When you love a woman, and you wish to tell a friend about her, it’s no simple thing. The first thing you might say… there’s this woman and I love her… but that’s just about yourself. So you try to describe her. She’s not the most beautiful woman in the world… but for you, the moment you see her, you smile… you’re happy. She’s intelligent… but you really don’t care just how much… She wears dresses down to her ankles… she has these little ear rings on her ears… She has black curly hair… but a lot of other women do too. You try to describe her and realize, that it could be any other woman. How do you explain how very special she is for you… how do you explain the way your heart dances when she’s close, looking through the window with you… and you’re not even touching…
Well, it’s something like that, when I talk about Jerusalem to those who don’t know her… She’s not the most beautiful city in the world, and she’s not the easiest town in which to live. She’s got problems, and she’s got hang ups… she’s got too much traffic, and it’s not that well mannered considerate traffic. And when foreign dignitaries come to visit, the police close down streets just so the VIPs can go around without waiting at intersections the way we have to.
They say that Tel Aviv never sleeps… well Jerusalem never sleeps either, but no one talks about it. It’s not thought of as some special quality around here. When people think of Jerusalem… visitors, who come from out of town… they think of the wailing wall, or the biblical zoo… they think of the orthodox Jews dressed in black suits… or the colorful Arabs who are willing to negotiate a price in the market place… they think of churches or mosques… or synagogues… or the parliament of Israel, which is called the Knesset. And of course the museum, where you can get lost for days, learning all the time… though they don’t like people to photograph there. None of these things come to mind when I’m out of the city and longing to be home again.
I don’t care much for the pomp and ceremony. And though I love the stores and the market places, and the different malls that can be found in the city, I don’t spend much time there. And many of the libraries that were my second home in years past, are no longer as popular as they once were… after all, the computer has changed our life style to a large degree. I’ve never been at the sports Stadium, named after our legendary mayor, Teddy Kollek, who was elected five times to the job, and served almost 40 years.
What I love about Jerusalem, are the people, with whom I share a common culture, and a common tongue, and the spirit that lingers and floats through the city, through the day and night. The many book stores, and the study halls, and the ‘hole in the wall’ prayer rooms, and the coffee shops, and the bars, and the night clubs and music halls, and the streets with laundry hanging out the windows, and poster boards where everyone can pour his heart out about what matters to him or what’s bothering him, and the parks, and the trees… and even the dead end streets that no one sees except the locals… and yes, the Jerusalem Forest which is sort of attached to the city right at the western edge of it. And the cats who are as much citizens as we are.
I like riding in the buses, or on the tram, and listening as other people carry on intricate and emotional conversations with their friends and relatives in front of everyone else while others read the newspaper, a good book, or even pray… not at all self conscious about the fact that they’re exposed and everyone can see them in their private moments. I love the many ice cream stands, and the vendor who cooks hot corn on the sidewalk and sells it hot to passers by in season, and the musicians who play for small change on the promenades… and the tourists who are so impressed by things we take for granted, and take pictures of everything. And now that we have cell phones, everyone seems to take pictures of everything…
It’s Jerusalem day today. People from all over the country have come to the city, and there are all kinds of activities connected with the day. Some folks have even come from abroad… and so I thought I’d write something about Jerusalem. Though those of you who read me regularly, know I mention my beloved city quite a bit anyway. Trying to write about it as the subject of a post, though, was a bit harder than I expected.