STILL FURTHER THOUGHTS OF A LONE JEW IN JERUSALEM

I am in the waiting area at Ben Gurion airport. My plane leaves in a couple of hours. I don’t want to be on it.

I do miss Mary Ellen and am looking forward to seeing her. However, I feel that I am leaving home and don’t want to leave here.

Earlier today I was at the Kotel, joining in with hundreds of others for midday prayer. Some were definitively ultra-orthodox; others were from different parts of the Jewish (and likely non-Jewish) world. While I will soon be back davening in a familiar shul (and delighted to be able to count towards a minion) it will feel different. We will be praying towards Jerusalem, not joining in prayer in Jerusalem.

I am not sure how productive my meetings to discuss co-op housing were. At a minimum, I was able to provide links to resources they were not necessarily aware of. There is definitely interest in co-op housing but the nature of such housing and where resources to develop co-ops can be founds are still open questions.

Yesterday I was privileged to be given a private tour of the Old City and its environs, a tour arranged by co-op folks in Israel. I hadn’t taken the opportunity to walk into the Arab area outside the Damascus Gate before, but we had to go through a bit of it to get to the Garden Tomb. While not a lot different than where I had visited before, it was a different world, one not only somewhat isolated from the Jewish and mixed areas of Jerusalem but different from the Arab neighbourhoods I had visited in Haifa and Acre and Hebron. Folk seemed a little more watchful of strangers, a little more tense. From the Garden Tomb, we crossed the old city on the Cardo, which follows the Roman main street, to the Zion Gate to visit David’s Tomb. Just outside the tomb itself a few Chassidic Jews had teffilin which they encouraged Jews who had never worn to put on. My guide suggested that I accept their offer and, after donning the teffilin and reciting the proper prayers my hands were grabbed and I was suddenly in a singing circle dance which, when it ended I was told was to welcome me home. I felt overwhelmed. My guide them had me walk through the entire building and pointed out the Christian and Muslim features as well. For him, the site of King David’s tomb—someone honoured by Jews, Christians and Muslims—was a statement of what might be in Jerusalem.

It was only in my final hours in Jerusalem that I noticed a woman in a niqab. While it is common, but not universal, for women from the diverse faith communities in Israel and the West Bank to wear a scarf or other head covering, a sight that has become common in Toronto turned out to be very rare sight here. I saw a few women in military uniform wearing hijabs, which surprised me.

The recent fires in Israel were frightening. I chose to leave Haifa early and return to Jerusalem just a couple of days before the fires broke out. Some were caused by carelessness, others seemed to have a natural cause but many were deliberately set. Where I had most recently stayed was in the area of Haifa that had to be evacuated. The offer, and acceptance, of help from the Palestinian authority to fight the fires was a positive sign that even people in conflict can find ways of joining together to deal with a crisis.

Cats seem to be a common sight in Israel, which some who have seen my pictures have noted. Many are left to fend for themselves; a few seem to find a home with a caring person. It was pointed out to me that there is a population of cats distinguished by a clipped ear. These cats have been captured, neutered, given shots and treated for any health problems and then returned to where they were captured. This is quite controversial as many rabbis have forbidden the practice of neutering animals so it is most common in Christian areas.

Upon return to Canada I’ll start planning my return to Israel. I am aiming for the end of April but that is not firm. But I intend to return. לשנה הבאה בירושלים

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