Going home

My dad dropped me off in downtown Jerusalem and I explored his old neighborhood, Nachlaot. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nachlaot) It used to be called the slums (can’t think of a more PC word), but now has been gentrified. It was a Sephardi/Mizrachi neighborhood with immigrants from Morocco, Yemen, and Kurdistan, among others.

The neighborhood consists of winding, narrow roads. Lots of alleys. Houses made of white Jerusalem stone. A perfect place to wander and get lost. And I had fun wandering.

This is the site of my grandmother’s garden. The place where she pulled up nanna leaves for our tea. I remember this from the 1970s.

This was my grandmother’s house. I have vague memories of her sitting outside, savoring the sun. We spoke to each other in broken bits of language. I attempted Hebrew and she tried English. We were more successful with gestures.

A view to the second floor, where my Aunt and Uncle have lived for over 50 years.

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Legs are happy

Just returned from morning run. Legs are inexplicably happy running up the steep hills. Sandy rocks, and green shrubbery abound. I was out of breath, the hills got to me. Looking forward to getting in hill shape.

Views from the path

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View from my bedroom window

I wake up to brilliant sunshine and the sound of cars traversing down the hairpin turns outside my bedroom. Look out to see an expanse of green. I can’t believe I’m here. Looking forward to lacing up my sneakers and exploring the road below.

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Holy land – evening one

So I landed in Tel Aviv at 4:10pm Israeli time. It was 8:10pm Chicago time and I wished Boost mobile had international service so that I could begin texting.  Instead, I tried to preserve all the sights and sounds to memory so that I could write about it later.

Going through immigration was easy thanks to my Israeli passport. I didn’t have to wait in the foreign passport line and instead breezed through the Israeli line. I apologized to the female agent (who looked about 12) that I couldn’t speak Hebrew. Sometimes the agents give me a rough time. Today, she didn’t. She stamped my passport or darkon (in Hebrew), and I was good to go.

I walked up a broken escalator, down expansive hallways, around a half-empty food court and made my way to baggage claim. I was happy to see that Ben Gurion airport didn’t charge for luggage carts. I hauled my overweight suitcases onto the cart, and wheeled out into the muggy Tel Aviv evening.

Luckily the signs were in English, as well as Hebrew and Arabic. I found my way to the Nesher, or shared taxi service to Jerusalem.  The ride to my folks place was uneventful, except for the woman speaking extremely loudly on her phone. And, the crazy driving which included going over a curb by mistake. Ah yes, the driver drives like me. And I drive like Israelis.

It was nice to see my folks, my pregnant sister, and her boyfriend. We ate homemade pizza and chatted about life and our relatives. My sister showed me the local trails on google maps, and I’m looking forward to a run tomorrow.

I know I’m in Israel from the nanna tea. Nanna means mint, and Israelis make their tea from fresh spearmint leaves. Reminds me of when my Israeli grandmother used take leaves from her garden and make this warm drink. I must have been about 6 or 7.

Tomorrow is Tu B’shvat…the Israeli celebration of the trees. We’re going to the “souk” or Jewish market. I remember the market as a run down, dusty, fly ridden adventure with a cornucopia of spices, carcases hanging from meat hooks, fresh veggies on display, vendors with cigarettes from their lips and ashes falling into the nuts and fruit below. A cacophonous chorus of humanity. My mom says it’s gentrified and now there are fancy boutiques. I hope they didn’t kill the flavor.

Okay, that’s it for now…..

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