That’s it – what we need in this place is a breath of fresh air. I’ve decided to take on my fears and get out there. Okay, still not lining up for public speaking engagements, but starting slow – getting the bike out to ride the local Jerusalem rail trail, on my own.

Gear? Check. Heaved it into the car myself. (Thanks, J.)

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Route? Yes, clearly marked and not too up or down hill. The train used to run through here in Mandate days and beyond. Great signs with historic photos mark the way; too bad I can’t stop to smell the flowers.

It’s decided: Uphill first, then the downhill reward on the way back. Ignoring the sirens in the background, I pedal on my own, feeling brave and a bit silly at how daunting this is for me, while those around me in those tight pants and cool gadgets glide past with barely a breath. Never mind. No one’s watching, or so I tell myself.

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Past the newly planted olive trees (Whose land is this? But my mind wanders), into the Arab neighborhood of Bet Tzafafa, where the train used to meander on its way to what is now Israel’s capital.

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Say good morning, nod your head, smile – I tell myself. Keep cool, no one wants to stab anyone on this sunshine-y day. Not even the guys walking towards me with a scowl on their face and hands in their pocket. And absolutely no one else around, on this stretch.

arab neighborhood upclose

What happened to all those friendly joggers blocking my lane? As I ride by, puffing uphill slowly, one draws his hand out, holding a longish round grey thing – relieved, I see it is a roll of bags. Nothing sharp or volatile there. Keep riding. Use the adrenaline to get back to concentrating on reaching my own biking goal.

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I ask myself, What’s wrong with you? Listen to the birds, enjoy the fresh air and Jerusalem sunshine. Stop being a downer. There they are again – ignore those sirens screeching from the highway above.

Keep nodding hello’s and how-are-you’s, despite the more prevalent grunts or common ignoring that we Israelis tend to do when passing each other. No time for a cheery g’morning greeting, the way so many of us were taught when we were young in a land far far away. And don’t mind the many pedestrians ignoring signs that delineate your bike path; it’s a sign that people are tough and don’t take orders. Breathe it in.

Ah, time to rest. Halfway, and the reward of Rebar yogurt comes with having done the hard half.

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The Jerusalem air works its magic. Gliding past fresh sabra cactus fruit; olive and fig trees, these members of the seven special fruits of our land are a reminder that all is well. While this may not be the placid, relaxing Taconic Rail Trail that our family knows and loves, in upstate New York – It is ours.

And we are here to stay, for the whole ride – uphill or down.

sabra cactus