All posts tagged: Jerusalem

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Anchoring love in memories

When I was growing up, my mother insisted that “respect cannot be forced; it must, instead, be inspired.” She may as well have been speaking about love. My notion of love is grounded in place, anchored in memories of the self I was when the heart fluttered readily and of the life that made it come aflutter. I remember what I was wearing, I remember the documents I was editing when I was g-chatting inconspicuously in another tab. The slight nausea in anticipation of the moment when the distance would end, and he would parade through the airport doors. The need to remember how to be with one another again, in proximity and in the flesh, not protected by laptop screens thousands of miles apart. I remember what loving in Egypt felt like: dusty, furtive, tasting of ‘shai’ and ‘asir faroula’ and ‘sheesha toufach’, with the strong Arabic ‘ch’ at the end that I could never quite muster. It felt clumsy and young and shy and full of wondering and wandering. It was the love …

Sailboats seen through a glass of iced water

Making homes out of numbness

“Are you sure this does not come in any other color?” I ask with the face children make when they do not want to eat their green beans. “Yes, I am sure. This is the hot color of this summer,” the salesperson informs me with mild irritation that I did not already know that. That is how I found myself on a Greek beach in a fluorescent pink bikini. I am a creature of forest greens and soothing ivories and maybe teal on an optimistic day and, here I was, floating in the water in the loudest of pinks. My pupils expand to accommodate the rush of color. Municipal laws in Jerusalem require that buildings be faced with local stone and my images of the city reflect this uniformity. My Jerusalem was a photograph in white and pink, of an orange night-time glow courtesy of the street lamps. The greens and blues of Greece, the fluorescent pinks, diversify my color range in a way that forces me to squint. I feel naked in Greece. I …

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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. …

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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. …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

February-20121

The end of missing someone

A story of then and now, of farewells and reunions: Then — a walk through Athens, the first almond blossoms, dashing subways, Melina Merkouri watching over us, Vespas in the sunshine, wine and seafood in the sun under the Parthenon. Four days ago “HAHAHAHAHAHA! Did you eat……. garlic?” I did, but I did not expect my brother to smell it on me the second I walked into his apartment. Garlic was a fundamental part of the last ode to Athens: a walk with Niki, wine, octopus and melitzanosalata with a generous portion of garlic for lunch in the shadow of the Acropolis. “Well, let me email Elijah and tell him to bring a nose clip to the airport!,” he joked. And proceeded to actually email him. I laughed and Moira the dog backed away from me. [My brother will still tell you it was because of the stench.] 71 days away from my love and on the day of the reunion I had melitzanosalata. There comes a point of solitude when it is simply you: …

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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 …

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Crumbs of home

It was about a year ago that he came home with that lamp. The bed was my domain at the time in the home that was never really home. I woke up every day, willing my ribs to heal from the accident, willing for some beautiful light to surprise me through the window. I spent most of my time in that home resisting permanence, fearing that if I exhaled, unpacked and owned anything, I would be tied to that life, the pain of recovery, and the desperate stagnation of immobility. I frowned when he brought the lamp, resenting it and its little blue hat for anchoring me. A year later. The body is healed and longing for permanence. There is a home — home home. Glorious light filters in through the gauze curtains every morning. “Oh my gosh, would you look at this light!” he says in his best imitation-of-Roxanne voice, but I know he is in awe of it too. We have bought plates – 18 of them. We barely have 18 friends here, …