We’ve Been here only since Tuesday morning, but it feels like a long time. I’m over my jet lag, raring to go! We are in a light breezy rental apartment in Katamon until the dira is ready that we bought in Baka, several months at least. We only brought 4 suitcases, so we have to re-invent ourselves. One of Reggie’s was lost by EL AL for a day, so that was a great temporary source of anguish, as she had in it important medicine, heirloom jewelry, etc. I brought just my fiddle, no banjo or guitar. Reggie’s sister met as at the airport, took us shopping right away with her car, and arranged both meals for our first Sabbath, both fabulous banquets where we met many interesting people, who were all extremely encouraging and happy for us.
Everyone tells us to expect a period of adjustment, that beaurocracy and social patterns are different than we are used to, and that is OK with me. People tell me I can get by in Jerusalem without knowing much Hebrew, but at the official offices and beaurocratic places, utility companies, etc. you better have someone with who knows it. Reggie knows It at an intermediate level, but would like to improve. One of the benefits we get as new citizens as free enrollment in a language class. It is real work, 3 hours 3 nights a week, or more hours per day in a more intense format. People tell me “I didn’t learn the language but I made some great friends”. I will try and learn but at this point in my life I don’t relish drills and homework and memorization.
When I went to shul on Shabbat morning and they heard that we were new citizens, I was honored with e third Aliyah. After my Aliyah the leader of the group led everyone in a song used to welcome immigrants to the country. It was very unexpected and extremely moving; a validation of the years of planning and hard work that got us to this point.
I think I’m going to wait a little while before I begin filling my days with scheduled things, like Yeshiva learning, volunteering, etc. I want to have the freedom of a retired person and do different things each day, either to facilitate our move, or extra-ccurricular things to explore the city, cultural, walking tours, etc. There is a plethora of cultural things to chose from. This is something I desperately missed in my 35 yrs in the suburbs of Montclair and Passaic. I grew up in New York City and have been eager again to be in the middle of a metropolis bursting with energy.
Where better than Jerusalem? Next week there is an ‘Oud’ festival, of Middle eastern music. I also saw a series of concerts by the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra. They are even having a mini Bach festival in early 2017, with one concert of the entire Mass in B Minor. Count me in for that! There are also secular and religious cultural centers that offer a constant variety of fascinating classes, events and trips.
People welcome us here by saying ‘welcome home’, and in many ways it does feel like that. There are many great figures in Jewish history who tried to reach their ancestral homeland but were prevented by any number of reasons, and many died along the way. So we both feel privileged to have the means, time and health to be able to engage in this profound journey.
Jerusalem is not a beautiful city like Paris or Venice, but it has a unique charm and flavor. I’m getting used to knowing the layout of the city and enjoy using a map to get around. Friday morning we went to the very unique area of Mea Shearim, where only Chassidish people live. The stores and streets are different than anywhere else I’ve ever seen, reminding me of of the oldest medieval cities I’ve ever seen. We were told about an amazing bakery called Lander’s which is literally a hole in the wall. In the course of looking for it we meandered into ever narrower streets and alleys, forgetting that we were in a major metropolis, transported to a whole different world.
In the course of the morning we ran into six different people we were either related to, or friends or acquaintances with, including a cousin from Tzvat, a friend from Passaic who moved here just recently and whose contact info we were looking to get, a good friend of our son who recently moved to Ramat Bais Shemesh, and the co-owner of the ‘Kosher Connection’ food market we shopped in all the time in Passaic! It was a wonderfully unique Jerusalem experience, and reminded us again of the profound connection we have with so many great people!
Stay tuned for the next installment!