I cannot sleep; your pearly dawn beckons. I arise and watch the clouds move across a pink and blue-gray sky. The necklace of streetlights goes out and the sunrise illuminates the Israel Museum. It’s a show that lasts for hours; the ever changing light of Jerusalem against its stone, enchanting, mesmerizing.
As a serial-apartment-renting tourist, I have many neighborhoods that I now call my own, from the vistas of Rehavia’s western border, to the bird-song and bougainvillea-draped balconies of Talbieh, to the funky, bohemian alleyways of Nachlaot.
My heart’s compass always points to Jerusalem and I have entered from all directions. Ascending from the west always takes longer than I anticipate, and as the busses strain, my pulse quickens, even after all these years. I think of watching cherries melt into a Shavuot cheesecake on my friend’s lap, as the sun beat down on it through the bus windows.
I have arrived at the holy city by train from the southwestern hills, on a slow, relaxing ride from Ramla, where I was the only passenger in the car, even in “rush hour” on a weekday morning. And I have cycled southward out of a rainy Jerusalem, on a charity bike ride, slipping and sliding towards the Dead Sea with over 400 cyclists, to raise money for a Jerusalem hospital.
My twenty-eight-year-long love story with this city began when I was in my twenties, during the heyday of tourism when the only place I could find to sleep in Jerusalem was the floor of the King David hotel, where friends from Maryland were staying the night before their son’s Kotel bar mitzvah. Years later, my own son would have his bar mitzvah at this timeless landmark.
As a young mother, I watched my baby daughter’s first crawl, and her first tooth emerge in Jerusalem’s King’s hotel; I nursed her on the ramparts of the Old City. I watched my children slide down the triple-tongued Kiryat Yovel monster slide. I sent them to Merchavim day camp on that magical, dream summer when we stayed for seven weeks.
I have celebrated with you, Jerusalem. I’ve marveled at the chanukiot built into your stone apartment buildings and watched as my Sherut-Leumi-serving daughter gave tours of Machon Hamikash on chol hamoed Pesach. I’ve watched little Torah scrolls scurry along Sanhedria’s teeming streets on Shushan Purim, barbecued and watched fireworks from the Jerusalem Forest on Yom HaAtzmaut and walked through your streets at two a.m. to arrive at the Kotel on Shavuot’s dawn.
Lights twinkle from the Jerusalem hills and I gaze out at the December night from my daughter’s terrace chuppah. Together, we circle her groom as she grafts herself into a family of Jerusalemites, forever cementing our bond with the eternal city. The voice of joy and the voice of gladness are heard in the streets of Jerusalem. The song has come to life.
Now, I push a stroller down Jaffa road while my sabra granddaughter eats a granny smith apple and enchants passers-by with her denim eyes.
My son-in-law is impressed that I can walk from one end of Jerusalem to the other without a map, so thorough is my knowledge of this city.
I have seen people flee from you during the tragic years of the second intifada, and people flee to you during the second Lebanon war. I always stayed by your side, Jerusalem. I would not let our enemies keep me away.
I would not stay away from your intoxicating smells, the spicy pine and oregano scent that permeates the air; a smell that someone once explained, “comes from Hakodesh Baruch Hu”. I would not stay away from the aroma of Kiryat Moshe’s Angel bakery mingling with blooming jasmine, a fragrance that makes me faint with delight.
Jerusalem, you are always with me, even here in the galut. But I am weary from savta-express airplanes, weary from packing, unpacking. I dream of the day, B”H, when I will travel with a one-way ticket and come home to you. I dream of the time when I can always be with you, Jerusalem, my love.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.
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