This morning, walking to class with my eyes half open, I saw two girls run up to each other and hug, squealing as if they were best friends who hadn’t seen each other in years. And I thought nothing of it.
A few hours later, as I walked out of my Hebrew oral exam, I walked straight into a Christmas party, complete with a suspiciously tall and skinny Santa Claus. And I thought nothing of it.
This evening, as a friend and I went out to eat more pizza than I want to talk about, a man walked into the pizza shop. He was clearly intoxicated a bit, but still walked up to the counter and asked for a slice of pizza. When he couldn’t produce any money to pay for it, he turned to the ultra-Orthodox man next to him in line and started yelling to him about how Rebbe Nachman will guarantee his spot in heaven, before being kicked out of the shop by the manager. The manager turned to my friend, the ultra-Orthodox man, and myself, and gave us a confused and questioning look, but the ultra-Orthodox man wasn’t having it. He looked at him and said, “What do you look like that for? Zeh Yerushalayim, Habibi (bro).” That’s Jerusalem, bro.
And that’s when it hit me.
Those girls who ran screaming to hug each other like twins separated at birth: a Palestinian Muslim girl and a Jewish American girl.
That Christmas party: at Hebrew University, in the same place where just a week before stood a channukiah and dreidels actually made of clay. A Christmas party where there were more non-Christians than Christians: Jewish boys with tzitzit and kippot, Jewish girls with long skirts, Muslim girls with hijabs, Christian boys and girls with crucifixes around their necks. Israelis proud to be Israeli, Palestinians proud to be Palestinian, Americans proud to be American, Europeans proud to be European.
The girls, the party, the Rebbe Nachman man, Kol Zeh Yerushalayim. All of that is Jerusalem. And I couldn’t see it. That ultra-Orthodox man in the pizza shop saved me tonight from becoming completely jaded by the chaos from seeing the true Jerusalem.
Lately, I’ve been noticing that Jerusalemites have become jaded as well. And I think that they have been letting that get in the way of them living in their own city. When I walk down an empty Ben Yehuda Street and see bars without drinkers, stores without shoppers, and street performers without audiences because everyone is too scared or jaded by terror, it makes me realize that the people of Jerusalem need to listen to what this ultra-Orthodox man said today. They need to now, so he can point them towards the smallest but best things about Jerusalem and say to them, “Zeh Yerushalayim, Habibi.”