamara explained with a truly mysterious smile, where nothing seems certain but somehow we feel safe, we feel בָּטוּחַ despite everything–because we know we are where we are supposed to be.
- We had also heard a lot about how expensive it is to get by in Jerusalem and how difficult it is to get good beef. It’s true. But a friend of Marcia’s recently hooked us up with a vegetable and goat farm. Each week the farm delivers a box of goodies, organically grown; potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, leeks (the size of small baseball bats), squash, corn, onions, thyme, parsley, eggplant…it’s different each time. (They’ll carry the box inside if you don’t own a scary black dog. If that’s the case they ring your doorbell and run.) But their service has been a revelation regarding how things ought to taste and how a reduced red meat diet might be as beneficial as everyone has been saying. The veggie box is so big we’ve been forced into just that; eating less meat and more vegetables at every meal. It’s been money-saving, healthier and fun.
- Then there is all the talk about how standoffish people here are, and that too can be true, but it’s certainly not a rule. There’s a small flower shop up the street from where we live. Marcia has gotten to know the owner, a sabra (native-born Israeli Jew) who, we learned, has had a remarkably challenging life. Mother of six children, she runs the business on her own. A while back she mentioned to Marcia that her birthday was coming up. When the day came, Marcia brought her a piece of cake in honor of the event and wished her a happy birthday. A week or so afterward, walking past the shopkeeper’s daughter as she watered the stock, I said, They look beautiful (in English; I know my limits). I doubted she would remember me, we had only met briefly once before. Thank you she answered, and best regards to Marcia, big smile, big wave. Their acceptance of Marcia had even spread to a non-flower buying, English speaking friend of a friend.
We have found that so many of our expectations have had to be altered as we have continued here. We probably should have expected that. A three thousand year old city would naturally reserve its share of surprises
Caroline Glick is a jewel who writes a column for the English language Jerusalem Post. As well as being a wonderful journalist with a fascinating background, she also has a keen sense of humor. Check out the YouTube video by “The Audacity of Dopes,” below.
And the longer, “full version”: