Jerusalem

October 31, 2009

Scott and I arrived in Jerusalem today, by way of Madrid. This is pretty inconsequential, but a quick note about airports. Terminal 7 at JFK is just about one of the best airport terminals I’ve seen in New York.  I haven’t flown British Airways (or Iberia) in forever, and it’s great.  They have Ciao Bella gelato and a Balducci’s take out area.  We flew Iberia through Madrid, which is also one of the coolest airports I’ve seen lately. Designed by Richard Rogers Partnership it’s bright and sunny and organic looking.

Driving from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, it’s hard not to feel something, to feel the weight of the history and the brightness of the limestone.  It’s fresh and consuming, and simultaneously the safest feeling place where you can still worry about being bombed in the street.  As Scott said, in Rio, once you make it inside someplace, you’re pretty much okay.  In Israel, it’s all fair game, but you don’t think twice about wandering down a dark alley.

We had dinner at a restaurant called Chakra. It was delicious–fresh warm bread with different small dishes of tabouleh, eggplant, fiery red pepper spread, marinated avocado, kochoba squash, ceviche.  It was perhaps my perfect collection of foods.  The place was filled with Israelis–older couples having inky wine dinners at tables for two, and groups of friends and other twosomes perched at the bar.  From there we wandered to the old city.  The streets were clearly created before cars, and narrow passageways lead to stairs between shuttered shops and homes.  After about ten minutes of winding through alleys past Hasidic men in pais and black suits and fur hats, we turned a corner, passed through a metal detector and were at the Western Wall.

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There were men praying on the mens’ side and women praying on the womens’ side and all of the stones all around us were polished with thousands of years of use.  I remembered being here as a four year old and a seven year old for my brothers’ respective bar mitzvahs, peering over the division between the two halves.  There were two boys about our age, black suits, black hats, pais, on their cell phones, telling their friend, Maier, to just come up the ramp, they’ll see each other.  I couldn’t help wonder if then their Saturday night would begin however it goes, after the davening was done.

It feels surreal to be here.  The weight of all that was fought for to get it makes it seem worth fighting for now.  This city glows.  It’s living history, ruins, and archeological digs mixed in with pizza places and mod cafes.

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