Yashar, Yashar, Yashar

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02 Mar 2007

Question: What is the most important thing to keep in mind if you get lost in Israel? Answer: Yashar, yashar, yashar*

There’s a man in my life that I’m trying to break up with. But, come to think of it, I haven’t much experience in such matters. Most men in my life seem to come and go or come and stay v’zeh hu…without any input from me at all. I had, until recently, an unusual father. And I still have two interesting brothers, along with a slightly fantastic husband, three rather remarkable sons, countless nephews and brothers-in-law who are all unique, as well as an endless supply of exceptional x-y chromosome friends (each one being somehow connected to me via any of the aforementioned). But the population of guy pals that I choose for myself is a rare and limited breed that I treat with great care and utmost caution. And the sad part is, I have a deep and honest affection for this particular man that I need to get rid of, but I know that the relationship must end or else I won’t move on with the next phase of my life.

So I walked into Avis-Rent-A-Car on Rechov Yirmiyahu, left with a gray-toned Mazda Shesh, and started navigating the convoluted streets of the holiest city on planet earth…Jerusalem. Because you cannot “own” a place and you cannot call it your home unless you know how to get around it without getting lost. And the time has finally come for me to “own” Jerusalem. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Which means the time has finally come for me to break up with Tzion, the man who has been my cab driver, confidant, and para-psychologist for the past four years.

I expected it would surely crack Tzion’s heart to hear how I managed (all by myself) to get paz, go grocery shopping, take cash out of the bank, make it to Kanyon Malcha and back (alive), stop at a little café for coffee, and end up somewhere on a big and busy street where I found a music store and bought myself a chalil, after 38 flute-less years. All of this, and only one small scratch on the front fender! OK, OK…I got lost on the way back. But that’s because the signs were confusing, and the rain was falling, and all the other cars were honking so loudly from yama, v’kedmah, t’zafonah, v’negbah. And absolutely nobody paid any attention whatsoever to that nice yellow sticker, attached to the rear windshield of my car, proclaiming my embarrassing status as a “naheget chadasha b’yisrael.” I had to pull over and seriously think about the last remaining Xanax, which I’ve been toting around in my wallet for years (in case of an unforeseeable emergency melt-down).

But then I remembered my unusual and unusually clever father who (once in his life) took a trip to Washington, D.C. on business, rented himself a fancy luxury car and then promptly got lost. The streets of Jerusalem follow no known logic, but will never be a match for the streets of Washington, D.C., which are based on some impossible, mind-boggling circular theory of design. My father simply did the counter-intuitive thing. He hailed a taxi, told the driver where he needed to go, and then followed him there in his rented car. And he continued to employ this efficient method for the remainder of his stay in America’s capitol (go figure).

So I called Tzion from my cell, told him where he could find me and ended up following him home (in my rental car) to Ha-Baron Hirsh #3, where I invited him in for a strong coffee and explained that our relationship was about to change. Oh, I’ll still keep in touch whenever I need to get back and forth from Ben Gurion airport, but the man was all kindness and gracious to a fault. “Rachel,” he said (because he only ever calls me by my Jewish name), “you have some new friend in your life? Someone else, perhaps, that you want to spend time with?

“Well, yes, as a matter of fact. He’s a teacher. His name is Gavriel and he’s going to give me music lessons. Every day. For the flute.”

Tzion just smiled and wished me all the best…both with the car, and with the flute, and with the Argentinean music instructor. But then he did one better than that and offered me some of the wisest advice from his heart: “Israelis honk as a matter of conversation. It’s only a way of saying hello, mah inyanim…in the streets. But just remember, Rachel, Tzion is still here for you anytime. You can never truly get lost in Yerushalayim, the place where you now belong. Just keep going yashar, yashar, yashar. Because whenever you’re in the holy city, going straight is the surest way to go.”

There is an expression that says, “Home is where the heart is.” And my heart has been in Jerusalem for far too long to ignore. So I will learn how to get myself around all those convoluted roads and arteries in my holiest of cities. And I’ll always try to remember the advice of my good friend, Tzion. Because if you keep on going “straight” in life, and you follow your heart, then all roads eventually……lead home.

* Yashar means straight in Hebrew.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.