(Sunday night, November 22, 1998) – Jerusalem
I have this strange sensation, almost as if I will be leaving home when I check out tomorrow. I still haven’t packed. Once I start putting things in my suitcase, the inevitability of “leaving” will sink in. So I will procrastinate.
This morning, I had nearly finished with breakfast when Marcia (part of the Cantor’s entourage) came in. We talked for almost twenty minutes, then the Cantors arrived. So once again, a thirty minute meal lasted two hours.
I hugged Miriam and teased her before she could tease me. Which jump-started a whole new round of witty repartee, with every last person getting in a good-natured jab, or two, or three. How good would it be if every day could begin with such laughter!
Melvin Cantor turns out to have a decent sense of humor, one that is not immediately obvious. It’s beyond wry, and he makes me laugh. And I have learned that Marcia (the Orthodox member of the gang) has a huge and merciful heart. Erhla impresses me with her depth – I can feel her embrace and welcoming spirit without her uttering a single word.
And Daniel Cantor? I haven’t figured him out yet. But he can say some wise things that stick with me. I don’t know if he’s repeating what he’s heard, or if it’s old Jewish wisdom, or if he’s coming up with these things on his own. For example: He has difficulty walking in Jerusalem because of the flagstones and cobbled streets. “But again, that’s like being a Jew. The ground is solid beneath your feet, but the path is uneven and hard.”
At each of the three meals I’ve shared with them, Dan Cantor has done something both interesting and heart-warming. He goes around the table and thanks God for each person. Specifically. Something that person means to him, that day, that moment, that place. Today – this Sunday after Shabbat – I graduated from being merely a guest, to being a friend.
Michael A. of the UJA, together with his wife and daughter, also joined us for breakfast. He remembered my name from Thursday night! That always impresses me.
Coffee and cake with the Masorti Rabbi’s wife touched me too. I barely know this woman and may never see her again. But after getting past the ubiquitous small-talk, which generally involves my being here in the middle of the UJA’s General Assembly without being part of UJA, we moved on to things that touch both our lives. It was an oasis, that conversation.
Afterwards, I tried to decide what to do with myself for the rest of the day, knowing that I am leaving tomorrow. Dan Markind had suggested I visit Hadassah Hospital, both for the work it does as well as to see its Chagall windows. But my feet took me back to the Old City.
I finally visited the Tower of David (Citadel), even “did” the tour. But I found I most wanted to return to the Wall one last time. I took up a spot on the wall, where it borders the incline. I soaked in the sun, knowing I should ‘pray’ while there. But that day, all I could do was sit and let the sounds of others’ prayers wash over me.
My feet dragged all the way back to the hotel. These are all last-times-for-a-while.