This week's portion: gut feeling
Last day of (my first) ulpan

Moments of connection

On Monday evening I Skyped in to the ALEPH pastoral counseling class I've been taking since February. It meets in two sections, morning and evening; I'd been in the evening section, but now I've joined the "morning" section, which meets from 6-8pm Jerusalem time. Sitting at the kitchen table in the old Beit Midrash at the Conservative Yeshiva -- beautiful tile floors, big window behind me casting natural light on my computer -- and hearing the voices of dear ALEPH chevre was surreal and amazing. Like a stitch fastening my life-at-home to my life-here-this-summer.

I had another chance to feel connected with my ALEPH chevre early in the week; my housemates and I joined our colleagues Aura and Ora for dinner on Tuesday night. Aura is here for the summer; Ora just arrived, and will be here for the year. We chose a small restaurant none of us had been in before. The painted plates were beautiful, and the service was friendly. I ordered the "Jerusalem Mixed Grill," which came with salad (cucumber and tomato chopped together) and chips (French fries.) I understood that part. What I hadn't realized was that the mixed grill was a mélange of organ meats. Good thing I'm a pretty adventuresome eater.

After dinner, my housemates brought their daughter back to the apartment and I ventured forth with the two women named for light. We walked to the windmill (one of my favorite places in town), where two sets of chatan (groom) and kallah (bride) were being photographed. (One pair was noticeably more religious than the other...) And then we walked to the Old City, entering via the Jaffa Gate.

We walked around a little bit, and I noticed how different the old city feels by night than it does during the day. (Among other things, on Shabbat afternoon I saw police or army everywhere; tonight we didn't see any at all.) Most of the shops were closed, or closing up as we walked by. In the twisty alleys we didn't hear any Hebrew at all. At one point Aura noticed a plaque set into the floor telling us that the cobblestones in front of us dated from the end of the Roman era here, the third century of the Common Era or so. Sure enough, in front of where we stood were enormous cobblestones set into the road, shiny and polished smooth by centuries upon centuries of feet.

We stopped for a drink in the same little vaulted-ceiling'd alleyway where I enjoyed cardamom-spiced iced coffee on Shabbat. Behind us, a rowdy group of Americans with a guitar sang Jimmy Buffet and Bob Marley songs off-key. We ordered beers (I'm growing quite fond of Taybeh) and ate the small plates of mezze that our waiter brought out free of charge (lightly pickled cucumber, slices of sweet dark cactus fruit, salty cubes of feta, and lupini beans in olive oil and herbs.) Beside us on a ledge was an old photo album filled with black-and-white pictures of Jerusalem and environs. Camels parked outside the familiar city gates.

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