Moments of connection
Tel Aviv Shabbat

Last day of (my first) ulpan

During our last ulpan class of the first session, kitah gimel read a Yehuda Amichai poem together. Michal had to translate some of the words for us, but in most cases she translated them from Hebrew into (simpler) Hebrew, which was cool. It's gorgeous, and ambiguous, and the penultimate stanza hangs on a piece of wordplay which I got immediately and which hit me in the most amazing and powerful way. (It merits its own post. I'll try to post about it next week.)

And then we went on a field trip to Tmol Shimshom, a bookstore-cafe right off of Yoel Solomon street (not far from Ben Yehuda; a mere ten minute walk from my house, across the park and up a little street.) The place is exactly up my alley: cluttered with furniture, bookshelves everywhere, big windows letting in natural light.

At brunch there I told Michal that ani m'shoreret (I'm a poet), and that that's why I've loved the poems we've read in ulpan so very much. She was delighted, and chastised me for not telling her sooner -- and immediately went over to the poetry shelves to find some volumes of Hebrew poetry to share with me.

We gave her a thankyou gift, by which she seemed genuinely gobsmacked. ("Zeh mamash lo normal," she kept saying: this really isn't normal! We laughed and several of us agreed we'd been given that compliment many times before.)

I ordered the house breakfast: a hot skillet of shakshuka (eggs scrambled with spicy tomato sauce; in this case, with eggplant and feta cheese), accompanied by little bowls of labneh and astonishing homemade jam and slices of homemade bread. It came with orange juice, and I added an iced coffee to the mix -- glorious.

We talked at our table in a mixture of Hebrew and English (Heblish, my friend Megan calls it): about our lives and our work back home, funny stories about linguistic misunderstandings... By the end of lunch we were all lingering at the table, even though we'd already paid; no one wanted to leave.

Four of us from kitah gimel will continue into session 2: the two men in the class, plus Marissa from whom I'm subletting, plus me. I'm grateful for the continuity, and moved and surprised by the extent to which I'm going to miss our other classmates when they go home tonight and tomorrow. Three weeks ago we were strangers. It's always amazing to me how that changes.

And Tmol Shimshom turns out to have poetry readings at least once a week: some in Hebrew, some in English, some in both together. I aspire to attend a few in the weeks that remain. Bilingual poetry readings in a funky bohemian bookstore-cafe in Jerusalem: what could possibly be more my cup of tea?

How lucky I feel to have had such a good first ulpan experience! And terrific afternoon classes, too: Heschel, psalms, theomorphism, all excellent. Thanks Conservative Yeshiva; kadima (onward) to session 2!

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