a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

Israel Part Three

Posted on: November 29, 2011

My good friend, Michael of Almost Jewish has been doing some beautiful writing on his blog about our Trip to Israel.  Make sure to check out his work as well as two other trip participants who are blogging-Arthur and Scott.

The Parts in Italics are from the journal that I kept while in Israel. I won’t be blogging in chronological order necessarily, but this blog is on my first day in Jerusalem, before the trip officially started.

I spent my first day in Israel with a friend who lives in Nayot, a town in Jerusalem.  Being with Dorin, an Israeli friend who I’d met when she lived in New York, was a refreshing way to start the trip.  We slept in on Thursday morning and ventured into the Old City in the late afternoon.  Spending time with her in the Old City seems a little surreal now, it was almost like I wasn’t there.  I’m sure it was a combination of jet lag and the awesome realization that I was actually in Israel.  I followed her around the Old City like a small child and my eyes danced around the dizzying array of shops selling everything from spices to scarves to hookahs to ornate backgammon boxes. 

I couldn’t look at things fast enough.  The picture that I chose for today’s post is from inside of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  I took it and I love it because you can’t really tell who these women are.  In Jerusalem, especially in the Old City, traditions are always in your face.  You see women in scarves in all three of the quarters, but you can’t assume anything about any of them based on the way that they modestly/religiously dress.  Sure a man in a kippah is a Jew, a man with a kufi scarf around his head is an Arab (maybe Muslim, maybe not) and a woman in a habit is a nun.  If I didn’t tell you that this was inside a church, if I cropped out the candles would you know what religion these women were?  The love of God, the unabashed display of faith, and the three traditions are always interwoven in the Old City.  You can never really tell who anyone was. Being with Dorin in the Old City you wouldn’t know who I was.  I wore a long skirt and a long-sleeved t-shirt-I could’ve been anyone.  I could have been from any where.  It felt great to be sort of anonymous for two days in Israel.

After the Old City Dorin took me to the shuk for an amazing lunch at an Iraqi Jewish restaurant tucked away down a street and around a corner.  I ate the food voraciously and marveled at what I tasted, heard and saw.  I kept thinking over and over I’m in Israel, I’m really here.  Dorin and I parted ways in the shuk, she went to work and I wandered around Jerusalem.  I spent about an hour in the shuk walking up and down the crowded aisles taking it all in.  Listening to the Hebrew and Arabic being spoken around me was like listening to a song I desperately tried to remember the words to.  My eyes drank in every sight.     

If I close my eyes I could be any where.  There is the sound of birds chirping, the sun is warm, and the sound of traffic in the distance.  A random horn, the motor of a scooter and a car passing by.  There is a slight coolness in the breeze but the sun is already warm.   

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