We were in the Old City when the news broke – the terrible news that we so didn’t want to believe could be true, that we STILL don’t want to believe IS true.
We were sipping apfelpunsch at the Austrian Hospice, where the birds and Mozart are always in harmony, where the air smells like apple strudel and frankincense, where the light flitters over stones.
My phone beeped, and the light shifted.
“It’s official. They were Jewish.”
I didn’t have to ask who “they” were, although I know that in the coming hours, days and into the years, we will know, although we will never understand.
And when you’re in the Old City where peace is tethered so closely toward feeling, when you’re in the Old City and emotions are raw, when you’re in the Old City and you can feel the mood move with the light, you go.
And when you hear a gunshot echo from somewhere near enough to hear, you go fast.
We left near the Western Wall after my father felt the ancient stones beneath his hands, and we took a taxi.
We were quiet and tense during the taxi ride. I don’t know what the driver knew, but he had the news on in Arabic during our ride and his hands gripped the steering wheel as we barreled down Highway One, right on 431, left on 40, and finally to the kibbutz.
“Ramadan Kareem,” I said in Arabic when I paid him.
“Todah rabah,” he answered in Hebrew.
As the light deepened into amber and slanted in through the trees from the far reaches of the horizon, we saw him face East, unfurl a small rug, and get down on his knees and pray.
I turned around, and wept while the light shone through my tears. And I faced Jerusalem.