Life in Israel is unpredictable and yet the heartbeat and energies of Jerusalem continue to stand out and shine. Looking back at these last weeks, from the Jerusalem marathon to the back-to-back days of Purim parties, the hustle and bustle of the city is constantly adapting and fluctuating. Maybe what makes the Jerusalem aura change is the weather which fluctuates from rainy empty streets to shiny happy people holding hands or it could just be from the influx and outflow of tourists for the Easter holidays and now in anticipation of Passover.
But whatever the reason, the culture continues to thrive and the population strolling around the streets is constant and yet changing all at once. That never ebbing energy reminded me of a wonderful day in Jerusalem I experienced a few weeks ago, on a sunny day amidst the gloomy weather within the many tense days of political unrest
I left my house on that sunny morning to pick up my Israeli passport since I was traveling to SXSW for my company Voiceitt. The traffic was so awful (I think this time it was Kerry’s fault) that I decided to abandon my car somewhere along the way in the Rehavia neighborhood and resigned myself to walking the rest of the way to my final destination in downtown Jerusalem.
The sun was shining and I was enjoying the weather immensely. I stopped in at Meltzers Jewelers, who were fixing my favorite pendant for me. Like all mom and pop stores in Jerusalem, they know everyone and we know them in the sense that we are just used to seeing their store front in the backdrop of the Jerusalem landscape. They are as much a part of Jerusalem as the Western Wall and when one of them closes people tend to feel a personal loss and sense of mourning and if one of them expands there is almost always a small city gossip-lore to go with it.
I arrived at the Misrad Hapnim where the lineups were enormous. All I needed to do was pickup my passport which was ready and waiting for me but with all of the yelling and tenseness in the office, I wasn’t sure when, if ever, I would make it out of there. And then I saw someone I know who usually works in their Tel Aviv office and just happened to be in Jerusalem that morning. Now what is Jerusalem if not for a little caring compassionate protekzia (inner connections).
After I left, I strolled across the street to the lovely Kadosh coffee shop where I want to say that ambiance is everything if it weren’t for the fact that the pastries and coffee are everything too! What a pleasure it was to see all of the people sitting outside in the sun enjoying the weather and having animated conversations with each other. In Jerusalem, unlike Tel Aviv, even when you are sitting at separate tables, people still mingle with each other. As I stood there waiting for my coffee, and joking with the server, he then made me promise to come and visit and say hi anytime I am in the neighborhood. Just so friendly and so Jerusalem.
Finally, I headed back to my car and on my way met a close friend whom I know through my years of salsa dancing in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem salsa scene is also different than the rest of the country, with everyone knowing each other and many close friendships which have lasted for over a decade. She was on her day off from work. We had a great time catching up since we hadn’t seen each other for at least a few days, and she agreed to tag along with me to buy a suitcase for my upcoming trip. I needed something mid-sized and lightweight for which I could travel to 7 airports in under 7 days. Not an easy task.
I’m just sharing all of this just because I want you to understand how things just seem to flow in these random Jerusalem days and how Jerusalem is so completely interconnected.
While we were in the luggage store the saleslady who was helping us had a hard time speaking. She had an obvious speech disability and she was embarrassed that she couldn’t’ speak clearly. When I was ready to pay, she asked me if she was okay and if I was able to understand her when she was trying to help us.
I told her not to feel bad and that she was really fine. I then went on to tell her how funny it is that she mentioned this because I was actually traveling to the US to pitch for a company that helps people with speech disabilities to speak and be understood. She asked me what I meant and so I shared a video of ours with her to illustrate my point and to explain what I do (watch till the end).
Because a picture is worth a thousand words.
When she finished watching the video she was crying and asked for my card.
She was so excited to think that we were developing something that would help take away the daily frustration that she feels. Everyone in the store became involved and shared their personal stories of how and why they can relate to what we are doing. Because after all, that’s Jerusalem. This short but emotional moment was truly inspiring and gave me added strength for my upcoming trip. We wished each other health and long life, hugged, and I left with my suitcase promising to visit when I return.
After all, this is life.
This is Jerusalem.