Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Long and Winding Walks in Jerusalem

Two years and four months ago, on July 15, 2004, I decided late at night to walk to the Old City of Jerusalem by myself from my new place of residence - Ulpan Etzion. Very unsure of allowing my very vague sense of direction to guide me in what was then a strange new city, I made my way across my new home and made it to the Old City. Looking for a gate of entry, I ended up walking a bit of a way into eastern Jerusalem (it was the people around me speaking Arabic, and the signs with the Arabic on top and Hebrew on bottom, that clued me in). Well, as you can probably guess, I quickly turned around and found where I had originally wanted to enter.

Today, much more certain about my sense of direction both in Jerusalem and life, I decided to make the long and winding walk to the Old City and back one final time. I didn't think about that first post-aliyah trip to the Old City as I walked first across town, and then up a long series of winding steps on the side of Mt. Zion, and then past King David's Tomb as a "tour guide" who appeared out of nowhere convinced a woman walking behind me to go up the stairs to a room above King David's Tomb..."Go to the Last Supper room...yes, up the stairs...yes, there...Last Supper room, no charge..."

I didn't think about the significance of that long ago night, July 15, 2004, until I was walking across a parking lot in the Old City toward the Jewish Quarter, via the Zion Gate, on the afternoon of November 15, 2006. Then, I was walking to the Old City and back, from a temporary housing location, a day after having made an overseas move. Yesterday (for it is well past midnight now), I did the same walk, only from an apartment I've lived in for nearly two years (just two weeks shy)...and I did it a day before I was to make (yet another) overseas move.

And so, I realized the distant and yet ever-present connection between these two dates...and was filled with a flood of emotion. But the tears weren't to come yet. Not yet.

My stomach needed food.

Once in the Jewish Quarter, I had myself a slice of pizza and a bottle of Coke at Rami's Pizza, and then made my way to a viewpoint overlooking the Dome of the Rock, the al-Aqsa mosque, the Western Wall Plaza and, in the distance, the Mount of Olives. I stood there for a little while, contemplating, watching people, thinking about...stuff....until a very large group of American tourists congregated in the area, and inspired me to go do what I'd come to the Old City to do.

I started walking down the steps toward a security checkpoint to enter the Western Wall Plaza right as the Muslim call to prayer began. To hear this is no longer strange for me (though always beautifully haunting in its own way). Many are the times when, right as my fingers literally touched the Western Wall on a visit, the Muslim call to prayer would begin. Today, the call was still going out and echoing around as I touched the Wall, ending just as I put a note to God into it. What an amazing place.

Anyway, I stood there for a moment, saying first some traditional and following that, some private prayers...then, I cried. I cried, for a million reasons and no reason at all. On my way out of the Old City, I picked up some postcards for my sister Stephanie, and then visited King David's Tomb. I looked out at Jerusalem for a bit in an isolated field, and then began the long and winding walk back to my apartment in Jerusalem, Israel.

One last time.


Anonymous said...

good luck in Jew York Mr. Slavin ... hope your dreams and aspirations become realities.

Miguel Borzutzky said...

It was awesome sharing with you this last month. Hope to see you soon in The US. Good Luck My friend and Nice Returning home.