It was so hard leaving Jerusalem. I stood at my window in Room 11-Chai and drank in the Old City one last time, memorizing stone on stone as best I could. Even as I write these words, I think the scene in my mind, again.
I felt like I was leaving home when I drove away from the hotel today. I had gotten to know two of the shopkeepers fairly well, plus Odeh the Chief Cashier, and Orit of reception. Since the hotel was nearly empty today (El Al would be ferrying all those UJA people back to the States), I even got to see them with their hair down, playing and horsing around. Fun!
Everything took longer than planned, and the noon departure turned into 1 p.m., finally 2 o’clock when I left. Continue reading
(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. Continue reading
(Saturday night, November 21, 1998) – Jerusalem
In case I’d ever wondered, after last night I have no doubt that fundamentalism isn’t my cup of tea. I went to the Kabbalat Shabbat service at the Great Synagogue across the street from the Sheraton. It seemed logical to observe all forms of Israeli Judaism.
Now I knew that in the Great Synagogue (an Orthodox congregation), women would be required to sit separate from the men. But I did not know that women are not permitted to pray or sing aloud. I would not last long in that environment. (I nearly came undone with giggles when I envisioned my Philadelphia friend Johanna being told she had to daven silently.) Continue reading
(November 20, 1998) – Jerusalem
At 1 o’clock in the morning, I am still wide awake and wired. Thursday was JNF Day! My thoughts are racing. – By the way, I like Gold Star better than Maccabbee. Taste test complete, no blindfolds.
Since I had not met Cynthia before this morning, I didn’t know what she looked like. She found me first. “You must be Dan Markind’s friend. JNF fanny pack!”
Cynthia apologized that she could not give me a private tour, and hoped I wouldn’t mind joining an excursion that had been in the works for months. JNF (Jewish National Fund) was honoring Daniel D. Cantor and his family for their extraordinary contributions to JNF works. They had an extra spot in the van, if it would be all the same to me. Otherwise, she could show me around another day. Continue reading
The overwhelming, destructive feeling of aloneness made the first part of the morning unbearable. It was all I could do to go down to breakfast.
Mood worsened by Reception’s calling frantically at 7:30 a.m. saying, “Your VISA card still isn’t being accepted.” I could see myself being unceremoniously ejected from the hotel with no place to go (the hotels are booked solid).
I decided that if that happened, I would check out and head north to Z’fat. My desperation became so great that I did not stop to consider how I would pay for a hotel in Z’fat if VISA would not honor the card anywhere in Israel. But I did not have to do anything that drastic. Continue reading
(November 18, 1998) – Jerusalem
Emotions charged beyond belief today, highs and lows under a hot Israeli sun. – Newspaper headlines blazed the news of the deaths of three Israeli soldiers in Lebanon. It made an immediate impact on the people in this city. Life moves forward at a more subdued pace.
But today is on the calendar as Yad Vashem Day. At first, I was pleased. The cabby said he had been a history teacher before taking up cab driving. I held out hope for a nice exchange, insight into the things I would be seeing. But the mood changed quickly. Continue reading
When it comes to breakfast, I just cannot win! When I walked in at 6:45 a.m., the General Assembly people were already there. It was an early day on their itinerary. At least they are nice. This morning was my first encounter with Ugly Americans In Jerusalem, none of whom was associated with General Assembly. Breakfast was shorter than usual because of the negative vibe from the table of Ugly Americans.
Writing this in my room, late at night after a long and confusing day, I think I am in two completely different countries. The places I saw bore little resemblance to the Old City under yesterday’s feet. Although on second thought, a very old heart beats under the newness of modern Jerusalem. Continue reading
(November 16, 1998) – Jerusalem
I shook hands with Jerusalem today, talked to her a little. She still has not told me any secrets, but at least I know more than just her name.
But I must remember not to eat breakfast between 7:30 and 8:30 tomorrow. The General Assembly people leave at 8:30 and the dining room is bedlam when they are there. Mobs are not fun, even when it’s a friendly mob.
Today I managed a decent start for the Old City, in fact – so decent that nothing was open when I got there. Backtracked a little to inspect the homes they are building in King David City. One of these is mine!
The rush to leave Philadelphia with so much pressure from work meant that I had not had time to get traveler’s checks from my local bank. The Thomas Cook counter at the airport had just sold out of all of its US dollar traveler’s checks (they said someone had purchased $14,000 right before I got there). So I arrived in Israel with only credit cards and odd dollar change, maybe $45. That is not a recommended way to begin a trip!
Therefore I spent the first thirty minutes preoccupied with finding an ATM. The one on Ben Yehuda Street had been out of order last night. I finally found one in the Jewish Quarter and could relax and enjoy the rest of the day. Continue reading