Sunday, September 20, 2009

Which side are you on?

Shana tova! Rosh Hashanah in Jerusalem was wonderful - lots of food (to all of you who said everyone gains weight in Israel, you were right), services at no less than 4 different communities, and a little bit of rain (early in the year for Jerusalem).

My friend Sara, with whom I was a madricha (counselor) 2 summers ago for NFTY in Israel and is now living in Bethlehem and volunteering with an organization that does recreational activities for Palestinian youth, was with us for the holiday. She can walk to the checkpoint from her apartment in Bethlehem, and once through the checkpoint, it is a less than 10 minute bus ride to our neighborhood. Sara was telling me about how Bethlehem residents used to just walk over a hill and be in Jerusalem. On Friday night, Sara and I went to my cousins' for dinner. One of my cousins, on hearing where Sara was living, said, "We used to just walk over to Bethlehem to do our shopping. Just over the hill." It's poetic/tragic that both sides can have the same shared narrative and collective memory without even realizing it, yet each view it as uniquely theirs.

As Sara and I were walking to services this morning, we passed countless synagogues and minyanim on our way to our destination. There are so many prayer communities in this city, in this neighborhood particularly. I could hear it as I was walking on the street over the holiday, different prayers and singing rising through the windows of every community center and synagogue. People pray much louder here than they do in America. Not just the Jews...I wonder what it was like in the Old City today, with both Rosh Hashanah and Eid happening simultaneously. I could hear shofar all over the city today, even as I was getting ready this morning with my bedroom window open. In America, we pray behind thick walls and surround them with classrooms and social halls and offices and parking lots. It's much harder to get close to other people's prayers, to hear them. Even when a synagogue and a mosque are right across the street from each other.

Our apartment may be on the other side of the Green Line. For more on how we figured this out, see Naomi's excellent blog post about it. It's frustrating and angering that I moved into an apartment in some ambiguous no man's land between Jerusalem proper and the Green Line (see Naomi's for the detailed historical/geographical explanation of our neighborhood) without knowing. Shouldn't there be a sign or something? There is definitely no green line painted down the middle of Rehov Beitar. B'kitzur (in short), Jerusalem is a complicated place with lots of ambiguities.

1 comment:

  1. Hi! I just read through your posts. Looks like it's going to be a great year! I look forward to reading more of your adventures (and reliving my year there).

    Is you women and Halachah class w/ Haviva Ner-David? Is so, tell her I say hi.