Last night (yes, on a school night) I went with two people close to my age (really, this is where the differences start) to an international art festival and music concert held in downtown Jerusalem. I was smashed and bopping in a space of modern stage and stadium places on old Jerusalem stone, surrounded with other Israelis singing along to Yehudit Ravits onstage. Life in Bangladesh is one filled with population density, but the experience couldn't have been more different. Bangladeshi crowds were primarily men dressed in lungi or tailored pants with very few families around. Women could be seen on the street primarily as beggars or walking in large flocks of colorful salwar kameez and saris when the textile factories changed shifts. Last night, I switched places, instead of being stared at unrepentantly, it was me who could barely tear my eyes away- so many dads carrying and playing with their small children, families with strollers, more observant individuals bouncing and singing along with their less observant copatriots. From mini skirts to ground-length flowing skirts to pants, to head scarves, to kippas to bare heads- all at an art festival celebrating diversity and creativity and enjoying the beautiful Jerusalem summer nights.
My heart sings here.
Somewhere near the end of my time in Bangladesh, I realized that I had become more guarded with my emotions, myself and my attachments. Too few were the occasions where I felt the giddiness gurgling up and exploding into laughter. The two years there held plenty of beautiful moments and wonderful friendships, and I do miss my students so much... dancing and laughing and singing with them... But it's not the same inherent giddiness that characterizes how I feel in my new home.
And my soul rejoices.
Last Thursday after classes I hopped on a bus to צפת (Tzfat/ Sefed) and headed up north to spend time with the wonderful friends I met over the past two years at Livnot. I watched the dry flat land turn into rolling green mountains (or hills if you've seen the himalayas). I spent my time walking through the beautiful old city, so much of which has been dug out, repaired and made inhabitable by decades of Livnot volunteers. I was so happy I though the sun was shinning from my insides out...
So many moments... walking down those twisting stone walkways and coming upon a couple of musicians playing in the shade of a tree for a group of young soldiers... the sounds of shabbat where car engines are replaced with the sounds of children and the buildings seem expel all their inhabitants outside, dressed elegantly to welcome the Sabbath bride... Watching the sun set over the rolling mountain tops and singing kabbalah shabbat and dancing on the Livnot balcony- quite possibly my favorite place and time on earth.
I sit here in my dorm-like room writing and thinking of how pitiful the words are in their vain attempt to encompass my experiences. I could write pages about each moment- from exploring the beautiful quarters of the walled Old City in Jerusalem, to walking through the park to discover figs, olives and pommegrantes growing calmly and gracefully along side the promenade with a spectacular view of Jerusalem and the Dome of the Rock The freedom of being able to jump on a bus and go to any corner of the country - which I plan on doing again next weekend to see friends in Tel Aviv.
And everywhere I go, I meet more people, amazing open people, who give me their numbers and tell me to invite myself over (it's the Israeli way) and actually mean it. I have more invitations for Shabbat than I can make in any reasonable period of time. Everyone tell me that I'm welcome here- in Hebrew, in French, in Spanish and in English.
Last weekend I was sitting on the stone benches of a plaza in Tzfat next to a dear friend and I realized... I get to live here, in the same country, and allow our friendship to develop over years and years and be in the same space... For people who grew up in the same place, you have childhood friends, who live stationary lives and have known and lived near their friends for extended periods of time... this is not an amazing thought. But the longest time I've even been able to live near any one friend is four years, not counting summers. And I'm so amazed at the idea.
I've spent my afternoon bugging students with more advanced levels of hebrew (aka everyone) for extra help and explanations and now I should actually settle down and do the homework assigned in class- as opposed to the homework I assign myself. *sigh* language teachers, I tell you.