a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

Travel bLog-Entry #2 Jerusalem

Posted on: July 7, 2016

I’ve been staying in the Baka neighborhood of Jerusalem with a friend I met when I worked in the Jewish non-profit sector. We’re sharing an apartment with three lovely cats, one who is a teeny kitten named Oreo who loves to play with my braids (and everything else, because kittens).

Yesterday I woke up fairly early, turned down an invitation from my friend to join her at the Kotel with Women of the Wall (I promised my wife and mother I’d stay out of mischief), and set out to explore. Starting with food.

When I settled into Tmol Shilshom Cafe a wave of familiarity washed over me, I’d been here before – Five years ago when I was in Israel! Instead of eating inside the small and friendly cafe, I ate outdoors shaded from the hot morning sun by an awning. An Israeli group of friends smoked and drank coffee behind me, students from the UK were across from me and a man wearing a kippah sporting long payot smoked cigarettes while working on his laptop. The service was long and it allowed me to just sit and enjoy the accents around me, the sound of the street below and start to settle myself in the pace of Jerusalem life.

And then the shakshuka came. Served in a stainless steel bowl situated on a wooden plate with a side of bulgar salad. The eggs were firm (by my request) a tahini sauce was drizzled on top and the aromas of stewed tomato, eggplant and red peppers set my mouth watering. But since I burnt the roof of my mouth a few days ago and the server warned me that the dish was hot I waited. And it was worth the wait.

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Shakshuka at Tmol Shilshom © Erika Davis

After breakfast I took the tram to the Shuk and explored the various stalls and vendors and all of their delicious wares. And fended off about a half dozen proposals of marriage, kisses, one night stands and green card requests. I only purchased a bag of granola, trying to keep in mind that I will be here for three weeks and that the spices can be purchased towards the end of my trip.

The Old City ©Erika Davis

The Old City © Erika Davis

The remainder of the day was spent in the Old City. I entered through Damascus Gate and wandered down the slick stone streets of the Muslim Quarter. Paid my respects to my Christian heritage at the Church of the Holy Seplechure and davened through streaming tears at the Kotel. I purchased a volume of Tehillim and got my Hebrew named embossed on it and intend to spend a lot of time reciting Psalms and Kotel praying over the next three weeks.

I spent nearly 5 hours lost in the streets of the Old City, feeling the dualing sensations of being at both at home and a stranger in this Holy Land.

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