One of the joys of being a longtime blogger is having the chance to meet people whose words one has read for years. I've had the opportunity to meet three bloggers while I've been in Jerusalem. First I had lunch with Chaviva (of Just Call Me Chaviva); then Ilene (of Primagravida) hosted me for a poetry reading; and then I spent most of a day with Vicky (of Bethlehem Blogger.)
On Thursday Chaviva and I met for lunch on Emek Refaim in West Jerusalem, where we chatted about life, parenthood (her baby is adorable), how I came to the rabbinate, how she came to Israel, how Israel has and hasn't been what she imagined before she made aliyah, what it's like living far away from family, and so on. Chaviva lives in Neve Daniel, which I had seen briefly from the bus on my way home from Hebron the day before. It is lovely and green and looks like a great place to rear a kid. (Of course, to its residents it is a suburb of Jerusalem; to the residents of Bethlehem just down the hill, it is an illegal settlement. I did mention that I'm trying to sit with the contradictions, right?) I didn't think to snap a photo, so you'll just have to take my word for our encounter.
The poetry reading, moderated by Ilene and hosted by a lovely woman named Rachel in her Baka apartment, was wonderful. I read poems from both 70 faces and Waiting to Unfold, and talked about Torah and parenthood and poetry and postpartum depression and all kinds of good things. It was such a sweet evening that I almost missed my guesthouse's curfew!
And then the next day Vicky came to meet me at the guesthouse for spiritual pilgrims where I have been staying in the Old City. She took me to a fantastic bookstore-café in East Jerusalem where we ate sandwiches and chocolate cake, and browsed books, and talked about all sorts of things -- how she came to Bethlehem, her PhD research, the children with whom she works, how and why I became a rabbi, culture, theology, her Bethlehem host family, and more. It was the sort of meeting where one instantly feels as though one is with a longtime friend. Of course, we've been reading each others' blogs for years, so we have known each other for a long time, even if we hadn't met in person before. But I suspect that our blog-familiarity is only part of why we clicked so comfortably.
St. Peter in Gallicantu.
Then she took me to see one of her favorite places in Jerusalem, an utterly spectacular church on the far side of the Old City. It's called St. Peter in Gallicantu, and the name denotes the cock crowing -- as in the story of Peter rejecting Jesus three times before the rooster could announce the morning. I didn't manage to get any great photographs of it, so the one above will have to stand in. The interior mosaics which cover the dome and its pillars are incredible: a soft rainbow of colors, a ring of angels bearing trumpets whose robes resemble clouds. And although there was a tour group there when we arrived, we sat quietly off to the side and in time they departed and left us alone in the basilica, which was quiet and peaceful in a way I rarely associate with this city! The church was serene and I said a silent prayer that real peace may come speedily and soon to this place where so many people for so many centuries have sought connection with God.
With Vicky, post-falafel.
She came with me back to my guesthouse so I could don a clean white shirt for Shabbat. We had glorious falafel near the Damascus Gate, and she taught me how to say strawberries in Arabic (so I could buy some for the Shabbat potluck I would be attending), and then we regretfully parted ways. Vicky wrote a really lovely post about our day together: Meeting the Velveteen Rabbi.
I'm grateful that the internet has brought me into connection with so many wonderful people here.