All posts tagged: Israel

Poem on the wall

The last thing in our Jerusalem apartment, and the last photo I took in Jerusalem: poem on the wall. I am on the moving walkway at Ben Gurion airport in a knit sweater, a leather jacket, and high heels. It is 37 degrees Celsius out and I am leaving little pieces of myself behind in Israel in the form of nostalgia-filled droplets of sweat. It is the oldest trick in the travel book: Everything that will weigh down a suitcase must be worn. If sentimentality had gotten the better of me, I would also be wearing the wooden desk that previously sat in the corner of our bedroom and the vanilla chai mix we had to leave behind. “You will not feel like we are truly leaving until the internet is gone,” Elijah joked. He was right. I took it upon myself to navigate the infamous Israeli bureaucracy to cancel our connection, in the hope that a potential negative experience on the eve of our departure would perhaps lighten the heavy heart boarding the plane. …

Two portions exactly

“Let’s make a list,” he said on the way to the Mahane Yehuda shuq, our local market. “First: quinoa.” “Quinoa? Why quinoa?!” At the time, I was unsure of how to spell the word in my head. That is how you know we missed out on the required post-graduate years of American yuppiness. “Because I want to feel hip.” Alright, then. When we arrived in Jerusalem, it was pomegranate season. The first sound I associate with our Jerusalem home is the crackling of seeds separating from the pomegranate. We came with the pomegranates; we are leaving with the cherries. We pass by the apricots, since the seller will not let us buy anything under a full box of them. There is no time left for a full box of apricots. The shopkeeper asks how much quinoa we want. “Enough for two portions,” Elijah responds. This is the smallest quantity in which anyone has ever gone food shopping in Jerusalem’s market. “We only have enough time left for two portions exactly.” Two portions is the loneliest number. …

Jerusalem swan song

If I were writing this in an hour, I would be sitting on the floor. This is a floor both Elijah and I have scrubbed to no avail. The old Arab tiles that form its jigsaw pattern are too beautiful to be replaced and too historic to ever be fully clean. In an hour, our landlady is stopping by to pick up her furniture. The orange chair whose fluorescent monstrosity I had bemoaned is leaving, and so are we. With 15 days left in this chapter of life, I am inhabiting the Jerusalem version of “Goodnight Moon.” I am eating as though I am seeking to satiate a constant craving for everything I will miss. I am shoving falafel and lemon cheesecake milkshakes and fruit crumbles down in the hope that they will ease the pain of departure, as though I am nursing a bad break-up. And yet, the break-up could not be more amicable. I am still in love with you, Jerusalem, and part of me probably always will be. You are that lingering …

The involved places

I did not come to the Middle East to maintain an attachment to privacy. I have worked in five countries in this region and each of them has stripped me bare. The invisible bubble between you and the world dissolves and you sit there, practically naked in all your layers of clothes, with yourcollarbones covered but your life exposed. Questions feel like pokes initially, like none-of-your-business jabs. This is the story of my making peace with the questions. It is a story of my love for “the involved places”, the places that do not stop at “nice to meet you” and “check, please”, the places that transcend what is appropriate or their business to form a human, intrusive life connection. *** Living above Burgers Bar means I have woken up on more than one occasion wondering if there is, indeed, a portion of the population that craves a lamb burger at 8 AM. Some people wake up to the gurgling of the coffee machine or to a whiff of hazelnut coffee; Elijah and I wake …

Peace

When a city is built entirely out of white stone, it is meant to be loved at night, in the glow of orange street lamps. Passover and the Sabbath coincided, thus taking cars, humans and bread crumbs off the streets. We wandered for two hours with no purpose other than to make memories in an empty city, to claim the playground for ourselves, to interrupt the silence and cast shadows on the orange-hued streets of Jerusalem. Overnight, Jerusalem had blossomed, if only to signal to me that spring had not forgotten after all. I sneezed under the petals and took deep breaths regardless.  Outside his favorite building in Jerusalem, he spotted it. This was the one flower that would not make me sniffle. Made of blue tissue paper and tied to a street barrier, it was waiting for someone like him to notice.I, ever the wary one, could not retire my conflict training, not even for an empty Jerusalem, not even in the orange glow. “Are you sure you should be picking up something you …

Celebrating light

I arrived in Jerusalem like a doe-eyed lover in a budding relationship: I wanted to be swept off my feet. I wrote then: “They” say that “of the 10 portions of beauty that came down to the world, 9 went to Jerusalem and one to the rest of the world.” The next verse reads “of the 10 portions of suffering that came down to the world, 9 went to Jerusalem and one to the rest of the world.” I wished then: “For today, though, world — please, let me just savor the beautiful light.” The world has been generous with me. In December, when natural light hides early, the holidays gift us with an extra glimmer. I have always been attached to holidays, all the holidays, regardless of whether I observe them. Ramadan, Yom Kippur, Christmas, Holi — sign me up for all of them. This week, Jerusalem is aglow with the light of Hanukkah. In the candlelight, when I squint, I feel like I can see all portions of beauty that have made it …

Field of mines [or: Choked]

“I think we may be spending the night in a minefield.” I have slept at some strange places. There was the middle of the Black-and-White Desert in the Sahara, when I woke up to find that a fox had eaten my breakfast. Or the middle of a wheat field, where I woke up to find that I had accidentally pooped on the hiking trail. Let’s not forget about the Amazon jungle during a monsoon. A minefield, however, would be a first. A sign informed us that we were in the “Tuscany of Israel.” The light was warm, the hills were rolling as they do, and I even got a mosquito bite on the eve of December. The rental car with the sunroof was a far cry from its cousin that broke down on the Damascus-Baghdad highway a few warm-lit falls ago. The souvenirs of that drive, though, soon converged with this journey. Radio Lebanon overpowered the newscast in Hebrew. The hills became rocky and populated with signs ‘strongly discouraging’ us from getting off the road. …

Parallel narratives of grief

I have been thinking about grief and, this time, I cannot credit Joan Didion. Believe me, I have tried to celebrate beautiful fall light and the exquisiteness of gummy candy in Jerusalem’s markets. I have tried to take a momentary breathing break from thinking about the paradoxes. I live above Burgers Bar and embrace privileged-world-problems like “my apartment smells like hamburgers.” I read New York Times articles like this, which epitomize privileged-world-problems, and then ponder the closest location of macarons or cupcakes. In the airiness of macarons, I find a bubble. A woman who has lived in the Middle East for a while told me that without the bubble, I will not survive. And yet, I cannot evade the big questions and it seems Jerusalem asks them continuously. I arrived here to find the country wrapped up in the story of Gilad Shalit. Shalit was taken hostage by Hamas militants when he was serving as an Israeli Defense Forces combat soldier in 2006. In October, Israel released 1,027 Palestinian prisoner in exchange for Shalit’s return. The …

Dear conflicted land

Dear conflicted land, You are so small that one can drive through you listening to just one radio station. You have not been the homiest of homes to me, but here I am, having left you after 9 months, and listening to Galgalatz FM through the internet, hoping to still feel connected to you through the sound of familiar commercials. * As you are reading this, I am away from internet, Israel, Greece, and most everyone I love. Before leaving for my next journey, I penned a letter to the land I called home for the past year. If you wish to read the rest of it in my column at Gypsy Girls Guide, click here.

Walking across a land, in words and in photos

Because walking is the way I understand places, the way they frustrate, confuse, and disorient me. Walking is the way I fall in love. The story The Time We Walked to the Sea The Day We Failed to Walk The Day Storks Changed My Mind The Day Messi Rode Past Us The Day of Wheat and Worry The Day We Found the Sea